What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden, intense feeling of fear, anxiety, or panic. These symptoms are not only emotional but also physically distressing.
When people are suffering from panic attacks, they may have difficulty breathing, sweat profusely, feel trembling, and experience pounding in the heart.
During a panic attack, some people may also feel detachment from reality or themselves, leading them to believe they are having a heart attack. Those who have experienced a stroke have also reported feeling unwell.
Panic attacks can be frightening and can strike suddenly. When you feel one coming on or have a panic attack, here are 11 strategies to help you stop a panic attack:
1. Use deep breathing
As hyperventilating increases fear during panic attacks, deep breathing can decrease fear during such attacks.
Controlling your breathing will help you avoid hyperventilating, which can intensify other symptoms – and worsen the panic attack itself.
You can relax your mind and body to stop a panic attack by taking deep breaths in and out with your mouth. Feel the air fill your chest and belly before slowly leaving. Breathe in for four counts, then hold for one second, then exhale for four counts.
Related: Anxiety Breathing Exercises
2. Recognize that you’re having a panic attack
By recognizing that you are experiencing a panic attack instead of a heart attack, you are reminding yourself that it isn’t permanent, it will pass, and you are OK.
Eliminate the fear that you are going to die or that impending doom is approaching, both symptoms of panic attacks. You can use this to reduce your symptoms while focusing on other methods.
3. Close your eyes
Panic attacks can be caused by triggers that overwhelm you. This can make your panic attack worse if you are in a fast-paced environment.
Close your eyes to reduce the stimuli to stop a panic attack. Your breathing will then be easier to focus on if any extra stimuli are blocked out.
4. Practice mindfulness
It is possible to ground yourself in the reality of what is around you through mindfulness. This can provide relief from panic attacks as they approach or as they occur since panic attacks sometimes cause a sense of detachment or separation from reality.
Feel the texture of your jeans as you dig your feet into the ground or feel the sensation of digging your feet into the ground. You gain a strong sense of reality when these specific sensations are present and give you an objective to focus on.
5. Find a focus object
Finding a single object to pay all of their attention to during a panic attack can be helpful to some people. Take note of everything you can about one clear-sighted object.
For instance, you may observe how the hands on the clock jerk when they tick, and that they are slightly lopsided. Explain to yourself the shape, size, and color of the object. Whenever you feel panic symptoms coming on, concentrate all of your energy on this object.
6. Use muscle relaxation techniques
Relaxing your muscles can prevent cramps and nausea from occurring by trying to control your body’s response as much as possible.
Initially relax the muscles in the fingers of your hand, then move up the body one at a time.
Practice will make muscle relaxation techniques most effective.
7. Picture your happy place
Can you imagine a place on earth where you can relax the most? The sun is shining, the waves gently rolling? What about a mountain cabin?
Think about the details as much as possible while picturing yourself there. Feel the warmth of the sand under your toes, or smell the pine trees in full bloom.
If you truly love these cities in real life, you shouldn’t be in one of their streets here, no matter how much you love them.
8. Engage in light exercise
Blood is kept pumping by endorphins in just the right way. Our mood can be improved by helping our bodies produce endorphins. Since you’re stressed, you should do a light workout, such as walking or swimming, that’s easy on your body.
In the case of hyperventilation or trouble breathing, this does not apply. Take a deep breath first.
9. Keep lavender on hand
This calming and stress-relieving flower is known for its therapeutic properties. You can relax your body with it. Whenever you experience a panic attack, apply some lavender essential oil to your forearms. Breathe in the scent.
Alternatively, try drinking chamomile or lavender tea. They are both calming and relaxing.
It’s not recommended to combine lavender and benzodiazepines. It can cause intense drowsiness when combined.
10. Repeat a mantra internally
It can be relaxing and reassuring to repeat a mantra internally during a panic attack, and it can give you something to hold onto.
If you want to relieve your panic attack, repeat a mantra that speaks to you until you feel it subsiding.
Read: How To Overcome Fear
11. Take benzodiazepines
When you take benzodiazepines as soon as you feel an attack coming on, they may relieve the symptoms of panic attacks.
While other approaches to treating panic may be preferred, the field of psychiatry has acknowledged that there are a few individuals who will neither respond fully to the other approaches listed above (or not at all in some cases) and as such will need pharmacological approaches to treatment.
Some of these approaches include benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), which is FDA approved for treating this condition.
Benzodiazepines are prescription medications, so you need to have a diagnosis of panic disorder in order to obtain them.
The body can adjust to this medication over time, and it can be highly addictive. Using it should be done in extreme cases only.