When you’re experiencing anxiety or having a panic attack, your sympathetic nervous system is activated and you’re triggered into a “flight or fight” response.
One of the most effective ways to calm this state is through a mechanical change in breathing.
South Pacific Private Hospital’s program director Steve Stokes calls this deep diaphragmatic breathing technique "Soothe, Contain, Move On".
If you're having a panic attack at work, you can do this exercise at your desk. Otherwise, if you feel like you need privacy, walk outside of your work place and find a quiet space.
First, place your left hand over your heart, and your right hand over your diaphragm, then touch pinky and thumb. This is called “butterfly hands”.
Create a sense of safety in yourself by taking ten deep breaths into your heart and stomach.
To do this, breathe in for three counts, allowing your stomach to pop out, and hold your breath on the fourth count, then release and breathe out for four counts, sucking your stomach in. Repeat this breathing exercise 10 times or until you start feeling calm. Tell yourself that you’re safe.
This breathing technique allows your brain’s executive function to come back “online”, so that you can contain yourself and move on.
For more information about anxiety, please visit www.sane.org or call the SANE Helpline on 1800 187 263.