How To Stop an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks are a common occurrence for people who suffer from anxiety. Anxiety attacks are stressful, and can come about at any time during the day. When a person is having an anxiety attack he or she will experience several upsetting and uncomfortable symptoms, like:

  • Nausea
  • Hyperventilation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Stomach pain
  • Numbing or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Racing heartbeat

The symptoms of an anxiety attack are very similar to that of a panic attack. It can be difficult to understand the difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks, but there are some key identifiers. The biggest key identifier is the sensations and reaction of the anxiety attack will be shorter and less intense than that of a panic attack. An anxiety attack will not produce the assumption that the affected person is dying or experiencing a medical emergency like a panic attack does.

The second key difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks is that an anxiety attack will be triggered in reaction to an immediate and apparent stressor in the affected person’s environment. While triggers may be present for a panic attack, it is not necessary for a panic attack, and will create a more intense stress reaction than that of an anxiety attack.

How To Stop Anxiety Attacks In The Moment

Anxiety attacks are overwhelming. Having an anxiety attack often affects the affected person’s entire day. They are disruptive, exhausting, and the uncertainty of the next attack will cause a great deal of anxiety. It is sometimes impossible to predict an anxiety attack, but there are strategies that can be learned to help reduce the intensity and frequency of anxiety attacks experienced. The following strategies are helpful in stopping anxiety attacks early or before they reach their full intensity:

Identify The Trigger

Anxiety attacks are a reaction to your anxiety being triggered by an external or internal influence. If you suffer from anxiety attacks it is important to know the source of each attack. If you know the source of triggered attack then it will allow you to maintain control of your reaction.

When someone experiences an anxiety attack his or her body has a physical and mental reaction. These two reactions can become out of control quickly, causing disruptive symptoms. It will help to be aware of the trigger because focusing on the trigger and the situation at hand will prevent the mind from developing racing negative thoughts that will worsen the perception of the situation.

It can be easy to fall into a cycle of negative thinking when experiencing an anxiety attack. This is why it is important to stay focused on the reality of the present moment, instead of allowing the trigger to strengthen the racing negative thoughts that make you feel anxious and upset. Staying focused on the reality of the present moment will keep you in control of your mind, which will prevent catastrophizing (assuming the worst will happen), magnifying the issue, and focusing on the negative while disqualifying the positive.

Practice Breathing Exercises

Focusing on your breathing is a pivotal tool for managing anxiety and stopping anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks cause people to hyperventilate, or to breathe erratically. This causes other symptoms, like racing heartbeat, racing thoughts, and even passing out. Hyperventilating causes the brain and body to fall into a state of panic. This state of panic will worsen symptoms and cause the anxiety attack to last longer. To prevent hyperventilating, it is important to remain aware of your breathing patterns and keep it at a consistent, steady pace. The following deep breathing exercises will help you control your breathing in a state of anxiety:

  • 10-Second Breaths: Taking 10-second breaths is a simple exercise that is very effective in reducing anxiety and the intensity of a stress response. Taking 10-second breaths is simple: first, exhale all the air out of your lungs. Then, take a deep 10-second inhale. Hold the inhale for 3 seconds, and then gradually exhale the breath on a 10 second count. Repeat the exercise 3-5 times, or until you feel less anxious.

  • 4-7-8 Breathing: 4-7-8 breaths are also effective in reducing in-the-moment anxiety. To take a 4-7-8 breath, exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Then take a 4-second inhale through your nose. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, and complete the breath by exhaling through the mouth on an 8 second count. Repeat until you feel calmer and less anxious.

  • Belly Breaths: Belly breaths help in reducing situational anxiety and managing day-to-day stress. They help reduce overall stress and stop anxiety attacks. Before practicing this exercise, find a quiet space to perform belly breaths. When you have found a quiet space, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Fill the belly with as much air as possible without moving the chest. On your inhale, you will feel your lower hand rise as your belly expands. Continue to inhale until you cannot do so anymore without having your top hand raise. Complete with a strong, gradual exhale through the mouth. Complete this exercise 3-5 times to feel its calming effects.

Create A Mantra

If you frequently experience anxiety attacks it can help to develop a mantra to cope with stress in the moments before an attack. A ‘mantra’ is a saying that has power and meaning to its creator. Mantras are meant to motivate and bring acceptance, along with providing peace to those who create them. Because of the benefits they bring, mantras can be instrumental in stopping an anxiety attack.

To create a mantra, think about what is important to you. Think about your strengths, goals and positive qualities, along with your struggles, obstacles and hardships. Think about how you feel when you are anxious or having an anxiety attack, and how that feeling affects your mind and your sense of self. Most importantly, consider what you need to hear in the moment of having an anxiety attack. What will help you calm down from the anxiety attack? What will bring you comfort and confidence?

It helps to develop a mantra that comes from your own words. Creating a mantra that is all your own will give you ownership and connectedness to the words, and help you to find meaning for each moment. Once you have created your mantra, start each morning and end each evening repeating the mantra to yourself. More importantly, when you are feeling anxious, or feel you are about to have an anxiety attack, recite the mantra, either aloud or in your mind. Continue to repeat the mantra until the anxiety has eased and you are feeling better. Remember to also incorporate breathing exercises In these anxious moments.

Professional Counseling For Anxiety Attacks

Each of these tips will help a great deal for stopping or reducing the intensity of an anxiety attack in the moment, but it is also important to consider professional counseling services. Professional counselors will be able to help you not only strengthen these tools for stopping anxiety attacks, but will also be able to help you address the core issues behind your anxiety while teaching you how to manage your triggers. This will help you learn how to control your anxiety attacks and eventually reduce or even eliminate the recurrence of the attacks. Professional counselors will help you by using evidence-based practices, like:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on your thoughts and how your thoughts trigger your emotions, which influence your behavior. When a person suffers from anxiety attacks they suffer from poor stress management skills. A way to strengthen stress management skills is to be able to identify the trigger, and not let the thoughts that you think once triggered take control over your emotions and behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy will teach you how to slow down your thoughts in reaction to the trigger to help you reason through the situation ‘in the moment’. This will make the anxiety feel less intense, preventing anxiety attacks from occurring.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that is very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, but it also incorporates mindfulness exercises that help reduce the general nervousness and discomfort that people experience when they suffer from anxiety-related issues. Dialectical behavioral therapy incorporates concepts like self-awareness, acceptance and distress tolerance to help you cope with the general stressors and triggers that you encounter in the day, while teaching you how to live without letting your own anxiety control you.

Dialectical behavioral therapy is helpful for those who experience anxiety attacks from feeling overwhelmed because they help you learn how to cope with what is not in your control. Coping by learning acceptance allows you to remain self-aware and prevents you from allowing your anxiety to take over in moments that you cannot prevent or change. This practice will reduce your experience of anxiety attacks because you will be mindful of and accept your own limitations, strengths, and struggles.