3 Techniques To Stop Your Panic Attack In Its Tracks
Want to know how to quickly stop your panic attack and feel calm again?
Well today’s your lucky day because in today’s episode I’m diving in deep into my 3 absolute favourite techniques that stops my panic attacks quick sticks!
No more lying in a foetal position in bed or standing there paralysed as your heart is pounding, your chest is being squeezed, your mind is racing between a million and one different thoughts and your heart is trying to claw its way up your throat.
Oh no, after today’s episode you’ll have 3 awesome techniques to reel your anxiety back in, and you’ll be on your way to feeling as calm as a cucumber.
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My last anxiety attack happened in February 2019.
I remember walking into my bedroom and feeling that low level anxiety I’d been experiencing all day just come over me like a tidal wave and completely drown me. In one second it felt like my heart started galloping, it felt like my heart was trying to claw it’s way up my throat and my head….oh my gosh…my head was just filled to the brim with thoughts. But I couldn’t focus on a single one. It felt like there were hundreds of sharp little thoughts constantly stabbing at the front of my brain.
I just wanted to press the pause button. Just give myself one second to breathe, to let myself just pause and get some clarity.
But that didn’t happen.
Anxiety just raged and raged within me.
I got to the point where I crawled into bed, got into foetal position and just tried to focus on my heart that was pounding like crazy, because my head felt like it was about to explode from all the millions of thoughts.
- I tried breathing through it but every in breath made it feel like my heart was going to explode and made my chest hurt.
- I couldn’t meditate with my thoughts stabbing me like little needles so I tried guided meditation but that just added extreme chaos to my head and it made it feel like my brain was going to explode from the pressure inside.
- I laid on my shatki mat but that was way too much stimulation and my heart started pounding even harder and faster that I felt like it would pop and I started to struggle to get enough air in.
It was in that moment that I realised I needed a cheat sheet, like a go-to guide of all the possible things I could try to get rid of my anxiety. Because that moment was a harsh reminder that my usual solutions weren’t working. I had started to panic because I felt like these feelings and sensations were never going to end.
I didn’t have a solution to try to make it stop and that terrified me the most.
It was through complete luck that I searched on my laptop for my anxiety notes, and this list I’d created months back popped up of all the ways to reduce anxiety. This list was a collection 15 of all my favourites I’d ever come across.
And today, I want to share with you my favourite 3 that quickly put out my anxiety fire. As though a fireproof blanket was thrown over me, extinguished my raging anxiety flare-up and I felt the best feeling of calm I’d felt in a really long time.
#1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
This one is super easy and recommended by a lot of psychologists.
This particular technique helps me when I feel my anxiety rising. (It’s the strategy I use when I’m at funerals because I turn into this super emotional – like gasping for air – person when I’m at funerals. So I love this technique.
WHAT YOU DO:
- 1. Either sit or stand – whatever position is right for you in that moment of panic and pause and breathe in deeply for 3 breaths. Going to whatever depth is comfortable for you and at whatever speed is comfortable for you. It doesn’t have to be the deep or stretched out breaths if you feel like your body is starved of oxygen and its going to make you worse.
- 2. Look around you and acknowledge 5 things you can see around you. Say the items name in your head or out loud.
- 3. Then 4 things you can touch around you – touch them, note their texture, their temperature, their shape – really pay attention to how they feel against your fingertips.
- 4. Then close your eyes and notice 3 things you can hear. 3 distinct, different sounds and say their name out loud or in your head.
- 5. Then keep your eyes closed and notice 2 things you can smell. Inhale deeply and note all the aromas and scents of the smell. This works really great if there’s no strong smells floating around as you really have to try hard to pick up two scents.
- 6. Then, finally, 1 thing you can taste. What your tongue and mouth still tastes like from the last thing you ate, drank or brushed your teeth. Really describe the taste.
- 7. Then notice where your heart and breathing is at.
This method distracts your mind, it takes that strong fight or flight response and dulls it by distracting you with something else that’s happening around you. It gives your mind and body a moment to pause and calm down.
It makes your anxiety and panic more manageable so you can rationalise everything easier.
#2. Feel Good Playlist
How you do this is have a playlist of songs you love.
Songs that make you feel really good, lift up your heart and just infuse your body with happiness.
It’s songs you love, or songs that hold a fond memory for you that you can’t help but smile at.
WHAT YOU DO:
- Step 1. Blast these happy songs and dance it out. Go to a private room, close your eyes and just let your body move in whatever way it likes to the music. Let go of that control. Feel your heart soar with the music that moves you.
This is the first step – again to distract your mind and infuse your body with a happy feeling.
The next step, if you’re comfortable with what triggered your anxiety, is to allow yourself to feel those emotions.
This takes prior preparation, but it’s a technique I absolutely love. What you do this is have songs that fill your heart with rage, or with sadness, or with loneliness, or with overwhelm, or with being afraid or worried. Songs that really make you feel. It’s having songs saved to a special playlist that represent those deeper core emotions. Songs that speak to you. Songs that make your heart feel and bleed with emotion.
- Step 2. After you’ve moved to the songs you love, you take a breath and ask yourself “I am feeling” and catch whatever emotions first pop up in your brain. These are the emotions to move to. It might be “I feel nervous, afraid, and frustrated.”
- Step 3. Start with the darker emotions – feeling frustrated, feeling afraid, whatever emotions pop up for you. And play their song.
- Emotion 1 – Frustration: Play the song that fills your heart with that feeling of being frustrated which might be a screamo song that makes your heart feel like it’s being ripped out of your chest in rage. Close your eyes and allow your body to move in whatever way it wants and as dramatically as it wants. This is you tuning into your emotions, giving that emotion a voice and a safe place to express itself. You may only play the frustrated song for 30 seconds and feel better, or it could be 3 minutes, or longer. Whatever your heart needs to truly feel that emotion in its glory.
- Emotion 2 – Afraid: Repeat the above step with the song that helps you to feel afraid.
Once you’ve gone through all the emotions you needed to move to, they’ve expressed themselves and now your heart is feeling heavy in your chest, move onto your final emotion which is happiness. Create a playlist of happy songs. Tunes that make your heart feel light.
- Step 4. Play the happy playlist for at least 1 minute, if not longer. Letting your body move to the music and fill you with that uplifting, beautiful happiness. It’s always super super important to end on the happy song to leave your heart feeling good.
- Step 5: Take a breath and see where your anxiety is at. If you’re still experiencing the emotions strong or if they’ve started to reduce.
This doesn’t fix what’s making you panic, but it quickly squashes that panicked feeling so you can cope with your emotions better without feeling paralysed by them.
#3. Wash Away The Feeling
I’m someone who has a strong affinity for the elements – for nature. I automatically turn to the elements to ground me when I’m meditating and have always been a kid who’s fascinated with air, water, wind, fire and ether…or I like to call it magic from the universe. So immersing myself in the elements helps me to transfer the energy I feel within my body over to mother nature and effectively get rid of those emotions. This helps me to get rid of my anxious energy within my body and feel calm again.
I either do this in two ways:
TYPE 1: WATER
- 1. Hop in the shower and stand under the water.
- 2. Close your eyes and visualise the anxiety within you. Give it a colour or a descriptive feeling. Visualise where it is within your body – is it in your blood vessels, in your throat, in your heart, in your brain, in your pelvis, etc? Give that anxiety a shape and form you can focus on and differentiate it from the rest of your body.
- 3. As the water cascades over you, visualise the water running over you, and the energy from that water going into your body and fusing with that anxiety. Latching onto it, covering it, basically becoming one with that form of anxiety you’re visualising.
- 4. Then as that water is being washed off your body, visualise it taking the anxiety away with it. All the way down to your feet and into the drain.
- 5. Keep repeating that visualisation: the water fusing with your anxiety and that water being cleansed off your body over and over again as that form of anxiety within you gets smaller and smaller or more diluted.
- 6. At the end flick your hands, fingers and feet so all residual anxiety colour/feeling that’s holding onto your toes and finger tips is flung into the drain too. So no anxiety is still latched onto you.
TYPE 2: GROUND
You can do a similar method with the ground.
- 1. Stand in a patch of grass or sand and try to place as many parts of yourself as you can touching the ground. I prefer to lie on my back and put the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands facing the ground.
- 2. Then visualise that anxiety within you – giving it a colour or a shape.
- 3. With each breath of air, visualise that air moving that anxiety down your body, down your arms and legs.
- 4. Then with your next breath in, transfer that ball or colour or shape of anxiety energy moving from the soles of your feet into the ground and from the palms of your hands and finger tips into the ground.
Just like nature loves the carbon dioxide you breathe out as waste, mother nature loves your energy to refuel herself. So manually transfer your heightened, negative energy into her. Basically this is grounding, but in a super mindful and purposeful way.
And there you have it. When I had my last panic attack in February 2019, I used those 3 techniques and it managed to take my anxiety from 100 down to a 10. Which was a humungous relief from the intense thoughts spiking my brain, the racing heart, the tight chest and pounding heart.
I recommend trying these techniques out when you’re calm or when your stress is really low to see which ones resonate with you the most and so you can be familiar with them before you experience another big anxiety flare up or panic attack.