How to Cope with Panic Attacks

stormy-clouds_opt2If you have ever experienced a panic attack you will know how scary they are. One of the best ways to cope with them is to understand the link to your breathing. When we are stressed or anxious the ratio of gases we breathe in and out is changed due to shallow breathing.

The ‘fight or flight’ response is a primitive survival instinct that is triggered when we perceive danger.  Adrenaline, a hormone,  is released to allow us to run from danger and this causes many changes in our bodies:  one of which is to breathe quickly and shallowly to get oxygen to the large muscles we need for running away.  This is not useful in many situations where we may feel anxious or stressed in our modern lives.  This creates the symptoms of panic attacks.  So the answer is to start breathing more deeply to reinstate the normal ratios of gases we need to feel at ease and calm again.

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are extremely frightening, come on suddenly and don’t last very long.  About  5% of the population experience them.  They are usually the result of stress but other things contribute such as low blood sugar levels, drinking lots of coffee, alcohol, smoking or other stimulants.

Any of the following may be experienced when you have a panic attack:

Difficulty breathing                             Also worrying thoughts such as:

Heart palpitations                               I’m losing control

Sweating                                              I’m going mad

Shaking                                                I’m going to die

Chest pains                                          I’m embarrassing myself

Dizziness                                              I can’t breath

Tingling sensations

Blurred vision

Feelings of unreality

Wobbly legs

(If any of the above symptoms persist then contact your GP to rule out any other illness or causes)

The key thing to understand is that Panic Attacks are caused by a build up of stress and anxiety which effects the way you breathe.

When stressed you breath more quickly and more shallowly, higher up in the chest.  This does not allow your body to receive the right balance of gases and triggers off the panic attack.

What to do:

Drop your shoulders;

Expand your chest

Breathe deeply into your diaphragm.

When deep breathing you will feel your stomach rise when you breathe in and lower as you breath out.

This will rebalance the gases and stop the symptoms.

Another method:

The old fashioned method of breathing into a brown paper bag worked because it allows you to re-breath expired air.  This is useful if you have not acted quickly. You probably won’t have a paper bag at hand so you can cup your hands over your mouth and nose like a mask and hold them there.

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and then breathe in your own exhaled air.

Doing this slowly and without holding your breath  4-5 times will stabilise the balance of carbon dioxide and the symptoms will stop.


Panic attacks will not kill you

The feelings will soon pass as soon as you breathe slowly and deeply.

Stay in the situation, don’t run away or it will be more difficult in the future.

Six Ways to boost your Self Esteem

FlowersSelf esteem is a fundamental building block to creating a happier life.  If you experience dips in your self esteem this is quite normal at times of stress or change.  Some of the following ideas may prove helpful for you or someone you know:

1.  When you feel down, increase your activity levels.  Avoid sitting and thinking – this is  not the time to dwell on the past.  Get up and active.  Use distraction: play with a child, watch a funny film, put on some upbeat music and dance, go for a brisk walk, change a room around – seek a new perspective.

2.  Stop automatically saying sorry! Don’t assume everything is your fault.  If you have made an error, acknowledge it respectfully but don’t be the fall guy for everyone. Nobody needs to be perfect.

3.  If you meet someone in the street you know and they don’t say hello, try not to personalise your reaction and view it negatively. Think for some alternative reasons for their behaviour.  Perhaps they don’t have their glasses, they are focussed on something or distracted. What good does it do you to think negatively? Think of plausible reasons for their behaviour and you will avoid ruining your day!

4.  When you receive a compliment or someone gives you a gift or helps you.  Thank them and smile – show your sincere appreciation for the fact they care about you.

5.  Learn to meditate – allow time to create a peaceful space for yourself where you will not be disturbed for 20 minutes.  Close your eyes and focus on your awareness of your breathing to quieten your thoughts. Allow tension and discomfort to dissolve in your breath. Breath at a natural pace. If you slip into a thought just come back to the breath. When time is up stretch, open your eyes and come back to the room refreshed.

6.  Take a new view on problems and see them as opportunities. Rather than jumping to conclusions, looking at things in a black and white fashion or all or nothing thinking, think of problems as a voyage of discovery.  Unravel the other possible reasons for things happening or ask people for alternative views. Sometimes problems shared and solved lead to a new way of thinking and seeing the world.

Making Changes

The more you confront your fears the more confident you will become.

To grow as a person involves challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone.

Procrastinating and avoiding taking risks is self-defeating.

If you always do what you always have done then you will always get what you always got.

What stops us?

Many of us have limiting beliefs that stop us from reaching our true potential and living the life we dream of.  The internal critic, who sits on our shoulder and at challenging times tells us: “You can’t do that!”, “You’re not good enough!”, “You can’t cope!”.  We can turn this around using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which provides tried and tested tools to challenge and change self limiting beliefs.  Once limiting beliefs are understood, reviewed and renewed  you are ready to embrace change:

With this new mindset you are ready to be a self-determining adult:

Your New Beliefs

I can change and make progress.

Other people are not to blame for my situation now.

I am responsible for my life.

I am a survivor, I am strong and successful.

I can create the life I want.

I can tolerate frustration, set backs and overcome obstacles.

I am independent and have a choice about how I live my life.

I am good enough

I can cope

I can do anything I set my mind to do

This is an adult life.  Full of freedom, choice and potential.  You have the opportunity to do more that you have ever dreamed of.

The Essence of You

We all go through transitions: times of change in our lives. Often just before we change we experience a stage of confusion.  We may feel out of control, frustrated or lost.  I remember this time well…  My circumstances were changing dramatically and the only sure thing in my life were my values.  When you are evolving from one stage to another it is essential to clarify what is really important to you.  It’s very personal, built from past experiences and future dreams and it is the core essence of you that will enable you to live your life true to yourself. Core values give you the anchor to focus your energy on.  They inspire you to keep going, through thick and thin and to persevere when you feel like giving up.


Core Values:

  • Help you make choices
  • Help you to screen and filter naturally
  • Increase your feeling of direction
  • Increase  your feeling of happiness and fulfilment
  • Are essential to finding your purpose and direction in life
  • Help you set better goals
  • Increase your motivation and can act as a catalyst to goal achievement
  • Measure the meaning that life holds for us
  • Life flows more easily when you’re in line with your values
  • Conflict with our values causes stress and life can be a struggle

Freedom to be Yourself

When I was able to express my true values I felt such an immediate sense of freedom and integrity.  For some time I had pushed down my need to love and connect with people, to give back and to care. I had been influenced by other people’s values.  It took some time to find myself again.  The journey continues but the first stage for me was to get in touch with my values.

Time to grow some healthy self esteem!

Self-esteem is the overall opinion we have of ourselves and our ability to live and lead our lives.


When my self esteem is good I feel great: I smile, engage with people, talk freely, express my feelings, laugh, love and live life to the full. However, when my self esteem is low it’s a very different picture.  I worry about my appearance; I avoid contacting people, reduce my exercise, eat unhealthily, start mind reading and read people’s intentions incorrectly.  It skews my perception to a negative view of myself and others.  A really unhealthy place to be.

So to unravel how we end up in this uncomfortable place:

Our perception of ourselves is learned initially during our childhood by the experiences we have with people we come into contact with: our parents/carers, close family members, friends, neighbours, teachers and the media.  They have a huge and vital influence over our lives as they sow the seeds of our self-esteem.

I was lucky and had a positive childhood but it didn’t protect me from developing low self esteem during a relationship.  My significant other at the time was controlling and critical, both of which undermined my self esteem.

If you experience more negative criticism or very few positive comments at any age this tends to stick in your mind and affect the way you see yourself and your abilities.  A bit like a fore gone conclusion, an expectation of failure is set up.  Negative comments stand out and resonate for years to come.  These take root and invade your mind so that when facing a challenge or change in life you may doubt your ability to cope and avoidance starts to creep in.  It becomes rather a vicious cycle with the negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, leading to a reduction in expectation and unwillingness to risk being wrong. You may make very relevant excuses for why you can’t do something.

For many people there is a low level background of feeling inadequate and assuming other people believe this too.  Worry about what other’s think can stultify us into inaction.  Keeping ourselves safely within the manageable confines we feel comfortable in – our comfort zone.  Here we sit, wasting the infinite potential every human being is born with until we have a light bulb moment and suddenly see the light.  We realise we have to change something if we are ever going to feel alive! Knowing what to change is the problem because by then it feels normal to feel negative and inferior.

There is a way forward:

The first step is to change the way you think. It has become a habit to think negatively about yourself, to hear the voice inside you saying ‘you cant do that, you cant cope, you’re not good enough.  You have believed this for some time and it is a habit that has not been challenged.  To change you need to weed out the negative thoughts and plant positive, kind and nurturing thoughts.  To start treating yourself how you would treat your best friend.  To become encouraging and supportive to yourself.  Quite hard at first but with assistance totally manageable.  Once started and practised like any new habit the pattern becomes established and a new you is able to emerge: now the seed can grow healthily and stand tall and proud.

Your positive thoughts will then create positive beliefs about yourself.  The internal critic is eradicated and replaced by the inner truth that encourages you saying:  You can do it, you are good enough’.  Strengthened with these beliefs your behaviour is then changed. You dare to experiment and even if you don’t succeed immediately you are supportive, flexible and forgiving of yourself.  You cut some slack and then try again.  Knowing that you are as good as anyone else and deserve to enjoy your own potential.  You then believe in yourself and what you can do.

Thankfully self-esteem is not fixed but changes throughout time due to internal and external influences.  Ongoing maintenance of our self-esteem is essential to maximise our ability to live a full and meaningful life.

All At Sea?

Do you feel all at sea, as if you are battling through a storm of demands and pressures?

Sometimes we get buried under a heap of responsibilities, habits and duties. We feel stressed, overwhelmed, tired and irritable.

Do you find yourself sayingI’m too busy to meet up with friends, to do exercise, to cook healthy food, to play with my children…” Working on autopilot, trying to survive another day.

At times like this the pressure narrows our vision into an intensely focussed view. We are in the midst of chaos trying to steer our ship through a storm. But, we can step off shore onto an island of calm.

Drop anchor, stop chasing the wind and be still

At such times taking yourself away from your usual environment and talking to someone you trust about all your responsibilities and worries is essential. Similar to releasing the steam from a pressure vessel. It allows you to discharge the tension and negative energy. Finding the right listener is essential be it a life coach, a counsellor, a good friend: someone who will hold the space for you to express all that tension without judgement or criticism.

The sense of relief is tangible. Many of my clients arrive to coaching in a heightened emotional state, either exhausted or hyperactive, rushing around and speaking ten to the dozen. After one session and a few carefully structured tasks their relief and sense of clarity is wonderful.

Gaining an overview from a different perspective is so helpful in clarifying the way forward. Maybe increasing or decreasing activities. Structuring tasks a different way. Giving responsibility to others, creating boundaries, managing time more effectively. All of these play their part in unpicking the chaos into a manageable and enjoyable life of balance. Many treasures may be hidden in your past: lost skills, strengths or interests and past drives that can be rekindled to inspire you.

Exciting plans for creating self-nurturance, exploration and essentially calm and tranquillity are discovered. All these aid to calm the storm, diffuse the chaos and get you back at the helm of a re-furbished and seaworthy vessel!

Seeking and finding time for you is the essential first step in finding the way forward.

Ready to start your new voyage!

Insight from Experience

Welcome to my new Blog! A new experience for me on my sparkling new website! Firstly thanks for deciding to read. I am happy to have you along and hope that the information I share will help you in your journey to happiness.


Why insight from experience?

Firstly as you may have guessed – I have lived a fair while now, and obviously have had lots of life experiences some good, some bad but mostly great.! I have a very optimistic view on life, even when I am in a difficult place I try to see the best in others.  That said sometimes you have to recognise that you are doing yourself no favours by persevering too long with a situation where you are losing your identity and ability to be yourself.  If you feel really stuck, having given it your best, then the best thing is to recognise that and move on.  There may be other factors influencing your perseverance but you must listen to your wise self for when it’s time for change.  You will know deep inside yourself that something needs to happen. Trust yourself and you will find the way forward.

The second reason is the same as the first that we all experience times in our lives when everything isn’t rosy.  We feel desperate, alone, out of control, overwhelmed.  When we are in the midst of this we are stressed and need support to cope.  If you have the support of friends and family this is a great help, if not, seek professional help before it’s a crisis.  People can be amazingly helpful when you really need them, showing the love inherent in humankind.  At this time you would probably not view it a useful experience.  But, after some time has elapsed and in retrospect you will be able to understand why things happened the way they did and learn so many valuable lessons yourself.  Hence you will have insight from your experiences.

My insight has matured over the last 25 years through a journey of self-development.

Early Influences

As a teenager I had no ultimate career goal and fell into training as a nurse.  My heart wasn’t in it and after a bout of glandular fever I left the course.  I knew then I wanted to help people and had worked alongside an occupational therapist who went on home visits.  This inspired me as the OT really saw people in the context of their homes – that made such a difference!  A truly holistic approach and for many years this ambition to be an OT was put on the back boiler only to be free to come to fruition about 12 years later.   I gained a place on a course locally and saw this as fulfilling my dreams.  I so enjoyed being an OT, the autonomy of creating my own appointments and sessions, the joy of seeing people recover after severe illnesses and resume their activities despite enormous challenges.  It was an enlightening and inspiring career.

My Inspiration

I had insight of the depression people felt after struck by disability from my own mother who had a stroke when I was 15.  She was a brave, strong woman but felt keenly the loss of mobility, dignity and freedom.  She was a great inspiration to me in all my ventures.  As an OT I worked alongside, encouraging and listening to people of all ages and walks of life.  One thing I always remember is the need to remember who they were. By that I mean particularly for the older clients: what they did and what they had experienced in their lives.  To not just see an elderly patient, sat in a chair but to get to know them personally and know their story.  This enabled me to respect them and treat them with the respect they deserved.  My insight from my mother’s experiences helped me to understand how difficult it is when people make assumptions about you without knowing you.

The importance of people’s story

This is another reason why I love life coaching and cognitive behaviour therapy both of which I combine in my current role.  Life coaching is so much about the person – it couldn’t be more client centred.  It is the one place I have found where you can spend an hour talking about your life story, your dreams and your goals and feel totally heard. The coach is there for you, focuses on you and her mission is to assist and support you in achieving your dreams.  What an amazing experience!

How to change the negative effects of the past

Coginitive Behavioural therapy is brilliant because it is also forward looking, positive and works!  CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on cycles created by past experiences impacting on the way you think, feel and act.  CBT breaks the vicious downward cycles and challenges negative thinking in order to give you the chance to experiment with new behaviour and see and feel the results of being just a little bit kinder to yourself.  I found myself as a mother in the position of using cbt for my child to lower her anxiety and give her back her confidence.  Through using the process myself I can talk with experience about the benefits of this approach.

I will be writing regular blog articles on subjects related to developing your self-esteem, managing stress and embracing change.