You know what I’m sick and tired of hearing? That someone will be stuck with panic attacks forever. You’re in the right place if you want to learn how to stop a panic attack.
Stopping a panic attack is easy once you know how. So strap yourself in because you’re about to discover how to stop a panic attack.
This is part of my hypnosis for anxiety series.
“Hypnosis you say!!?!!
Yeah, don’t worry. I’m not going here to hypnotize anyone just yet. I’m just sharing how to stop a panic attack.
Before we get to the techniques, we need to cover some ground first.
If you’re experiencing a medical emergy, call 911 immediately. If you are having thoughts of self harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Line 800-273-8255. There is no shame is admitting you need help. I was suicidal twenty years ago. I was able to reach out and get help.
Panic attacks are a very scary thing. Any idea what makes them so scary?
They spin our mind out.
You see, being kept in the dark torments our mind. Our mind wants to make sense of things. Think of your mind as a “meaning making machine”.
You know the drill – it’s a familiar story and it usually goes like this:
You’re in a crowded group of people. Feeling out of your element, you start to panic a little bit. Then some stranger looks over at you.
Your mind starts racing
“Those people are looking at me and laughing…this must mean they think I’m a loser”
And from here? You start to spiral out of control. Ok, you might not experience that same exact situation. But you get the point.
The worst part about panic attacks? Panic attacks tend to make your memories of a situation much worse than they are. Have you ever looked back at a memory where you were overcome by panic or anxiety?
Next thing you know, you’re dwelling on what that means about you. You might start using some negative language in your mind…putting yourself down. Calling yourself all sorts of horrible names and insults.
Rather than just seeing that situation as a “time when I was nervous”…you added some kind of meaning to it. Some kind of story about yourself or your abilities. Or lack of abilities.
How to stop a panic attack by reframing the situation
“So how do I reframe something?”
Good question. Here’s an even better answer 😀
An easy way to reframe things is to ask yourself “What else could this mean?”
You can ask yourself that when you’re experiencing a panic attack. This can help to attach a better meaning to the situation. When you’re feeling a panic attack ask yourself that question.
You might get an answer like “Maybe this feeling in my chest is actually excitement about what’s going to happen”
Instead of thinking “Oh my god, those people think I’m a loser”…
Try asking yourself “what else could this mean?…ah maybe it means I’m excited to meet new people?”
Reframing panic or anxiety as excitement is useful.
Think about this for a second. Excitement and anxiety are’t far off from each other.
Do anxiety and excitement both increase our heart rate? check!
Do anxiety and excitement cause your mind to race? check!
Do anxiety and excitement both increase your breathing rate? check!
So what is the difference between excitement and anxiety? It’s the meaning and the story we wrap around it. Instead of slapping a label of anxiety around some bodily sensations, call it excitement.
Quick recap for the first how to stop a panic attack by reframing it:
“what else could this mean?”
“what else could this feeling in my chest mean?”
You can also reframe a situation after it’s happened.
The best way to do this? Start off with a memory where you experienced a little bit of anxiety. Or even a minor panic attack.
Don’t go after a memory that still causes you incredible amounts of mental and emotional turmoil. For example, if you were assulated or abused in some way, this isn’t the memory to work with.
Get some practice under your belt first. Then you can move to those more intense memories. (Or if it’s some serious trauma you’re dealing with, seek help from a qualified therapist. A therapist that specializes in trauma is your best bet.)
- Think of a troublesome memory, experience or situation that causes you anxiety just thinking about it.
- Close your eyes and mentally go to that memory.
- Next imagine stepping out of this memory. Imagine watching this memory on a TV or a movie screen.
- Adjust the visual qualities. If it’s in color? Drain the color out and make it black and white. If it’s clear make it a little blurry (maybe like rubbing grease or vasoline on the TV or movie screen). If it looks life like, make it cartoony. If the images are big and bright, shrink them down. Make them less bright. Etc, etc.
- Next, ask yourself “what other positive meaning could I attach to this?”. Or try asking “What else could this situation mean?”
Allow your mind to drift for a bit and surprise you with an answer. Keep gently asking that question until you get a new meaning that you’re satisfied with.
- Once you’re satisifed with this new meaning, step back into this memory. Imagine this memory / situation unfolding differently now that you’ve attached a new meaning & story to it.
- Mentally rehearse a similiar situation in the future. Allow this new meaning and story to follow along with you into the future. Imagine everything happening differently as you think about yourself in this new and improved way.
- Test this change by thinking about a similar future situation.
How to stop a panic attack technique by accepting it
That’s right! You can stop a panic attack by accepting it. Accepting it doesn’t mean you’re just giving up. You’re not throwing the towel in here.
Rather than trying to distract yourself during a panic attack. Or push your negative feelings away. You’re learning to just sit with your feelings and welcoming them.
This simple shift can make a world of difference.
In fact – a whole study of psychology focuses on acceptance. Acceptance and Committment therapy teaches you to do just that. Accept all parts of yourself. Not just the good parts.
And by accepting all parts, we start to loosen ourselves up. You’ll stop beating yourself up over small mistakes.
I’m not about to overwhelm you with a ton of Acceptance and Committment therapy techniques. I’ll just share a simple exercise you can do.
First things first, let’s imagine that we have unconscious “parts of us”. These parts of us are metaphorical in nature. At least that’s how I see it. You can think of these “parts” as serving some kind of function.
You see, all of our behaviors are controlled by these unconscious parts of us. These parts simply are trying to get an emotional pay off.
Instead of understanding this on a logical level, lets try something different.
Step 1) Think of a situation that causes you some anxiety or panic. Close your eyes and mentally place yourself back in that situation.
Remember what you saw, heard and felt at the time. Act as if (or pretend) that anxious feelings are caused by an “unconscious part” of you. (Or a subconscious part. Splitting hairs here).
Step 2) Next, get a sense of where this part is in or around your body. Once you do that, welcome this part and thank it for being here.
“Thank you for being here. I just want to welcome you.”
If you feel resistance at first, just gently repeat this thought in your mind. But be gentle, and really welcome and thank this part for being here.
Once you welcome and thank this part, you’ll definitely feel a shift. This shift can feel like you’re now talking to an ally. Rather than feeling like talking to an enemy.
Step 3) After you’ve welcome and thanked this part, ask the following question:
“What do you want for me?”
Just sit with that question. Allow this part to communicate with you.
It’s common to get answers like
“I’m trying to keep you safe.”
“I’m trying to protect you.”
But what if it says something like…
“I want to keep you from making a mistake or looking stupid
It is still trying to protect you in some way.
Will doing this rid you of anxiety and panic attacks forever? Maybe. Not likely though.
There are some phenomenal counseling and therapy techniques to help with this.
Stuff such as Family Systems, Parts Therapy, EMDR, Hypnosis, etc.
I have a particular process that has worked wonders for myself (and my clients). Clients that have found a lot of comfort and peace after years of struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety still causing you problems? Click the button below that says “Get Started”…to discover how we can jump on a free 20 minute strategy call.
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