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If I feel a sense of panic, what do I do?

For most people the breath works as a really good object of meditation. But sometimes it can feel a bit uncomfortable, and for a few people it can even bring about a greater sense of anxiety or panic.

The first thing to remember is that the breath regulates itself quite happily most of the time. Even if you are unconscious, the body will continue to breathe and regulate the flow of oxygen. This is good news, as it means we don't need to worry about controlling the breath.

I think there is sometimes the assumption that when we turn our attention to the breath that we'll find a nice, deep, strong, steady rhythm coming from the stomach. But the breath is not always like that. So what tends to happen, especially if the breath is very shallow and felt more towards the chest, is that we instinctively panic a little. In fact the rhythm of the breath may even remind you of a time when you felt very anxious and this will only reinforce the idea that you need to do something, to take control. This can also happen if the breath feels very tight, heavy or sluggish.

It's important to say that this is not at all uncommon, and if you experience it sometimes you should not be at all concerned. The best thing to do in this situation is to give the mind some form of physical reassurance that you are in fact breathing, no matter what the depth or rhythm may be. This is usually done by placing a hand on the belly button. Do not try to breathe, no matter what. Simply wait for the next breath and watch how the hand rises. Then wait for the out breath and watch how the hand falls. Continue in this way for as long as you need to. Again, it's important to have confidence in the body's ability to regulate the breath - it's got you this far in life without any help at all!

If when you try this there is very little movement, then try moving the hand up towards the diaphragm, or even on to the chest. It's really helpful for the mind to have that physical reassurance of movement. And don't forget to remind yourself that meditation is not about breathing in a particular way, so just let the body self-regulate. Be interested, be curious and get to know your own patterns of breathing.

Please also note that if you do ever experience any extreme psychological or physical reactions to your Headspace, we suggest you pause your practice immediately and seek professional medical help.

As we are unfortunately unable to provide any detailed or medical guidance regarding questions, you might like to check out the following resources which may offer some further resources regarding mind health. Please note that these organisations are broad as we are unable to provide any tailored resourc

http://www.mind.org.uk (U.K)
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk (U.K)
http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx (U.K)
www.nami.org (U.S) 

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