The Top Way I Stop a Panic Attack

This post is an email from the October session of the free BreatheEcourse; mindfulness to manage anxiety, depression and PTSD. Enjoy! 
4 Day BreatheLet’s work on DBT!. But first a quick word about journaling.

If you’re struggling with the journaling, as I know some of you do, set a timer. Set the alarm on your phone. Write just for ten minutes. I know that sometimes we pressure ourselves to  write down every single thought and then it feels like we started an avalanche.

There are no rules to journaling. You don’t have to capture every thought or every moment of your day. You write what and how much you want.

It’s like being on the mat. You’re in the moment and you notice what you notice. We don’t have time for every pose during a session and that’s okay. We don’t even get in every pose we know and usually we don’t get to practice a pose for as long as we’d like. So just write and don’t get overwhelmed by thinking it has to be a certain way.

Okay, so we’re just going to talk about my favorite dialectical behavior skill. It falls under TIP.

Temperature change
Intense Exercise
Progressive relaxation

I know you think we’re going to talk progressive relaxation. Nope! My favorite TIP skill is temperature change. It works like a charm for me. Before DBT no one ever told me that I could stop panic attacks. i was just supposed to get better at enduring them.


Remember, our goal is to move into Wise Mind. (Wise Mind is when we’re not engaging in black or white thinking, but settling into the place in the middle; the plaid place) When emotions are feeling big, we want to run towards Wise Mind.

Let’s take two people. Let’s pretend they’re in a relationship and they’ve had a huge fight. And they happen to be complete opposites. One is very analytical and fact-based and the other is very creative and feelings-based.  The person who swings towards Emotion Mind is crying and feeling sick and feeling like everything is over and is completely in their feelings. This person my seem hysterical and beyond talking to. The person who tends to Reasonable Mind is having trouble accessing their emotions, is gathering facts and weighing pros and cons to decide the next step. This person may seem like they’re not engaging cause they’re already analyzing the facts and already thinking about the next step.

So it’s January and one person goes for a walk in the cold and the other hops in the shower. A cold shower. This blast of cold shifts both their brains’ chemistry and soothes their nervous systems. Individually, they move towards Wise Mind.

termperature changeThe Emotion Mind person is able to quiet the big feelings, be not quite so much in the high emotion of the body, but into what is really true for the body, move a bit into the head and gather some facts, moving more towards that middle ground. They realizes that despite this being hard and feelings being hurt their partner is generally kind and loving and they have survived fights before and this will pass.

The Reasonable Mind person is able to get out of the head so much and move into the body/heart. They feel the hurt and pain of fighting with their love and can say, I really don’t like this feeling. I don’t want to do this anymore.

Because they were each able to move into Wise Mind, they were able to come to a place where they could value each other and the relationship and maybe even take some steps to ensure this fight doesn’t repeat itself.

Now, I just like that outcome. It didn’t have to be that way. They could have moved into Wise Mind and the Emotion Mind could have gathered facts and decided that these fights are happening way too often and this isn’t the kind of relationship they want. Reasonable Mind could have got into their emotions and decided that it hurts too much to fight like this and it’s not worth it.

Both are valid outcomes because they came from Wise Mind. The opposite might be that Emotion Mind, crying and screaming ran out of the house and called all the friends that were going to say that their  partner is a louse and doesn’t deserve them. The Reasonable Mind might have started a pros and cons list, leaving out emotions and decided that the best thing is to break up. In a few days when they moved more towards the middle ground they might both regret their decision. Some regrets can be fixed. Some can’t.

I’m a huge fan of Temperature Change. Years ago, before I took DBT I was in the beginning stages of a panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was sweating, my heart was pounding, I was nauseated. I got afraid, which is the worst thing you can do for a panic attack. If you start to fear it coming on, you just make it grow. So I was snowballing fast.

I was with my ex, who grabbed the biggest bowl in my cabinet, fill ed it with ice and water and told me to plunge my face. I really don’t like super cold, so I resisted. He was adamant. I did it once, came up gasping and he made me do it again. I did it again and when I came up it was like someone had covered me with a heated blanket. I felt this warm calm. My breathing had slowed down. My heart stopped pounding. I wasn’t sweating anymore. It was amazing! I couldn’t believe that a panic attack stopped completely. It sold me on DBT. I signed up a few months later.

I highly recommend DBT to anyone who’ll listen. It honestly changed my life.

I love what I teach and believe in it, but the DBT program is amazing. If you’re interested in learning more DBT skills from a yoga teacher consider signing up for BreatheOnline, which starts January 21st.  If you like the group therapy vibe, check out your local mental health facility. Occasionally some therapists teach it one-on-one, but Marsha Linehan says if you’re not getting it from a team of therapists, it’s not DBT.

2018BreatheOnlineWhat can you do to shift your brain chemistry? Try a few things. Change your Temperature. Run around the block as fast as you can for some Intense Exercise, especially great for anger emotions. Go to YouTube for some Progressive relaxation recordings. Keep a list of the tools that work the best for you.

Post that list somewhere you will see it over and over again. The fridge, the medicine cabinet, on your dashboard.

Happy Managing!

Contact me to sign up for the Free BreatheEcourse. Drop me an email. Or, if you’re ready for deeper work and an opportunity to practice the skills and tools while getting support, community and connection, join me for BreatheOnline!


Final Friday, What Are You Celebrating?

Friday!It’s THE Final Friday!! What are you celebrating? This is the question I ask every week over at BreatheOnline’s secret Facebook group. Every Friday we celebrates the wins.

So, what are your wins? We’re talking the whole year. We’re talking the new job/love/marriage/house, but we’re also talking the healthy choices you made this year. What have you done that’s good for you body/mind/spirit this year?

I posted the Final Friday check-in at the blog this morning and had some answers. The podcast is new

One listener shares,  “My win: getting involved in politics again with Brand New Congress!”

Someone else shares, “I started treating my business like a business instead of a hobby.”

My wins? I shared a bit on the podcast, but there were so many more! I encourage you to grab your journal and just start a list.

What are you celebrating? What are your wins?


This year I moved to New York, a lifelong dream. You can check out my pics on Instagram to see just how much I love it. It exhilarates me, energizes and makes me smile every day. Every. Day.

A Yogi Kitchen grew. I helped more people find balance, learn more tools to manage anxiety, depression and PTSD and heal more backs than ever.  This is my dream and my passion. I love healing people, teaching people, offering love], support and guidance.  I couldn’t ask for more out of a career. Everyday IO am happy to do what I do. Everyday i look forward to what I do. It’s a good life.

I didn’t plan this, but while I lost a major source of income by circumstances outside of my control, I also let go of someone who violated my boundaries over and over. The relief about it all ending has been immense, a sure sign that I wasn’t listening to myself. Last year, I had a client ask for more and more from me and because she’s in her 80s, doesn’t have kids or relatives near by, I was consistently saying yes to her. She was asking me to do things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. While our reasons for parting ways was surgery and a long rehab stay, the relief was huge. So, I’m having to scramble to make up this lost income, but it’s still a win to have this stress and disrespect end.

My dad is dying. I talked about this in the podcast. Not only is the win the sense of peace and closure we have, the two of us, but I am able to be still and open with him. Today my sister had the end of life talk with him. He’s a peace with most of their conversation. My sister just this moment texted me that my dad is worried about everyone being okay. So, I’m sitting at a bar typing and crying. It’s actually a win. My dad can be an ass and hearing that he is worried about us when he’s dying is more than I expected of him. It’s sweet and kind and selfless, not words I would use regarding my dad before that text two minutes ago. My sister and I are a great team. We are respectful and kind to each other, are on the same page about everything, and haven’t had hostile word yet. Win! We will be able to walk my dad home. Win!


My love and I are feeling closer and stronger than ever. This year I got THE ring.  It is gorgeous in a way I never anticipated. We’d talked about a completely different kind of ring, one that we both liked. He asked if I wanted a diamond and I don’t. Not only do I not want to wear anything with the ethical issues on my finger, but it’s not really me. We shopped together and never found THE ring. I thought we were putting it on the back burner until we found something perfect. AND THEN,  he saw this one. It’s not a great pic and you can’t really tell that it’s sapphire, but believe me, it’s beautiful. And it’s perfect. It is so me, without me realizing that it’s me. I love it. A friend who has known me since childhood, says that he knows me better than I know myself. So, just to calm any gossip. I am not engaged. This is the walk down the aisle for us. This is us for the rest of our lives. This person is perfect for me, knowing me better than I know myself. I am a happy woman. =

Health is good, that’s a win.

I have the best of friends, who love me and support me, letting me talk and listen and check-in with me through everything I’ve been through this year. Win! I attended my 30th year HS reunion this year. It was SO much fun and SO full of deep connection that I am making more of an effort to stay in contact with this family. I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

So, this is my win list for right now. I could go on. It’s not to say that there weren’t parts of the year that sucked, that sweetie and I never fight or that everything is simple and easy. Life is hard. There’s no playbook, no rules. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along, but focusing on the wins makes life feel so much richer and sweeter.


The wins are so big and important that over at BreatheOnline‘s secret Facebook page, we check-in with wins every single week of the six week series. Join us January 21! 





Week 3 Yoga Poses to Manage Your Mood

Week3yogaposes`Over at breatheOnline we’re starting week 3 and focusing on yoga poses to help us manage our anxiety and depression. 

Getting ready for this week I’ve been reading, researching and even just reflecting on my own practice, what it’s meant to me and how I manage with yoga.

There are so many yoga poses that help mange my anxiety and ptsd. Legs up the wall, supported child’s pose, supine supported twist, prasarita padottanasana. I use them regularly to manage my emotions. 

The biggest gift from yoga though is that feeling that I got the first day I pressed up into down dog. it was this scary, exhilarating, peaceful feeling. It was coming home to me. I was 26 and I’d never felt that feeling.  I felt it for a moment and then it slipped away. I remember thinking, wait! what was that? it came back for savasana and I was hooked.

Now 21 years later, it comes quickly and lasts past my practice. Sometimes it stays with me for days, but a yoga practice is like showering. You have to do it often to get the results.

Without this simple gift I would be lost.  Well, more lost than I normally am, but it’s a tool that I can pull out quickly and easily.  When I feel lost, which I often do, I can get on the mat and find myself. And not just find myself, but my most honest and authentic self. This is the place where I can’t lie to myself. I can’t hear the voices in the back of my head or the critical people around me. On the mat, there’s only Melissa.

I invited my BreatheOnline class to practice legs up the wall for at least five minutes every morning this week and notice the difference after just a week. Join us! 

BreatheOnline is a six week long course to manage anxiety and depression in a new way. We’re just starting our third week. You work in your place, at your pace, so you can join us and I’ll get you caught up! 


It’s Like Showering

I’ve been honored enough to work with some pretty amazing clients over the years. I’ve had students whose anxiety was so big they needed to sit in the HS parking lot for a full hour before going in those scary glass doors. I’ve worked with people whose chronic pain would flatten me, but they go through life with a smile as they explain that the pain is an 8 today. I’ve worked with people brand new to the practice, but so willing and eager it melts my heart.

In almost every class I mention that yoga only works if you do it.

Seems pretty straight forward right?  Over and over again in my life, though, I think I should get to do something just once or think about doing it and I’ll get all the benefits. Yet, there are so many things I know i have to do over and over again to get the benefits. I shower everyday, I wash the dishes everyday, I work everyday.

So, why do we get confused and think we should just go to one yoga class and if we don’t get the benefits, it’s not working. Or that working out isn’t helping,  we’re not getting stronger, we’re not losing weight. Oh yeah, maybe cause I just did it twice last week and only thought about it this week.  Well, no that’s not really going to get me stronger or help me lose weight, but then my nutty mind says it’s not working and I shouldn’t even bother.

Yoga is like showering. You have to do it over and over again to get the benefits. I can know this. I can hear this. Yet, there are times that I get frustrated because my neck hurts or the anxiety gets big and I think WHY! I’m a yogi, WHY is this happening.

Well, nine times out of ten it’s because it’s been a busy week and I haven’t practiced as much as I need to to  manage my neck pain or my anxiety.

Last year I was home in Chicago and found out some stuff about my parents and their health issues. viparita-karani-asanaMy mom is on blood pressure meds for her high blood pressure. So, I showed her Viparita Karani, legs up the wall. At 73, she was able to get into it easily.  Luckily, getting on the floor was okay for her. It’s not always easy. You sit next to a wall, with your hip next to the wall, and swing your legs up and lay down flat on the floor. Simple. Easy. For most of it it feels pretty yummy.  You shouldn’t feel like it’s a big stretch. If you do, you just scoot away from the wall till it feels comfortable. I know, though, for a lot of people her age getting on the floor can be hard or the thought of getting back up can be scary. She popped into it and then popped out. Good for mom!

She enjoyed the pose. She said it felt good. While I knew that she was getting these amazing benefits, she just relaxed.  A few months later when I visited again, I asked her about it. First, she didn’t remember doing the pose. Then when I prompted her and reminded her, she was like, Oh, I didn’t notice any difference so I didn’t do it again.

Yoga is like showering. Or taking your vitamins, or meds. You do it everyday. Or at least a few times a week for the benefits to be real and long-lasting.

Is there anything we do just once that lasts for months and months? Yet, we think that’s how it should be.

Feeling frustrated? Just remember, it’s like showering.


Need some help remembering your practice? We can work together long distance. Let’s Zoom! Need help using yoga to to manage your mental health? Sign up for #breatheonline.