What Is Polyvagal Theory (and Can It Actually Stop a Panic Attack)?

What Is Polyvagal Theory (and Can It Actually Stop a Panic Attack)?

Image for article titled How to Stop a Panic Attack With Frozen Meat

Photo: Georgy Dzyura (Shutterstock)

I like “it’s not TMI, it’s transparency”, which is why TikTok is the best social network, a place where people have no problem confessing naked in 15 seconds or less. It is also a wonderful place.ce to explore the more… unconventional side of wellness and mental health trends. My phone and/or TikTok account may or may not have been listening to a recent therapy session where my therapist and I were discussing my pandemic panic disorder and new coping strategy on the streets these days: polyvagal theoryalso known as nervous system hacking.

What are we hacking now?

Basically, the theory is that you can talk to yourself all you want about how you’re not actually being chased by monsters, but your body, or rather your brain, doesn’t care and will send you flying, fighting . , freeze, or fawn mode, whether or not you took a deep breath. Dealing with these adrenaline rushes of panic, then, requires rewiring the automatic responses of your nervous system.

My therapist sent me this podcast about it and I listened to it twice, trying to absorb as much as I could. I thought it sounded great and I’m sure I’ll check it out as soon as he gets back from vacation. Then something happened and it kind of reactivated my response to the trauma. Then I had a trauma anniversary. Then my previously well-managed anxiety attacks hit me again.

Ice on the breasts to reduce stress?

Soon I was walking around my house buzzing and crying and not eating or sleeping. To unlink, I went on TikTok and saw this video of a woman stuffing frozen meat down her shirtfollowed by other videos of people stuffing ice cups into their sports bras, people saying “vagus nerve,” “polyvagal theory,” “panic attack,” and “trauma” over and over again.

When I panic, my mind goes offline. The thoughts, the way I make a living, stop. I needed a way to get back, somehow. So I filled a mason jar with ice, wrapped it in a baby wipe, and stuffed it into my bra. My son said, “You’re acting weird.” He was not wrong. But immediately, I felt good again.

Is it the placebo effect, or the real deal?

Surely this is just the placebo effect at work, right? I had to find out. I began by asking therapists for their thoughts, researching the vagus nerve, and ice my breasts as needed. As always, the internet is debating whether or not this viral hack is “pro tip” or just, well, hacked. It is true that many of the so-called experts on TikTok are not licensed mental health professionals. Many are mere humans trying something that works for them and, as they say, if it feels good, go for it. Up to a point, anyway.

It’s worth noting that many of these content creators claim to be professional mental health experts, even if they don’t have any advanced degrees or specialized training. They make money off of people’s mental health crises. Beware of these “trainers”, “gurus” or “docs”. Panic attacks often mimic the symptoms of other life-threatening health conditions, such as heart attacks., and it’s always better to get checked out by a real doctor and be told you have anxiety than to self-diagnose a heart condition. If you have serious mental health problems and are having thoughts about suicide or harming yourself or others, seek help right away by calling 911 or a Suicide Prevention Hotline.

There is some truth in the theory.

Therapists say there is a scientific and therefore real reason why the ice chest trick works to calm you down. “Putting ice, frozen food or something cold can help stop or prevent panic attacks. In therapy terms, it’s called ‘grounding‘ engage one or more of your senses as a form of distraction,” says Lindsey Mannon, an LCSW from weed therapy in Texas. You stop focusing on your anxiety when you can focus on the cold.

Another therapist explains the nervous system’s response to cold: “it constricts the blood vessels and activates the vagus nerve,” he says Cristina P. Kantzavelos, LCSW psychotherapist in Joshua Tree, California. “When the vagus nerve is activated, it brings you out of the sympathetic response (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic response (rest and digest) and slows down your heart rate.” Basically, it allows you to deal with your stress instead of continuing to spiral.

Other “ice therapy“Methods like ice baths or cold showers have gone viral, and there is indeed anecdotal and clinical evidence that they can help people with anxiety and panic attacks. However, it won’t work for everyone or every panic attack. “If you shock your body too much when it’s already in a vulnerable state, it may take longer to get rid of the panic attack,” he says. chris tompkinspsychologist and writer. Other grounding exercises could be more effective.

Substantive treatment is more important than ice powers

Note that, “it is important to know that although [ice] it’s a tool, not a replacement for therapy to address the underlying concern of why panic attacks occur in the first place,” says Kantazavelos. While it may feel good to freeze your chest in a time of stress (and if you do, do it), it’s also important to investigate why you’re searching your freezer in the first place.

Rather than seek solace on TikTok alone, consider talking to a therapist, a good friend, or a loved one. Feeling so anxious that you need to calm down is not “normal”, even in these endless “unprecedented times”. You deserve a little more complete relief than quickly defrosting some meat on your sternum.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.