6 Ways To Stop Panic Attacks
As outlined in my last blog “How Do I Know If I’m Having a Panic Attack?”, people experience a wide range of signs and symptoms when it comes to panic attacks – and none of them are very pleasant.
So how do you stop them from happening?
Firstly, it’s important to understand and remember that our brain is responding to fear and doing what it’s designed to do; “protect” us from a dangerous situation by activating the “fight or flight switch”. Reminding ourselves of this normal human response can help to manage and stop panic attacks.
Here are some strategies to try if you feel a panic attack coming on:
1. Recognise your physical symptoms – By becoming familiar with your physical symptoms, such as racing heart or sweaty palms, you can respond earlier with some specific techniques (as listed below) that will slow down and/or stop the stress response.
2. Reduce your fear – Fear is the main reason why people experience panic attacks. If you can monitor and reduce your worrying and fear-based thoughts, it can really make a difference to how you feel and how your brain responds. This can be very difficult and not always possible in the midst of a panic attack, but an area that needs great attention and professional support if ongoing and problematic.
3. Focus on your breathing – Taking slow deep breaths can shift your focus and help with reversing the stress response, as it has a calming effect on the body. However, it’s important to note that deep breathing alone generally won’t stop a panic attack; but it can greatly reduce the symptoms and severity.
4. Relax your body – Panic attacks can cause a lot of physical tension, so if you can sit or lay down during the attack, you may find it helpful in relaxing the body. It can be even more beneficial if you practice a “progressive muscle relaxation technique” on a regular basis as a preventative. There are many of these techniques available online.
5. Distract yourself – Distraction is a great way to slow down and/or stop panic attacks. Some of the other suggestions above may not always be possible, depending on where you are when it occurs. I suggest choosing something that doesn’t have any emotional attachment to take your mind away from anxious thoughts and shut down the stress response.
Here are a few distraction suggestions:
Count backwards from 100 by 3
Spell your full name backwards
Do a maths equation
Name the last five people you phoned
Recall what you had for dinner each night over the past week
6. Practise mindfulness – During a panic attack, it is common to feel detached from reality. Focusing on physical sensations like your breath or feeling your feet on the ground can help you to feel grounded in reality.
Mindfulness is about being more aware and connected to your body, so finding ways to implement more mindfulness in your everyday life can really help with managing stressors and worrying thoughts. Ultimately, it can help you to stop panic attacks altogether.
Panic attacks are not only frightening, but exhausting! So remember to take care and be gentle on yourself. Any of the relaxation exercises mentioned above would be calming and beneficial to your mind and body afterwards and/or as a preventative.
If you’re struggling with panic attacks, seeking professional support and treatment is vital to recovery. When left untreated, panic attacks can lead to higher levels of distress and become more debilitating.
It takes courage to learn about and manage panic attacks, but with support and ongoing practice you can eliminate them from your life.
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Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Training Consultant. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter here.