If you suffer from anxiety, you have probably wondered at some point how to stop a panic attack. Panic attacks are often one of the most frustrating things that anxiety-sufferers have to deal with.
Even if you don’t have panic disorder (i.e. seemingly random panic attacks that happen unexpectedly), most anxiety sufferers have panic attacks associated with known triggers (phobias, triggers relating to OCD or PTSD, etc.)
For the first time in my life, I actually have some control over my panic attacks. This is due to a lot of therapy, learning to recognize a panic attack for what it is, and practicing coping mechanisms until they become second nature.
How To Stop A Panic Attack: An Infographic
Check out the infographic below outlining 5 easy things you can do to help stop (or at least reduce the effects of) a panic attack before it becomes “full-blown.”
For me, really getting down ‘deep breathing’ has been a lifesaver for me and a killer for my panic attacks. It took a long time (re: years) to actually master this technique (and ‘master’ is probably an exaggeration).
However, deep breathing is often not enough. Here is a bit more detail about each of the techniques listed above:
- Deep Breathing: My personal favourite, deep breathing is a controlled way of breathing. One of the things my therapist told me years ago that still stands out to me is “Your brain can’t be anxious if your body is calm” – deep breathing helps calm your body so your brain can follow suit.
- Muscle Relaxation: Similar to deep breathing, muscle relaxation ensures your body is relaxed. My therapist taught me to relax one muscle at a time, starting with my feet and working up my entire body. I used to practice it for 5 minutes before bed each night, and that really helped me realize the difference between a tense and a relaxed muscle (when you have an anxiety disorder, it’s easy to be tense almost ALL of the time! That’s why headaches and muscle tension are so common for anxiety sufferers)
- Close Your Eyes: A simple yet effective strategy, I use this when I am faced with a known trigger (e.g. getting blood drawn, needles, etc.) Closing your eyes can allow you to practice other techniques easier, such as deep breathing. When you aren’t overstimulated, you can focus on your breathing or your muscle relaxation techniques instead!
- Practice Mindfulness: Panic attacks can cause you to feel detached from reality (you may even experience depersonalization). Mindfulness can bring you back! Try to focus on physical sensations, such as the fabric of your clothes or the feel of your feet on the ground – this can help ground you.
- Visualize a Safe Space: A safe space for me, or your ‘happy place’ is a huge field; a big, grassy field with some trees. It’s a sunny day – but it’s not hot! About 15 degrees is perfect. And my dogs are there, running around at full speed, and I’m laying down in the grass (but it’s not itchy and there are no bugs!) Your safe space/happy place may be a beach, or a cozy room in your house, or a completely made up place like mine. Whatever it is, it can help take you out of the moment and make you feel a bit happier.
So, there you have it! There are some more techniques on Healthline.com that you can check out if you want to learn a bit more about these as well as some others that may work better for you.
Resources To Help With Your Panic Attacks
Whether you suffer from panic disorder or you have known triggers for your panic attacks (I once literally had a massive panic attack over drinking one day ‘expired’ milk)
Here are some resources to hopefully help you get some relief. Keep in mind that if you are consistently having panic attacks and have not yet been diagnosed, I would always recommend you see a doctor/mental health professional. I would not be where I am today had I not have had years and years of medical intervention!