"A friend told me his trick to managing panic attacks is to meditate by envisioning the base of the flame of a candle. Anyone else have ways they meditate to relieve panic attacks?"- Big Dave
From a medical stand point, using meditation is one of the best ways to combat stress, anxiety and panic attacks. I am a firm believer that meditation beats medication. It is 100% safe and natural. Here is how it works:
In general, our brains learn things by making pathways. The more often we do something, the more entrenched the pathway becomes. Most people understand that this works with academic skills (i.e. the more we read or do math, the better we become), and with physical skills (i.e. the more we practice hitting a baseball or doing ballet positions, the better we become), but many people still do not realize these pathways play a major roll in our emotional health.
The more often we feel stressed out, anxious, or have a panic attack, the more entrenched those pathways become - which makes it easier and easier for us to feel stressed out, anxious, or have a panic attack in the future! Meditation helps the mind smooth over the stress pathways and create stronger calming pathways. You will be amazed that the more often you meditate, the stronger the calming pathways in your brain will become. This will reduce stress, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Dr. Jeff's Simple Breathing Meditation
One focus of meditation is breathing. I recommend this simple breathing meditation:
- Sit in a comfortable position, with back and neck straight.
- Sit with eyes partially closed.
- Have your arms resting on your legs with the palms turned up.
- Turn attention to breathing.
- Breath in slowly through the nostrils, become aware of the sensation of the breath as in enters the nostrils.
- Feel your lungs expand, at the end of your inspiration pause for an instant.
- Breath out slowly though the mouth if you are in a high energy state such as physical exertion, stress, anxiety, or a panic attack; Breath out slowly through the nostrils if you are already in a lower energy state. Feel the air slowly seep out of your body.
- When you mind starts to wonder to other things or the worries of the world, change yoru focus back to breathing. The object to focus the meditation on is the sensation of breathing its self, this will help clear the mind of other distractions and clutter.
When Should I Meditate?
I've been asked, "When is the best time to meditate?" I recommend making a commitment to meditate in two situations:
- In Times of Stress. Meditate when you are actively feeling stressed out, anxious, or in the middle of a panic attack. There is a misconception that you need a quiet "zen garden" type place to meditate, in actuality, it is the exact opposite. It is important to realize you can (and should) meditate whenever things are crazy, this way your brain will learn to go down the relaxation pathways when stressful things happen.
- On a Set Schedule. Have at least two planned meditation times a day. These can be short 1 to 5 minute sessions. This will help your mind let go of the worries of this world that press themselves upon us. Some people do this: when they wake up, during a lunch break, after putting kids down for a nap, after work, after putting kids to sleep, or before bed. A lot of people do something similar to this breathing meditation before praying and turning their focus to God.
Give it a try. It takes practice, but it really works!
Dr. Jeff M.D.