If you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, you know the discomfort all too well. Panic attacks, which are sometimes colloquially referred to as anxiety attacks, can cause a variety of symptoms and may manifest differently for different people.
Anxiety itself can be very hard to manage and get control over, and when panic attacks come into the picture, too, things can feel that much more overwhelming and draining. That said, there are several ways that you can try to manage a panic attack, and practicing certain coping techniques may help you more easily manage them when the time comes.
Certain methods of anxiety and stress reduction may also help prevent panic attacks from happening in the first place, or at least may help reduce the frequency of panic attacks that you experience. This is your ultimate guide to stopping panic attacks.
Why Do Panic Attacks Happen?
Before we talk about what you can do to stop a panic attack, it is important to talk about some of the basics. Understanding what a panic attack actually is and why it happens may help you more easily accept your struggles as they come.
Anxiety happens when you are under stress, feeling tension, having worrisome thoughts, or experiencing certain physical symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or feelings of being detached from oneself.
The worries associated with anxiety can be about really anything, including school, work, friends, family, or relationships. While some degree of anxiety and worry is a normal part of everyday life, persistent symptoms may indicate an anxiety disorder.
More intense physical manifestations of anxiety are considered panic attacks, and an attack can last for several minutes or even several hours.
The specific symptoms that a person experiences during a panic attack can vary, and in fact, different people may experience entirely different symptoms. No two people are exactly the same, and panic attacks can manifest in many different ways.
Some common symptoms associated with a panic attack include:
- Heart palpitations
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Sensations of shortness of breath
- Feelings of choking
- Feelings of being detached from oneself
- Fear of “going crazy”
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning and they can strike at any time. You may have occasional panic attacks, or they may occur frequently. If you have recurring panic attacks and worry about future panic attacks, you may have panic disorder.
Panic attacks may come on suddenly and without warning at first, but over time, they’re usually triggered by certain situations.
For some people, a panic attack might not look like anything more than a moment of zoning out. Even in cases where symptoms are not physically apparent, anxiety could still be wreaking havoc internally.
Panic attacks can be draining and disheartening, and experiencing them regularly can certainly take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. There are several different strategies that can help you regain control over your anxiety, and may help you stop a panic attack in its tracks.
What To Do When a Panic Attack Strikes: 10 Ways To Cope
When you begin to feel a panic attack coming on, it may be scary, frustrating, or downright infuriating, and getting a handle on your anxiety can be tough.
These ten strategies may help you stop a panic attack, and may even prevent them from happening in the future:
- Get moving. Going for a walk, a run, or finding some other way to move your body may be a great way to clear your head and relax. Doing this outside is even better, because the fresh air is good for you.
- Listen to music or turn to one of your passions. Listening to music, or turning to another one of your favorite hobbies or passions, is another great way to distract your brain and calm yourself down. Doing something you love or enjoy can also help get you into a more relaxed and positive headspace.
- Meditate. Meditating is a mindfulness practice that may help you get more in touch with your mind and body, and mindfulness in general may be a great way to connect with yourself and curb your anxious thoughts.
- Focus on your breathing. When you feel anxious, pausing everything and taking a few moments to take some slow, deep breaths can help you calm your body down.
- Stay connected. Anxiety can be isolating, and staying connected with friends, family, or other loved ones can help remind you that you have a support network of people who are here to help you get through the hard times.
- Talk it out. Stemming off from the previous point, speaking to a trusted loved one about whatever is making you anxious and just letting it out can be a great way to get the thoughts out of your brain. Keeping things bottled up may make you feel worse, so talking to somebody can be a big relief.
- Try grounding techniques. Using your senses to ground yourself can bring you back to the present moment and get you out of your head. You can do this by engaging all of your senses — pay attention to your surroundings and list the things that you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
- Maintain a regular meal schedule with well-balanced nutrition. Skipping meals or leaving gaps in your diet can aggravate symptoms of anxiety, so making sure you are properly nourishing your body may help you control your anxiety and potentially prevent panic attacks.
- Make sure to get enough sleep. While you are sleeping, your body works hard to replenish and restore itself, and sleep is an important part of your overall health and wellbeing. To help improve your sleep, create a routine before you go to bed and turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Having a sleep routine and a regular schedule helps your body wind down for bed at an appropriate time by regulating your circadian rhythms, and removing bedtime distractions can facilitate a more restful sleep.
- Turn to a professional. There is no shame in seeking professional help. Anxiety can be unpredictable, discouraging, and frustrating, and it can also be extremely hard to manage on your own. When everyday anxiety becomes increasingly intense or difficult to manage, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder—and self-care techniques may not be enough to help you feel better. A professional can work with you to come up with a personalized treatment plan, and depending on your needs, therapy or medication may be recommended.
With Brightside, medication can even be delivered right to your door in most states, and you can get the anxiety care you deserve from the comfort of your home with unlimited access to quality, science-backed treatment approaches.
Sometimes, these strategies might do the trick and get you back on your feet. Other times, these methods may not be enough to take the edge off, which is where professional help may come in handy. Brightside can help you understand your symptoms and find the right treatment personalized to your individual needs—we’re here to help you every step of the way.
The Bottom Line
Anxiety entails frequent, intense worry, fear, and sometimes even physical symptoms that can be hard to control.
Panic attacks happen when your anxiety and stress begins to pile up and eventually overwhelms your system, and a panic attack can bring along some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, including a fast heart rate, sweating, and tearfulness. Panic attacks can be discouraging and tough to manage, but certain coping strategies like mindfulness, exercise, and taking part in your favorite hobbies may help you calm yourself down.
It never hurts to speak with a mental health professional. In fact, anxiety and panic attacks can be signs of an anxiety disorder, and a mental health professional could help you diagnose and treat your condition. This is where Brightside comes in.
With Brightside, you get matched with a mental health provider who is there to support you and help you every step of the way, giving you the anxiety care you need right from the comfort of home.