There are a number of options you may try to use to stop panic attacks or to stop panic attacks from happening.
1. Leave. This is perhaps the easiest way to stop panic attacks as it will allow you to remove yourself from a frightening or stress situation. However this on its own can actually make the problem worse, as it may enhance the fear of that particular place or situation. This can encourage agoraphobia, which is a very serious medical condition and one that is extremely debilitating and difficult to treat. Only leave a situation if you are also actively pursuing other forms of treatment, such as CBT.
2. That brings me to my next tip – Exposure. By bracing your shoulders and going into a potentially stressful situation you are slowly chipping away at that fear. However this can be very traumatic. If you try this technique, start off small and work your way up. There might be a certain situation that your are slightly apprehensive about. Start with a brief exposure to this situation – even if only for a few minutes – and repeat a few times. After awhile you may find you can tackle a more stressful situation.
3. Try to relax. There are a number of relaxation techniques out there and many experts say are a good beginning point for panic disorders. It is really hard to focus your attention on something if you are actively working to think about something else. In this case, divert your attention to feeling relaxed. Focus on your breath – take slow, deep breaths. Release them just as slowly. Feel them filling your lungs. At the same time, imagine each breath is fixing your post – focus in particular on your breath coming in from your abdominals, and straighten your back. Again, different things work for different people. Research Buddhist meditation, which teaches you to replace thoughts with small sounds.
4. Write about it. Sharing your experiences is one of the most powerful ways you can release stress, stress and anxiety. For some people, talking about what they are experiencing, their concerns and fears, is extremely stressful. Keeping a diary and journaling your inner thoughts is a way you can release that stress while also allowing it to remain private. This is an intensely personal experience so for many people writing, rather than talking, is a way to get that release.
5. However, if you have a trusted friend or relative you feel you can talk to, tell them what you are going through. Suffering from panic attacks can make you feel really alone, so it is nice to be reminded that you do have people around who care for you. This can also help them understand what you are going through, which helps strengthen your bond. This person can be anyone – a teacher, a friend, a grandparent – as long as you are able to trust them that they will respect you and what you have shared with them in confidence.
6. One of the most beneficial techniques taught during the CBT process on how to stop panic attacks is thought restructuring. This is really difficult to achieve, as when you suffer from severe bouts of panic attacks it can be hard – almost impossible – to focus on something else. However once you have mastered it you will find it hugely useful. Again, this involves writing about your problem. In this case, write for 10 minutes a day for at least a week (preferably two). It allows you to talk back to your fears, and confront them. It gets better with practice so do not give up. After two weeks, start trying to talk to your anxieties in your head, not on paper. Once you find you are starting to become successful at this, start exposing yourself to stressful situations (as talked about earlier).
7. For a short-term solution, try breathing into a paper bag. Hyperventilation is one of the key symptoms of a panic attack, and also one of the scariest. However you may find this increases the problem as it increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, which can contribute to the frequency and length of panic attacks. If you find this technique does not work for you, try humming or even counting out loud. These are short-term, temporary measures but it can often be enough to get you out of a frightening situation.
8. Cut back on alcohol, caffeine and sugar and increase your Vitamin B intake. Maintaining a healthy diet can help stop panic attacks from occurring in the first place. Reduce or eliminate all of your alcohol intake as it can overstimulate your already tightly-strung nervous system. Similar caffeine and sugar both stimulate your senses, which again can lead to a hyperactive nervous system. To up your vitamin B, look at what foods you are eating. You can find quantitative quantities of thiamine, niacin and B12 in whole-grain cereals and eggs, seafoods like tuna, salmon and swordfish, legumes like beans and peanuts, and fresh vegetables and fruits like broccoli, asparagus, melon and oranges.
9. Visualization is a powerful tool. Focus on the sensations around you. Sit outside on the grass, close your eyes, and concentrate on the grass tickling your feet, the wind brushing your face, the sun beating down on your shoulders. In addition, close your eyes and imagine a vivid scene and concentrate all your thoughts on that. What are you looking at? What does it feel like? Focus all of your attention on picking out every detail of that scene.
10. Seek treatment. Antidepressant medications and therapy both have some negative preconceptions around them, but the best advice you will ever receive is to ignore that. There is no shame in trying to help yourself; in fact it is to be applauded, as you have taken a brave first step towards recovery.