For anyone who has experienced a full blown panic attack or anxiety attack, it can be quite terrifying. The confusion and terror make it difficult to think clearly. Stopping the attack seems impossible while it’s happening. The key to stopping a panic attack is to plan ahead and know how to respond before it happens.
It’s important to remember that panic attacks are both physical and mental.
They are physical because your body is releasing adrenaline and triggering the fight or flight response. Stress and trauma can increase the sensitivity of those fear chemicals making the it easier to slip into panic.
One method for reducing your sensitivity to panic attacks is to exercise and monitor your diet. They can help reduce or eliminate the excess adrenaline in your body. In my own life, exercise and diet have played a huge role in stopping the attacks.
Thoughts, memories and emotional wounds can often trigger the body’s release of adrenaline. And in most cases, the emotional pain is so deep and hidden that we don’t even know what’s triggering it. I have found that digging deep into myÂ own personal freedomÂ has been very, very helpful in finding the cause of those mental triggers.
The other challenge with the mental side of panic attacks is that our minds will often race when the panic hits. Typically, in a fight or flight situation, there is a very real danger, and your mind was designed to respond to that danger either by running away or standing to fight. The problem with panic attacks is that it’s often rooted in an inward pain, not an outward threat. So, our minds race to find the threat but find nothing. So, we conclude that it’s something inwardly dangerous like cancer or that we’re going crazy. We must learn to recognize these lies.
Over the years, as panic would hit, I tried many different things to stop the attack. Below are some steps I’ve taken that have been very helpful in stopping an attack:
When an attack hits, it can be so terrifying that it’s hard to think clearly. We tend to respond instinctively instead of proactively. It’s important to prepare yourself on how you will respond. Just like athletes train their muscles so that motion and movement are automatic, so must we train our body and mind to respond instinctively to the rush of adrenaline that triggers panic.
Panic can often sneak up on you before you know it and set things into motion before you have time to stop it. By recognizing those feelings, thoughts and sensations, you can spot the precursors to panic giving you a heads up. Then, you can move carefully and strategically into the next few steps…
In almost every case of panic or anxiety attacks, breathing moves from a normal, slowÂ rhythmicÂ state to a shallow, rapid state. Your body is preparing for danger, so everything in your body changes. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and your breathing gets rapid to prepare for the dangerous situation. It’s essential to get your breathing under control. Studies have shown that by slowing your breathing, you can stop panic immediately.
Here’s what I do. I start a four-by-four breathing pattern. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold it out for 4 seconds. And repeat. Breathe deeply with your abdomen, watching your stomach move in and out. It may be hard at first because your body is not used to slower breathing in a panic state, but I have found over and over again that this step is very powerful in stopping panic.
Panic attacks are cyclic. When it hits, your mind races releasing adrenaline. Then, when the adrenaline dumps into your body, it causes your mind to race even more, dumping more adrenaline. It cycles deeper and deeper until it feels terrifying and unstoppable.
In the early 70’s, before panic attacks were even called “panic attacks”, Dr. Claire Weekes pioneered this “don’t fight” solution for those suffering with “nervous conditions.” She would often challenge her patients to not fight those incoming, fearful thoughts and just let them “float on past.” This is very helpful in stopping panic because when you fight the panic, you are doing exactly what your body is gearing up for: fight or flight. Fighting releases more adrenaline, so don’t fight it.
I have found that when panic strikes and my body starts to go numb with those sensations, if I can avoid fighting those feelings and let them sweep over me, that cycle of fear is broken immediately and there’s no panic. It’s hard, however, to let those feelings rush in without resisting. They are terrifying. But, that’s why I…
Faith has been essential for me in breaking the cycle of fear and panic. The more I learn to trust God, the more I can resist the urge to fight those feelings. I encourage you to learn more about what God thinks of you and how he wants to help you.
These are some scriptures I often remember when panic strikes:
- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
- God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
These steps have helped me break the cycle of panic attacks. Today, panic no longer has a grip on me. There are a few, rare occasions where it rears its ugly head, but the cycle is broke quickly and the panic never spins out of control. I call them “zaps of adrenaline.” As you learn these steps and trust in God, I am confident that you too can stop the cycle of panic attacks.
Prayer: “Father, help me learn these steps before any panic strikes so that I can break this cycle and stop the panic attacks.”