Fortunately, I have a technique that works. Many years ago, I actually learned how to slow my heart rate from pounding a mile a minute to a beating at a regular pace.
Back in high school, when I was training for track and field, after a particularly hard workout, my heart would feel like it was beating out of my chest. It was pretty disconcerting. I actually felt ill when it was happening. So I had to do something.
Here’s what I did:
First, I tried slowing down my breathing, but my heart would still race, and my body would feel like it was starving for air. That’s a terrible feeling. I felt like I was drowning and would start to panic. So, I’d start breathing heavier again, and my heart rate would stay elevated.
Then I tried taking in a deep breath and holding it… But for some reason, that just made it beat even harder. Yikes! I have been told, that is because inhalation is linked with the sympathetic nervous system, which is all about pumping up your system and getting it going on overdrive with adrenalin and fight-flight-freeze responses. Taking a deep breath seemed to activate the very thing I was trying to calm down.
Then I tried exhaling completely, and holding my breath for a count of 3-5, or as long as I could hold it…. then slowly inhaling… and then exhaling and holding it for as long as I could count. The exhalation is what worked for me.
It can be uncomfortable to hold my breath, while my entire body is screaming out for OXYGEN! MORE OXYGEN!!, but if I exhale completely and keep myself from inhaling for a count of 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… and then inhale very, very slowly, that’s what does the trick.
I just need to hang in there. And convince my panicking mind that I’m not going to suffocate while I’m doing this.