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4 Tips To Stop Panic Attacks

Apr 28, 2008
While the ultimate cure for panic attacks will come from first accepting that you are suffering from a serious anxiety disorder and through seeking psychological help - there are immediate steps that you can take to alleviate these intense feelings when they start to take over.

1. Breathing is Critical.

While it may sound simple - breathing is one of the most important elements of putting an end to a panic attack. Before your next episode, learn simple breathing techniques that incorporate relaxation techniques. While common advice is to breathe into a paper bag and induce hyperventilation, the truth is that this can actually increase anxiety for some people.

The best approach is what works for you. There are many breathing techniques to choose from, so do some research and talk to anyone who has experience with different forms of meditation. Practicing these techniques daily will help you to train yourself to take control of your breathing. This way, during an attack you will more easily be able to focus on your breathing and to slow your breathing rate. For many people, breathing alone can be enough to conquer panic and anxiety.

2. Sing, read poetry, or recite a joke.

A vary large part of what causes a panic attack are negative thought patterns that build upon an existing negative thought to create a snowball-effect of negative thoughts. This chorus of negative thoughts eventually induce an overwhelming feeling of impending doom and crisis.

This is why one of the most effective approaches to ending a panic attack is to interrupt the chain of negative thoughts with positive emotions or imagery. Keep a good joke book on your bedside table. Make it one that is written by a professional comedian - one that you know has made you to break into side-splitting laughter when you read it. Or if poetry is a much more powerful catalyst for your emotions, keep a book of your favorite uplifting poetry easily within reach.

Try singing! Singing your favorite song can serve to immediately distract your mind as the words and melody interrupt those negative thoughts that were previously racing through your mind.

3. Remove yourself from the source of anxiety

For most people who suffer from panic disorders, these episodes are triggered most commonly when they find themselves in particular situations or when confronted with a specific problem. For example, you might start to feel anxious whenever you sit in the passenger seat of a car. Or your heart may start to pound every time the phone rings.

It's important to recognize that these feelings of impending doom and fear represent a reaction you are having that is very normal and natural. And it is a reaction that, with counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, you can retrain your mind to change. However, before you have learned these techniques, an important approach to end an impending panic attack is to immediately remove yourself from the event or situation that his just caused it. When the phone rings, ask someone else to answer it and leave the room. If you find that riding in the front seat of the car is becoming too overwhelming, have the driver stop the car, and try sitting in the back seat instead. Simple changes, before the panic attack can take hold, can help to prevent these overwhelming and terrifying attacks from completely taking over your life.

4. Use powerful and positive affirmations

Since the fuel of a panic attack is the onslaught of negative thoughts - the most immediate method to put a stop to the attack is to replace each of these negative thoughts with a positive one. This can be done in combination with your breathing technique. With your eyes closed, carefully detach yourself from each negative thought and examine it - just as a scientist would analyze a strange new species of animal. Take the negative thought and visualize it being replaced with a positive thought that completely contradicts it. Imagine the thought as a real, physical object that fits into a slot in your mind - you will remove this thought, throw it in the trash, and insert your new, positive thought.

Considering our example where the panic attack was brought on by the phone ringing, and you have gone to your room to remove yourself from immediate sound of the phone ringing - start by practicing your breathing technique with your eyes closed. Once you identify a negative thought that is troubling you, pull this thought out and throw in into the trash. For example, this might be a thought that "someone has called to give me bad news". Visualize taking a firm grasp of this thought and throwing it in the garbage. Then, come up with a more attractive and better-looking positive thought that completely contradicts the negative one. This might be "someone has called to give me some wonderful news". Repeat this positive thought to yourself several times as you imagine inserting it into the slot where the negative one formerly was. Then slowly and methodically move on to the next negative thought.

This technique is a crude form of cognitive behavioral therapy that can work in a very powerful way to put an immediate end to an active panic attack. Before long, you will discover that the emotions of doom and fear have been replaced with feelings of calm and relaxation - and the panic and anxiety will dissipate.
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