3 Steps to Stop an Anxiety or Panic Attack

It seems to come out of the blue…suddenly you feel afraid, short of breath, maybe your heart feels like it’s beating our of your chest, you feel dizzy, or cold and shaky. That’s a panic or anxiety attack beginning. Before you let it spiral out of control, there are  three immediate steps that can help you quickly recover.

Before I explain the steps, it is important to realize that your body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do when you tell it there is danger (by your rapid-fire thoughts that are ‘terribilizing’ or making a stressful moment into something much worse). From your body’s standpoint, it is responding to the thoughts of danger you are sending it. To its ancient programming, there might be a lion outside your cave entrance, or a neighboring tribe ready to attack…danger, danger danger! So unknowingly you are mobilizing your body for fleeing, freezing, or fighting, none of which is actually needed. What to do? Here are three simple strategies that are easy to remember and do the next time fear knocks at your door.

I call this the STOP-LOOK & LISTEN technique:

  1. STOP. The first thing to do is just simply shout “STOP” to yourself, or see a big red STOP sign. Some people may snap a rubber band on their wrist. The ideas is to STOP the runaway train of terribilizing thoughts and do one other super important thing…BREATHE slowly and deeply several times.
  2. LOOK. Now come back to the present moment. Fear is all about the future and the “what if’s.” Look around where you are and name some objects, count something, or just focus away from the scary body sensations and more on something else. Move around if you can and talk to someone or sing or count backwards from 100. BREATHE slowly and deeply!
  3. LISTEN. Now is the time to speak to yourself compassionately. Say “so what!” to the “what if’s.” Here are some things you can say:


“This, too, shall pass.”“I am safe and I am fine.”

“All is well.”

“I’ll handle it, always have, always will.”

One of the things to realize about an anxiety or panic attack is that they are an SOS from your inner you, i.e., a “Stressed-Out-Symptom.”  So after you recover from feeling bad, remember to do a little personal inventory and ask yourself:

“How can I take better care of myself?”

“Am I getting good amounts of sleep and the right type of nutrients”

“Am I having too much caffeine or nicotine or both?”

“Am I exercising or allowing myself some down time?”

Always take some time out after you’ve had a bout with anxiety to pamper yourself. Take a warm, relaxing bath, light candles and play music. Take the day off, play with your pet, do something you find enjoyable. Go fishing, do gardening, or connect with Mother Nature. Becoming more peaceful, focused, and serene calms the pangs of apprehension. Where there is peace, there is no need for fear.

Remember, your thoughts create your life…choose them wisely!

Meditating on mountain (larry derusha)