How to stop a panic attack
Symptoms of a panic attack include things like experiencing headaches, nausea, chills, increased heart rate, the inability to breathe and excessive fearful thoughts. If you’ve ever experienced one, you know how unsettling they are. The thought of getting through another panic attack can provoke a lot of fear, and that dread can lead to another one.
Does this sound familiar? Panic attacks can become their own sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, but they don’t have to. By taking control of your thoughts and your life, you can learn how to stop a panic attack.
Know the symptoms
Before figuring out which panic attack remedies will suit you, it’s important to understand how panic attacks manifest. They often have a barrage of physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. You can experience a combination of the following signs:
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heartbeat
- Thoughts of anxiety, fear or death
- Nausea and abdominal cramps
- Fever or chills
- Sweating profusely
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Numbness or tingling in various parts of the body
Now that you’ve experienced a panic attack and are familiar with its signs, you need to assess how to stop a panic attack if another one were to occur.
Focus on your breath
When you feel panicked or anxious, your breathing becomes shallower. This rapid breathing can then send warning signals to your brain that make you feel even more fearful of what’s happening. Focus on your breathing when you feel an attack coming on. Ground yourself by taking deep breaths, holding them in for at least 30 seconds then releasing slowly. If panic attacks occur regularly for you, try implementing breathing exercises into your daily routine. This practice will allow you to harness this technique more readily when an attack occurs.
Find the cause
The ultimate panic attack relief is to stop them from happening entirely, but to do that you need to get to the trigger. Some people experience seemingly random panic attacks and can’t entirely pinpoint the cause. Others experience panic attacks as a result of trauma, stress or poor mental health.
Think back on the times you’ve experienced a panic attack – what were you doing? What were you thinking about? If you’ve experienced a few attacks, was there something similar about the moments before each one? Were you arguing with your spouse or worrying about a work incident? If you’re able to identify the cause that’s triggering your panic attacks, you can work to de-escalate your feelings of worry when those emotions begin to resurface.
Stress is a normal part of life. Everyone experiences some anxieties, but when your worries about your responsibilities, or things outside your control like the past or future, become so severe that you’re having panic attacks, it’s time to take action.
What area of your life is causing you extreme stress? Is it your career? Family life? Finances? Health? Sit down and create a massive action plan. Getting clear on what you want to achieve and how you’ll reach these priorities will help you take control of your own life. By doing that, you’ll reduce the levels of stress you’re feeling. Additionally, as you work through your plan, you may notice how you’re misusing your time, which can lead to a constant feeling of being rushed – that alone is a huge trigger for panic attacks. How can you better prioritize your responsibilities to reduce your stress?
How often are you moving your body? Are you sitting down at work all day, then sitting in a car for your commute and finally sitting on your couch in the evening watching television? This lack of movement can negatively affect your mental state. Radically change the state of your body – get moving. When you find your body beginning to show signs of a panic attack, change your state immediately. Get up and go for a walk. Stand up and stretch. Do anything to shift your focus from a panic attack. Exercise isn’t a cure-all, but if you’re wondering how to stop having a panic attack quickly, it’s a good place to start. Your body will begin to feel better, and your mental state will follow.
“Emotion is created by motion.” – Tony Robbins
Tend to your body
How is your diet, and when was the last time you had an excellent night’s sleep? Feelings of anxiety, stress or fear can be heightened by a diet full of sugar, processed foods and low-quality fats, and lack of quality sleep can compound that poor mental state.
Tend to your diet immediately. Turn to plant-based proteins and drink more water; you may consider removing caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes from your routine, as they can produce more nervous energy and even heighten the feelings of an attack. Start training yourself to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Set a bedtime for yourself and turn off all technology at least an hour before your scheduled shut-eye. Try reading or meditating for that hour, or spend it with family. Adding more physical activity into your routine can help you to sleep more soundly at night, too.
In the grips of a panic attack, you feel like something has gone terribly wrong. You feel alone, anxious and like this sensation will never stop. The reality is, you’re not alone. There are people out there who love and support you, and they want you to feel safe and secure. But they can’t do that if you don’t clue them in to what’s going on.
Let your loved ones know you’re dealing with panic attacks. Spend time with family and friends to alleviate some of your stress and anxiety. Teach your loved ones a few relaxation techniques, like a guided breathing exercise or physical activity, that they can help you with if a panic attack strikes.
Panic attacks can be terrifying, but you have the power to de-escalate them. It will take time, focus and practice to identify the signs and stop yourself in the midst of a panic attack. By using relaxation techniques, monitoring your stress levels and routines and reaching out for the support of friends and family, you’ll be able to conquer panic attacks once and for all.