A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time a variety of psychological and physical symptoms occur. These symptoms include rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, hot flashes, and lightheadedness, as well as a sense of impending doom, chills, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and numbness or tingling.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll know it can be both a terrifying experience and exhausting experience. Panic disorder is a diagnosis given to people who experience recurrent unexpected panic attacks meaning the attack comes completely out of the blue. Panic attack symptoms include sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, and a fear of dying.
Here are 5 ways to stop a panic attack when you’re having one or when you feel one coming on.
1. Use deep breathing
Shortness of breath is a common symptom of panic attacks that can make you feel frantic and out of control. Acknowledge that your shortness of breath is a symptom of a panic attack and that this is only temporary. Then begin by taking a deep breath in for a total of four seconds, hold for a second, and release it for a total of four seconds.
Keep repeating this pattern until your breathing becomes controlled and steady. Focusing on the count of four not only will prevent you from hyperventilating, but it can also help to stop other symptoms in their tracks.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can help ground you in the reality of what’s around you. Since panic attacks can cause a feeling of detachment or separation from reality, this can combat your panic attack as it’s approaching or actually happening.
Focus on the physical sensations you are familiar with, like digging your feet into the ground, or feeling the texture of your jeans on your hands.
3. Use muscle relaxation techniques
Much like deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack in its tracks by controlling your body’s response as much as possible.
Consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body.
4. Repeat a soothing mantra
Repeating a mantra internally can be relaxing and reassuring, and it can give you something to grasp onto during a panic attack.
Choose a mantra that speaks to you personally, repeat it on loop in your head until you feel the panic attack start to subside. You may feel a little awkward doing this at first but repeating an encouraging, positive mantra to yourself during a panic attack can serve as a coping mechanism. Try repeating something as simple as “This is temporary. I will be okay,” or “I’m not going to die. I just need to breathe.”
5. Picture your happy place
What’s the most relaxing place in the world that you can think of? A sunny beach with gently rolling waves? A quiet garden filled with flowerrs?
Picture yourself there, and try to focus on the details as much as possible. Imagine digging your toes into the warm sand, or smelling the sweet scent of roses.
This place should be quiet, calm, and relaxing, no streets of Lagos or London, no matter how much you love the cities in real life, choose peace.