Panic attacks can be overwhelming with intense surges of panic, anxiety, or fear. Many people with panic attacks have reported emotional and physical symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, sweating extensively, trembling, and many more.
Some people also experience chest pains and feelings of disconnection from themselves during an attack, making them think they’re having a heart attack or a stroke. We understand that panic attacks can be intimidating and may hit you out of nowhere. Here are 10 tactics you can use to try to stop a panic attack when it’s underway or when you feel one starting.
How to Stop a Panic Attack
1. Breathe Deeply
Hyperventilating is a clear symptom of a panic attack and can add to the fear. Practicing deep breathing can subdue symptoms of panic during an attack. If you can control your breathing, you’re more likely to bypass the hyperventilating stage, which usually introduces other symptoms. Take deep breaths through your mouth, filling the air slowly in your chest and belly. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for a second, and then breathe out for another four.
2. Acknowledge That You Are Having a Panic Attack.
By recognizing a panic attack when it happens, you can remind yourself that it will pass and that you’re good. Taking away the extreme fear that you are dying allows you to reduce the symptoms instead of aggravating the situation.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can help ground you in reality. Since panic attacks cause a feeling of disconnection from reality, this can fight off your panic attack as it’s coming. Concentrate on the physical sensations you are intimate with, like planting your feet into the ground or rubbing your hands on your jeans. These familiar feelings ground you solidly in reality and give you something real to focus on.
4. Find a Focus Object
Some people find it helpful to focus on a single object during a panic attack. Choose one item in your line of sight and consciously take in everything about it. Describe the color, shapes, and size of the object to yourself. Concentrate all of your energy on the object, and your panic symptoms may gradually subside.
5. Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Similar to deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques may help stop your panic attack in its course by controlling your body’s physical response. Try to relax one muscle group at a time, beginning with something simple like your fingers and move on to other areas of your body. Practice these muscle relaxation techniques often, as they will be more effective when you’re used to them.
6. Imagine Your Happy Place
What’s the most relaxing spot in the world that you can think of? A forest with birds chirping and singing? A cabin in the cold, snowy mountains? Whatever works for you, picture yourself there as vividly as possible. Try to focus on the details as much as you can. Imagine some of those birds singing to you or smelling the fresh scent of pine trees. This place should be peaceful and relaxing — no matter how much you love the city life, no streets of New York or New Orleans on Mardi Gras.
7. Engage in Physical Exercise
Endorphins keep the blood pumping properly. Engaging in light exercises can help flood your body with endorphins, which can improve your mood. Because you’re already stressed, opt for easy exercises that are gentle on the body, like walking or cycling.
8. Keep Lavender on Hand
Lavender is recognized for its soothing and stress-relieving properties. If you’re prone to panic attacks, always have some lavender essential oil with you and rub some on your arms when you have an attack, and breathe in the scent deeply. People have reported that drinking lavender or chamomile tea helps a lot. Both are relaxing and calming.
9. Be Aware of Your Triggers
Panic attacks are often triggered by the same circumstances – confined spaces or huge crowds. By learning to control or avoid your triggers, you may be able to diminish the frequency and intensity of the attacks.
10. Take Prescribed Medications
Depending on the severity of your attacks, a doctor may prescribe a use-as-needed medicine. These medications usually work fast. Some of these medications contain a benzodiazepine or a beta-blocker.
The only side effect is that the body may quickly develop a tolerance to these medications, and you may soon find yourself needing higher dosages to obtain the same result. These medications can be highly addictive, so try to use them meagerly.
More Effective Ways to Reduce Anxiety
Everyone can profit from reducing the adverse impact of sustained anxiety. For people prone to panic attacks, reducing general anxiety levels will subsequently help prevent further panic attacks
Making certain lifestyle adjustments is a sure way to reduce anxiety. The following strategies can help:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of treatment is designed to give people the means to overcome stress and enhance their tolerance to certain trigger situations.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or smoking
- Adopt a healthful diet
- Get adequate sleep
- Stay hydrated
Predicting when a panic attack occurs is not always possible, but having a comprehensive plan in place for when they happen can help you feel more in control and even prevent them from escalating further.
Finding a quiet spot, exercising, deep breathing, and grounding techniques can help you regain control during a panic attack and even prevent it altogether.
You can also adopt a long-term plan to reduce the frequency of your panic attacks. Such a plan should include making key lifestyle changes, seeking therapy, and learning how to handle anxiety in certain situations.