How to stop a panic or anxiety attack when it happens or is in progress? Here are 10 ways to stop them.
Panic attacks are sudden, intense bouts of fear, panic, or anxiety. They are overwhelming and have physical and emotional symptoms.
Many people with panic attacks may have difficulty breathing, sweat profusely, shake and feel their heart racing.
Some people also experience chest pain and a feeling of detachment from reality or themselves during a panic attack. They, therefore, feel like they are having a heart attack. Others have reported feeling like they are having a stroke.
Panic attacks can be frightening and can affect you quickly. Here are 11 strategies you can use to try to stop a panic attack when you have one or when you feel like a panic attack is coming:
1. Use deep breathing
While hyperventilation is a panic attack symptom that can increase fear, deep breathing can reduce panic symptoms during an attack.
If you’re able to control your breathing, you’ll be less likely to experience the hyperventilation that will worsen other symptoms – and the panic attack itself.
Focus on taking deep breaths in through your mouth, feeling the air slowly fill your chest and belly, then slowly let it out again. Inhale for a count of four, wait for a second, then exhale for a count of four.
2. Acknowledge that you have a panic attack
By acknowledging that you are having a panic attack instead of a heart attack, you can remind yourself that this is temporary, it will pass, and all is well.
Eliminate the fear that you are dying or that an impending disaster is looming, two symptoms of panic attacks. This may allow you to focus on other techniques to reduce your symptoms.
3. Close your eyes
Some panic attacks come from triggers that overwhelm you. If you’re in a fast-paced environment with lots of stimuli, that can fuel your panic attack.
To reduce stimuli, close your eyes during your panic attack. This can block out any additional stimuli and make it easier to focus on your breathing.
4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can help you relate to the reality of what is around you. Since panic attacks can cause feelings of detachment or separation from reality, they can combat your panic attack as the event approaches or during the event.
Focus on the physical sensations you know, like sinking your feet into the ground or feeling the texture of your jeans on your hands. These specific sensations anchor you in reality and give you a goal to focus on.
5. Find a focus object
Some people find it helpful to find a single object to focus all of their attention on during a panic attack. Choose a prominent object and consciously note everything that is possible.
For example, you may notice that the clock hand lifts when it chimes and is slightly out of balance. Describe the patterns, color, shapes, and size of the object. Focus all your energy on this object and your panic symptoms may subside.
6. Use muscle relaxation techniques
Like deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack by controlling your body’s response as much as possible.
Consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple, like the fingers of your hand, and work your way up through your body.
Muscle relaxation techniques will be more effective if you have practiced them before.
7. Imagine yourself in a happy place
What’s the most relaxing place in the world you can think of? A sunny beach with waves rolling on the sand? A chalet in the mountains?
Imagine yourself there and try to focus on the details as much as possible. Imagine digging your toes into the warm sand or smelling the strong scent of pine trees.
This place should be quiet, calm, and restful – not the streets of New York or Hong Kong, no matter how much you love cities in real life.
8. Perform simple exercises
Endorphins get our blood pumping right away. It can help flood our bodies with endorphins, which can improve our mood. Because you are stressed, choose light exercises that are gentle on the body, such as walking or swimming.
The exception to this rule is if you are hyperventilating or having trouble breathing. Do what you can to catch your breath first.
9. Keep Lavender Handy
Lavender is known for its soothing and stress-relieving properties. It can help your body relax. If you know you are prone to panic attacks, keep some lavender essential oil handy and put some on your forearms when you experience a panic attack. Breathe in the fragrance.
You can also try drinking lavender or chamomile tea. Both are relaxing and soothing. Lavender should not be combined with benzodiazepines. This combination can cause intense drowsiness.
10. Repeat a mantra in your head
Repeating a mantra internally can be relaxing and reassuring, and can give you something to grab hold of during a panic attack.
Whether it’s simply “it must pass” or a mantra that speaks to you personally, repeat it over and over in your head until you feel the panic attack begin to subside.
To consult a panic attack therapist, our professionals are at your disposal and support you.
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