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Quick and Easy Tips How to Stop Panic Attack
If you are like most people having a panic attack you want a quick fix. And there are some great tips and techniques you can use to stop panic attacks in your now. One of the best tips is to write these tips down on paper and see which ones work best for you. By having them written down, when you are in the midst of a panic attack, you have something visual to aid you in your breaking free from the panic attack. Be also sure to check my favorite self-help guide from Chris Bayliss, you’ll find efficient techniques for stopping panic attacks.
Be an outside observer in the moment
When you begin to observe all that’s happening to you by breaking it down into smaller segments, you begin to accept what’s happening rather than fearing the “what’s going to happen to me next” syndrome.
One of the biggest parts of panic attacks and healing them is recognizing that you are more worried about what is going to happen than what actually is happening in the moment.
Take notice of your shoulders – are they tense? Is your pulse beating rapidly, are you shaking? Notate the physical effects of your panic attack but be detached from them. Don’t highlight them and make them expand. Tell yourself, “Okay, my hands are shaky, but I’ll be okay” or “My heart is racing right now, but in a moment (phew!) it will stop.” Notating as an unattached observer will bring you outside of yourself and will actually minimize your symptoms.
Once you begin to observe what’s happening right now, you are not at all focusing on what will happen in the next disastrous moment you have preconceived.
Get Some Sense!
What does it mean to get some sense? It does not mean to have common sense, however, it does mean to engage your senses. This is one of the most practical, in-the-moment tools to use when having a panic attack. Use all five of your senses if possible.
Sense of touch
If you have on a silk blouse or a flannel shirt, begin to feel the material on your shirt. Does it feel soft and fuzzy or smooth and silky? Describe it in words or in thoughts if you can’t find the ability to speak through them. Feel the sensuous silk or the warm and fuzzy nurturing comfort of your shirt.
What this does is to distract your mind to focus on something that feels (literally) more pleasant. Your sense of touch can take you to a better place. If you like, you can also carry something in your purse or briefcase with you for those times you need a little extra comfort. Maybe it’s a bracelet with a smooth and shiny stone dangling from it. Whatever it is that you can touch in the moment to distract you from getting all worked up about a future upset that has not even occurred, will work just fine.
For others, wearing a rubber around their wrists works just as well. They snap the rubber band when they recognize they are having an unrealistic feeling of fear coming upon them. The minimal pain from the snapping of the rubber band brings them back to present. Do whatever works for you.
Sense of smell
If you need to, you can carry around a small sample of perfume like the ones you get from the department stores. Smell the perfume while you are having a panic attack. The more fragrant and flowerful, the better. It’s hard to be in the midst of panic when you are smelling a rose garden or a field of lavender. Try calming essential oils as well, or brisk scent of citrus, like orange.
When you are having a panic attack and it feels like there is no place to hide, you can look up and look around. Count three to five things you can see. It’s kind of like that old game of eye-spy you played when you were a kid. I spy a carpet and it is royal blue. I spy an elderly person with a head full of snow white hair, I see three buttons on the elevator with fancy numbers. The man next to me is wearing a gray flannel suit with faint purple pinstripes.
If you are on an elevator (this is where many a panic attack have arisen), do you hear music? What song is that playing, can I sway to the rhythm of that song? If there is no music on the elevator, can you take out your phone and plug into a meditation or a song that is soothing? The sense of sound can be healing and can help stop a panic attack in its tracks.
If you can, carry around some gum or mints and pop one in your mouth at the first sign of a panic attack. The stronger the taste, the better the effect. If you like fresh mint or have another herb you like or enjoy, consider carrying that around. You may be one of those people who enjoy spicy foods or treats. If there is a box of red-hot candies you enjoy, that just might do the trick to bring your senses back to the present really quickly. There are plenty of cinnamon flavored or potent breath fresheners you could pop into your mouth at the onset of a panic attack. A warning though: stay away from sugar as sugar is one of the worst things for people with anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, it’s best to drop the sugar from your diet completely. Check my anti-anxiety recipes or my cookbook for anxiety-beating treats and dishes. If you know you are prone to panic attacks, employing these tactics will help. Moving on next is to your breathing.
Take a breather
If you are like most people having a panic or anxiety attack, you feel a tightening in your chest and throat and feel as though you will never ever again be able to breathe. The best thing to do in that situation is to take the focus off of your upper chest and throat and move into focusing on belly breathing. Most people don’t know about belly breathing. Belly breathing is breathing through your diaphragm. If you are having a panic attack and are trying to grab air into your chest, it’s like you are working against yourself. If you think about it, trying to gasp for air inwardly through your chest more resembles not being able to breathe as compared to allowing breath to move freely through your abdomen. Let your belly rise and fall with each breath. Not only is this soothing, but it also has a physical benefit as well. Belly breathing supports the natural flow of CO2 in your body. In order to breathe properly and get rid of that feeling of light-headedness, you need more oxygen intake. When you hyperventilate, on the other hand, you let out more oxygen than you are taking in. So, if someone tells you to just breathe, don’t get angry. Give yourself and them some credit. They are not blowing you off telling you to “just calm down,” they are reminding you of what you already know – to breathe deep through your belly and not try to gasp for air through your chest or nose.
Another great quick tip for stopping a panic attack in the moment of now is to get moving. While you won’t always be in a place where you can take off into a running sprint, you can modify this behavior. You will be surprised how many people are so understanding about your panic attack. More often than not, they have had a panic attack or know and love someone who suffers from panic attacks, as well. If you can, run in place. For some reason, physical activity seems to halt a panic attack in its tracks. If you are home, go for a brisk walk or run around the block. If you are in a concert, church or other place where you cannot really move, move your toes, your tongue, or practice your pelvis muscles or abs. This takes your attention from the panic attack to the action you are doing. Count while you are doing these little movements or exercises. In addition, if you want to pre-empt a panic attack, you can do so by taking up exercise in any form that works for you. Research is showing that, of course, exercise is good for you on many levels physically, but exercise also has potential to decrease anxiety. Exercising releases endorphins, so the more you exercise the better your mental state of mind will be. For some reason, though, jogging seems to be the best fit for those with anxiety. Studies have shown that jogging could be one of the better ways to decrease anxiety. Jogging uses your heart and lungs and your muscle groups, as well. For those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, their muscles are probably tenser than those who regularly exercise. Why is this important? It’s important because muscles that are tense promote too much cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Wouldn’t you rather release that cortisol than store it up in your body long-term? Releasing cortisol from your body eases your mind into a more naturally stable and calm state.
Find the Right Words
There is a trend circulating for helping couples cope while arguing. The couple chooses a word and uses it when their arguing escalates to a point they simply do not want to get to. In the middle of their argument they say the word, bringing both partners back to basics, which is the issue at hand and not what happened three years ago on a holiday.
Find your word. Pick a word that works for you and keep saying it over and over again until you feel its presence as you are having your panic attack. The word could be something powerful like the word “power”, for example. You can say the word “empowered” over and over again as the panic attacks begins. This word disrupts the brain and causes it to focus on a more powerful choice.
Rather than focus on fear, you are now focusing on power. Your word can be something soothing if you wish such as “ocean.” The thoughts, sights, smells and sounds of the ocean can come into your mind and bring you right back to a happy place rather than to a place where fear and panic reside.
Use “I Am” Statements
One of the best coping techniques for having a panic attack is in using “I am” statements. An “I am” statement is a phrase that brings you back to present time. Start out by stating “I am having a panic attack and nothing more.” This is so massively powerful in that it brings you to the point of recognition and, more importantly, acceptance.
Once you accept your panic attack as nothing more than that, you are taking responsibility to actually free yourself from your own prison. “I am having a panic attack and nothing more” minimizes its importance. You are not having a heart attack. You are not going to die.
This is like being your own best friend in the case of emergency. And do you know what results from this? You get to actually see that you and you alone have the power to stop a panic attack in its tracks. If you’ve done this once, you can do it a thousand times by repeating, “I am having a panic attack and nothing more.” You take its power away by stating this simple but effectively powerful phrase.
You can create your own “I am” statement for whatever works for you. Your “I am” statement could be something like, “Thank God I am NOT having a heart attack, just panic attack which quickly will disappear without impacting my health” or “I am breathing just fine, you see how easy it is!” Your statement can naturally be really short as well, like “I am just fine”.
As you can see, the power of this “I am” statement can take on any shape or form according to what works best for you, and it is one of the most successful ways to stop a panic attack dead in its tracks. You get to stop the panic immediately while smiling inwardly to yourself on how you were able to overcome one of the scariest (and let’s face it, panic attacks can be scary) times of your life.
Next week, we will follow with Part III in our series of Stop Panic Attacks Now! Will will learn how to stop panic attacks in certain situations, like while driving or before a big exam Be sure to check also the Part I, as it also contains essential information how to stop panic attacks.