How to stop a panic attack
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know how unsettling they are. Symptoms of a panic attack include things like headaches, nausea, chills, increased heart rate, inability to breathe and excessive fearful thoughts. The anticipation 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 be that way. 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 relief 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
Once you’ve experienced a panic attack and are familiar with its signs, you can recognize it for what it is and take steps to learn how to stop anxiety attacks before they escalate. Here are some tips on how to stop a panic attack in its tracks:
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 for panic attack relief. 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 so you are able to learn how to stop anxiety attacks quickly when you recognize warning signs.
Find the cause
The ultimate panic attack relief is to stop them from happening entirely, but to do that you need to identify 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. When you identify triggers and what you’re really feeling, you can master your emotions and learn not only how to stop a panic attack, but also prevent future attacks.
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. You can also work on the deeper issues to bring a better sense of well-being into your life.
Though stress is a normal part of life, excess stress can be very damaging. 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.
To experience freedom from excess stress and panic attack relief, you need to take a closer look at the areas of your life 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 goals 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. This can lead to a constant feeling of being rushed – and 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. How to stop a panic attack involves radically changing the state of your body through movement. 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 the 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
Those who are not taking good care of themselves often have trouble learning how to stop anxiety attacks. How is your diet? When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Are you taking time to reconnect with yourself and engage in self-care activities? 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.
For effective panic attack relief, tend to your diet immediately. Turn to plant-based proteins and drink more water. Consider removing caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes from your lifestyle as they can produce more nervous energy and heighten the feelings of an attack. Start training yourself to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night by setting a bedtime for yourself and turning 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 provide panic attack relief if you don’t clue them in to what’s going on and allow them to be supportive in stressful times.
How to stop anxiety attacks often involves surrounding yourself with those closest to you. Let your loved ones know you’re dealing with panic attacks and 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.
Visualize a safe, calm place
When you are experiencing a panic attack, it often feels like everything – including your environment – is hostile. For panic attack relief, it’s beneficial to visualize a safe, calm place where you can feel more at ease. Close your eyes and picture a place that you’ve been before that has brought you peace and happiness. You can also visualize your ideal environment even if it’s not a physical place you’ve experienced. Try to hear the sounds, smell the aromas and feel the sensations of the sun on your face or the sand beneath your toes.
You can picture this space anytime you want to find ways for how to stop a panic attack. If you want even more panic attack relief, you can also picture a comforting figure such as a parent, friend or guardian angel with you.
Engage in mindfulness exercises
Medical News Today suggests several techniques for how to stop anxiety attacks, including smelling lavender, muscle relaxation and utilizing mantras. One of their most helpful suggestions for panic attack relief, though, is mindfulness exercises. When you experience an anxiety attack, it’s easy to lose touch with what’s going on around you. If you’re able to ground yourself through your senses, you can get back in touch with reality and calm your fear.
When you feel a panic attack coming on, slowly work through these five steps:
- Look at five different things and think about each of them.
- Listen to four different sounds and examine the similarities and differences between them.
- Touch three different objects and compare and contrast their textures and uses.
- Identify two different smells and explore if they spark any memories.
- Taste one thing such as a piece of candy, a cold drink or even a fingertip.
This technique can help you feel more grounded in your body and is often an effective way of how to stop a panic attack before it really starts.
Panic attacks can be terrifying, but you have the power to de-escalate them and experience panic attack relief. 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.