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Finding calm within the panic.


What does calm mean to you? For me its when my whole body is relaxed from head to toe, in complete tranquillity. It's in the moments I take a deep breath and my fears float away. Sometimes calm for me is excitement and sometimes it's safety. Sometimes calm is a person, that brings me a sense of warmth sometimes it's a place that reminds me of a time or sometimes it's a object that comforts me. Calm can be a variety of different things at different points of our lives.

When our calm is unbalanced or knocked by something in our day or a life event, it can leave us feeling all sorts of emotions. Such as anger, fear, sadness, betrayal, confusion and so on. I know when I feel unbalanced my mind feels like a whirl wind, whizzing around and around and around, making it incredibly hard to slow it down. Before I know it I'm curled up on the floor in a big mess of panic only to question 'what the fu*k just happened' when I arise out of the state.

I've suffered with panic attacks since I was 13 and quite frankly lets not beat around the bush, they SUCK. I feel like the walls are caving in (even when there is no walls around you), my chest is heavy and my vision goes. It's rather scary. I remember my first panic attack very clearly. It was triggered by a particular life circumstance, I have to admit I genuinely thought I was going to die. Panic attacks are something I have never really properly talked about, I guess talking about them even creates some sort of panic inside of me. Don't worry I don't understand the human brain either.

 Over the years I have found ways to calm myself down in states of panic and anxiety, I mean it doesn't always work but we are always growing and learning. The more you practice something the better you get. I think a lot of people expect when they find coping techniques or ways to make things easier, they believe they will suddenly be cured only to leave them disheartened when it doesn't work immediately. Like everything in life it just takes time. I have found some incredible techniques which have become part of my daily routine or tiny things which I may add into my day to ease some arising anxiety, especially recently. I want to add that sometimes these things help me and sometimes they don't, it all depends on the situation, time and day.

Meditation really helps me (and I don't mean sitting there perfectly leg crossed reciting mantras). Meditation can come in very different forms and is incredibly different for every individual. Meditation for you might be getting on your yoga mat and flowing while forgetting your thoughts and worries. It might be going for a walk with no technology while focusing on your surroundings and the sounds, being present and mindful. It might be a quick body scan coming back in tune with what each part of your body is currently feeling like. If you struggle to stop your thoughts from racing, take a minute to sit with them. Meditation isn't about who can do it the longest. Even if you do a minute, that's better than not at all. Sit down in a quiet, comforting space, maybe light a candle or two. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Each inhale and exhale try not to alter your breathing too much but focus on it's natural patterns. If thoughts come in allow them to then allow them to float away. I like to visualise my thoughts as bubbles or clouds (not as silly as it sounds!) and imagine them just coming to say hello but passing by and leaving me with a sense of calm. I also like to add mantras to my meditation for example if there are things I need to let go of at the end of a day, I will recite 'I let go' throughout my meditation and let that fill my mind and body to fully letting go.

If you struggle to meditate on your own there are loads of resources or apps out there which offer you a guided meditation. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are two popular ones I've used myself or head to YouTube and type in guided meditation and you will be given lots of different options.

In relation to meditation breath work really has helped me over the years, simply learning to breath can have an impact. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, anxious or having a panic attack controlling and focusing on certain breathing techniques is my key. I've mentioned the 4 by 4 one before where you inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4 and repeat. This really helps bring me back to a mindful state if I'm getting worked up or overwhelmed. Another one I really like especially before bed is known as 'belly breathing' which is a technique where you engage your diaphragm and you expand your belly. It's a great way to relieve stress or any tension, hence why I like to do it before bed. Start lying down completely relaxing your body. Place one hand on your belly just below your ribs and one on your chest. Take a deep inhale expanding your belly, your chest shouldn't move. Take a large exhale out of your mouth allowing your belly to lower. Repeat as many times as you may need.

Going for a walk in a quiet place usually around nature, popping in a podcast or sometimes just listening to the noises around me really resets my mind from chaos. Since living in a city this has been a little bit harder but it still helps. If I am starting to get stressed from work or having a lethargic day (which also spikes my anxiety), heading outside and walking it off sometimes prevents my mind from going at 100mph. It grounds me back to reality. Sometimes it doesn't always work, sometimes I have to accept that it's simply a crazy ass day in my brain but it always helps a little bit in that moment never the less.

Do you have a calming person in your life? You know one of them people who just naturally have a calming aura about them. Whether it be their voice or their presence but instantly that can calm you down. For me that's my boyfriend whom I'm extremely grateful for. Whenever I am in a panic or feeling anxious he instantly knows what to do or say to calm me down, he can certainly be a lot more level headed than me. I think it's important to surround yourself with these people or people you know you can turn to rather than people who rile you up and probably make your anxiety worse. OPPOSITE OF CALM, ABORT!

The little things sometimes make the biggest difference to me. Whether I am feeling a weird sense of anxiety, something has happened or coming back around after a panic attack. Things such as candles, if I surround my room with candles, low lights and my favourite blanket (I am 22, promise). I suddenly find a place of calmness with these around me. Reading has also been a big help in my life. Many of you will know before I got into fitness I was massievely into English and wanted to do that full time. And while I do still write and wish to one day publish a book, somehow and way, which I'm trailing along trying to currently write. I let go of reading. I have been read to since I was coming out the womb and was reading myself as soon as I could talk. So recently I have made sure I make time for reading again. Even if it's just 10 minutes. It takes me away from daily life, from the chaos and the thoughts. Whether I read fiction or non fiction it takes me back to a place I knew I was calm and my favourite place of all. In literature.

Sometimes I just have to sit with the feeling and like I said above accept that today is just one of them days. I've recently been trying a technique where even though I know the thought or feeling is there I don't allow it to grow. And yes I actually say this out loud. I tell it that it can stay but I'm not giving it the time of day to get any bigger. And that's that.

Calm can be a tricky place to find. Through the madness that is life. But I hope this post made you think a little bit more about what is your calm place? What helps with you calm place? Is it similar to mine?

Speak soon,

Holli Jessi x

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