How to Stop a Panic Attack in its Tracks

 

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how scary they can feel. Panic attacks can make you feel like time is moving very fast and yet very slow at the same time. Your heart feels like it may beat right out of your chest, and breathing feels impossible because you’re hyperventilating and can’t catch your breath. You feel paralyzed with fear and freeze up, trying to protect yourself from your panic.

Panic attacks are different than general anxiety because of how intense they are. When your brain goes into panic attack mode, it turns off the logical part of your brain in order to pour all its energy into fight or flight. That’s why saying “calm down” doesn’t always help! Panic isn’t logical. It’s chemical!

Fortunately, there are many ways to stop a panic attack in its tracks. Here are some skills to try if you find yourself in the midst of a panic attack.

[Related: 10 Tips to Help Someone with Anxiety]

Recognize You’re Having a Panic Attack

First thing’s first: the sooner you’re able to recognize that you’re having a panic attack and you’re not actually in any danger, the easier it will be to pull yourself out of it. Say to yourself out loud, “this is a panic attack, and it won’t last forever.” Don’t skip this part! Hearing the sound of your own voice can be incredibly soothing in the moment because it pulls you out of your thoughts. Remind yourself that you’ve had panic attacks before and they’ve always gone away. You’ll survive this.

Ground Yourself

Sit on the floor, if possible. The closer you are to the floor, the safer you will feel. Sit with your back against the wall and your feet flat on the ground. Keep your eyes open and look around you. This is called “grounding.” Grounding can provide some instant relief from panic symptoms because it can slow or stop that whirlwind, out-of-control feeling.

[Related: Being Mindful with Body Scans]

Find a Distraction

I’m talking a really, really good distraction here. Think intensity. You want a distraction that is equal intensity to your panic attack. Because a panic attack is, for the most part, a sensory experience, try to find sensory distractions. Drink a glass of cold water, do some jumping jacks, eat something spicy, or splash some water on your face. The goal here is to snap you back to what is immediately going on around you and pull you out of your panic.

Write Down your Thoughts

Get some distance between you and your thoughts. When you write them down (or if you have no words, draw or scribble!), you create distance between your thoughts and reality. Don’t worry about making your writing sound a certain way. That’s not the point of the exercise. Just get it out so you’re not ruminating about it any longer.

[Related: How my Dog is Helping Me Conquer Anxiety]

Soothe Yourself

Think about it. When you have a cold, you don’t sit and berate yourself over how crazy you are for having gotten sick do you? Instead, you’re probably drinking lots of tea and water, curling up on the couch, sleeping, and eating chicken noodle soup. If you’re having a panic attack, treat yourself the same way and take care of yourself! Grab your favorite blanket, make some chamomile tea, and make yourself feel safe. Try a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. A quick way to do this is try to tighten your whole body up like board and hold for five seconds, then let your body relax like a rag doll. Chill your breathing out by using the 4-7-8 method of breathing (inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, and exhale for 8 counts.)

[Related: 30 Self-Care Ideas for Mind, Body, and Soul]

Bonus: Prep Before a Panic Attack

If panic attacks are something that you deal with more than you’d like, consider creating a panic attack kit! Gather up some items that you can use to help calm yourself down during a panic attack. Put in some soothing lotions, a soft pillow, a journal and pen, and a tea bag or hot chocolate packet in there. Write yourself some notes to remind you how to calm down. Write down people you can talk to that can help you out. Helplessness is one of the worst feelings to have when you’re in the middle of a panic attack. Preparing ahead of time is a smart idea that will keep you one step ahead of your panic.

What do you do to pull yourself out of a panic attack? Let me know in the comments!

How to Stop a Panic Attack in its Tracks

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  • These are great tips! I find deep breathing (or attempting to) can help a lot as well.

  • These are amazing tips! Deep breathing and sensory distractions (like snapping a rubber band on my arm) are what helps me the most. Thank you for sharing this, it really is so helpful! 🙂

  • Wonderful tips. It is so important to find what will work for you.

  • YESS!! Love this! It’s so funny you shared this because I was just thinking yesterday how I might want to add a post on grounding techniques since so many people have been expressing a lot of anxious feelings lately! They really changed so much for me!

  • Marvina Musser

    This was a great post. I have anxiety attacks like really bad, and I know for me, writing down why I feel the way I do really helps me figure out how to get out of and it have a great rest of the day. It can be really hard especially for panic attacks but I feel writing why you feel the way you do can help you figure out how to get out if. Great post!! 🙂

  • As a recently diagnosed cancer patient, writing down my thoughts and then expressing myself on social has truly been one of the most therapeutic approaches. Thanks for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome! Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. That’s really heavy. I’m glad you’ve found a positive outlet.

  • Great tips! I used to have them all the time and once I started giving myself grace instead of trying to punish myself for feeling things definitely took a huge turn.

    xx
    The Felicia Renee | a minimalist lifestyle & beauty blog

  • mapolo cheoane

    This is great information,I have never had a panick attack before but I can imagine how scary it can be.

  • Maya Maceka

    Ugh. Panic attacks are no fun at all. All of these tips you mentioned are so important and I have no doubt that this is really going to help somebody!

  • Jennifer Schmidt

    This is great information and I am going to pass this along to some friends who experience panic attacks. I have never experienced one but I am sure they are extremely scary.

  • I’ve never had a panick attack, but sometimes I feel like I might? When I feel like things are just too overwhelming. So far I’ve managed to talk myself through. I can’t imagine how awful a panick attack must feel.

  • I’ve definitely been close to a panic attack or two as well. Definitely like the idea of writing things down. Wonderful post!

  • Jessica Bradshaw

    These are such great tips. I am a school counselor and many of my students have anxiety that can sometimes go to full blown panic attacks if they don’t learn how to cope.

    • I’m a counselor too! That’s awesome! I love finding other counselor/bloggers 🙂

  • search serendipity

    Such a good posts! I struggled with panic attacks for a long time and I can agree with all of your tips! Especially progressive muscle relaxation and finding a distraction (counting to 100 or thinking about every First Name with A,B then C…) helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing this!