7 Ways To Stop A Panic Attack
Updated: Apr 25
Have you ever experienced sudden high anxiety for no known cause or reason? Or experienced a feeling of an impending doom, a loss of control, fear of dying, a sense of unreality, or an out of body experience; accompanied by difficulty breathing, a racing heart, the sweats or chills, shakiness, feelings of weakness, dizziness or faint, nausea, or chest pain? If yes, you are experiencing a panic attack.
A panic attack is an intense fear or discomfort that comes on suddenly, quickly, that peaks within minutes and typically does not last more than 10 minutes. Panic attacks are scary and uncomfortable, and they’re not life threatening.
Panic attacks are associated with anxiety disorders and panic disorder. However, panic-attacks and panic disorder are different. Panic attacks are isolated episodes, whereas panic disorder is the fear of having another panic attack. Individuals with panic disorder experience constant worry, anxiety, and a fear of having another panic attack. As a result, individuals begin to engage in behaviors to prevent panic attacks that negatively impact multiple areas in their life. It is possible to develop coping skills to manage your anxiety and worries to reduce the occurrence of panic attacks, along with coping skills to stop a panic attack once it has begun.
Below are 7 tips on how to deal with a panic attack:
1. Tip the temperature: When you are in the middle of a panic attack sometimes it can be hard to access your coping skills to reduce or stop the panic attack. In dialectical
behavior therapy (DBT), it is encouraged to change the temperature of your body.
Jumping in a cold shower or splashing cold water on your face will trick your body into
thinking it’s going to be hypothermic and it needs to save resources. In order to do so,
your body will activate your mammalian dive reflex physically forcing your heart rate to
slow down and stopping the panic attack.
2. Focus On Your Breathe: Deep breathing is a great tool to slow down your breathing
and stop a panic attack. By focusing on inhaling and exhaling for 4-8 seconds at a time can be helpful in slowing and stopping the symptoms of a panic attack. If you struggle with deep breathing, drink water out of a bottle with a sippy top or a straw. This forces your body to take deep breaths.
3. Paired Muscle Relaxation: This is the process of squeezing your muscles for 10
seconds and then releasing them counteracting the stress hormones released during a
panic attack. People often start with their toes and work their way up to their facial
muscle, while focusing on their breathing. By doing so you’re activating your body's
relaxation response, which will lower your heart rate, calm your mind, and reduce the
tension and stress in your body.
4. Intense Burst of Exercise: A quick burst of energy will get your heart rate up, release
negative energy from your body, and release endorphins known as the happy hormone.
This does not mean you need to spend hours running or at the gym to feel better. It’s
about a quick intense exercise of running/walking as fast as possible, doing as many
push-ups, jumping jacks, or burpees as possible in a row. This quick burst of energy will
release negative emotions, stress, and tension in your body.
5. Self-soothe: As babies, when we cry our caregivers soothe our senses by either
feeding us, changing us, coddling us, etc. As adults when we experience intense
emotions we don’t often get soothed. Creating a self-soothing box targeting our five
senses can help you cater to your needs during intense negative emotions such as a
panic attack. Catering to your 5 senses will soothe your body and bring you comfort.
Self-soothing can be used to prevent the onset of a panic attack or stop a panic attack.
Below are some ideas, however there is no limit to what you can or cannot put in your
a. Sight: Pictures of people, places or things you love, DVD of your favorite movie
or TV show
b. Sound: Your favorite CD, or a list of your top 5 favorite songs to play on your
c. Smell: Your favorite candle or aromatherapy
d. Taste: Snacks you like, or copies of your favorite recipes
e. Touch: A stress ball, or note to remind you to wrap yourself in your softest
blanket, or cuddle with your dog
6. Mediation: Meditation can be hard to utilize during the peak of a panic attack. However, it is extremely beneficial in reducing and releasing negative emotions and calming the mind to prevent or reduce the risk of a panic attack. Mediation can include mindfulness activities, guided imagery, deep breathing and more. Setting time each day to engage in these activities can help you start your morning on a positive note, take a moment to yourself in the middle of the day, or help you prepare your body for a good night’s sleep.
7. Acceptance and Compassion: It’s ok if you are struggling with panic attacks. It’s ok to
feel scared of having a panic attack. You’re not alone. When a panic attack happens,
accept it as just a panic attack. Remind yourself it is time-limited, it will pass, you will be
ok, you will not die, and everything you feel is temporary. Fighting the panic attack will
make it worse, so ask yourself what coping skills do I have to stop this panic attack?
Most importantly, show yourself compassion. Give yourself the same support and love
you would give to family and friends struggling with panic attacks.
If you continue to struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and notice they’re negatively
impacting your day to day activities, don't hesitate to contact us today to gain support!