9 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack in its tracks
A panic attack can feel terrifying. Those who suffer panic attacks often describe that they feel as if they’re going to die.
While highly unpleasant, panic attacks are actually harmless. A panic attack is something you created, so you also have the power to lessen and eliminate the attack. If panic attacks are controlling your life, you can regain that control.
I’ll show you how to do that in this post and others on this site.
Stop a panic attack quickly and effectively with these techniques:
- Remind yourself that you’re going to be okay. You have likely had them before and you survived so remind yourself that you have weathered similar storms before and made it to the other side. Your body chemistry is slightly off-kilter when you experience a panic attack and panicking further will only intensify the attack. The sooner you can relax, the faster the attack will pass.
- Focus on deep breathing. Breathing is the only part of human physiology over which we have complete control. Anytime you’re awake, you can choose to breathe faster, slower, deeper, shallower, or to hold your breath (not recommended). Control what you can control.
Slow, deep breathing will slow your heartrate, and you’ll usually begin to feel better almost immediately. Take some time to read my article, “Breathing Techniques to Help Anxiety” to learn some specific ways that breathing can help you in the event of a panic attack and how to prevent them from coming in the future.
- Get a massage. This might not always be practical, but get someone to massage your neck and shoulders. Most importantly, massage your scalp. You can even do this yourself. Massaging your scalp will move a greater volume of blood through your brain and will help to relax the muscles of your head and neck.
The effects of a massage can last for days so try to get a massage regularly if it’s in your budget. Even a family member or friend can perform the service if the cost of a professional massage is too high.
- Use your imagination. Imagine something pleasant and relaxing. Take a break from the mundane and imagine a beautiful beach, snow covered mountains, laughing with a friend, or something planned that you are looking forward to. It might be hard to think of something positive in the moment, so have a few ideas ready before a panic attack strikes.
- Get moving. Movement will help to eliminate the chemicals that are creating the feeling of panic. If you’re in a place that makes jazzercising impractical, roll your head, wrists and ankles. You could also do a few rounds on the company stairwell. Everyone else is using the elevator anyway. Burning off the adrenaline that is fueling the panic is a powerful strategy that can help you in the moment.
- Warm your hands. Have you ever noticed that your hands often get cold when you’re stressed? Warming your hands can help reverse the biochemical storm happening in your body during a panic attack. Run warm water over your hands or hold a cup of warm coffee in your hands. Combine that with some deep breathing as you take in the aroma of the coffee (or hot chocolate) and you are using a legitimate technique to calm your panic.
- Listen to music that relaxes you. Few things can change your mood and biochemistry faster than the right music. Create a song list of at least 10 songs that you find comforting and relaxing. Begin listening to your music as soon as a panic attack begins. Take slow, deep breaths.
- Get some magnesium. Magnesium has a profound calming effect on the body. Take a magnesium supplement (it also comes in a spray). Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium and is more fun than swallowing a pill. An Epsom salt bath will also cause your body to absorb high levels of magnesium.
- Be proactive. If you suffer a panic attack, you were already stressed about something. Calming yourself before the panic attack is much more practical than waiting until you’re having a crisis. Take control before you lose control.
Panic attacks are frightening and uncomfortable. The symptoms can include: pounding heart, sweating, shaking arms and legs, and even difficulty breathing.
You can control your panic attacks and return to a normal physiology. Do your best to prevent panic attacks from occurring in the first place. If a panic attack does strike, use these strategies to help subdue it.
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