When you’re feeling anxious or panicky i.e. activated or hyper-aroused the following suggestions might help you feel calm again.
Trauma survivors often over-breathe. This is when people breathe faster when they are threatened. This can make some people hyperventilate, or experience panic attacks (Giarratano, 2004b). Our rate of breathing also affects our heart rate, blood pressure and the rest of our body. Therefore, it is important to consciously slow down our breathing from time to time, because it slows down the other processes of the body, our levels of arousal which reduces tension, and helps us turn off the “fight/flight” response.
Visit “what can I do when I feel choked”, and “Breathwork: why is it such a hot topic?” for various breathing techniques you can practice when you start to feel tense, anxious or to panic.
2. Repetitive movements
Doing repetitive movements can help calm us e.g. try knitting, bouncing a ball, jumping on a trampoline, drumming, colouring in a colouring book, etc.
Mindfulness practices involve shifting your focus toward your body and its sensations as a way to root yourself into the present. They help us become more aware of how our body is responding at different times. For example,
Am I clenching my jaw?
Do I get a tight throat?
Hot, cold? etc.
when I feel scared?
As you scan your body, focus on your body as your attention goes from the top of your head down to your toes.
When you’re feeling spaced out, shut down or ‘unreal’ you might be dissociated or hypo-aroused.
Being hypo-aroused is a survival response. It is a `freeze’ response – also known as dissociation. When we freeze we might zone out. Shut down. Go onto autopilot. It is best to try and notice as soon as you feel overwhelmed and are shutting down. When we do, we can then use one or more of the following exercises to help us get back into our bodies in the present.
pushing your feet into the ground
pushing your backside into the chair
standing up and stomping your feet against the floor
looking around the room and naming 5 things that begin with C
looking at objects and naming them.
Using cold water on your face
A warm shower followed by a cold one.