Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. They can be accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, and chest pain. Panic attacks can be terrifying, but it’s important to remember that they’re harmless and usually pass within a few minutes.
There are a number of things you can do to stop a panic attack in its tracks. Here are 9 tips and tricks shared by therapists:
- Focus on your breathing:
One of the best ways to calm down during a panic attack is to focus on your breathing. When you’re panicking, your breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. This can make your symptoms worse. By taking slow, deep breaths, you can help to slow down your heart rate and calm your nervous system.
Here is a simple breathing exercise you can try:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to expand.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth, allowing your stomach to contract.
- Continue breathing in this way for 5-10 minutes, or until you feel calmer.
- Challenge your negative thoughts:
During a panic attack, it’s common to have negative thoughts, such as “I’m going to die” or “I’m going to lose control.” These thoughts can make your anxiety worse. It’s important to challenge these negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic and helpful ones.
For example, instead of thinking “I’m going to die,” you could think “This is just a panic attack and it will pass.” Or, instead of thinking “I’m going to lose control,” you could think “I can handle this.”
- Ground yourself in the present moment:
When you’re panicking, it can feel like you’re not in control of your body or mind. Grounding techniques can help to bring you back to the present moment and make you feel more in control.
Here is a simple grounding technique you can try:
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Focus on your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you like? What do you feel?
- Pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. Feel the weight of your body in the chair. Feel your feet on the floor. Feel the air on your skin.
- Continue to focus on your senses and the physical sensations in your body for 5-10 minutes, or until you feel calmer.
- Use relaxation techniques:
There are a number of relaxation techniques that can be helpful for managing panic attacks. Some common techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and visualisation.
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment and letting go of distracting thoughts. Visualisation involves creating a mental image of a peaceful and relaxing place.
- Seek professional help:
If you’re experiencing frequent or severe panic attacks, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist can teach you additional coping skills and help you to develop a treatment plan.
- Get regular exercise:
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Eat a healthy diet:
Eating a healthy diet can help to improve your overall mood and energy levels. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive caffeine and alcohol.
- Get enough sleep:
When you’re well-rested, you’re better able to cope with stress and anxiety. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol:
Caffeine and alcohol can worsen anxiety symptoms. If you’re experiencing panic attacks, it’s best to avoid these substances altogether.
Panic attacks can be scary, but they’re harmless and usually pass within a few minutes. There are a number of things you can do to stop a panic attack in its tracks, such as focusing on your breathing, challenging your negative thoughts.