Therapeutic Meeples: Pushing Your Luck about Panic

Don’t panic. Benny’s back with another installment of Therapeutic Meeples. This time, it’s about panic attacks.

panic photo
Photo by Krysten_N

Here’s something I’ve noticed: panic attacks seem to be like the push-your-luck variety of the mental health experience. A panic attack is serious business. They’re like a heart attack only they seem to stop at some point. Often they’re preceded by shallow or rapid breathing. In this fashion, the brain is deprived its steady supply of fuel and begins to freak out, it sends a distress signal throughout the body to try to bring everything back in line. Not a pleasant experience.

Once a panic attack passes, the person begins to return to their baseline. This is a tricky thing then as the person now starts to have the awareness that they could have another panic attack. It creates a cyclical path where now the person instead of dealing with their primary concerns of getting through the day and on with their life now has an added burden, that panic attack could come back at any moment.

No physical panic if the body can stay in that deep rhythm

Panic is produced in two ways, physiological and psychological. That physiological portion can be completely stopped. Breathing deeper with the belly. Bring that breath in deep and low. No physical panic if the body can stay in that deep rhythm. I do it by counting to 5 breathing in and 6 breathing out. Start with 3 if this is new for you.

Psychological is the tapping into those inner resources, strengths, coping skills. If the stress is greater than the ability to cope, then the person can flip around into panic. Build those strengths.

I’ve worked with clients who have become physically debilitated over this, fearing the next panic attack. The very nature of panic attacks is a relatively sneaky one as the person, while worried about the next panic attack, is effectively setting their self up for its arrival.

(c) Daniel Danzer; used with permission

I referenced at the beginning, this is a push-your-luck sort of thing. In board games, this is a common term. Players, especially those engaged in something like [amazon_textlink asin=’B00TLEMRKM’ text=’Yahtzee ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theigreport0f-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e48b88f1-b855-11e7-a60d-c128c3e9adb2′](Milton Bradley). They are trying their best to get something they need. They keep rolling, fingers crossed that it comes up. [amazon_textlink asin=’B01F46RPS4′ text=’King of Tokyo’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theigreport0f-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’dbd19337-b857-11e7-b54c-ed5f9e6dabe0′] (Iello) is a really fun re-implementation of this as the players become giant monsters and roll in this style to get points, smack opponents, or power up; a fun way to scare off panic attacks by the way. Getting a client to laugh or roar or shift off of the wait for their panic can be hugely beneficial.

Though not all clients would be receptive to King of Tokyo, I like Dairyman (Tasty Minstrel) as a backup option. It has an idyllic sort of theme of collecting milk and turning it into cheese or ice cream. Dairyman too has the advantage where the player is not directly attacking others.

Check out this related TIGR story

Dairyman: Milking the Dice for All They’re Worth
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Dairyman also helps me illustrate another point. If we assume that a panic attack is the result of busting on the dice roll, then what can be learned or gained from that experience is similar to getting a red die and red token in Dairyman. The panic happened, the person survived, but is somehow in a slightly different space, meaning they know it’s happened twice. If it happens twice, there may start to be a pattern, thus something is gained or learned.

Finding a success in push-your-luck often improves the chance that a player will again pursue that push.

It is what we take: learn and grow from that is what’s truly important. Maybe it is the knowledge that 1 panic attack could lead to another. Though the search for deepening the experience that is important. Finding a success in push-your-luck often improves the chance that a player will again pursue that push. Where a bust on the push results in the player being less likely to continue the pursuit.

Too with panic, the presence of a panic attack lessens the individual’s pursuit of a regular routine or beginning to associate the panic with a certain situation/person/place/item/animal. To combat this, look for the presence of successes or strengths. Find abilities/talents in the client to help them pursue those rather than the panic-producing stressor. This will help with generalizing, which is all too common and leads to a further increase of panic-producing stressors.

This is the therapist’s job to jump in and point out the successes.

Looking back at our options in games, especially Dairyman, there is an incentive to push further. Games like [amazon_textlink asin=’B005DBRDPG’ text=’Can’t Stop’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theigreport0f-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”] (Eagle-Gryphon) cause the player to lose all their progress for the turn when they bust. In many instances, this can feel like the case for the client who experiences the panic attack and then immediately feels they have had no progress. Though they have. This is the therapist’s job to jump in and point out the successes. Consider having the client use a chart to mark only their successes, then rather than “start over” they are encouraged to look at the minutes, hours, days, weeks between panic attacks. Expect the “yeah, but” answer. Remember, our panicked individual has lost confidence in their abilities. Remind them of the success and their strengths.

breath photoRemember: Panic is produced in two ways, physiological and psychological. That physiological portion can be completely stopped. Breathing deeper with the belly. Bring that breath in deep and low. No physical panic if the body can stay in that deep rhythm. I do it by counting to 5 breathing in and 6 breathing out. Start with 3 if this is new for you.

Psychological is the tapping into those inner resources, strengths, coping skills. If the stress is greater than the ability to cope, then the person can flip around into panic. Build those strengths.

Always learn something from each experience. Pull in those resources that help you toward a positive goal. Count each success. Even the ones that seem inconsequential. Every success, every time.

You can do this. Build those strengths, get some healthy strategies, breathe. Breathe in that positive energy, then let the negative go. You can do this.

 

2 thoughts on “Therapeutic Meeples: Pushing Your Luck about Panic”

    1. Thank you! I certainly try to bring about good information as I can. I owe a good bit of credit to my boss on this one, she’s a rockstar!

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