Panic attacks are sudden episodes of an intense surge of unreasonable feelings of panic, fear, or anxiety in response to regular, non-threatening situations. A panic attack can have an overwhelming impact on an individual in the form of physical and emotional symptoms. A person having a panic attack can sweat profusely, tremble, have difficulty breathing, and have an elevated heart rate. Some people also experience chest pains and can feel detached from reality, leading them to think they have a heart attack.
Panic attacks occur suddenly and without warning, which can be scary for most people. Although it can be difficult to calm down during such a situation, a few methods can help. Here are a few effective ways to stop a panic attack when you’re having one or when you feel one coming on.
Take Long, Deep Breaths
Hyperventilating is one of the primary symptoms of a panic attack that can elevate feelings of fear. The best way to combat this is to practice deep breathing during your panic attack. Controlled breathing reduces hyperventilation that makes other symptoms — and the panic attack itself — worse.
Concentrate on taking long and deep breaths through your mouth, letting the air slowly fill up your chest, and then gently leave again. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for a second, and then breathe out for four seconds again. Repeat this until you notice an improvement in your breathing.
Recognize Your Symptoms
Having a panic attack induces further panic because its symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack. Recognizing that your situation is due to a panic attack and not a heart attack can be an excellent way to remind yourself that these feelings are temporary and that you’ll be okay.
By taking out the fear of dying or some impending doom, you will better be able to focus on finding a technique to reduce your symptoms and improve your condition.
Close Your Eyes
Panic attacks may sometimes occur due to triggers in your environment that can overwhelm you. For instance, being present in a fast-paced environment with lots of stimuli can feed your panic attack. In such situations, closing your eyes reduces the stimuli, helping you focus on your breathing to calm down.
Many people experiencing a panic attack can detach themselves from reality, which can often worsen their symptoms. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to help one ground in the reality of what’s around them, making them feel less detached or separated from reality.
You can practice mindfulness by focusing on your physical sensations, like feeling the texture of your clothes or touching your hands on a surface. These sensations can ground you in reality and help you focus.
Look For Something To Focus On
Finding and focusing on a single object during a panic attack can be pretty helpful in reducing the intensity of the symptoms. Choose an object in clear sight and consciously focus on all its aspects and qualities. For instance, concentrate on your alarm clock and notice how its hand ticks. Describe the shapes, patterns, colors, and size of the item to yourself. Focusing all your energy on the object will eventually cause your symptoms to subside.
Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Relaxing your muscles work almost as well as focused breathing when it comes to stopping a panic attack. Consciously relaxing one muscle at a time can help control your body’s response to the situation. However, these techniques are most effective when they’re practiced beforehand.
Picture Your Happy Place
There’s nothing like picturing your happy place to keep you from panicking uncontrollably. A person’s happy place is somewhere they feel most relaxed, calm, and at peace. This place is different for everyone. For some, it may be a sunny beach or the mountains, and for others, it may simply be in the arms of someone they love. Either way, imagine yourself in your happy place, and focusing on the details of the scene can help alleviate symptoms of a panic attack.
Repeat A Mantra Internally
Repeating a mantra can be pretty relaxing and reassuring as it gives you something to hold on to during a panic attack. Decide on any mantra that speaks to you and repeat it on a loop. “This too shall pass” or “I’m going to be okay” are common mantras people use.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Panic attacks detach a person from reality as the intensity of the anxiety can overwhelm other senses. In such cases, practicing the 5-4-3-2-1 method is a great option. This grounding technique helps you become more mindful about your situation by directing your focus away from the sources of your stress.
Here are the steps you need to follow slowly and thoroughly:
- Look at five separate objects
- Listen for four distinct sounds
- Touch 3 objects
- Identify two different smells
- Name one thing you can taste
If your panic attacks frequently occur in the same environment, discussing them with someone, such as your friends or family, can be helpful. It is best to let your confidants know the kind of support they can offer if and when it happens again.
Learn Your Triggers
Everyone has different fears and triggers. If you frequently experience panic attacks, notice the pattern. An individual’s panic attacks can be triggered by the same things, such as closed spaces, huge crowds, or financial troubles. Once you know your triggers, you will be able to manage or avoid them more effectively to lower the frequency and intensity of your panic attacks.
Having a panic attack is an extremely uncomfortable feeling. Although they aren’t physically harmful, they can take a toll on your mental health and keep you from functioning normally or doing things you love. The above-listed effective ways to stop a panic attack can be employed situationally. However, you should consider consulting a mental health professional if you’re struggling with frequent panic attacks. They will figure your fears and anxiety triggers to tailor treatments that include psychotherapy and medications.