When not adequately controlled, anxiety and panic attacks can be terrifying and dramatically alter your life. Often, anxiety attacks are so scary when they first appear that every detail of that first attack becomes permanently etched in their minds. If you’re someone who suffers from anxiety attacks, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to stop them in their tracks. When you can learn different techniques for preventing a panic attack, you can start to control them rather than them having control over you effectively.
Panic attacks cause the victim of the attack to experience a sudden and intense fear, even when there is no visible danger present or no identifiable trigger. This unfounded fear then triggers your body’s emergency system to become activated and the physical fight-or-flight reactions to take over. This results in your body reacting as if it’s under attack and it begins to fight for your life.
Anxiety and panic attacks can strike anyone, at any time without warning. This causes people to begin to fear when and where they might once again experience a panic attack. They no longer feel like they are in control of their body and they start to limit their daily activities because of it dramatically. When this vicious cycle is allowed to continue, your world will keep getting smaller and smaller until you prefer not to leave your house.
The symptoms of a panic attack tend to peak in a few minutes. While panic attacks usually tend to be brief, they
can last for several hours in some people. Once the panic attack has subsided, you can feel exhausted, as if you just finished running a marathon, or climbing a mountain. The best thing that you can do is learning how to stop the panic attacks before they even start. Here are five proven effective techniques that can interrupt the cycle of anxiety attacks and stop them before they start.
1. Focus on Your Breathing
The single, most important thing that you need to know when you are suffering from a panic attack or general stress is how to breathe correctly. When we panic, our bodies naturally start to breathe incorrectly. Unfortunately, the more inefficient your breathing, the worse your fear becomes, and a vicious cycle of panic starts, leaving you feeling completely out of control.
As a general rule, if only your shoulders and chest are rising when you breathe in, you are breathing in a way that will significantly worsen your stress. That is why it is so important to make sure that when the breath, your abdomen is expanding with each breath in. When you are feeling anxious, this can end up feeling unnatural, and even like you are making things worse. You must continue doing it, no matter how uncomfortable you are feeling. When you breathe properly through your diaphragm, within minutes, your nervous system will begin to shift out of the sympathetic mode.
The other vital thing that you need to try to remember is that you should spend more time exhaling that you do inhaling.
Make sure that you are inhaling through your nose, and exhaling through your mouth. Again, you might feel uncomfortable and find it challenging to manage proper breathing when you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, but you must remain persistent. Some doctors even recommend making the “shhh” sound on your exhale because it naturally slows down your breathing.
2. Control Your Thoughts
Have you ever made a phone call and ended up being put on hold? There’s the annoying elevator music, the waiting, and no one to talk to. The experience can have quite the sedative effect on your energy. When you are experiencing a panic attack, this is the kind of atmosphere that you want to try to cultivate in your mind. You need to try to put your anxious thoughts and panic on hold.
Various meditation techniques and anxiety reduction methods have the same effect on your anxious thoughts. If your particular anxiety is a result of your constant worrying or ruminating, the most important thing you can do to stop a panic attack is just to stop. Stop thinking. Stop talking to yourself internally.
When you are trying to control your thoughts, you may experience many other intrusive thoughts that make you feel like you are currently too panicked to have any control over your thoughts. However, being consistent is the key. Meditation experts will tell you that you need to keep bringing your mind back to the blankness every single time it starts to wander. This technique will also work when you are experiencing a panic attack. If you can bring your mind back to the present and pull it from the past or the future, you can effectively stop the panic attack in its tracks.
So, when you are experiencing symptoms of an anxiety attack, think back to the last time you were on hold. Pretend that you are the phone operator and your mind is the customer who is refusing to be put on hold, and so what so many companies do to us and leave your panic on hold.
3. Relax Your Body
The tension in our muscles and body are linked directly to stress and anxiety. When a panic attack starts to set in, no matter where you are, you need to find the most comfortable and relaxing position you can find. For you this may be sitting in a chair, lying down, or standing up. Do whatever feels the most comfortable for you. You must avoid doing any strenuous activity that can increase your heart rate because this can end up making your panic attack worse.
As you relax where ever you feel most comfortable, start to engage in progressive muscle relaxation technique, (PMR). PMR is a deep relaxation technique that is proven to adequately control symptoms of stress and anxiety, as well as relieving insomnia and reduce symptoms of chronic pain. Start by moving your shoulders around to try and loosen them and release some of the tension. Next, while inhaling, contract one muscle group for five to ten seconds, then when you exhale, suddenly release the tension in that muscle.
Allow yourself 10 to 20 seconds to relax before you move onto the next muscle group.
When you release the tension in each muscle group, try to focus on the changes you feel when the muscle is relaxed. Employing imagery along with the release of tension might be helpful. For example, you can try to imagine the stressful feelings flowing out of your body as each muscle group relaxes. Gradually work your way up to your body, contracting and relaxing each of your muscle groups. Once you’ve moved through each of your muscle groups, spend a little time stretching the muscles out to contribute to your loosed and relaxed feeling.
4. Get Some Exercise
There are numerous benefits that you can gain from exercising regularly. Along with improving your energy levels, enhancing your mood, and promoting quality sleep, regular exercise can also be a pro-active way for those suffering from panic attacks and anxiety disorders to release pent-up tension and reduce feelings of worry and fear.
Regular exercise has been proven to help alleviate some of the common issues that are brought on by anxiety and nervousness. To start, exercise can help to reduce the tension and tightness that is held throughout the body of those who suffer from anxiety. Secondly, regular exercise helps to produce endorphins which are the body’s natural mood-enhancing hormone that the body uses to fight off pain and stress and can help to decrease your sensitivity to
your body’s reaction to anxiety, along with reducing the intensity and frequency of panic attacks. Finally, participating in a regular exercise routine can help to reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body and help to improve your sense of well-being.
Participating in regular exercise is one way that you can proactively start to practice self-care and overcome anxiety and panic attacks quickly. Along with the many other benefits of a daily exercise routine, you will begin to notice a shift in your overall self-confidence, which can help to reduce anxiety and improve your overall physical health.
5. Change Your Diet
While your diet is unlikely to cause you to develop anxiety, if you already suffer from an anxiety disorder, what you eat could make it worse, and you could benefit from making changes to your diet. More and more research is pointing to a link between what you eat and your mood. Certain foods have been shown to help nourish your body and relieve feelings of distress, while other foods can cause changes that could lead to your anxiety increasing.
When it comes to the food that you eat, it can significantly affect your anxiety levels. If you are dealing with regular anxiety and panic attacks, then you might need to look at what you are eating and make some dietary adjustments. You can start by avoiding foods that might contribute to your anxiety symptoms. You should try to limit your consumption of the following foods.
- Fried foods are extremely hard to digest, have very little nutritional content, and contribute to heart issues. The stress that they put on your body while it tries to digest them can increase your feelings of distress.
- Alcohol dehydrates you and throws off your nutritional and hormonal balance. It can also cause physical symptoms due to the toxins that can trigger anxiety attacks.
- Coffee and other kinds of caffeine are known to increase your heart rate and create sensations that may generate or mimic panic attacks.
- Dairy products, while not necessarily bad for you, when consumed in excess they may heighten your adrenaline levels and contribute to anxiety.
- Refined sugars are the added sugars found in juice and cookies and many other products. These types of sugars stimulate the body and can create a jitteriness that can exacerbate your anxiety symptoms.
- Acid foods like pickles, yogurt, sour cream, eggs, wine, and liver all create acid. Evidence suggests that foods that cause acid can cause a drop in your magnesium levels. Magnesium levels have been shown to have a direct relationship with anxiety symptoms.
- Avoiding these foods won’t cure your anxiety, but they might provide you with some relief from your symptoms. If your diet mostly consists of these kinds of foods, by cutting back, you will likely notice some significant results in your anxiety.