If you have ever experienced a panic attack in all its glory, you know the familiar feelings that often accompany it. That sensation of cold fear surges through your stomach and into your throat, your heart races, your palms sweat, and you wonder if the moment will ever end. If you suffer from anxiety attacks, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. Having an anxiety attack does not make you feeble or undermine your worth as an individual. It is important to recognize this before you learn how to stop anxiety attacks once and for all. That is exactly what will teach you how to do today.
What Is An Anxiety Attack?
So, by definition, what is an anxiety attack? An anxiety or panic attack is a feeling of panic or fear that hits all at once and in full force. An attack takes over your senses, causing you both physical and emotional upheaval.
A pounding heart, trouble breathing, excess sweat, and shaking limbs often accompany a panic attack, making you feel helpless and lost in the moment. Many individuals who have attacks also complain of chest pain and a sensation of separation from the environment and the world around them. This leads people to think they are having a stroke or heart attack, when in reality, they are having a panic attack.
One of the scariest parts for attack sufferers is that these panic-stricken moments appear without warning and with great intensity. The good news is, there are a quite a few effective strategies you can use to stop an anxiety attack before it ever gets underway.
Signs And Symptoms
To delve further into the signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack, it is important to realize that not everyone experiences panic episodes the same way. You may have several of these symptoms at once, experience them at intervals, or with different attacks.
However, recognizing the signs of a panic attack makes it easier for you to deal with the problem effectively and find the best solution. Heart palpitations and a quickened heart rate, trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, and choking sensations are common with anxiety attacks.
You may also experience chest pain, stomach upset, dizziness, chills or feelings of heat, numbness, and tingling. In the moment, you might feel as if you are spiraling out of control or as though you might not survive the anxiety attack. Your thoughts may become irrational, only worsening the intensity and duration of the anxiety attack.
What It Feels Like
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During an anxiety attack, you may feel a limited-symptom panic attack. This means you only experience a few of the symptoms noted above rather than the full spectrum. Full-blown panic attacks are where you experience most or all of these associated signs and symptoms.
While an anxiety attack comes with recognizable physical signs, there are key components to look for that set it apart from a palpable physical condition. Most anxiety attacks hit their peak after about 10 minutes before dying down.
This is important to understand that many panic attack sufferers experience symptoms similar to those of accompanying conditions like breathing disorders, thyroid disorders, and heart disease. It is not uncommon for someone dealing with an anxiety attack to rush to the emergency room or doctor's office with the notion that a life-threatening disorder is at play.
The causes of an anxiety attack vary between each person. You might find yourself in a situation where you are nervous about something, like a presentation at work, causing you to induce a panic attack.
Alternatively, there might be an ongoing stressful situation that causes you frequent anxiety attacks. Sometimes, you may not be sure what the reason even is. Anxiety attacks can happen suddenly when you feel calm or when you are already anxious.
If you already have a psychological disorder, this could increase your likelihood of having anxiety issues. For instance, if you have social anxiety disorder, a stressful situation that requires interacting with others in a group could cause a panic attack.
How To Stop An Anxiety Attack In Its Tracks
Practice Deep Breathing
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The first way to stop an attack in its tracks is to practice deep breathing. When you hyperventilate or struggle to breathe during an attack, this only makes your fear worse and heightens your other symptoms.
When you feel those sensations coming on, stop and place your attention on breathing deeply in and out of your mouth. Let the air enter your chest and stomach and slowly exit. When breathing in, draw it out for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 1 second, then let the breath out over 4 seconds.
Acknowledge The Moment
It may seem so simple, but acknowledging the moment you are in is another effective way to stop an attack. Recognize that you are having a panic attack, rather than a stroke or heart attack, and realize that this feeling will pass.
Once you acknowledge that you are having an anxiety attack and reduce the fear of having a life-threatening condition, you can diffuse the situation considerably. It also gives you space to use other methods to stop your attack in its tracks.
Shut Your Eyes
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Closing your eyes and shutting out your environment for a moment is a great way to stop an anxiety attack. If your attack came on from a situation or circumstance around you that was just too much, closing your eyes and focusing your efforts on deep breathing really works.
Be mindful when trying to stop a panic attack. When you are mindful in the moment of your anxiety, this can bring you back to reality and help you avoid buying into the irrational fears filling your mind.
Think about the physical elements you are feeling, such as the texture of your clothing against your skin or your feet planted firmly on the ground. Focusing on anything physical, tangible, and grounded in reality will bring you back from the fog of the attack and help you bounce back faster.
Focus On Something Else
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Along the same lines, focusing on something else, like an actual object, can help stop an attack in its tracks. When you feel a panic attack coming on, look around you and choose an object in your line of vision. Think about every element of the object you can, such as its texture and appearance, and put all your energy into that mental process.
Try Muscle Relaxation
Similar to deep breathing, muscle relaxation is an effective method to stop a panic attack. It helps you control your body's physical reaction to anxiety and stop the moment before it gets out of hand.
To try muscle relaxation, slowly and mindfully relax your muscles, one at a time. You could begin by relaxing your fingers then gradually relaxing the rest of your muscles up into your body. You can perfect this technique by practicing it when you are not having an attack, so your body is trained to relax when anxiety comes on.
Use Your Imagination
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Your imagination can be a great tool if you are trying to stop an anxiety attack. Start by imagining your happy place, the place that brings you the most joy and relaxation.
Wherever that place may be, imagine yourself in it. Take in every detail of that place and your presence in it. This could be something like imagining yourself wiggling your toes in a sandy beach or inhaling the smell of your mom's cooking. The place you choose should be a location that is serene and quiet, not a busy, crowded locale.
Grab Your Lavender
Essential oils work wonders to calm your body down and stop a panic attack in its tracks. Try lavender essential oil to soothe your system. Apply some to your wrists, forearms, and the back of your neck if you feel an attack coming on. You can also inhale the aroma of lavender to envelop your senses.
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Physical activity is an effective way to reduce the stress that your body is feeling from an attack and help you focus on something else entirely. When you exercise, it fills your body with endorphins. Endorphins not only ensure that your blood is pumping properly but help your overall mood too.
Light exercise, like walking or swimming, is best if you are having an attack. However, if you are finding it difficult to breathe amid your panic attack, it is best to wait until you have caught your breath before undertaking any physical activity.
Learning how to stop an anxiety attack in its tracks is a process. You may find that a combination of methods works best for you while others are not enough to stop a full-blown attack. Have patience with yourself.
If you find that self-calming methods to diffuse an attack are insufficient, consult with your doctor for recommendations. Sometimes, it may require a prescription of benzodiazepines for a time to help you get your body back on track. These are a last resort and should only be used in moderation as they are addictive. Speak with your doctor to determine what approach is best for you.
Alice grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in California, though she likes to visit home frequently. She graduated from a marketing specialist degree and worked at the core of outreach teams for more than 5 years.