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How to Stop Panic Attacks and Prevent Panic Attacks

Learn how to stop panic attacks. Get trusted information on controlling panic attacks, how to prevent panic attacks and stop panic attacks.

You can learn how to stop panic attacks and take back control of your life. You must first learn how to eliminate your physical symptoms of panic attacks, and then pinpoint the source of your panic or anxiety. Once you've identified the source of your fear, you can stop panic attacks and enjoy a higher quality of life, free of debilitating anxieties and terror.

How to Stop Panic Attacks? Controlling Panic Attacks is the First Step

Many people don't understand that controlling panic attacks begins with eliminating the physical symptoms of the attacks. Panic attacks actually stem from the body's normal fight-or-flight response to stimuli indicating the presence of potential dangers. The individual experiencing a panic attack has an inappropriate and overblown response to these external stimuli, which often pose no real threat at all.

If you've experienced the symptoms of panic attacks that seem to come on abruptly and for no reason, you know how they can quickly overwhelm and incapacitate you. When you feel symptoms coming on, act deliberately and immediately. Control your breathing. Keep your breathing steady and slow, which will slow down the heart rate and reduce feelings of dizziness and sweating. Shut your eyes and consciously will yourself to breathe deeply and steadily. Deep breathing is slow breathing. Slow breathing will bring your body back into a state of stability and relieve the symptoms that exacerbate your fears and anxieties.

Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation to stop panic attacks. Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves lying on a comfortable surface with loose clothing and progressively tensing, then totally relaxing one muscle at a time. Most practitioners tell their patients to begin with the feet and work your way up the body one muscle at a time until ending with the facial muscles. Here's an example:

While lying down, slowly tense the muscles in the right foot as tightly as possible. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and then slowly relax your foot, visualizing the tension floating away as your foot loosens and becomes limp. Remain in this relaxed position for a moment before shifting attention to the left foot. Repeat the same sequence of tensing and releasing the muscles of the left foot. Move up slowly along the body until you finally reach the facial muscles. Try only to tense the intended muscles. It will take some practice to become accustomed to only tensing one muscle group at a time, but you'll get the hang of it before long.

How to Prevent Panic Attacks Using Mindfulness

Another technique that may help when learning how to prevent panic attacks involves practicing mindfulness. Don't you think that knowing exactly how you feel from moment-to-moment would help you control your panic and prevent an attack? With mindfulness, you know your feelings, both internally and externally, each moment.

The primary concept of mindfulness centers on staying focused on the present – the here-and-now. Thinking about the past – past failures, traumas, self-blame, self-judgment – can result in the downward spiral of anxiety that can lead to a panic attack. By remaining calm and focusing on the present moment, you can bring your mind back into focus, relieving your nervous system and bringing your physical and emotional state back into balance.

Here's an example of mindfulness meditation:

Sit in a quiet environment in your home, workspace, or place of worship. Don't lie down so you won't fall asleep. Sit up straight in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Find a point of focus – choose an internal point of focus, such as an imaginary place or serene vacation spot, or an external point, such as the flame of a candle or a meaningful phrase you repeat during the session. You can keep your eyes open or closed. If you keep them open, choose to focus on something in your surroundings. Keep a non-critical attitude and remain observant toward your feelings. Don't let thoughts about whether you're doing it right or not distract you. Stay in the here-and-now and slowly return your attention back to your focus point. The session can last as little as 10 or 15 minutes or as long as an hour.

Final Considerations About How to Overcome Panic Attacks

Learning how to overcome panic attacks takes determination and practice. One of your first steps should involve following a healthy lifestyle and avoiding things like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine – all of which can increase the likelihood of having a panic attack. Get plenty of sleep. Exhaustion is a significant contributor to the development of a panic attack. Without enough sleep, you mind is edgy and your body clumsy. Get rest, exercise, and stick to the panic attack treatment plan set forth by your doctor and therapist. Experiment with mindfulness, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and visualization to strengthen your ability to recognize the signs of an upcoming attack and thwart it before it begins.

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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2012, January 17). How to Stop Panic Attacks and Prevent Panic Attacks, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/panic-disorder/how-to-stop-panic-attacks-and-prevent-panic-attacks

Last Updated: May 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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