How to Stop a Panic Attack: 16 Things to Do and Stop Panic Attacks

Rachel Sharpe
Rachel Sharpe

Racing heart, hyperventilation, feeling like you’re going to die. Having a panic attack can be a scary feeling. And to put it bluntly… it sucks. As a long-time sufferer of an anxiety disorder, it’s pretty safe to say that I have more than enough experience having panic attacks. But I also know how to stop a panic attack. Whether you’re having a panic attack at work or got awaken from your sleep with a nocturnal panic attack, this article will dive into some of the best practices for making your panic attack stop. I’ll share some of the tricks I do to stop panic attacks.

How to Stop a Panic Attack

1. Meditation

If you’re looking at how to stop panic attacks fast, meditation should be where you start. I’ll be honest, meditation used to scare me. I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts. But that’s actually not what meditation is about. It’s about clearing your mind to live in the present. We spend so much time in our own heads feeling depressed, anxious, or just straight up scared, it’s so important to take that deep breath in and find clarity.

With the Declutter the Mind app, you’ll hear a soothing voice guide you out of your own thoughts to place you into the present moment. So you’ll finally stop fearing for the future and stop living in the past. In the present, you’re safe. You can find joy. And most importantly peace. And that’s how meditation stops panic attacks. 

2. Exercise

Exercise out in nature

Exercise can help you stop panic attacks. If you’re in fight or flight, going for that run is a healthy and natural response that humans were evolved to do. Of course, we were running away from scary animals back then. But the sentiment holds the same.

If you hate running, not a problem. A great workout that helps you stop panic attacks is climbing stairs. If you climb a lot of them, you’ll be doing a lot of deep breathing. Because climbing up stairs is freaking hard. But it’ll help put the focus on climbing the stairs instead of stressing about your fears. 

3. Play relaxing music

If you’re wondering how to stop panic attacks when you’re by yourself, you’ll find the answer in music. Sometimes you’re off on a solo business trip or you’re currently living alone and that panic attack just creeps right up on you. Terrifying. Your mind starts to race at miles a minute, you feel like you’re in danger, and all you want is for someone to help you. But with no one around, you’ve got to be brave enough to help yourself.

We’ve all been there. And as long as you have a Spotify account, you can make your panic attack stop all by yourself. There’s this magical playlist on Spotify that’s helped me on several solo business trips when my anxiety shoots up and I’m all alone. It’s called “Pregnancy Music for Pregnants and Babies.” Sure it wasn’t made for anxiety sufferers but it’s so relaxing it works. The music is soft and calming which will help you fall back asleep or calm down while listening to it. Have a quick listen:

4. Close your eyes and breathe

Whenever you find yourself having a panic attack, take a moment to lie down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in. Then out. In. Then Out. In. Out. Breathing deep naturally helps slow your heart rate to help you calm your anxiety. Taking the time to focus on your breath helps move your mind into the present inside of the past or future. Find time each day to get that quiet moment to yourself just to breathe. The more you practice mindful breathing, the fewer panic attacks you’ll have. 

5. Cuddle your partner

Cuddle up during panic attacks

If you’ve never had one before, a nocturnal panic attack can feel like you’ve awoken in the middle of your sleep with a heart attack. Fortunately, your heart is just fine. But that doesn’t make the panic attack less dreadful. On a recent Washington DC trip, I had a massive panic attack while I was sleeping. I didn’t know how to calm down and my partner asked me to cuddle him. Within a few minutes of doing this, my heart rate and breathing slowed down to match his. If you can find a person to hug or cuddle when having a panic attack, it may help you slow your heart rate back down.

6. Repeat positive affirmations

The problem with panic attacks is that they’re often caused by negative thoughts or fears. To stop panic attacks, it’s so important to replace all that negativity hanging out in your head with positive affirmations. You can search for positive affirmations online. Repeat them each morning. Repeat them when you’re anxious. Repeat them at night.

Glue those positive phrases to your mind to help you stop panic attacks and reduce anxiety. People tend to fixate on negativity when having panic attacks. But to stop panic attacks, you need to constantly practice being more positive. 

7. Get out of your head

One of the ways to stop panic attacks is to get out of your head. When I start getting panic attacks, I shift my activity to something tangible. For example, pinning home decor pictures on Pinterest. Or drawing a picture. Or coloring. I find the right-brained activities tend to reduce panic attacks and overall anxiety.

Whenever I’m most anxious, I’m doing activities that use my left or both sides of my brain like writing. Your mind is one of the most dangerous places you’ve ever been to. Avoid staying in there too long or getting sucked down the spiral of the vortex. Try doing activities that are more creative than logical and you might find it helps to stop panic attacks for you too. 

8. Tell yourself you’re just processing information

When you’re suffering from PTSD, panic attacks are so often you can’t tell when you’re actually having one. You’re in a constant state of fight or flight for months on end. You’re too scared to fall asleep and terrified while being awake. Eventually, when you do finally fall asleep, you wake up from nightmares that scare you awake. Sometimes they come as often as every ten minutes.

A social worker once told me that “nightmares are the brain’s way of processing information. The best way to combat them is to say ‘processing information’ every time you wake up from one.” This little trick has helped desensitize nightmares over the long-term so you feel less panicked after waking up from one. 

9. Try to find evidence for your fear

When trying to stop a panic attack, you need to get to the root cause of it: your fear. Many times are fears are exaggerated in our mind. Our imagination can play some terrifying tricks on us. A simple way to stop panic attacks is to first label what the situation or trigger is. For example, an upcoming wedding. Then, list your feelings such as anxious, paranoid, scared, etc. Next, name the unhelpful thoughts that you’re having. For example, feeling like you’re in danger, feeling like you’re about to die. Then, list the facts that support your unhelpful thought.

Keep in mind they need to be facts not beliefs. You might have some weird coincidences that you can list but that won’t be considered actual evidence. Then, list facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought. For example, maybe you’re still young and healthy so you likely aren’t about to die. Next, provide an alternative and more realistic. Next, focus on reevaluate you how currently feel. This is the Thought Record you can fill out to help you. 

10. Acknowledge the panic attack

People spend most of their time in the two wrong places: the past or the future. In the past, you drown yourself in depression. In the future, you’re scared for your life. But in the present, that’s where you can find the most joy. While having a panic attack can be wildly unpleasant, it’s important to sit with yourself in the present moment and acknowledge it.

Tell yourself, “Right now, I’m having a panic attack. I feel scared, anxious, and worried that something will go wrong. However, right now nothing bad is happening right now. I am safe. I feel myself taking a deep breath in. I feel the oxygen entering my lungs. I feel my toes grounded on the floor. I’m shaking my arms back and forth. This moment isn’t perfect but it will pass. Good moments are up ahead. All I need to do is feel this present moment.”

11. Give yourself a simple massage

Massage yourself or get someone to give you a massage to stop a panic attack

In order to stop panic attacks, you’ll need to help yourself relax. Unfortunately, going to the spa regularly can be out of some people’s price range. So you’ll have to practice pampering yourself. There are a few spots that do the trick.

When having a panic attack, massage the top part of your nose between the eyes. Just move your finger up and down gently to help you relax. You can also massage your wrists or feet. Sometimes rubbing your chest above the heart can help you unwind. Some people rub ice on themselves in a massaging motion to help stop panic attacks. So you can try that too!

12. Cut out caffeine

Let’s face it – if you have some sort of anxiety disorder, you probably can’t drink coffee. I know, I know, mornings are hard and it’s next to impossible to work without that morning rush. But the biggest panic attack inducer is often that morning cup of joe. Coffee elevates your heart rate. And so do panic attacks. The two combined can spiral your panic attack at a higher rate.

During periods where anxiety starts to take over, replace your coffee with a decaffeinated tea. Or better yet… water. I learned this trick from a social worker I started seeing after being diagnosed with PTSD. It didn’t magically make the symptoms go away but slowly the nighttime panic attacks stopped.

13. Avoid your triggers 

Only you know what triggers your panic attacks. So you need to stop doing things that spike it. For example, if you’re always anxious about being followed, avoid going places alone. Grab a friend to come along with you. If watching a psychological thriller causes you to go into panic mode for weeks, stick with watching light-hearted comedies instead. Ultimately, you know what starts your panic attack. And by minimizing your triggers the best you can, you can learn how to stop a panic attack. 

14. Use lavender soap

For those of you suffering from PTSD or night-time anxiety, it’s important to create a relaxing bedtime routine. You can stop panic attacks by using lavender soap, shampoo, and conditioner each evening as you shower. I’ve personally tested out different scents and found that when lavender soap and shampoo is used in the evening, I tend to be less high strung.

Ivory has a lavender body wash you can purchase at your local grocery store. And OGX has a lavender shampoo and conditioner you can buy as well. If your local grocery store doesn’t have it, you might have some luck finding it on Amazon. Scents can play a huge role to make panic attacks stop. Lavender is a great scent for those suffering from panic attacks or an anxiety disorder. 

15. Buy scented rollers

Scented rollers

When trying to figure out how to stop a panic attack, it’s important to be prepared. A simple way to prepare is to head to your local maternity store and ask for a scented roller to help with anxiety. The scented roller is similar to a roll-on perfume that you put on your wrist.

The week leading up to my wedding I was so scared that I was going to die that I bought one to help with nerves. Throughout my wedding day I would roll it on my wrist and sniff it. Anytime my bridesmaids or groom say me sniff my wrist they immediately knew I was freaking out which allowed me to get the support I needed. 

16. Take medication/seek help

If you regularly have panic attacks, it might be time to get professional help. A psychiatrist can prescribe you medication that’ll help lower your anxiety. Often times, all you need to do is slip the pill under your tongue. And within a few moments, your heart rate will slow down drastically. You might even fall asleep. If you’re scared of getting addicted to medication, only take it when you really need it. You don’t have to take it every time you get anxious. This may help you become less dependent on it. You can always work through your panic attacks with the other ideas on this list. 

Your turn

Panic attacks can be a scary occurence. And if you suffer from anxiety, you might have to deal with them sometimes. But don’t you worry. You’re safe. The suffering isn’t permanent. You’re going to be okay. And we’re here to help. 

What gives you panic attacks? Let us know and we’ll respond with a personalized tip for you. 

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