Panic attacks are physical anxiety events that can be debilitating, and may stop your life in its tracks. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to stop a panic attack and what you can do to prevent them from getting worse.
Keep in mind that anxiety is complicated. There is no “surefire” treatment for any anxiety disorder. But the following will help you learn more about what you can do to minimize the effects of your panic.
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Panic Attack Reduction and Cures
The first thing to note is that panic attacks are generally not something someone can just stop right away. Once they’ve started, they tend to continue until they peak and pass. Unfortunately, if you truly want to permanently cure panic, you need to find a more comprehensive strategy for anxiety like those you’ll find with my anxiety test.
The strategies to stop panic attacks tend not to work right away. At first, they decrease the severity of the attack. Then over time the more you do them the less the attack will affect you, and the less you’ll fear it. You also need to change your mindset about panic attacks slightly – you need to accept that panic attacks happen and still try your best to live your life even after a severe panic attack occurs. If you withdraw, you make it harder to stop future panic attacks as well.
The following, however, are tips to help you stop panic attacks right away. Remember, they don’t always work immediately. Expect yourself to have some setbacks along the way as you practice.
Tip 1: Breathing Retraining
First, you need to learn to fix your breathing when you’re having a panic attack. Most symptoms – including, ironically, feeling as though you’re not getting enough oxygen – are caused by hyperventilation, which is actually when your body doesn’t have enough carbon dioxide left because you breathe it out too quickly.
From chest pains to rapid heartbeat to feelings of faint and more, most symptoms are due to the way people breathe when they have panic disorder. So if you fix your breathing as soon as you feel a panic attack coming on, you can reduce some of these symptoms. Unfortunately, you cannot stop hyperventilation completely once it occurs, so expect the symptoms to persist even if you do these exercises. These are to prevent them from becoming worse:
- Slow down your breathing by first taking at least 5 seconds to breathe in.
- Don’t worry about expanding your chest. At your peak, hold for three seconds.
- Breathe out like you’re whistling for at least 7 seconds.
Repeat this step multiple times. Symptoms of hyperventilation should stay as they are or get only slightly worse, but will otherwise not cascade into terrible symptoms.
Tip 2: Walk and Talk
Another simple way to start stopping panic attacks is to “walk and talk.” Essentially, go for a walk to get your blood flowing (this is good for hyperventilation) and try to call someone on a phone – someone that knows you have these attacks and is happy to talk to you.
Talking on the phone is mentally distracting, which takes you out of your own head. Combined with the visual stimulation of walking, and together they make an effective, simple way to reduce some of the withdrawal and symptom exacerbation that occurs when you stay in one place in silence.
Tip 3: Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is considered more of a spiritual experience, but in this case we’re focusing on the physical qualities that make it beneficial. Mantra meditation is a style of meditation involving relaxed breathing and “mantras,” like “Ohm ” that people are familiar with when they think of media depictions of meditation.
Once again, the spiritual component is the reason this meditation is so popular, but ignoring that component for a moment there are still very real reasons this may help slow or stop your panic attack:
- Mantra meditation involves slowed breathing, which is useful for hyperventilation.
- Mantras themselves give you something healthy and productive to do when you’re panicking.
- Mantras also drown out the mind, as the sounds tend to overwhelm the senses.
There is a great deal of value in that type of control and sensory experience, and the mantras themselves provide a stimulation to the senses that is valuable for reducing the effects of negative thoughts. Mantra meditation may very well be something worth learning.
How to Stop All Panic Attacks
Stopping all panic attacks when they start, however, does take far more work than simply a few strategies, because much of it has to do with mental prevention – learning how to cope with stress better, pay less attention to your body, and not trigger a cascade of anxiety when something occurs.
I’ve helped many people permanently control their panic attacks with my free 7 minute anxiety test. Take the test now to find out more about what you need to do to completely stop your anxiety.
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I’ve had panic disorder for 14 years. In all that time, I’ve never learned how to stop a panic attack. I think by now, I’ve experienced every symptom of panic there is, which are frighteningly similar to a heart attack (and yes I’ve been rushed into the ER and bumped to the front of the line!). I have trekked the ever changing landscape of anxiety and I have learned 2 things. One, with ongoing anxiety, the symptoms never seem to stay the same. And two, my body is trying to TELL me something.
After 5 years of psychotherapy, a month in an outpatient behavioral program, over a month with an anxiety coach, plus all of the initial reactions like fighting, fleeing, hiding… I never was taught to deal effectively with the physical symptoms of anxiety. I never knew how to stop a panic attack. I figured, if I just let it happen, it would eventually go away… ‘suffer through it’ became my mantra. But it didn’t go away. It got worse. I wasn’t listening.
Thank the heavens, there is one person, one beacon of light that actually taught me something useful: Teal Swan. And one particularly rough night, I followed her instructions. With a sigh of relief I can say, I got through it. And in the morning when I woke up, the heart palpitations that plague me daily, were gone. After 14 years, I probably have more work to do, but it was a glorious oasis of comfort.
I added a summary with her steps after the video, if you have dont have 19 minutes to watch. If you’re living with anxiety, I’m willing to bet you do.
Teal says that “Anxiety is the body reflecting the thoughts you’re thinking.” This means you’re spending too much time with fear. How many fear, worry, anger or stressful thoughts do you think throughout the day? Think about it. When you go to the doctor, dont they always ask you if theres anything stressful going on in your life? There’s something to this, and it only makes sense that it would manifest in some physical experience.
Teal says to question your thoughts, one by one. Though she doesnt explain much more, she recommends studying the work of Byron Katie. Teal also has a video on how to change a belief.
But right now, you need SKILLS! And fast.
Here are her steps on how to stop a panic attack .
- Close your eyes. Breathe in. Hold for 8 seconds. Let it out, feeling a release.
- Say “I am having a panic attack” (acknowledge)
- Turn your focus TOWARD the sensations.
Say… ‘Sensation – you feel heavy, you feel painful, you feel numb’
- Next… Ask it to become WORSE. To get more intense. To FEEL more.
- Ask the sensation what it needs you to know. What is it trying to tell you.
your system is giving you totally accurate information
- What were you thinking before the panic started? Look for proof that undermines the fear and think supportive thoughts.
- Keep a positive aspects journal. Write your fear, then write a positive thought that proves your fear is just a fear.
Her last piece of advice was this. If you make a decision, maybe to do something that causes anxiety, line up your thoughts to support it. Keep yourself focused on the positive when you are and when you are not doing something stressful. Use your positive aspects journal to practice, and when fear creeps in, acknowledge it, feel through it and go back to your positive thoughts as soon as you can.
If you want a more in depth approach to deal with day to day anxiety and get past it over time, Teal has another video on how to get rid of anxiety
I also created a little downloadable pocket guide if you need a reminder 😀
How To Stop a Panic Attack
Anxiety attacks make you feel out of control. Now you can learn how to stop an anxiety attack, and even learn to recognize triggers.
Life is about being happy and successful. One of the most important achievements in life, for some, is learning how to stop an anxiety attack.
Dealing with mental illness is hard. It’s tough enough beating a stigma about mental illness without having to fight an attack.
An anxiety attack will make you feel this way.
The unexpected guest…Anxiety
An anxiety attack affects your sleep, your eating habits, and your ability to be around people. One moment, you’re happy and the next, your mind is trapped in a whirlwind.This is just the tip of the iceberg where anxiety is concerned.
The good news is, you can learn how to stop an anxiety attack before it happens, and you can even learn the triggers of anxiety disorder.
Let’s go way back, back to naturally preparing the body for deficiencies and problems. I’m not saying that diet is everything because you could eat a perfect combination of healthy/ fatty foods and still be stricken with terrible anxiety attacks.
But, to get started, a healthy eating regimen can reduce inflammation and ward off physical problems that can increase anxiety.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, a balance of fiber and leafy veggies all contribute to a healthy brain. Also, avoiding processed foods or foods high in sugar also help reduce physical anxiety triggers. Let’s also try to limit your caffeine intake as well. It’s a start!
Speaking of preparations for warding off anxiety attacks, ample sleep is always a good idea. If you’re not getting enough sleep, eventually this will affect your ability to stave off panic. In fact, sleep deprivation causes an increase in symptoms of anxiety.
It is best to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every day in order to successfully deal with any anxiety disorder issues. You can try essential oils, like lavender, defused within your sleeping area. These oils will further relax you and help you fall to sleep sooner.
Aromatherapy has been known to ward off anxiety attacks for centuries, with Lavender being a key component here. Lavender soothes and helps you rest better at night, as mentioned above, and also helps you stay calm when life’s circumstances are starting to heat up, thus preventing panic.
I have tried this many times and it works! Roman Camomile is also a great solution for warding off anxiety attacks and can be used for anxiety in children as well.
Not only does ordinary walking promote a calm spirit, but also relaxing fitness types like Yoga and Tai Chi also do the trick. The Alternative Medicine Review found that 25 out of 35 participants in a Yoga study showed a large decrease in anxiety symptoms or stress-related feelings.
During Yoga classes, you concentrate on breathing and focus which relaxes the muscles and softly suppresses neural activity. Thus, you experience a calmer demeanor and clear mind.
The warmth of hot tea can soothe the restless spirit, this is true. Chamomile tea, on the other hand, is filled with Luteolin and Apigenin, which promote relaxation and decreases anxiety symptoms. If you want to know how to stop an anxiety attack, then consider hot teas including, white, black, and green teas as well, which also lowers blood pressure and reduces heart rate.
There are many herbs which promote a calm mind and body. Two herbs that come to mind would be Valerian and Lemon balm. Since Valerian is an amazing sedative used for insomnia, it also works well at preventing anxiety attacks. Lemon balm works much the same way.
Usually, Valerian is taken in capsule form because it has a bad taste. With Lemon balm, you must be careful to take small dosages or the opposite effect can happen.
Studies show that warming up your body reduces muscle tension and anxiety due to a change in serotonin levels. With that being said, a nice visit to the beach or sauna will do wonders at preventing attacks.
Warmth also helps physical issues as well, like arthritis and colds, which can also trigger both anxiety and depression.
Getting in touch with nature does so many things for your physical and mental wellbeing. Just recently, I read about grounding which includes making sure your bare feet spend enough time touching the earth.
Although this may sound silly to those who aren’t familiar, it’s quite beneficial to your health.
Even the air on your skin and the vitamin D spilling from the sun will help you take control of your problems with anxiety. I live surrounded by trees and I know they’ve saved me from many panic attacks in the past.
I’ve mentioned aromatherapy which can be paired with meditation. I’ve mentioned Yoga techniques which also include meditative therapy, but as long as you find somewhere too quiet your mind, you can practice this helpful remedy in many ways.
You can meditate on the front porch or your home, or you can even meditate in your bed before sleep.
The goal is to clear your mind of all concerns for just a moment, building up to longer periods of mindfulness. There are many outlets and trainers who can help you understand meditation and get started on your healing journey.
A support system
Whether it’s your family or your friends, a good support system can squash an anxiety attack before it happens. The most important thing to consider is making sure those who support you know what they are doing and know what to say.
Saying the wrong thing can make anxiety worse, and this is why understanding is so important.
Triggers and Symptoms
Now that you know a few ways about how to prevent an incoming anxiety attack, here are a few triggers and how to recognize what’s about to happen.
Loud and crowded places
Many anxiety attacks occur because of loud noises or crowded places. You will know that someone is having problems with this when their hands shake and they ask a lot of questions about the people around them.
They will also start making excuses to leave and it’s best if they do.
Any sort of pressure can trigger an anxiety attack. So, it’s best to take calm steps when something needs to be done or an emergency has occurred. If you see that your words are causing distress, then back off a moment and give the sufferer time to process what’s happening.
Although the situation may be dire, nothing good can come from a drama in more than one place. Just be patient with the anxious.
Too much responsibility
Placing too much responsibility on those who suffer from anxiety can trigger an attack. You will know when they start to become confused, irritated, and unable to talk coherently. When this happens, back off!
No priority is so important that it causes another extreme distress.
Meeting new people can most certainly cause an anxiety attack. When someone asks multiple questions at a high rate, they are usually nervous about meeting this new person, and you should give them time to ask whatever they need to ask.
Don’t mistreat or criticize people with anxiety, they have to understand details before they are willing to meet new people.
If something happens that reminds an anxious person of another traumatic event from the past, they may be prone to have a panic attack. Sometimes the things that upset them make no sense to you, but make perfect sense to them.
Please be understanding when this happens. You will know this trigger by how it makes them clam up and become instantly nervous about the whole topic. DO NOT mock them for their weaknesses.
Anxiety is real
Never forget, when learning how to stop an anxiety attack, that this is a real illness. It’s best that you try to learn as much as you can before attempting to help someone with their anxiety disorder. I thank you for listening and hope this helps you with yourself, your family, or your loved one.
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Having a panic attack can be one of the most terrifying things you will ever experience in your life, especially when you’re caught off guard. And while “helpful” people may encourage you to “breathe” or “calm down,” the last thing you tend to think about when you feel like you’re going to have a heart attack, pass out, or both, is how to breathe calmly like Buddha.
There’s good news, though: you’re not doomed to a life of misery, spent resting on a fainting couch to soothe your nerves.
Panic attacks: not just for times of panic!
Panic attacks can happen at any time — not necessarily when you’re in a stressed or excited state. Some of the symptoms can include a feeling of impending doom, chest pain, rapid heart rate, sweating, lightheadedness, numbness, or feeling like you’re detached from the world, though these can vary depending on the person.
This Tea Changes Color Like a Mood Ring
The fact that an attack seems to come out of nowhere is why so many people mistake it for a heart attack and wind up in the ER. (Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because medical professionals can pinpoint if the attack was just anxiety or another, more serious condition.)
“When a panic attack strikes, it can be difficult to know what to do. Most panic attacks come on so suddenly, often with no warning, and the symptoms can be frightening,” says Michelle Holmberg, director of programs at Screening for Mental Health.
Why does it feel so horrible if nothing’s physically wrong?
Your sympathetic nervous system revs up when you’re nervous, releasing adrenaline. The parasympathetic nervous system then steps in to calm you, but that doesn’t happen if it’s on the fritz, which is common for someone who’s already stressed out and on the verge of an attack. Then you have an attack, and even breathing becomes a struggle.
That’s because, during a panic attack, you breathe too shallowly, think about your breath too much, or take in too much air. Any of these can lead to hyperventilation, which is neither pleasant nor attractive. Once you reach this point, not even a Cher slap can snap you out of it.
“The tendency is to hyperventilate, which actually makes the panic attack worse,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Shutterstock Is my brain broken?
Having one panic attack doesn’t mean you’re condemned to a life of mental illness, nor does it mean that you have an anxiety disorder.
“If you have one, you may never have one again,” Saltz says. If you experience panic attacks a lot, though, it’s a good idea to seek help so you can break the cycle. Panic attacks can multiply like Gremlins if you let them keep happening.
But what do I do if I feel like I can’t stop them?
A lot of people head for the booze, but that’s not exactly the smartest coping technique. It sounds simplistic, but learning how to breathe is your best bet.
You don’t have to be a yoga pro to excel at breathing. Certain techniques help your parasympathetic nervous system kick into gear when it’s not syncing with the rest of your body. This can interrupt the panic attack naturally.
Next time you’re feeling panicky, try diaphragmatic breathing. This involves breathing with the diaphragm, or belly, instead of breathing shallowly through your chest, which makes you feel like you’re going to pass out and makes anxiety worse.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Practice when lying down so you’re familiar with the technique. (As you improve, you can be in any position to use this effectively).
2. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, between your belly button and your ribs.
3. Inhale through the nose and use the air to allow the belly to rise. You’re not just taking a deep breath, you’re moving the air down deep into your body to push your stomach out.
4. Contract your diaphragm to exhale, pushing the air out your mouth.
Shutterstock What if breathing isn’t doing the trick?
Other than breathing, what you tell yourself during an attack can go a long way to quell it, because the body’s responses are tied to what we think.
“Say to yourself, ‘Actually this is a panic attack, it’s not going to last more than 20 minutes, I know that actually, physically, I will be OK,” Saltz says.
Another trick is to tense muscle groups and release them, starting with your feet and legs, and moving up to your head. Saltz also recommends avoiding caffeine, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep — those factors can help keep your body calmer in general.
What if it seems like they’re not getting better?
Look, panic attacks are scarier than The Exorcist, but they can be stopped. If things are getting more intense, talk to your doctor or a therapist.
“The earlier you treat it, the easier it is to treat,” Saltz adds.
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Kristen Fischer is a writer from New Jersey who blogs about anxiety at www.everylastbreath.com. Connect with her on Twitter at @kristenfischer.