If you’re like me and experience panic attacks, you know that it’s the scariest feeling in the world. Once the panic sets in, it often feels like my mind is in a downward spiral that I just can’t seem to control.
I’ve looked up way too many articles about how to stop a panic attack, but most guides only provide tips on preventing panic attacks. While those articles are great resources for coping mechanisms, I needed a method to stop this downward spiral in its tracks.
Through a journey of self-exploration, I discovered a few tried and true methods for nipping a panic attack at the bud!
While it's important to note that I’m no licensed psychiatrist or therapist, I want to share with you all some ways that I ease my panic once the attack has already begun.
1. Phone A Friend
Most of my panic attacks occur when I’m alone. Being alone can make us feel isolated. Therefore, our panicky thoughts are hyperactive, which accelerates the spiral. When I call a close friend, I express to them that I’m having a panic attack, and that I need them to distract me. I love chatting with my girlfriends about mundane routines and spilling the tea to distract myself. Always remember to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while talking, because it’s very important to get oxygen flowing through your brain!
2. Eat Ice Cubes
Now I know a lot of people are against eating ice cubes because of dental damage, and I definitely am not encouraging you to eat ice cubes on the regular. If you really don’t like the idea of eating ice, I know that some people prefer to hold the cube in their hand. However, I find that when I am in the middle of a panic attack, actually eating the ice cube gives me quick relief and lowers my body temperature, which usually rises during a panic attack.
3. Essential Oils
This one does require purchasing essential oil. Fortunately, there are many affordable options; you just have to find the right match for you! With that being said, I highly vouch for this method. I personally keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil in my purse and in my car. When I feel a panic attack coming on, or if I’m already in the midst of it, I apply some oil to my sensory points: the back of my neck, my temples, and a small dab under my nose. Essential oils help relieve sinus pressure and body tension. A common symptom of any anxiety/panic attack is chest tightness. Using essential oil not only helps me feel physically cooler and calmer, but it helps me breathe better when I’m undergoing mental distress.
4. Ground Yourself
This might sound like a vague tip, but let me explain. A really common feeling during a panic episode is that your body feels like it's floating or that you’re having an out-of-body experience. Grounding yourself mentally or physically can help side-track the mind and ease panic sensations. I mentally ground myself through memory games by listing off things in my head. Physical grounding can include using a weighted blanket or hugging a pillow. Both methods of grounding have helped me recenter myself and decrease the floating sensation.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Stop talking to yourself negatively! When I first began having panic attacks, I was very hard on myself. I would tell myself “I’m going crazy”, or I would jump to extremes like “I’m going to die”. I don’t think any of us ever forget how scary our first panic attack was, and in all honesty, this tip takes practice to conquer. It is very important to be kind to yourself during a panic attack because negative self-talk only frustrates you more, and might increase the intensity of your panic. If you only take away one thing from this tip, please let it be that you are not crazy and that the panic will end.
Lastly, please remember that you are loved and valued. Consider reaching out to a licensed doctor or therapist for further assistance. Use your resources! It is easy to feel defeated after a scary panic attack, but just know that you are strong, and brighter days lie ahead.
Written By: Shei Marcelline