4 Simple Steps to End a Panic Attack
by Pati McDermott, CHT
Panic Attacks Are Common
When I first became certified as a Hypnotherapist in 1990, I was surprised by the number of people who came to me with anxiety and panic attacks. Many people experience panic attacks frequently and live their lives avoiding situations that frighten them, in many cases irrationally. This simple technique for ending a panic attack was part of my hypnotherapy training and has been used successfully by many of my clients since then. Using the four easy steps below, you can learn to end a panic attack in as little as three minutes.
What Is A Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a condition of adrenaline being released into your bloodstream. A message of fear sends a signal to the adrenal glands that there is an emergency.
The adrenal glands are pea-sized organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They are filled with adrenaline that, when released into your body, gives you heightened abilities to respond to emergency situations. This emergency response causes physical symptoms that many people misinterpret as a heart attack or other serious physical conditions. Misinterpreting these symptoms can cause the fear response to continue.
Here's How It Works
Adrenaline causes the heart to pump extra blood. This extra blood gets pumped into your major muscles to increase your ability to run fast and to increase the strength in your arms. Extra blood also goes into your brain to give you heightened abilities to respond to the emergency.
It takes three minutes from the time that your brain sends the emergency signal until your body is fully adrenalated with extra blood in your large arm and leg muscles and in your brain. In that three minute period you experience your heart pumping hard and extra blood flowing throughout your body. As long as your adrenal glands keep getting an emergency message, they continue to produce and release additional adrenaline. Once your brain stops signaling an emergency, your adrenal glands hold the adrenaline instead of releasing it.
It Only Takes Three Minutes To Stop A Panic Attack
It takes three minutes for your adrenal glands to fill your body with the adrenaline response. It also only takes three minutes for your body to stop the adrenaline reaction. If you stop a panic attack as soon as it starts, the reaction only has to last for three minutes.
It's Very Simple
Stopping a panic attack is very simple. All you have to do is stop the emergency message from being sent to your adrenal glands. Learn these four simple steps and your panic attack will only last for three minutes. Once you understand how this works, you never have to have a panic attack again.
Learn These Four Simple Steps
If panic attacks have been a recurring problem, write the four basic steps on a little card, with a list of sample Coping Statements on the back. Mark the card with bright stripes to make it easy to find in your wallet, and keep it with you everywhere you go until you memorize the steps and know them thoroughly. Study these steps and learn them in advance. If you have a panic attack, get out your card immediately and follow it exactly. Once you learn these steps you won't need the card.
If you experience panic attacks more often than occasionally I strongly suggest that you work with a practitioner to resolve the cause of your anxiety. You owe it to yourself to be free of anxiety. Permanently resolving issues of anxiety is one of my areas of specialty.
The Four Steps:
Step 1. Relax.
Relax by taking slow, deep, complete breaths. Calm yourself by remembering that you are only having a panic attack and that nothing more serious is happening to you. Continue to take slow, deep, complete breaths. Slow, deep, complete breaths will relax your body, which is the first step to reversing the release of adrenaline.
Step 2. Stop Negative Thinking.
Stop negative thinking by shouting the word "STOP!!!" really loud inside your head. By shouting the word "STOP" you are interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often people having a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their head. Interrupting this endless loop gives you the opportunity to replace the scary message with a calming one.
Step 3. Use Coping Statements.
A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you have been scaring yourself with. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.
For example, if you think that you are having a heart attack (a common fear during a panic attack) then you might be saying something in your head like, "Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack" or, "I'm gonna die, oh my God, I'm gonna die!" After you shout the word "STOP!" immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation, such as "I'm only having a panic attack and it will be over in three minutes if I relax" or, "My fear is making my heart pound harder, my heart is fine."
If you feel afraid hearing footsteps behind you on the street you might say, "I've walked down this street hundreds of times" or, "I walk alone on the street every night when I come home from work; what I hear behind me is someone else who is walking home from work."
Other coping statements might be, "I've gotten through this situation many times before and I can get through it again" or, "I am fine, everything is fine."
Brainstorm the kinds of fearful thoughts that bring on panic for you and then make a long list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of coping statements in the middle of a panic attack.
Note: If your fear is in response to a real danger I suggest that you consider making new choices that address those fears. If you are concerned about your health consult with your doctor.
Step 4. Accept Your Feelings.
Accepting your feelings is very important. Minimizing this experience usually serves to perpetuate it.
Start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear or some variation of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and find the reason that you feel it.
Validate that feeling and the reason for it. If you are having a panic attack before giving a speech, you are afraid because it's scary. Stage fright is a common cause of fear and panic. If you're afraid that you're having a heart attack, it's certainly valid to be afraid of that. If you are afraid of footsteps behind you on the street it's reasonable to be afraid that something bad might happen to you.
In all of these cases take the appropriate precautions. Have a regular check up so that you know that your heart is healthy. Walk in a well-lit area and be aware of your surroundings on the street. Walk like a warrior and not like a victim. These are all important precautions to ensure your safety. Then, when you use a coping statement that reminds you that you had a check up recently and that your heart is fine, you can reassure yourself that it's okay to be afraid, knowing that you are safe.
Fear is a positive emotion that reminds you to take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings, take good care of yourself, and keep your emotions in proportion to the situation by keeping an appropriate perspective.
Many people have stopped having panic attacks after learning these steps. However, there is a deeper solution to permanently resolving panic and anxiety responses, fully giving you emotional freedom and happiness. Your mind has the power to significantly influence your negative responses in all situations. By working with hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a powerful way of changing or enhancing your thinking processes) we can achieve any goal, solve any problem and create the excellence you desire in all areas of your life.
You can become the person that you choose to be.
Pati McDermott, CHT
© 2004 by Pati McDermott, CHT