Why does everyone tell me to breathe when I'm having a panic attack or melt-down?

"Deep breaths, deep breaths!"

I apologise in advance for being annoyed by your attempt to "help" me, but look at it this way: if I'm hyperventilating anyway, do you REALLY think it's a good time to remind me to breathe? Seriously? I'm already doing my best not to pass out as it is. Breathing is literally the LAST THING I CARE ABOUT right then.

"You would be able to calm down if you slowed down your breathing for a minute. Can you try?"

You may as well be asking me if I've done my taxes yet this year, for all the good it does in that situation. (And no, I haven't yet, thanks! I'll get to them as soon as I have enough energy. Just like everything else on my to-do list that never stops growing on a daily basis.)

"Think about the ocean, and breathe slowly like the surf."

I generally do my best to FORGET about breathing as much as possible, because I already have something like a dozen thoughts all vying for attention in my skull, and not a single one of them gives a rotten turnip if I'm having a break-down at the moment, or simply making a cuppa.

But thanks for reminding me to breathe, now I'm stuck doing it voluntarily because you reminded me. Now I'm thinking about it and I have to struggle not to pass out twice as much, because I'm not concentrating on the situation any more, I'm concentrating on not feeling like I'm drowning.

"See, don't you feel better now? All you had to do was relax."

Categories anxiety, mental health