“When Panic Strikes” – ACM Safeguarding Lead, Chris East

05 May 2021

This post was written more than two years ago. The content or information below may no longer be accurate.

ACM’s Designated Safeguarding Lead

I was sitting on the floor of my lounge one day, everything seemed like it was fine. I was watching TV and chatting with my wife, when suddenly I started to feel odd for no reason.

My heart was racing, I became breathless and I felt incredibly light-headed. I rushed to the window because I was desperate for air. I leant on the window ledge trying to catch my breath, with the overwhelming thought of “What is happening to me?”

Once it was over and I had calmed down, a feeling of embarrassment ran through my mind, not able to attribute that feeling to anything, I tried my best to ignore it.

I now know I was having a ‘Panic Attack’.

This happened a few times over the next 7 years gradually becoming more and more intense each time. The strange thing was, it mostly occurred at times I could not match it to any specific event or circumstance. 

It would gradually have an impact on my social life; I started to fear crowded spaces, public speaking events, specific phone calls, meetings and even challenging people when having to make a simple request… Good job I don’t have to do any of these on a regular basis… Oh wait, I do.

At the age of 33, these episodes became more of a regular occurrence; I would fear the early-stage symptoms or that I would have an attack at the most unfortunate times. 

Shawn Mendes – In My Blood

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in

Sometimes I feel like giving up

But I just can’t

It isn’t in my blood

A common theme within my blogs is encouraging people to seek help. It could be a GP, family member, friend or ACM student services. This is not just a generic support response, personally, I feel if I had reached out sooner things would not have got as bad as they did.

I received counselling and took medication for over a year. Fun fact, I learnt you should never just stop taking your medication and always seek medical advice before reducing your dosage…Worst 3 days of my life.

I learnt to accept I have a mental health condition and learn to find the best coping mechanisms for whenever I should experience another episode.

Also, to know I’m not abnormal, I’m not alone and I can speak about my mental health without suffering in silence.

In The Heights – Breathe

Straighten the spine

Smile for the neighbors

Everything’s fine

Everything’s cool

The standard reply:

“Lots of tests, lots of papers.”

Smile, wave goodbye

And pray to the sky…

Although we hear a lot on this topic, there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to it, some people have labelled ‘Anxiety’ as something people disclose because they feel it is fashionable. 

Anyone who has experienced a panic attack knows it is not something they ever want to have again and will do anything they possibly can to prevent such an occurrence.

When you are wrestling with the symptoms of something so overwhelming you already feel out of control, you wish for anything that it would stop. It is not a choice, it is a medical condition.

Here are some of the symptoms someone might feel when they’re experiencing a panic attack:

  • A racing heartbeat
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling that you’re losing control
  • Sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath or breathing very quickly
  • A tingling in your fingers or lips
  • Feeling sick (nausea)

These symptoms can continue for anything between 5 minutes to 5 hours, for some they can persist all day. They don’t just happen during the day time either, I have woken up worried that my heart is thumping so loud that it’ll wake everyone around me. Also as mentioned above, there is not always a reason for each attack.

It’s important not to ignore these symptoms, make sure you go to your doctors and receive the necessary support or treatment. You also need to look into what is causing these episodes and work on managing them effectively by implementing positive coping mechanisms.

Here’s some helpful advice from the NHS website on managing Panic Attacks:


  • Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor. 
  • Use calming breathing exercises
  • Exercise – activities such as running, walking, swimming and yoga can help you relax
  • Research ways to improve your sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet with regular meals to keep your energy levels stable
  • Consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other. Find out more about peer support on the Mind website
  • Listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
  • Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps from the NHS Apps library


  • Do not try to do everything at once – set small targets that you can easily achieve
  • Do not focus on the things you cannot change – focus your time and energy into helping yourself feel better
  • Do not avoid situations that make you anxious – try slowly building up time spent in worrying situations to gradually reduce anxiety
  • Try not to tell yourself that you’re alone; most people experience anxiety or fear at some point in their life
  • Try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve anxiety as these can all contribute to poor mental health

We may not always be able to remove the possibility of having an anxiety attack, but we do have the ability to manage them effectively. 

If you would like support with anything mentioned within this article please contact studentsupport@acm.ac.uk, alternatively, you can find out more information on our Student Services Canvas page.

If you have a concern for your wellbeing or that of someone else associated with ACM, please contact the safeguarding team:
Email – dsl@acm.ac.uk
Call – 01483 910197