5 Ways to Stop Panic in Its TracksBy Rachel Wells
For those who suffer regular panic attacks, feeling suddenly dizzy, clammy, and out of breath is all too familiar. Ongoing treatment methods like cognitive behavioral therapy are important to address the underlying causes of panic, but what tools can help address panic in the moment? We spoke to two experts—Christine Carville, LCSW-R, a New York-based psychotherapist, and Megan Gunnell, LMSW, a Michigan-based psychotherapist—on how to minimize moments of panic as you feel them coming on.
1. Do 5 Jumping Jacks
One of the most frequent concerns of Carville’s patients about panic is whether they will pass out, die, or suffocate. She tells them it’s impossible for this to happen during a panic attack. “While you might feel dizzy, lightheaded, or short of breath, these are all consequences of having too much oxygen or too little carbon dioxide in the blood because of the changes in breathing that occur when you become anxious,” Carville says. To combat this, try doing five jumping jacks. In so doing, you prove to your body that you are neither having a heart attack nor suffocating. It’s basically a trick to bypass your emotions.
“Most people who experience anxiety avoid the things they fear, so they never experience lasting relief. Because avoidance fuels the fear, anxiety mushrooms. In order to be cured of the anxiety or panic, you’ll have to face the thing you fear most,” Carville says, although she also recommends working with a supportive therapist to discover the root causes of your anxiety.
2. Try the Ice Diver’s Technique
When you feel panicky, flushed, or emotionally overwhelmed, take a large bowl or sink and fill it with ice cubes and water. Take a deep breath. Submerge your face (particularly your forehead, eyes, temples, nose, and upper cheeks) for fifteen seconds. Come up, breathe, take another deep breath, and submerge again. Repeat as often as you need until your nervous system