Prevention is the most important part to avoiding panic attacks but sometimes prevention isn’t enough. Please note that panic attacks are surprisingly common. In my practice approximately 50% or more of my clients come in initially with panic attacks. The following method has been shown to be very effective in managing and stopping panic attacks in the moment.
When you are having a panic attack you can follow these steps recommended by Pati McDermott, CHT (http://www.nlppati.com):
The Four Steps:
It takes three minutes for your adrenal glands to fill your body with the adrenaline response. It also only takes three minutes for your body to stop the adrenaline reaction. If you stop a panic attack as soon as it starts, the reaction only has to last for three minutes.
2. Stop Negative Thinking.
3. Use Coping Statements.
4. Accept Your Feelings.
Step 1. Relax.
Relax by taking slow, deep, complete breaths. Calm yourself by remembering that you are only having a panic attack and that nothing more serious is happening to you. Continue to take slow, deep, complete breaths. Slow, deep, complete breaths will relax your body, which is the first step to reversing the release of adrenaline.
Step 2. Stop Negative Thinking.
Stop negative thinking by shouting the word "STOP!!!" really loud inside your head. By shouting the word "STOP" you are interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often people having a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their head. Interrupting this endless loop gives you the opportunity to replace the scary message with a calming one.
Step 3. Use Coping Statements.
A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you have been scaring yourself with. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.
For example, if you think that you are having a heart attack (a common fear during a panic attack) then you might be saying something in your head like, "Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack" or, "I'm gonna die, oh my God, I'm gonna die!" After you shout the word "STOP!" immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation, such as "I'm only having a panic attack and it will be over in three minutes if I relax" or, "My fear is making my heart pound harder, my heart is fine."
If you feel afraid hearing footsteps behind you on the street you might say, "I've walked down this street hundreds of times" or, "I walk alone on the street every night when I come home from work; what I hear behind me is someone else who is walking home from work."
Other coping statements might be, "I've gotten through this situation many times before and I can get through it again" or, "I am fine, everything is fine."
Brainstorm the kinds of fearful thoughts that bring on panic for you and then make a long list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of coping statements in the middle of a panic attack.
Note: If your fear is in response to a real danger I suggest that you consider making new choices that address those fears. If you are concerned about your health consult with your doctor.
Step 4. Accept Your Feelings.
Accepting your feelings is very important. Minimizing this experience usually serves to perpetuate it.
Start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear or some variation of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and find the reason that you feel it.
Validate that feeling and the reason for it. If you are having a panic attack before giving a speech, you are afraid because it's scary. Stage fright is a common cause of fear and panic. If you're afraid that you're having a heart attack, it's certainly valid to be afraid of that. If you are afraid of footsteps behind you on the street it's reasonable to be afraid that something bad might happen to you.
In all of these cases take the appropriate precautions. Have a regular check up so that you know that your heart is healthy. Walk in a well-lit area and be aware of your surroundings on the street. Walk like a warrior and not like a victim. These are all important precautions to ensure your safety. Then, when you use a coping statement that reminds you that you had a check up recently and that your heart is fine, you can reassure yourself that it's okay to be afraid, knowing that you are safe.
Fear is a positive emotion that reminds you to take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings, take good care of yourself, and keep your emotions in proportion to the situation by keeping an appropriate perspective.
Many people have stopped having panic attacks after learning these steps. However, there is a deeper solution to permanently resolving panic and anxiety responses, fully giving you emotional freedom and happiness. Your mind has the power to significantly influence your negative responses in all situations.
You can become the person that you choose to be.