3 Techniques I Use to Stop a Full-Blown Panic Attack in its Tracks Fast

Your hands are clammy and shaking, your heart feels like it is beating out of your chest – you try to take a deep breath but come up short. Where has all the air gone? 

The first time I had a panic attack, I thought it was a heart attack. I had intense chest pain, couldn’t catch my breath and felt dizzy. I called the non-emergency doctor who explained the situation to me. Later, I found out that I had experienced panic attacks before, just with different symptoms. 

Throughout university, my attacks continuously increased in frequency and severity. I started to research causes and tried to minimise exposure, but my main contributing factor was stress – and university is stressful. 

I then looked into treatments. Many recommended breathwork which is a range of breathing exercises. It didn’t help. When I felt an attack coming, I was unable to calm my breath and focusing on my breathing only made the lack of breath more apparent. In short, it made the situation worse.

Over years of experiencing panic attacks, I slowly discovered techniques that really worked for me. They were able to stop most attacks in their tracks. Not everything works all the time – but these techniques I’m about to introduce worked the majority of times. They felt like a lifeline when life felt so fragile. 

I hope you find them helpful too – everyone is different and what worked for me, may not work for you. But give them a go and let me know your own tips and tricks!

Remove yourself from the situation and
complete a different task

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

This one is the easiest way to stop a panic attack, however not always the most attainable. Panic attacks are often caused by stressful situations like presentations that you cannot remove yourself from. 

However, if you are doing something (e.g. a mock exam) and notice an impending panic attack, step away from the task. Step fully away and do something else. Make tea. Take your dog for a walk. Have a shower. Anything.

It will distract your brain and redirect your thoughts, effectively stopping the panic attack in its tracks.

Drink something hot or cold

The original technique for this was splashing cold water on your face when you are having a panic attack. I found this quite inaccessible in many of the situations that triggered my attacks.

However, I noticed that having an ice-cold or really hot drink had the same effect. The cold drink makes sense as it reduces your heart rate and hence calms the stressors in your body. I think the hot drink works as it distracts me from my attack as well as having a calming effect. It makes me focus on other senses such as taste and smell, which is also a known technique for preventing a panic attack. Just avoid having coffee as your drink – the caffeine will do more harm than good.

Try chewing some gum

This one has actual scientific backing (for the sceptics out here) – a team at Swinburne University in Melbourne found that chewing gum reduced stress, helped with anxiety and improved overall performance. 

It can also prevent your muscles from tensing up, hence stopping one of the physical factors that allow a panic attack to take place. 

Personally, I find chewing gum distracts my brain a little bit and makes me focus on other senses such as taste. It may come across as rude in some situations such as a speaker’s note or meeting, however, you could chew in the lead-up to prevent your nerves from flaring up. 

What are some techniques that work for you? Remember that panic attacks are more common than you think and nothing to be ashamed of. Let's help and support each other!

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t tend to have full blown panic attacks but I do have bouts of anxiety that would benefit from trying out some of these ideas and techniques; thanks for sharing this!

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