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13 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack

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13 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack

How can you stop a panic attack?

Panic attacks can be sudden and overpowering. Knowing what to do when they arise can reduce their severity or help stop them. Panic attacks are relatively common, with one article stating that around 13% of people will experience one in their lifetime. People cannot always predict when a panic attack is going to arise, but making a plan of what to do for when they do occur can help a person feel more in control and make panic attacks easier to manage. This article will look at ways to stop a panic attack, some general methods for reducing anxiety, and how to help someone who is experiencing a panic attack.

Panic attacks can create various physical and emotional symptoms.


Physical Symptoms May Include:

  • sweating

  • rapid breathing

  • a racing heartbeat


Emotional symptoms may include:

  • feelings of fear and anxiety

  • intense, repetitive worrying

  • a feeling of impending doom


Here are 13 methods to help you regain control and reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.


1. Remember that it will pass

During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time. Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety, and that it will be over soon. Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their onset, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.


2. Take deep breaths

Deep breathing can help bring a panic attack under control.


Panic attacks can cause rapid breathing, and chest tightness can make the breaths shallow. This type of breathing can make feelings of anxiety and tension worse.


Instead, try to breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on each breath. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 on both the inhale and the exhale.


People can also try using 4-7-8 breathing, or “relaxing breath.” With this technique, the person breathes in for 4 seconds, holds the breath for 7 seconds, then exhales slowly for 8 seconds.


It is worth noting that for some people, deep breathing can make panic attacks worse. In these cases, the person can try focusing on doing something they enjoy instead.


3. Smell some lavender

A soothing scent can help relieve anxiety by tapping into the senses, helping the person stay grounded and giving them something to focus on. Lavender is a common traditional remedy known for bringing about a sense of calm relaxation. Many studies report that lavender can help relieve anxiety. Try holding the oil under the nose and inhaling gently, or dabbing a little onto a handkerchief to smell. This oil is widely available online. However, people should only purchase it from trusted retailers. If the person dislikes the smell of lavender, they could try replacing it with another essential oil that they prefer, such as bergamot orange, chamomile, or lemon.

4. Find a peaceful spot

Sights and sounds can often intensify a panic attack. If possible, try to find a more peaceful spot. This could mean leaving a busy room or moving to lean against a nearby wall. Sitting in a quiet place will create some mental space, and it will make it easier to focus on breathing and other coping strategies.


5. Focus on an object

When a person becomes overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories, concentrating on something physical in the environment can help them feel grounded. Focusing on one stimulus can reduce other stimuli. As the person looks at the item, they may want to think about how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is. This technique can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack. If the person has recurring panic attacks, they can carry a specific familiar object to help ground them. This may be something like a smooth stone, a seashell, a small toy, or a hair clip. Grounding techniques such as this can help people dealing with panic attacks, anxiety, and trauma.


6. The 5-4-3-2-1 method

Panic attacks can make a person feel detached from reality. This is because the intensity of the anxiety can overtake other senses.


The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding technique and a type of mindfulness. It helps direct the person’s focus away from sources of stress.


To use this method, the person should complete each of the following steps slowly and thoroughly:


Look at 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a short while.

Listen for 4 distinct sounds. Think about where they came from and what sets them apart.

Touch 3 objects. Consider their texture, temperature, and what their uses are.

Identify 2 different smells. This could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, or the laundry detergent on your clothes.

Name 1 thing you can taste. Notice whatever taste is in your mouth, or try tasting a piece of candy.


7. Repeat a mantra

A mantra is a word, phrase, or sound that helps with focus and provides strength. Internally repeating a mantra can help a person come out of a panic attack. The mantra can take the form of reassurance and may be as simple as, “This too shall pass.” For some, it may have a more spiritual meaning. As the person focuses on gently repeating a mantra, their physical responses will slow, allowing them to regulate their breathing and relax their muscles.


8. Walk or do some light exercise

Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing. Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.

9. Try muscle relaxation techniques

Another symptom of panic attacks is muscle tension. Practicing muscle relaxation techniques may help limit an attack. This is because if the mind senses that the body is relaxing, other symptoms — such as rapid breathing — may also diminish. A technique called progressive muscle relaxation is a popular method for coping with anxiety and panic attacks. This involves tensing up and then relaxing various muscles in turn. To do this:


Hold the tension for 5 seconds.

Say “relax” as you release the muscle.

Let the muscle relax for 10 seconds before moving on to the next muscle.

10. Picture your happy place

A person’s happy place should be somewhere they would feel most relaxed. The specific place will be different for everybody. It will be somewhere they feel relaxed, safe, and calm.


When an attack begins, it can help to close your eyes and imagine being in this place. Think of how calm it is there. People can also imagine their bare feet touching the cool soil, hot sand, or soft rugs.


11. Take any prescribed medications

Depending on the severity of panic attacks, a doctor may prescribe a use-as-needed medication. These medications typically work fast.


Some contain a benzodiazepine or a beta-blocker. Propranolol is a beta-blocker that slows a racing heartbeat and decreases blood pressure.


Benzodiazepines that doctors commonly prescribe for panic attacks include Valium and Xanax.


However, these drugs can be highly addictive, so people should use them exactly as their doctor prescribes. Taken with opioids or alcohol, they can have life threatening adverse effects. A doctor may also describe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which can help prevent panic attacks from occurring in the first place.


12. Tell someone

If panic attacks frequently occur in the same environment, such as a workplace or social space, it may be helpful to inform somebody and to let them know what kind of support they can offer if it happens again. If an attack happens in public, telling another person can help. They may be able to locate a quiet spot and prevent others from crowding in.


13. Learn your triggers

A person’s panic attacks may often be triggered by the same things, such as enclosed spaces, crowds, or problems with money. By learning to manage or avoid their triggers, people may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.


To learn more about Panic Attacks, Anxiety, and Depression, and get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment, visit Campbell County Healths Behavioral Health Services website at

The BHS Crisis line is available 24/7 by calling 307-688-5555.

  • Category: Behavioral Health Services