4 Ways to Stop Panic Attacks

panic attacks

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. However, when anxiety becomes excessive and interferes with daily life, it can lead to panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear or discomfort that can cause physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and trembling.

If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know the feeling. Within seconds you can go from feeling quite well and “ordinary” to experiencing absolute dread and fear. And often with no obvious trigger.

Panic attacks can be frightening and overwhelming, but there are techniques you can use to help manage them. In this article, we’ll discuss five strategies for stopping a panic attack.

1. Recognize What’s Happening

One technique from ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is called diffusion, which involves learning to distance yourself from negative thoughts and feelings.

When you experience anxiety or a panic attack, your mind may become flooded with negative thoughts and fears. These thoughts can be overwhelming and may contribute to the intensity of your symptoms. Diffusion involves learning to observe these thoughts without becoming attached to them or letting them control you.

To practice diffusion, try the following steps:

Notice the negative thought or feeling. Acknowledge it without judgment or resistance.

Observe the thought or feeling. Rather than trying to push it away or change it, simply observe it as if it is a passing cloud in the sky.

Label the thought or feeling. Give it a name, such as “anxiety” or “fear,” to help you recognize it more easily in the future.

Create distance between yourself and the thought or feeling. Imagine the thought or feeling as a separate entity from yourself, rather than something that defines you.

By practicing diffusion, you can learn to become less reactive to negative thoughts and feelings, which can ultimately reduce the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks. Remember, it takes practice to develop this skill, so be patient with yourself and keep trying.


2. Deep Breathing

Breathing techniques can be a helpful tool for managing panic attacks. When experiencing a panic attack, your body may feel like it is out of control, and your breathing can become rapid and shallow. Practicing breath work can help slow down your breathing and reduce feelings of panic. Keep your eyes open and ground yourself in your surroundings while you are doing your breath work.

Here are some techniques for breath work during a panic attack:

Diaphragmatic breathing: Also known as “belly breathing,” this technique involves breathing deeply into your abdomen, rather than your chest. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your belly to contract.

4-7-8 breathing: This technique involves inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle several times, focusing on the counting and the sensation of your breath.

Alternate nostril breathing: Alternate nostril breathing involves closing one nostril with your finger and inhaling deeply through the other nostril. Then, close the other nostril and exhale through the first nostril. Repeat this cycle, alternating nostrils with each breath.

Remember, it’s important to practice these techniques regularly, not just during a panic attack. This will help you become more familiar with the techniques and make them more effective when you need them most.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Panic attacks tend to cause a feeling of detachment or separation from reality. Mindfulness is powerful because it can help you stay fully present in the here and now and help manage panic attacks. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, and can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions during a panic attack.

Three mindfulness activities you can use during a panic attack are:

Using a mantra: A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself to help calm your mind. Choose a word or phrase that has a calming effect on you, such as “peace” or “calm,” and repeat it to yourself as you focus on your breath.

Practice body scanning: Body scanning involves paying attention to the physical sensations in your body. Start at the top of your head and work your way down to your toes, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort. As you become more aware of your body, try to release any tension you may be holding.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body. This can help reduce physical tension and promote relaxation. Start with your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle group for a few seconds before releasing the tension.

Remember, it’s important to practice these techniques regularly, not just during a panic attack. This will help you become more familiar with the techniques and make them more effective when you need them most.

5. Get Help

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that can be helpful in managing panic and anxiety. ACT is based on the idea that trying to avoid or control uncomfortable thoughts and feelings can actually make them worse. Instead, ACT focuses on accepting these thoughts and feelings, and learning to live a meaningful life despite them.


If you are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, seeking the help of a trained therapist can be beneficial in managing your symptoms and improving your overall well-being. Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy offers individual therapy services for anxiety and panic, as well as couples therapy to help you and your partner navigate these challenges together. If you’re interested in learning more about our services or scheduling an appointment, please call us at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at https://restorecounselling.ca.






Marcy is a Clinical Social Worker in Halifax, NS who specializes in helping women who are struggling with anxiety, people pleasing, perfectionism and low self esteem cope more effectively.  She also works with new moms who are experiencing challenges with the transition to parenthood and with people who experience chronic illness.  In addition she specialized in helping couples who are struggling in their relationship to learn to communicate more effectively and rebuild intimacy in their relationships.  If you’d like to book a free 15 minute consultation with Nancy click here. Or call (902) 702-7722 to schedule.

Marcy Daniels MSW, RSW

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