Tips to Manage a Panic Attack – RiverWest Acupuncture in Portland

Here’s what’s we are seeing in our clinic

In the last week, we have had 5 patients come into the clinic with major, debilitating panic attacks. That is highly unusual for our clinic.  So it has made me think about all the things that are happening that would affect such statistics.  Here are some of them.

  • The stock market is going crazy.
  • The government, all sides included, are at each other’s throats
  • Jan. 24 – Feb 2 – Hot zone, where you break down the issues of control
  • January 31 – lunar eclipse in Leo, heart’s integrity will collapse
  • The Chinese New Year is coming up on February 16
  • Spring is in the air, at least for this week.

How does this create so much energetic havoc with us?

Tips to Manage a Panic Attack - RiverWest Acupuncture in Portland

What’s the real story?   Or is there one?

I’m not going to go into depth about all of the issues listed above and why they are happening. In fact, I don’t really know. I think we can we agree that the first two especially, create unrest and uncertainty.    However,  do YOU want to be the tail that the proverbial dog is wagging?   Of course not. That’s never enjoyable.

In today’s post, I will look at some ways that can help us feel like we might have a little control over our lives and in turn feel a more calm.

Would you believe that our brains create our stories?

I listened to a podcast this morning that hit the nail on the head It happens just like this……

Martha Beck was talking about our brains. And one of the things that she said is that our brains get very stressed when it has to invent something that it does not perceive at a deep level.   Chimpanzees are the only animal that can lie, and they can lie down only on one level.  So they can hide something from you, but then they can’t tell you that they didn’t hide it.  And when they lie, it is extremely stressful for their brains.  Scientists have monitored their brains, and have shown this to be true.

We make up convoluted storiesIn comparison, our human brains can sustain fictions and secrets that are so convoluted it looks something like the art shown here. But there is a cost.  It creates tremendous pressure for the creative aspect of the brain that is now trying to make up a world that is not what its senses perceive.   For example, you may lie in bed at night being terrified about your stocks falling in the market place.  The reality that your body is receiving is; warm bed, dark place; that is where we are.  And then there’s the part of the brain that is making up, OMG, I’m falling apart, my money is going away.  It has to sustain the idea that money is keeping you alive, which it isn’t.   We can’t eat it.  It’s a symbol that we use to trade around.   Our brain has to maintain the fiction that things are disappearing, when in fact you are just sitting on the bed.  It has to maintain a whole future where you don’t have enough money.  A future which doesn’t exist.

The Effects of our Brains Working Hard

Our brain takes 20% of our calories in thoughts. It’s laborious work to create a future.   The easiest thing to do is for your brain to relax into what’s right now.  That’s what animals do.   But for us the fictions are so rapid.  And the more we do it, the more the muscles tense and it triggers a fight or flight reaction.  And then our adrenals pump like crazy, and cortisol is pumping into your blood stream, and our whole body is getting to run from a cave bear.  That’s a lot of work and it’s exhausting.  And it creates physical weakness, as we try to hold the lies. This is a bit of the mechanics of what happens when we focus on the first two items on the list.

Tips to Manage a Panic Attack – RiverWest Acupuncture in Portland

So, what do we do when we’re in this panicked state? How do we reduce our blood pressure, even out our breathing, and become present in the moment? How do we feel safe in our bodies, getting away from the fight or flight response and instead actually get to rest and regenerate?


Acupuncture is amazing at bringing you back to rest comfortably in your body. Asking for support, although it may be difficult at first, actually allows a shift to occur in your healing process. Relying on practitioners we trust contributes to feeling connected and a part of a healing community that understands that there are naturally different cycles of emotions, and there are ways to return to balance. Acupuncture treatments are always customized to address the underlying issues that are causing the anxiety and panic, and can work on accompanying symptoms of appetite and digestive changes, sleep issues, and any other presentation. There are many Chinese herbal formulas that treat anxiety and panic, some that you take on a daily basis to prevent the intense emotions from occurring, and some that can be taken as needed when symptoms are intense. There are many options that can help, that we’d love to share with you. Here are a few techniques you can use on your own, but don’t forget we’re here for you as well.

Breathe Regulation

Regulating our breathing is a great place to start. So often, when we are preoccupied with stressful things, we forget to really breathe. We hold our breath, or we breathe very shallowly. When we breathe in our upper chest, we use neck muscles to raise and lower our top ribs. These muscles on the side of the neck, called the scalenes, should only be engaged in emergency circumstances. They are meant to give our lungs extra capacity, making us more oxygenated so we can get away from that cave bear. Nowadays, these muscles are overactive, as the threatened part of us seeks to get away from political, economic, or other stressors.

Abdominal Breathing

By practicing abdominal breathing, we shift our focus from our head and heart to our lower belly, our gut, that place that has a deep sense of knowing and connection. You can do abdominal breathing while seated, or while laying down. Begin by noticing your breath in and out of your nose. Notice whether it’s fast or slow, shallow or deep, restricted or free. Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. As you breathe, does your chest rise or your belly? Bring your focus to expanding your abdomen with each inhalation, extending the length of your breath with ease, pushing out the hand resting there. When you exhale, try to spend as much time breathing out as you spent breathing in. Do this while contracting your abdomen, noticing your hand resting there falling deeper to your core. Repeat this style of breathing for 3-5 minutes, and noticed how different you feel, more present in your body.


Another option is to guide your active mind through a visualization, which can allow you to feel grounded and centered. A simple technique is to stand, feet shoulder width apart with toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent so they’re not locked. You can gentle curl your tailbone forward a few times so your entire spine gets a gentle stretch. Then find a neutral hip stance and pay attention to each vertebra, stacking one on top of the next all the way up to your head . Lift the chest upright. Notice the neck connecting to the head, and then notice the top of your head, pointed directly at the sky above. Come back to your feet. Notice them firmly planted on the ground. Imagine roots sprouting from the bottom of your feet. Let it pass through the floor beneath you, extending through lower floors below, to the foundation of the building you’re in. See the roots growing through the ground, deeper and deeper, until you feel anchored. Pull up whatever nutrients or resources you need through the roots, and feel yourself nourished and supported. You can also practice this while seated in a chair, as long as you remember to keep your feet firmly planted and your spine upright and lifting.

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