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  • Honey Dahari, LMFT, MBA

Breath to STOP a Panic Attack

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Have you ever had a Panic Attack? Or had a moment of high stress leading to big changes within your thoughts and body? Were your thoughts racing, heart thundering in your chest, breaths coming hard and fast in little gasps? When a panic attack is taking place, it can feel like a series of endless waves of escalating fear. And escaping the grip of the panic, and the physiological sensations taking place within your body, may seem to be an impossible task.

But it doesn't have to be. In this blog post, I show you how to stop a panic attack.

Panic attacks are common with trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety or panic disorders, and other conditions. A panic attack can be a one-time event, or can happen repeatedly.

All the things others have told you, or that you've read online probably don't work fast enough, or at all. Forget about taking deep breaths, that's simply impossible. Here's why:

Your lungs have the ability to stretch - to a point. When you inhale, your lungs expand. If you take a deep breath, you'll feel it in your rib cage, back, chest, and even your shoulders. You can only fill your lungs so far before pain sets in. And in that moment when you are having a panic attack, many report they feel their lungs are too full to take a deep breath. This is why you are panting and taking in tiny breaths and exhaling in short pants too.

To feel like you have enough oxygen, you have to push the old, deoxygenated air out. This is the clue to the tool you can use to stopping a panic attack.

When you're having a panic attack, working on the breathing aspect can be extraordinarily helpful - but only if it's effective. You can interrupt a panic attack by focusing on the exhalation. Force more air out by putting emphasis behind your exhale, make the exhale longer. Don't worry about taking a deep breath in because that will happen on it's own, in good time. Increase the exhale with each breath, or every few breaths if you need to, and watch how much faster you can recover from the panic attack.

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