How to deal with a panic attack


Anxiety is something that we all experience at various points in our life. Although it is an uncomfortable and, for some, terrifying experience, anxiety actually has an essential function – to keep us safe.

Years ago, when we were primitive men and women, our brains’ primary function was to protect us from danger, such as predators and wild animals. If we encountered such a threat, our brain’s ‘Amygdala,’ the panic alarm, kicked in. It flushed our bodies and tensed our muscles in preparation to run. This ‘flight’ mode was beneficial, and it still is useful in modern times when facing danger. It is not so helpful, however, when you suffer from long term stress and anxiety. It is not useful when there is actually no real danger to face. This prolonged hyper-alert mode can be stressful for both the body and the brain.

Panic Attacks

When anxiety occurs in a situation when there is no danger, and the symptoms begin to escalate, this can lead to a panic attack. A panic attack is a very frightening experience, characterised by:


  • Immense fear or terror that often begins with no, or little, warning.
  • A period of about five to ten minutes of very intense feelings, leaving the sufferer to feel drained afterward.
  • Physical symptoms including feelings of suffocation, faintness and nausea. Often these feelings can be similar to that of a heart attack. Often these feelings lead to more considerable panic.


But panic attacks are actually quite common. It is estimated that one in ten of us will experience a panic attack in our lives.

If you are suffering from panic attacks, here are some ways to help reduce, limit, and, even, eradicate these symptoms once and for all.


1 – Logic away your thoughts

Often, when you suffer from a panic attack, you get yourself stuck in a loop. The negativity and catastrophic feelings create physical sensations, such as difficulty breathing or chest pains. When we experience these physical sensations, it can often cause fear, terror and more catastrophic feelings that keep the cycle of panic going.

If we can change our thought patterns, we can break this cycle. For example, if you feel like you are having a heart attack, ask yourself, ‘Did I have a heart attack the last time I felt like this?’ If you feel like you are going to vomit, ask yourself, ‘Did I vomit before?’ By taking a step back from your feelings, and applying logic to the thoughts that you are having, you can quickly break the cycle and reduce the escalation of symptoms.

2 – Distract yourself

When you suffer from a panic attack, you can become so obsessed with anxiety that you become consumed by it. This can contribute to an escalation of the physical sensations. Rather than focus on the negative thoughts and feelings, stop for a second… look around you. Look at what is going on around you? Notice your senses. What do you see? Or smell? Or hear?

During a panic attack, your mind is in tunnel vision. Paying attention to the experience of all five senses can help remove you from that negative state and distract your anxious brain.

3 – Control your breathing

When suffering from a panic attack, try to sit down somewhere, calmly, and focus on your breathing. Nothing else, but your breath… in and out. Do and achieve nice, long, five-second breaths in, and then out. Place your hands on your chest and stomach to really focus your mind. Imagine your lungs and stomach filling with air. Breathing is one of the constants that we have. It centralises our bodies. It is rhythmic and calming. It is tough to panic when you are focused on something so tranquil, like your breath.

4 – Gentle exposure

If you suffer a stressful panic attacks, it can be a natural instinct to avoid the place and situation in which it happened. You may be worried that it may happen again. Although there will now be triggers in that situation, by avoiding it altogether, you are reinforcing a belief that this situation is ‘scary.’ You strengthen the associations you have of panic and stress.

To avoid this, you can gently expose yourself to that situation again. For example, if you always suffer panic attacks in the supermarket, start by sitting outside the supermarket in your car. Use techniques 1 to 3 to reduce your anxiety. Try to stay as long as possible so that any fear symptoms gradually subside. Maybe in the next couple of days, you could try this technique again, but this time, go up to the entrance or into the coffee shop.

Over time, you are training your brain that there is, actually, nothing really to be afraid of as you become more and more accustomed to that, once, scary situation.


How hypnotherapy can help


Hypnotherapy can be a powerful therapeutic tool that can assist in breaking the cycle of panic attacks. This is because:


  • The repetition of weekly ‘trance’ sessions help to train your body to relax more easily.
  • Hypnotherapy helps to empty your ‘stress bucket.’ This gives you more spare capacity to cope with the problems of everyday life. In turn, this can reduce the need for your brain to panic.
  • Hypnotherapy trains your brain to work in the intellectual rather than the anxiety-creating primitive emotional mind where panic attacks emanate.


If you would like to find out more, I offer a free initial consultation (either via zoom or in-person). Please click for information.


Stress, Anxiety and Cortisol

Are you feeling stressed? Feelings of burnout, anxiety, stress and depression can be scientifically monitored by the amount of various hormones present in the brain. Understanding how these stress hormones (in this case ‘cortisol’) contribute to these feelings can be the first step in empowering clients to better manage their stress levels and wellbeing.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is one of the body’s main stress hormones. It helps to fuel the brain’s alarm system; the amygdala (often referred to as the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ centre). Therefore, when we are met with a stressful situation, the influx of this hormone can support in activating our survival responses; we run away or fight off the danger.

Cortisol has a number of other positive benefits to the body, including increasing blood sugar, regulating blood pressure and controlling the sleep / wake cycle.

It is therefore an extremely useful hormone for our bodies and our survival.

When the stressful situation has subsided, however, the body should calm down and the flow of this hormone (and other stress related hormones, such as noradrenaline) should become more regulated.

So what happens when we are always stressed?

If we are in a constant state of stress, when in demanding jobs, sleep deprived, debt or intense domestic situations, the body can react with a number of detrimental conditions. These can include anxiety and depression, digestive issues, heart disease, weight gain or memory and concentration issues.

In these situations, when in a constant state of high alert, the cortisol levels can be much higher and can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. This can include the immune system, the digestive system or even our reproductive system.

A lot of people see stress as only an emotional issue and yet the physical ramifications of long term stress can be just as detrimental.

How does Hypnotherapy help?

Hypnotherapy helps to solve this issue on many levels. At its most basic the client is in a state of deep relaxation for a sustained amount of time allowing the body to manage this bombardment of stress chemicals.

Hypnotherapy also fires up the imagination. For certain parts of the brain, visualising situations in a positive way (either through metaphor or directly) is equal to experiencing it in real time. This helps to produce feel good chemicals (such as serotonin) and reduce stress hormones (cortisol).

Without the high levels of cortisol, the amygdala (our brain’s alarm system) is suppressed which allows other parts of our brains to form new neural connections, solving problems in abstract ways and therefore, reducing stress longer term.

The more time we spend doing this, the better our brain becomes at managing positive neural connections and stress hormone levels (hence why every client I see is given access to a hypnotherapy track which helps to manage these systems daily).

How you can reduce cortisol levels at home?

Don’t dwell on the problem

As mentioned, visualising situations in either positive or negative ways can be as real for the brain as experiencing it first-hand. Therefore, if you have had a row with a friend and you go home and ‘stew’ on it, your brain is reliving that disagreement over and over again with the same amount of stress hormones attached. As a therapy, Solution focused hypnotherapy understands this and therefore only looks at the solutions rather than problems. It is important, however, that you also maintain your own positive thinking, interaction and action at home. Rather than dwell on a fight, solve it or, if that is not possible, engage in some other alternative activity that is positive and feel good.


As well as producing feel good hormones in abundance, such as serotonin, exercise can improve our rapid response to stress. As exercise exerts some stress on our bodies, the adrenal glands will release a tiny amount of cortisol during times of exercise. Think of it like a vaccine – if we are exposed to tiny amounts, our bodies will build up a better immunity to it. Those who exercise regularly are more likely to recover from stress more rapidly.


Studies have shown that eating food with a high glycemic index at breakfast (high in sugar or carbohydrate) can increase cortisol levels. Breakfast is a perfect time to eat fruit and low sugar cereals rather than bread and potatoes and this will help minimise the cortisol throughout the day.

Mood is infectious

If you are surrounding yourself with other stressed-out individuals then you are likely to experience higher levels of stress yourself. Companies know this as often the negative mood of a team leader can have detrimental effects on the culture of the whole company as the bad vibe spreads. It is difficult to remain stressed when you surround yourself with calm and happy people.

If you would like to know more about how hypnotherapy can help to manage stress, I offer a free initial consultation. Click here to book now!

Sleep, Hypnotherapy and REM

In hypnotherapy, one of the most engaging systems, processes and phenomena in the human brain is REM (or Rapid Eye Movement). This is the stage of sleep where we dream and process information. Similar to this and, also running concurrently, is another stage called NREM. NREM is a very similar sleep process; although it tends to not involve the imaginative visual theatre of dreaming that we associate with true REM.

When we are awake our brains act like a video recorder. It is recording information from our five senses, sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. These memories are stored in the hippocampus region in the form of short term memories. In order for us to update our behaviours, during sleep, they must be moved to the cortex area which has substantially more capacity for organising, prioritising and storing this information. All the time the information remains in the hippocampus it is fragile and susceptible to being replaced my new, more important information.

During the NREM stages of our sleep our brains are doing what can be described as a clear out. Organising our already existing files to make room for the updated files that have been recorded during the day. During the REM stage, our brains incorporate the new information learnt that day (whilst in conscious recording mode) and we link this new information to already existing models in our brains. Therefore, we have a viewpoint on the world which is adjusted and refined every night during those precious hours of sleep.

Think of it using this metaphor. During the day we go to the shops and buy lots of new things. When we go to sleep at night our NREM stage of sleep rearranges the items we already have in our bedrooms to make room for the new purchases and the REM stage incorporates these new purchases into our, now tidy, bedrooms. If we don’t do this process every night, our bedrooms will just keep on getting messier and messier.

A good sleep is considered to be between 7-9 hours. Any less and we are in sleep deprivation which, scientists believe, is as damaging to our bodies as a day of junk food and no exercise.

Interestingly, a healthy sleep should consist of 5 cycles (of around 90 minutes each in length). Each cycle should be composed of light sleep, deep sleep, REM and NREM forms of sleep. NREM (the clearing out of file systems) seems to be generous in the first few cycles and less prevalent in the latter cycles of sleep and REM appears to do the opposite.

This becomes very problematic if you are getting under seven hours of sleep a night because the last cycles of sleep (in the 7th and 8th hour) are rich in the information processing power of REM. This is when our minds process stress, enhance creativity, problem solve and prioritise the learning of our brains.

When people say that they ‘don’t need more than five hours sleep a night’ they are only fooling themselves. Yes we can function, hold down jobs and interact but the learning and stress management systems are dramatically impaired. There is now a wealth of evidence linking the loss of the REM rich stages of sleep to many neurological disorders such as memory loss, depression, anxiety and anger. Moreover, this starvation can often lead the hippocampus to come up with coping strategies for the stress caused by our ‘messy bedrooms’ such as weight gain, addictions, obsessions, compulsions and paranoia.

One of the simple functions of hypnotherapy is this – we create a trance like state similar to REM, firing up the imagination and processing the information which is lost by the lack of eight hours sleep.

It always frustrates me when people tell me that they either ‘believe’ or ‘don’t believe’ in hypnotherapy. It isn’t a religion… It’s neuroscience.

If you would like to find out more about hypnotherapy click here

To book a free initial consultation, click here

A Portrait of Anxiety

For anyone is suffering from Anxiety, Panic disorders, Depression or any of the associated consequences, I wanted to share the following diary from one of my clients, Chris. Chris has just revealed to me that he kept a blog about his experiences of anxiety and hypnotherapy which he has agreed that I can share on my website. It acts as both a beautiful testimony for my services (which made me a little choked to read to be honest) but also as a really touching and important story about the effects of anxiety.

Chris has been amazing with me. A truly remarkable story. A year ago crippled, housebound and overwhelmed with a truly horrific case of anxiety, he has progressed amazingly with hypnotherapy having just got married in front of many guests and now just started his own gardening and maintenance business with clients booked up until September – a truly remarkable feat considering his starting point.

Thank you for sharing 


Hi I’m Chris, I’m 29 and I live in the South East of England. I have a beautiful wife-to-be and my amazing little boy. I would like to give you an insight into my life living with depression and anxiety. For the past 6 years or so I have been battling with the hells of anxiety and depression, and would like to share my experience with any people that wish to read about it. I will keep you updated with some techniques I use to calm myself; not all of them work but if you have some I can try I am willing to do anything to rid myself of this plague. 

For a long time I wasn’t sure what to make of it. To start with I thought I had a sickness bug as I was constantly feeling sick. I went to the doctors on many an occasion but nobody could tell me what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with everything from a sickness bug to what they thought could have been diabetes! I know diabetes! 

Thankfully it wasn’t. I went undiagnosed for nearly 3 years before finally someone asked me “How is your head?” FINALLY! The question that started my journey to find out that what I was experiencing was a panic disorder. 

Now to this this day nobody, including myself can find out what the doctors like to call “my trigger” is. It just seems to happen at anytime, anywhere and it’s the most frightening and inconvenient thing I’ve ever experienced. It has cast a really dark shadow over my life for the past 6 years and has caused me to miss out on a lot of stuff with friends and family. 

It can even effected my work. I am on a drug called paroxetine 30mg. Just to get me out of bed in the morning. It helps to an extent but, believe me, I still feel the effects of anxiety every day the medication just helps me to get by day by day. 

Making plans can affect me, long distances, unknown situations, social events… I want to use this as a tool to see if I can pinpoint the triggers of my anxiety and maybe cure myself of this horrible mental illness. 

 Thanks for reading 


The bastard monster within me


So, Good Morning… It’s 3am and this is where my daily struggle begins every day. For the next three and a half hours I’m going to do battle with this bastard monster within me. Usually until I fall asleep again just in time for my alarm to go off and me to drag my exhausted backside out of bed again. 

Let’s talk about what happens to me. 

For an unknown reason anxiety wakes me up.  “Hey wake up I’m bored and I’m going to f**k with you!” So now I’m semi awake and I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach – a butterfly sensation, if you like, that slowly creeps from my core filling my abdomen. At this point it turns into fire and my body now feels like I’m burning up with a combination of freezing at the same time. My arms and legs tingle to the tips of my fingers and toes and go dead. I can barely move them. I’m frozen with this nightmare going on inside me. Now I’m wide awake. And this feeling can go on for hours nonstop. 

I tell myself I’m going to be ok, over and over, but it doesn’t work. I try breathing exercises. Still nothing. Eventually it disappears for a moment, every now and then coming back with an electric shock sensation. ZAP!!! “I’m still here in the back ground” and all I can do is lay motionless because my body feels like I’ve just had a 3 hour work out. The only way I can describe it is the feeling you get when you have a near miss in the car and your whole body goes dead; heart racing, heavy breathing and tingling. I’m exhausted and I drift into a light sleep then my alarm goes off. ZAP!!! “Wake up it’s time for me to fuck with you again.” I take my medication in the hope that it will end but it takes ages. And I wait for the next unexpected round with this bastard illness as it can creep up on me at any moment. I am living on a knife edge constantly. 


My Safe Space


I want to talk about my safe space, where I can go to when I’m having a hard day and my anxiety levels are really high.

My safe space is where I can be with my girlfriend, my son and my mum. There is something that sooths me when I am with these people, but I have to stress that this only works for me when I am at home. I have also noticed that I am also calm around our dog Millie. I feel she can sense when I’m not right and she will come and cuddle up with me.

They can remind me that I’m not always alone because anxiety and depression is an extremely lonely place. Even when you are in a room with loads of people you can still be lonely when you can’t get to your safe place.

I use music to help me also, some people say my use of metal music is why I have low moods and anxiety but let me tell you when I can play Alexisonfire, full blast, in my headphones, my fears and worries will melt away and I can lose myself in the bliss of their heavy riffs and the scream of George Pettit that helps me to drown out the constant noise that goes on in my head all the time. My go to song is, and you can all say to yourselves ‘who calls a song that?’, is ‘Boiled frogs or accidents.’ These songs have beautiful lyrics that I can relate to. Anyway, I can go all night telling you about this band but I won’t bore you all to death.

Another great relief for me is meditation. I like to use this regularly to keep me relaxed. Usually I will do 10 mins whenever I am alone to relax my mind and body it takes time to be able to distance yourself from your surroundings but when you get it, its euphoric.


This is the time of day I dread the most of all. The run up to going to bed. This is when my anxiety really switches on! It can start as early as 6pm; getting my stuff together for the next day or even cooking dinner can cause me to start thinking about the panic attack I’m going to encounter at some point the next day. Then come the thoughts. What job do I have tomorrow? Where is the job? Is it going to be really far away? People that know me will know that I can’t do long distances or unfamiliar places. 

I can’t remember a time I haven’t gone through this thought process of an evening. I try to fall asleep but the anxiety keeps me up. I try and watch something light on TV to fall asleep to but this doesn’t work. I wish I can remember the last time I had a good nights sleep. I’m like a walking zombie all the time.

I have no enthusiasm in anything or have any pleasure in what I’m doing and this makes me sick. No matter what I do, if it’s working on my car or doing something else I use to really enjoy, my first action is to think about something in far too much depth that then can cause a panic attack. So I use avoidance as a tool to stop this. It usually results in me just not doing what I was going to just so I don’t encounter the anxiety. Fight or flight response, if you like, and 99.9% of the time it’s flight. 

People tell me I need to face the fear and just do it but the anxiety is so disabling that I can’t do it. Then I’m back to feeling like I’ve been used as a punch bag. I’m aching because all my muscles have been tense for so long. And I’m mentally drained that all I want to do is roll up into a little ball and sleep. But it’s a catch- 22; I can’t sleep, I can’t stop thinking, I’m exhausted from it and just wish it could stop. 


5 weeks and counting


Hi everyone. It’s been a while since I last posted, this is because I have spent the last 5 weeks trying to get over a mental breakdown. A little before Christmas I suffered a huge panic attack at work. Just before that I started to notice signs of it coming on but plodded along regardless. Then came the big one that sent me to pieces. I’ve been to numerous Doctors appointments and been signed off for weeks now. I’ve switched from 30mg of paroxetine to 100mg of sertraline. This process of weening has not been easy.


I did a week of 20mg paroxetine, then followed by a week of 10mg paroxetine. The withdrawal was a nightmare. But I was determined to change the medication because paroxetine was no longer working. On day 15 of the weening I had to start on the new drug 50mg of sertraline. I was on this dose for a week and apart from horrific side effects, I didn’t feel much was happening so my doctor put my dose up to 100mg…again this has been crap. No sleep, nausea, headaches, the lot I’m now on day 5 of my 100mg dosage and still fighting the constant anxiety attacks and side effects. 


Saturday, I I had my first hypnosis session. I had never really thought about hypnosis before but this breakdown has had me searching for anything that will stop this crushing illness. I was at the beginning of the end especially spending Christmas Day on my own due to the fact I was too scared to leave the house. This massively affected me and my family. Yet another strain for us and something else I have to feel guilty about. Any way hypnotherapy. Wow. Although I’ve been quite sceptical about stuff like this I needed to try anything that was going to help me.


I met with a guy called Paul Milham to discuss how hypnosis can help in my road to recovery and this guy was great. He explained how the brain works and how we will proceed with getting results. My Girlfriend came with me as it was probably the first time I left the house since Christmas. When I get anxious my agoraphobia kicks in good and proper and I’m only happy in my safe place as I discussed before. Anyway. I left that meeting feeling hugely optimistic and happy for the first time in weeks. 


Fast forward a week. My 1st proper session. Me and Paul sat for a while chatting about what I wanted from my perfect day. This guy really has time to listen and absorbed everything I was telling him. Unlike the GP “Yes, Chris have some drugs next please” I’ve nearly given up with the quacks now. Next the hypnosis started I was pretty much in the room the whole time as in I could hear everything that was being said and going on. When the session ended I felt really relaxed. I got in the car and stared to drive home. I sat in traffic for maybe 30mins, got home and realised that I didn’t panic for the 1st time in years. I sat in traffic without a panic attack. What a huge step forward that was for me. So I’m sold on hypnosis can’t wait to get to my next session. 


To book a free initial consultation with Paul, click here

How to Manage Anxiety

What would you do if you had a child that came home from school and told you that they were being bullied? What advice would you give them to help them deal with this situation, gain confidence in themselves and eradicate this problem in their lives? Most would agree that the traditional thinking involves standing up for yourself, telling someone and not believing the hurtful words they use.

Beat Anxiety
Anxiety is just a playground bully

Anxiety is a bully. It can make us feel as humiliated, incapable, weak, talentless, afraid and depressed as the biggest bully in the playground. So the advice that we give to our children to help them deal with a bully is equally as relevant to us dealing with anxiety, no matter what the route cause. So what can we learn from the teachings that our parents gave us?

Stand up for yourself

A bully can only feel good about themselves when the balance of power is truly in their favour. A bully is unlikely, therefore, to target someone who is not easy prey and who will confidently stand up for themselves. Similarly, someone in the grip of anxiety needs to come up with a firm ‘No I don’t want to be treated like this… I don’t deserve to be treated like this and I will no longer allow it.’

Stand tall

There is a lot of wisdom in this. When we feel good we stand tall, our posture is sturdy, our facial expression powerful and our demeanour self-assured. If our brain makes such a strong neural link between feeling good and a confident poise then we can use that link to our advantage. Just by changing our physical demeanour we can trick our brains into thinking of a situation much more positively. If we look this fierce we are unlikely to be targeted by either the playground bully or the anxiety bully. Stand tall, smile and walk proud.

Use positive self-talk

If someone is trying to make us feel bad about ourselves then we must counter this with confident affirmations of our strengths. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and so if we have a clear picture of who we are it is harder for us to be shaken by anyone who would try to put us down.

Tell Someone

It is the golden rule of conquering a bully. Tell someone… build your army… Expose them and their bullying ways. At the end of the day, we all know what it is like to suffer feelings of anxiousness. Anxiety is most powerful when we try to deal with it on our own. By telling someone that we are not OK you can get a fresh pair of eyes on the situation, you can share the burden and work with others who care to find the solution.

Remain Positive

Being bullied can be hard and, if we let it, it can consume our lives. With must, therefore, spend as much time in the positive aspects of our lives as well as dealing with the problem. Surround yourself with people, places and things that make you feel good, positive, strong and happy. It is very difficult to feel threatened by a bully when you are surrounded by so much positivity.

For help with anxiety book an appointment with Paul here

Hypnotherapy and Stress

According to Alexa the Earth has been in existence for over 4.5 billion years and humans have only been part of this journey for around 200,000 years. That’s only a mere 0.004% of the Earth’s history which we have enjoyed. In fact, if all of the Earth’s evolution was compressed into one day then, effectively, we have only been alive for a little under six minutes.

And what have we done with those six minutes? Well… Quite a bit as it happens. We evolved all the way from grunting and brutal cavemen wielding sticks and fighting off wild animals to sophisticated, cappuccino drinking, modern men and women with mobile phones and apps that control our central heating.

Yet all of this zip-wire evolution comes at a price. Whilst science may be advanced, our minds and our bodies still harp back to our Stone Age existence.

The Stone Age man and women would have survived on around 7lbs of sugar a day, now it is more like 100lbs. This rapid change in lifestyle has left our caveman bodies struggling to evolve at the same pace, leading to diabetes and heart disease. Our eyes, designed for seeking out food over huge forests and plains, are now being asked to stretch and focus on bright screens for hours at a time.

But we have also inherited good traits from our Stone Age ancestors. We associate food with communication and the ritual of sitting down to share a meal with friends dates back to the Stone Age when cavemen would sit down with other tribes to form communities and alliances.

Now if you look back at the evolution of stress, you will find it has similar roots in Palaeolithic man. The caveman would have felt a great deal of stress when meeting a wild animal. The primitive part of his brain would kick in and he would either fight it or run away. Similarly when we get a speeding fine drop on our welcome mat, the parts of our brain inherited from early man may make us shout and wave our hands…or avoid it entirely.

When the primitive man looked out of the cave and saw danger, he may have become stressed and hid beneath a fur rug. When we sense danger, such as unavoidable conflict, we sometimes do the same. This solution to the problem has simply been evolved into modern day symptoms of depression.

So stress is a hangover of the fact that we have just evolved far too quickly. Hypnotherapy can help by relaxing the part of the brain that acts as our panic button, allowing the logical part of our brains, born through evolution and inventiveness, to make decisions based upon rationality and logic.

I don’t think cavemen were ready for hypnotherapy which is a shame. Maybe if this practice had been stumbled upon at the same time as our ancestors tamed fire, we may all be just that little bit more zen.

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