Anxiety and panic attacks - how I broke free

Top five techniques for fast and effective anxiety relief

I was quite young when I first started to feel anxious and suffer from panic attacks. In therapy I gradually discovered they were caused by a build-up of stress in my personal life and the pressure of starting University.

The more I talked about these events and put certain techniques into practice, the more the anxiety faded until, after about eight months of therapy, I no longer suffered from anxiety at all.

After this I found myself helping others who also suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and in 2005 I trained as a counsellor/psychotherapist.

What I have discovered is that there are certain techniques which are effective for most people, and can give immediate relief. I'd like to share with you here my top five techniques for overcoming anxiety:

1. Identifying triggers, challenging self and making changes

The events and situations that cause anxiety are called 'triggers', and by recognising what they are, you can take steps to overcome the anxiety associated with them. It is a good idea to keep a daily log sheet to record anything that you do during the day that makes you feel anxious. You then look at this log and think about ways you can challenge yourself to stop these triggers being an issue for you. The next step is then often the hardest as it involves putting this into practice, and you may not feel confident enough to do so straight away, but keep going as you will eventually.

2. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT is an emotional type of acupuncture, minus any needles! It works by stimulating various acupressure points to balance the natural elements in our bodies. It is done by tapping on various meridian points in sequence using your fingertips. This may sound a little strange, but honestly, I urge you to give it a go. You only need to search for 'emotional freedom technique' online and you will find examples of how to do it.

3. Journalling

Writing about how you are feeling and what is happening in your life has long been recognised as a healthy way to express yourself and a way to encourage healing.

For the purpose of dealing with anxiety, you may find that you know what it is in your life that makes you feel anxious. So to help with this you decide that you will write about these things until it becomes clear why they leave you feeling anxious. Then you can write about what you can do to overcome them. If you are not sure what causes you to feel anxious you may want to just write about whatever comes into your head. If you do this often enough you should then come to a point where it becomes clear what is causing you to feel anxious. The great thing about keeping a journal is that you can always refer back to how your past few days, weeks, months and even years have been, and from this you can see patterns develop.

4. 7-11 breathing exercise

This is an exercise that you can use anytime anywhere, sitting in your car or on the bus, at work, or while walking down the street. If the 'in breath' or the 'out breath' feel too much try counting 6 and 10 or 5 and 9. This will make sense once you read the instructions below. The important thing is to breathe out for 3-4 seconds longer than breathing in.

1. Close your mouth and breathe in gently through your nose to the count of seven. You are breathing in slowly.

2. Feel your stomach rise.

3. Hold your breath for a second and then gently breathe out through your mouth to the count of eleven. So you are breathing out really slowly.

4. Notice how your shoulders come down as you breathe out. Feel your upper body relax. Your stomach flattens as you let all the air out of your lungs.

5. Feel the relaxation in your body.

6. Repeat this two or three times.

You can use 7-11 breathing in three different ways;

1. To reduce your anxiety when it is high.

2. To prepare yourself for a potentially anxious situation.

3. To reduce your general anxiety levels during the day.

5. Indian Head Massage

Indian head massage has been used for thousands of years as part of traditional Indian techniques for relaxation and healing. It is an alternative treatment, used to manipulate energy channels in the shoulders, neck, head, face and ears to unblock these energy channels and expel any negative trapped energy which can cause ill health, including anxiety.

If you would like to find out more about these techniques, plus others, you can check out my new book, The Anxiety Sufferers Tool Book, which is available now on Amazon.