The natural reaction when a panic attack nears is to stop breathing, which is counterproductive as it intensifies the symptoms of anxiety. The best thing to do when panicking is to focus on breathing deeply and rhythmically, while regular mindfulness meditation helps to build a reservoir of calmness, awareness, and control that can be accessed when needed. Remember, breathing stops panic attacks! Oh, did I mention pets? There’s those too…
Read the suggestions of 7 experts of how to practice breathing to relieve panic attacks.
#1 – Don’t avoid, breath mindfully
Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the top treatments for panic attacks. Often someone with panic will hold their breath, followed by fears of death or fainting, and the fears escalate the breath holding, which ultimately leads to full-blown panic. Before having an attack, take a few moments to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Breath in and allow the diaphragm to expand, with an equal or longer exhale as the diaphragm contracts back in. This should look like an accordion, expanding out, then contracting back in.
Exposure to situations rather than avoidance. Limiting your outings and activities will create further fear and will perpetuate panic. Be sure to get out there rather than limiting activities.
Panic attacks form from a perpetuating fear such as loss of control, dying, or fainting without escape or help. Use mindfulness to bring your attention to the here and now, and your 5 senses, and practice this to avoid panic. When the mind jumps into fear or worry, observe that thought rather than react to it, and redirect back to the present moment and senses. Research shows you can retrain your brain to be more mindful, and less anxiety-driven in just 8 weeks.
- Dr. Lamees Khorshid is a Clinical Health Psychologist and health and happiness coach. View her LinkedIn profile here.
#2 – Get fresh air and breathe
Remove yourself from whatever you are doing to find space for yourself, or step outside if possible. Fresh air is very healing. Take 10 slow, deep breaths. You want to inhale and exhale through your nose, filling up your belly as you inhale, and feeling your belly go inwards on the exhale. Do not breathe from your chest, you want it to be from your belly. You can also repeat the mantra I am safe, loved, and protected.
Don’t try to stop your panic or make it go away. The more we try to push our anxiety away, the more is presents itself. Allow the anxiety to be present and trust it will pass. The worst part of a panic attack will last 10 minutes and then your adrenaline will begin to subside.
- Brooke Novick is a Marriage and Family Therapist on Long Island and can be visited at www.brookenovick.com. Her specialties include anxiety, increasing self-esteem and self-compassion, eating disorders, issues related to spirituality, family conflict, and working with individuals who want to process life and grow.
#3 – Focus on breathing deeply and slowly
I have found the quickest and most efficient way to short-circuit a panic attack is to first focus on the breath. Exhale completely before filling your lungs from the bottom up. Hold your breath for a few comfortable counts and then slowly exhale. Repeat as often as necessary. At the same time, it helps to concentrate on relaxing and telling yourself everything will be okay and that you are safe, loved and appreciated. Even if you can think of no one who loves or appreciates you at the time, you can appreciate all you have done and continue to do for yourself and others.
- Hyapatia Lee is the author of Native Strenth – The First Step on the Path to an Indomitable Life, published in August of 2016 and featured in a Huffington Post article on October 6th. This is the first book in a series on the centuries-old inter-tribal traditional methods for maintaining mental balance and integrity. Visit her website here.
#4 – More breathing…and pets
A good way to stop a panic attack is to slowly breathe through your nose and with your stomach. You inhale for 3 seconds, then exhale for 3 seconds, inhale, exhale…
While you do that, it is very important to concentrate on your breathing. It will take the focus away from what’s scaring or stressing you, and your heart rate will slow down.
Another tip that can help in the case of a panic attack is to rub your hands or bare feet on something, preferably a rug or carpet. The contact of your hands/feet on this surface will help you take the focus away from your fear. If you’re curious, you can watch the beginning of Die Hard, where a plane passenger tells John McLane to rub his bare feet on the carpet because he’s afraid of flying.
Finally, there’s nothing better than petting a cat or a dog to calm down. This will definitely slow down your heart rate and calm your fearful mind.
- Gregory Golinski works as a marketing coordinator for Hotel Carmel, a boutique hotel situated in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
#5 – Deep breathing
Experiencing and overcoming debilitating worry and panic attacks requires an incredible amount of strength and patience. They are usually unpredictable and unprovoked. When an anxiety attack begins or is underway, it can feel as though you may faint or are going to die. It is important to remember that eventually the experience will subside. The best thing you can do during a panic attack is focused on your breath. Pay attention to each inhale, exhale and space in between. Try repeating to yourself, “I am getting enough air.” This gives your mind something helpful to do. Deep breathing is a natural stress reliever.
- Alkmini Hormovas, LMFT, is passionate about helping people find the antidotes to stress and anxiety. Check out theanxietyreliefcenter.com for more on how you can achieve more ease, satisfaction, and wellness in your life.
#6 – Mindfulness Meditation
Controlled breathing efforts can help to decrease the effects of a panic attack, or help ward off an approaching one. Being able to focus on breathing in slowly, holding your breath, exhaling slowly, and holding your breath, can do a lot limit the effects of a panic attack, and calm you down.
While not only built with panic attacks in mind, here is a controlled breathing visual to help guide you in calming yourself down: http://www.quietkit.com.
- John Turner is the CEO and founder of QuietKit, a free guided meditation resource for beginners.
#7 – Build a reservoir of calmness
You can’t think your way out of a panic attack, but you can learn to breathe through it and even prevent it before it starts.
The best way to do this is by developing a 15 minute a day mindfulness meditation practice. By meditating daily you start to build up a reservoir of calmness which can prevent a panic attack before it starts.
You can also use the principles of mindfulness to take out some of the discomforts when you do have a panic attack.
- Benjamin Schoeffler is a board certified medical hypnotist with a program to help people with insomnia at http://www.BrilliantSide.com.
For more techniques how to stop panic attacks naturally, go here.