Stopping a panic attack may not be easy, as it is perceived by the sufferer as a terrifying and debilitating experience.
It is not always possible to know with certainty which are the triggering agents or the reasons that generate this event, characterized by an irrational fear, with a physical sensation similar to that of someone suffering from a heart attack.
The loss of control is total and devastating. On the other hand, it must also be said that it can happen to everyone: each of us, in fact, can have a panic attack at any time. No one is immune to the intense terror that triggers an unpredictable reaction in our body.
It is good to know that once you have experienced your first anxiety attack, it is common for others to follow.
If we identify with this description, we should not hesitate to contact a professional who can help us.
However, a psychologist can suggest appropriate strategies, but it is up to each of us to face these situations, day after day, trying to learn to manage what causes us anxiety, which is the root of our problem.
In today’s article we want to share with you five simple strategies to stop a panic attack.
However, let’s not forget that the ideal is that each of us find our own personal method to manage panic attacks, i.e. strategies that best suit our particular needs.
1. First step: understand what a panic attack is
The first step is necessary to be able to recognize a panic attack and differentiate it from other disorders. When we have a problem or a certain disease, it is always better to know what it is and what causes it.
- In this case, it is essential to become aware of the fact that, despite being an unpleasant experience (sometimes to an extreme degree), panic attacks are not dangerous and do not endanger our life.
- This is a fairly common disorder, triggered by an excess of adrenaline entering the bloodstream.
- This excess is caused by fear. Fear, as we know, is irrational and we often don’t even know what causes it or how to control it.
It is interesting to know that anxiety is a natural instinctive defense system that prepares us to escape from danger. This reaction allowed us, during our evolution, to survive in the past, escaping predators, but today, our only predator is, sometimes, life itself and its problems.
2. How do you recognize the symptoms
The panic attack is like an explosion. Let’s take an example: Maria is a 42-year-old woman with a good job, three children, a partner and an elderly family member in her care.
- Apparently, he has no problems other than his multiple responsibilities. She has always been able to perfectly take care of everything, but lately, and especially when she least expects it, she’s suffering from panic attacks.
- Sometimes it happens before going to work, at other times when she happens to argue with her partner or children.
- Two years ago her father passed away and, even though it was a trauma for her, she was sure she had overcome it. However, her pet has been missing for a month, and it is as if all the suffering and discomfort already experienced in the past suddenly returns.
It is clear that there are many small pieces that, in the end, make up a more complex picture : stress, pressure, the loss of a family member, the death of a pet …
Now Maria has attacks more and more frequent, and her doctor has taught her to recognize the symptoms in order to manage these crises:
- Negative thoughts
- Feeling of suffocation or tightness of the heart
- Respiratory difficulties
- Abdominal cramps
- Intense sweating
3. The importance of breathing
Breathing control is very important to be able to manage and calm a panic attack.
We must not forget that the panic attack is above all a physical and organic response to situations that our mind perceives as potentially dangerous.
We can begin to control our breathing to calm the acceleration of the heartbeat.
When we begin to feel the physical symptoms of a panic attack, we must look for a quiet place where we can make ourselves comfortable (for example, taking off our jacket, loosening the collar of our shirt, sitting down…).
- At this point we inhale deeply for five seconds.
- We hold our breath for seven seconds.
- Finally, we exhale slowly, blowing out all the air for at least eight seconds.
We will repeat this breathing exercise for five minutes.
4. Stop a panic attack: stop negative thoughts
During a panic attack, negative thoughts overwhelm us like a flood. We are at the mercy of this flow that surprises us with unprecedented force.
We must learn to stop it and not be overwhelmed. We say “no” and take back control of our mind, visualizing a simple image.
- Negative thoughts are like burning candles.
- We take air and blow to blow them all out, one by one.
In this way, we will continue our breathing exercise and we will be able to calm the wave of negative thoughts that fuel the panic attack even more.
5. Stopping a panic attack: phrases that calm down
Each of us should have our own, but we thought it would be worth reporting here the most useful in these cases.
Here, then, is a series of phrases that can reassure us in critical moments:
- “It’s okay, I’m calm, my mind is in balance”.
- “Everything has passed, nothing has happened to me, nothing can harm me”.
- “Stop, stop and breathe, calm down and take the reins of your mind in hand”.
- “Nothing will happen, I’m safe, I just have to breathe, get some air and have faith in myself.”
These are simple and elementary strategies. Let’s feel free to adapt them to our personality and our needs, to create those that most belong to us : they will be of great help.