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10 Unexpected Tricks for Stopping a Panic Attack in Its Tracks

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Panic attacks can be scary for a lot of reasons. For one thing, they’re usually very unexpected. They can happen anywhere, at any time. For another, what can trigger them varies from person to person, and it can feel difficult to keep yourself safe from them.

For me, they most often happen in bed. My mind lingers on embarrassing moments from that day, that week or that month. Sometimes, it’s a cringe-worthy moment from when I was in middle school. But they send me on a sort of spiral, one that I’ll spin on anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire hour.

Anyone who has panic attacks can tell you their own personal way of coping. For some, it’s breathing exercises. For others, it’s listening to some of their favorite music. I, personally, try to watch an episode of a funny TV show. Right now, it’s “Will & Grace.”

We decided to ask our mental health community what unconventional methods they have to keep these attacks at bay. Maybe some of these will work for you as well as they work for them.

Do you have an unexpected trick that keeps your panic attacks at bay? Click the image below to join the conversation!

An image of a question posted on The Mighty website. It asks: What's one unexpected way you cope with or stop your panic attacks? Your answer might be used in a post for The Mighty. #Anxiety#PanicDisorder#PanicAttacks

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. Literally spelling it out.

Spell what I see. B-l-a-c-k p-a-n-t-s. R-e-d s-h-o-e-s. Keep spelling until my breathing and heart rate slow down again. I was told it works because it uses a completely different network in the brain and the network that is panicking cannot function simultaneously. Whether that’s accurate or not, I don’t know. But it works better on that initial panic sensation than anything else I’ve tried.” – Rachel G.

2. Combatting the fear with more fear.

Scaring myself by playing ‘Resident Evil,’ or watching a horror film. Sort of allows me to direct my anxiety towards it.” – James M.

3. Showering mindfully.

Take a shower. Super hot or cold, it doesn’t matter. It seems like the temperature change shocks my system and I can focus on the sound of the water drumming on the bottom of the shower instead of the freight train in my head.” – Tanesha H.

Need a non-judgmental place to talk about anxiety? Download our app and connect with others using the hashtag #Anxiety.

4. Pretending it’s a person.

Talking to it like it’s a person is really helpful. For example, I’ll say, ‘Yes, hello I know you are there but right now I do not need you. I acknowledge you are fearful and are trying to help me, but I promise I am perfectly safe right now.’ Allows you to accept the panic is there which then helps you push it out of your way so you can get on with your day.” – Mikayla H.

5. Playing with clay or Play-Doh.

I make stuff out of clay. It focuses my mind on just what I’m making and not the attack that is trying to happen.” – Brittany S.

6. Watching a nostalgic cartoon.

When I’m having a panic attack, I watch cartoons. Like the ones that normally air on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel. I know that it seems childish, but it’s comforting. I’ve struggled with OCD and other mental issues from the age of 5, and watching a cartoon where everything is bright and colorful and happy would always calm me.” – Alyssa L.

7. Using temperature shocks.

Someone I know suggested running warm water over your wrists. It actually does help calm me down a little bit. It helps enough.” – Kirsten S.

Cold helps me. I used to go into the deep freeze at work. Now I go out in the snow or take an ice cold shower.” – Krystle G.

8. Playing ‘The Sims.’

I play games if I can. I’ll open up my laptop and turn on Sims and just make houses or people. It really helps me focus on something besides whatever is causing me to panic. And helps me feel like I can control something.” – Kalei L.

9. Listening to heavy metal.

Sometimes I listen to heavy metal music. It’s pretty cathartic. It’s like all the negativity is being channeled out.” – Kristy B.

10. Riding it out. 

I find I have to have a ‘just let it happen’ mentality when I feel a panic attack coming on. If I resist, or think, ‘No, I can’t let this happen,’ it gets worse. I just tell myself ‘OK, I’m going to have a panic attack. I’m not going to die, worst-case-scenario, I’ll pass out or vomit, but I won’t die… It’ll pass, I’m safe.’ A lot of the time, the severity is decreased if I can just repeat that over and over again.” – Nicole O.

Coping with panic attacks can be a difficult thing to learn to do. But hopefully, these tips, tricks and methods will help you get through these little dark moments, and move on, into bigger and brighter ones.

Do you help ease your anxiety with any of these? Do you have an unexpected coping method of your own? Tell us below!

Originally published: January 31, 2019
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