7 Methods to Stop a Panic Attack

  Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Clinically reviewed by Dr. Carrie Jackson

Let me read you this article instead

Anxiety and panic attacks are awful. Your quality of life suffers, your physical health can be impacted, and relationships tend to suffer. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, there is hope. It will not last forever. You can overcome it. Take comfort in knowing that tens of thousands of people, just like you, have found a way to overcome debilitating anxiety. Most medical practitioners will suggest the use of pharmaceutical drugs like diazepam or antidepressants to overcome anxiety and panic attacks. Although this can be effective in the short-term, people tend to suffer long-term negative outcomes when the root cause of the problem is not addressed head on.

Let’s explore 7 ways to stop panic attacks:

1. Identify the “feeling” that a panic attack is impending

You know the feeling. Most anxiety and panic suffers know it very well. All the sudden you can’t seem to take a full breath. You face feels a bit flush. Perhaps your chest tightens up. Your mind starts racing, “Am I dying?”, “Am I losing control?”, “What is wrong with me?” At this moment, take a step back (mentally). The experts call it “being mindful” of the moment you are facing. In this moment, you can say to yourself: 

“Yup, looks like my body is reacting to something. It’s alright, I know my body can handle it. I’ll try to slow my breathing down and relax. I know that I will be fine. No big deal.” 

By identifying, recognizing, and owning the experience – you’re back in control of the situation. Fearing the bodily sensations will only exasperate the panic attack. Fear is your #1 enemy when it comes to panic and anxiety. Everyone experiences fear but learning how to self-talk during a panic attack can help calm your nervous system. It might not 100% stop the panic attack in its tracks, but it will empower you to move through it successfully. Afterall, we can’t control everything that happens to us, or what happens within us. What we can control is our attitude to what is happening. By embracing the “feeling” and talking kindly to yourself (not like a crazy person, your body will follow your lead. You’re in control, you got this. 

2. Visualize a peaceful outcome 

Now that you have identified that dreaded “feeling” – augment it with a peaceful visualization. 

In this technique of visualization, you imagine yourself in your favorite, happy, and comfortable situation. Visualization techniques also work by imaging yourself in a comfortable place that you enjoy. Take yourself back in time when you were sitting on the beach at your favorite all-inclusive vacation resort. How did it feel? Reclaim that experience in your mind. Another tip is to visualize the face of a loved one who brings you comfort. 

Several people who fear flying will often pull out the airline’s magazine and flip through the pages during take-off and landing to distract themselves, while also finding a peaceful image. Try it. Find a “friendly face” in a magazine. Someone with kind eyes who doesn’t come off as judgmental. And focus on that “friendly face” during your next panic attack. Visualize a relaxing and reassuring conversation with that individual. 

3. Ground yourself 

We have seen panic attacks stop in their tracks when a person completely reconnects themselves with the world through their body. Sounds wild, but there is something about your bare skin touching the green earth. Whether you walk around barefoot on the grass or lie in the backyard without a shirt in the sun – both techniques seem to work for anxiety and panic. 

If you don’t feel like walking – grab a lawn chair, take your shoes off, and sit in the backyard with your feet in the grass. Take deep breaths and look up at the sun. Turn off your phone. 

4. Turn up the music

Research also shows that you can improve your mood and lower your level of anxiety by turning up the music. It’s a distraction that helps refocus your mind on something else. Perhaps the song takes you to another time & place in your life that wasn’t so hectic and demanding. 

Ever wonder why some people are stuck in previous decades? Maybe that person’s mental health was in a much better place in that decade. For that reason, they cling to songs from that decade. Not because it was just “good music”, but because that music made them feel a certain way when they listen to it. Why not do the same? Find a few songs or melodies that your body responds to in a relaxing manner. Whenever you go that “feeling” – turn it up! 

5. Remind yourself that “this too shall pass” 

It is easy to lose yourself in the moment – and not in a good way. When your in the throws of a panic attack, continually remind yourself that “this too shall pass”. If you need to walk out of a social gathering, a meeting, church, or the grocery store – do it! And as you’re walking out, remind yourself that whatever your feeling is temporary. 

6. Use muscle relaxation techniques

Muscle relaxation is a powerful way to release the tension in your muscles. JournalOwl offers daily ritual videos that guide you through a muscle relaxation exercise. In this method, you effectively tense up any part of your body (face, neck, back, arms, etc) for 15 seconds and then relax them. Wash, rinse, repeat. Repeat this technique multiple times a day and watch the anxiety melt away. 

7. Focus on an object 

While having a panic attack, you probably have overwhelming thoughts in your mind. To overcome your anxiety and many other irregular thoughts, focusing on a single subject can reduce your symptoms and take your mind away from the panic attacks. 

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Summary

Panic attacks are scary. These techniques are designed to help “in the moment” when a panic attack is in full swing. Journaling, exercise, and dietary changes (like avoiding sugar) are preventative measures for you to avoid future panic attacks. Nobody definitely knows why some people are inclined to experience panic attacks under great distress and why others are not. What we do know is that the sympathetic nervous system is generally overactive in those that experience panic and anxiety attacks, or they are feeding their bodily systems a substance that exasperates anxiety and stress. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all contribute to ongoing panic and anxiety disorder – especially if the individual is under great stress at work or at home. 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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