Michael and Fabrizio offer training to young people experiencing fear and panic: “We know exactly what it feels like” | my guide

Michael and Fabrizio offer training to young people experiencing fear and panic: “We know exactly what it feels like” |  my guide

Traveling a lot, tight deadlines and never missing a party. For years, this has been the life of international entrepreneurs Michael Hijlkema (34) and Fabrizio Manese (31). Until the friends experienced fear and panic and ended up exhausted. Their mission now is to make mental health work more accessible to everyone.

The two friends still remember their first panic attack. Manez was 21 years old. “I was on the subway on my way to the exam,” he says. “I was afraid that I would not succeed. My heart was beating so fast that I thought something was wrong. Then the caretaker took me home.”

Hajla was also in his twenties when he had his first panic attack. “I was in Bangkok and Vegas for work,” he says. “When we got home, the hit came. I felt dizzy and everything started spinning. My heart was in my throat and I called my mom crying.”

harmful to your health in the long run

An anxiety or panic attack can last from two to ten minutes. “During an attack, you begin to breathe loudly and rapidly, shaking, and end up hyperventilating,” says Marilyn Dirks, psychologist and founder of Piekerpoli. “Many clients think they are dying because it looks like a heart attack.”


I had to write my thoughts down at the psychiatrist, while I was too tired to think. This didn’t work for me

Fabrizio Manesi

“If you suffer from panic attacks for a long time, you can eventually develop a complaint and end up exhausted. Panic attacks are bad for your health in the long run,” Dirks explains. “In fact, at such a moment, the body prepares to fight or flee by production of adrenaline and cortisol.”

The feeling of staying

Both hormones have an important function. “Adrenaline ensures that your body is in tension,” explains the psychiatrist. Cortisol also ensures that you have more energy. Temporarily this is fine, but in the long run it completely exhausts your body.”

To feel better mentally, Hijlkema and Manese sought help in the mental health care system. There they bumped into a number of things. As an example, Maniz says, “I had to write down my thoughts with the psychologist.” “I’m so sick of thinking. It just didn’t work for me.” Hajla realizes this. At the psychiatrist, he was instructed to do breathing exercises. “It made me hyperventilate. I felt so alive and the psychiatrist didn’t understand that.”

Treatment is done on demand

According to Dirks, treatment for anxiety and panic attacks is tailor-made. “Every client has a different approach,” says the psychologist. “One benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy, the other does EMDR, and the other helps with yoga and mindfulness.”


I put my phone on airplane mode for an hour three times a day. If you repeat it often, it will become a habit

Michael Helkema

To create more recognition and understanding, the two friends retrained themselves as coaches and developed an online training for young people with fear and panic, called HoofdPress. “We offer accessible assistance even before you see a psychiatrist,” Hijlkema explains. ,, In the form of videos, practical exercises and a book. Most participants return after 4 to 6 weeks and running.

Put your phone farther away

According to the two, the most important message during a panic attack is to accept it and let it get the better of you. “No need to do anything,” says Maniz. “Don’t run away, don’t exercise. It keeps our clients calm and they experience that it’s part of the game and it will pass by itself.”

In addition to following an online course, it is also possible to follow a separate off-screen course. Current topics such as: poor focus, overstimulation, stress, and social media will be discussed. The golden tip regarding the latter? “Put your phone away on purpose,” says Hajlah. “I put my phone on flight mode for an hour three times a day. If you do that too often, it will become a habit.”

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