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How to Stop Panic Attack

What to do if you feel yourself creeping closer to a panic attack and how to slow down symptoms and feel better faster

Whether it’s a one-off attack, health anxiety, postpartum anxiety or panic disorder many people have experienced a panic attack (or anxiety attack.) Panic attacks can feel different for each person, but they often feel alarmingly similar to cardiac events such as heart attacks and stroke which can only increase the panic and fear a person is experiencing. So let’s talk about how to stop or decrease panic symptoms.

On a scale of 0-10, 0 would be calm, cool and collected and 10 is a full blown panic attack so let’s break down what steps can be taken at each number:

1-3: This is a typical amount of stress/anxiety. Remember that stress and anxiety are a NORMAL emotion and can tell us something about the environment. So if you find you are thinking or worrying slight about a bill that needs to get paid, take care of it while you’re thinking about it. Take care of the small stuff around you that causes this normal amount of worry.

4-6: this is when the worrying cranks up a little, and this is where belly breathing is going to be MOST effective. Slow down, breathe and collect your self. If you are new to belly breathing see my other blog post on How to Calm Down Fast

7-8: Our brains are switching into a Sympathetic Nervous System response (fight or flight) and reasoning with yourself is going to be difficult at this point. Removing yourself from stimuli (leave the room and go somewhere quite), ideally we are putting some cold on our faces to decrease our physical response. If your out in public, cold water will work just fine! In winter the easier way to to step outside into the cold (and likely snowy) outdoors—please don’t get frostbite. Hold the cold item or water on your face until you feel your system start to relax. And remember to keep breathing, and some point you will go back to 4-6 range where belly breathing will be most effective.

9-10: We’ve reached peak panic and most people will think they are dying at this point. But please know that you are not dying! It’s scary and you feel helpless but panic attacks typically only last about 15 minutes so if they last longer you likely are having several back to back. Similar to 7-8 if you can remove yourself from the room, and get something cold on your face or even into a cool shower if your at home. If your not at home and are unable to get to a sink of some kind find a quiet place and get into the Safe Position ( sit on the floor with your knees up and give your self a big hug while leaning toward your knees) this will squeeze your torso and vagus nerve while simulating a hug or a swaddled baby. While riding out the storm, so to speak, you can close your eyes and hum to yourself. Again if it’s one panic attack it will only last roughly 15 minutes, and I Promise you will be fine after. As you feel your body coming down, and your brain starting to click back on you can do some belly breaths to bring back to baseline.

You will likely forgot this entire article the next time you have a panic attack but the more you practice these skills, or even print this out and keep it handy the more you will remember and be able react. Good luck!

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