Neutralise panic, anxiety and depression

by Greg Savva – Counselling Twickenham, Whitton – Masters Degree, listed counsellor/therapist

5th August, 2018

Grounding techniques

Practising regular grounding exercises can help you feel more secure, stable and connected to yourself, especially after a period of anxiety or dissociation. These exercises can also be used to overcome panic attacks and feelings of detachment in depression. They include learning to keep your feet anchored to the floor, finding your centre of gravity, adopting an upright posture and standing still with your legs apart. As well as practising how to move with a fluid, steady motion to maintain balance and equilibrium, this helps you remain present in the here-and-now, rather than retreating to your head and overthinking things in a crisis, or worrying and becoming detached from your feelings. Practising grounding daily ensures you regain a sense of focus and stability. It can restore your self-confidence as you learn to trust your instincts and sensory experience – reconnecting the mind and body. You are also less likely to drift off into dissociative states or detachment.

The advantages of regular grounding techniques

  • Staying connected to your five senses.
  • Self-regulating your moods and emotional states.
  • Growing an instinctive sense of stability and safety.
  • Improving your centre of gravity and sense of balance.
  • Reconnecting with yourself after a period of detachment.
  • Supporting the upper body with your abdominal core and the spine’s upright posture.

Sitting exercise

  • Start by sitting upright on a high-backed chair with your legs bent at the knees and your feet parallel.
  • Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground as if they were anchored or taking root.
  • Sit with your spine in a slight ‘S-curve’, supporting your neck, head and shoulders with your body’s abdominal core. Gently sway from side to side until you find your centre of gravity.
  • Then come to a rest with your spine upright. Keep your head still, your neck straight and your chin slightly up. Explore your centre of gravity in the bowl of your pelvis.
  • Now turn your attention to your breathing, inhaling from the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
  • Try to breathe in a deep, slow motions, using all your diaphragm until you find your own particular pace and rhythm.
  • Next, focus on developing stability and balance, improving your wellbeing by remaining connected to the room or environment you are in.
  • Try to imagine yourself as a tripod with your butt on the chair and two feet planted on the floor – pressing down with your weight on all three points, holding yourself stable.

While you are breathing repeat this mantra:

  • “As I breathe in, I am upright”.
  • “As I breathe out, I relax”.

Hand exercises

Exercise one: start by placing your palms and fingers together as if you were praying, with both hands pressing in, as you focus on the pressure points for 5 minutes. Do this a few times.

Exercise two: start by curling your hands into tight fists and connect them together, with the knuckles interlocked. Then begin pressing them firmly together, focussing on the pressure points for five minutes. Do this a few times.

Exercise three: start to make the fingers of both hands into claws, placing the left hand facing down, with the right hand facing up. Lock the tips of the fingers of one hand to the fingers of the other hand. Begin pulling each hand firmly in the opposite direction and focus on the pressure points for five minutes.

While you are breathing repeat this mantra:

  • “As I breathe in, I am tense”.
  • “As I breathe out, I let go”.

Standing exercises

You may find this exercise is similar to the stance you take in Tai-Chi, Qi-gong or martial arts. It is designed to keep you upright, stable and well-balanced as well as flexible during conflict – using your opponent’s force against them.

  • Begin by standing with your legs apart, the same distance as your shoulders, feet firmly planted on the floor and parallel to each other with a slight spring in your step.
  • Then bend your knees slightly and let your body gently drop down into your hips.
  • Begin swaying from side-to-side, using your hips as if you were dancing or surfing. Slowly identify centre of gravity deep inside the pelvis.
  • When you find it, be still. Take a strong and stable stance, without losing your balance.
  • Begin moving your upper body in a swaying motion from the hips; rocking backwards-and-forwards in one direction (almost like a boxer does). Do this while remaining stable; without losing your balance.
  • Repeat the rocking motion several times – leaning back and forth to each point on the compass.

While you are breathing repeat this mantra:

  • “As I breathe in, I am standing still”.
  • “As I push out, I bend with the wind”.

Pushing exercises

Pushing actions keep us connected and strong, paying attention to the appropriate amount of tension, force and power in our muscles for the task of pushing against a wall.

  • Stand face on with both legs apart, one behind the other. Front leg bent and back leg extended. Ensure both legs are slightly bent at the knees.
  • Take a strong and stable stance, facing forward with your upper body upright, ready to spring into action.
  • Then lift your arms with hands in front of you and both elbows bent. Try pushing against a wall or door frame with your hands parallel to your shoulders.
  • Keep extending and pushing on the door frame, as if you were trying to push it down. Keep steady on your front leg and push from the back leg, maintaining your sense of balance. Try pushing forward a few times, until you feel reconnected with yourself.

While you are breathing repeat this mantra:

  • “As I breathe in, I push forward”.
  • “As I breathe out, I am strong”.

Driving

If you drive a lot in a vehicle or go on long-distance journeys, you can sometimes get distracted, sleepy or go into autopilot. You may sometimes get nervous exploring roads in a new location, or distressed after a road accident. This exercise keeps you focused and responsive to driving conditions.

  • Push yourself into the driving seat. Ensure you are sitting upright with the base of your spine (coccyx) pushed into the bottom of the car seat, spine against the seat.
  • Put your hands firmly on the wheel and grip hard. Press your body back into the seat; pushing hard against the wheel clutching it tightly. Keep pressing repeatedly as you sensation returns and shake your legs a little.

While you are breathing repeat the mantra:

  • “As I breathe in, I awaken”.
  • “As I breathe out, I am alert”.

Cold showers and cold-water swimming

The human ‘stress response’ is designed to act as the body’s instinctive survival mechanism when you’ve been triggered by stress or environmental threats. For example, any sudden change in your metabolic rate will trigger a stress response – such as sudden changes in temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, extreme thirst or hunger, disease, intense pain or injury etc. This is when the brain automatically floods the body with stress hormones which throw us into a ‘state of shock’ (or high alert) and later stimulate the nervous system to regulate our metabolism down: bringing physiological sensations and emotions to back into equilibrium. This instinctive biological process forms part of a natural cycle which progresses from stress, to shock, to self-regulation, to stress-relief. Regular cold showers or cold water swimming are just some of the ways you can induce this cycle from stress to relief – training the body and brain to regulate itself and build-up resilience in the face of anxiety, panic attacks, pain, phobias and depression. It works by creating an internal ‘thermostat’ for the body, but must be practised every day to get the best results. It helps you remain alert, grounded and connected to the body – being more present in your conscious awareness.

Cold showers help you

  • Reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Change our response to inflammation and pain.
  • Increase our sense of stability and safety.
  • Regulate mood states and emotions.
  • Remain more focussed and alert.
  • Improve our metabolic rate and sleeping patterns.
  • Regulate the body’s immunology response.
  • Increases in GABA, noradrenaline, endorphins, analgesics etc.

How do cold showers work? At first, when you step in a cold shower, the sudden change in temperature triggers the body’s sensory nerves – flooding the brain with a cascade of neurotransmitters that put it into high alert. The amygdala then activates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol – the heart-rate picks up, you start to breathe deeper and your senses go into hyperarousal. The brain and body are now craving relief. Soon afterwards the brain activates countermeasures, deepening your breath and activating the vagus nerve. This stimulates your ‘internal thermostat’ to regulate the internal organs, slowing your breath, increasing vasodilation to get oxygen into the bloodstream and bringing blood-sugar levels down.

The ‘mammalian dive response’ is also activated by cold water on your face, which deepens the breathing cycle and rapidly brings down your heart-rate. This is when the body naturally returns to a state of equilibrium: panic attacks subside, breathing slows, anxiety recedes, while negativity and paranoid thoughts reduce. You become more connected to yourself, more grounded in your own experience, and less likely to freeze-up or take flight into anxious thoughts and negative beliefs.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

About Gregori Savva

I am Greg Savva. An experienced counsellor at Counselling Twickenham, EnduringMind. I believe in a compassionate, supportive approach to counselling as the best way forward for my clients. I focus on helping you make sense of erratic thoughts and emotions. Offering you a chance to gain self-awareness and change for the better www.enduringmind.co.uk

Source

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/neutralise-panic-anxiety-and-depression

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