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What causes panic attacks?
  1. 1. Stand up straight
  2. 16 Little Ways To Keep Anxiety From Ruining Your Life
  3. Anxiety Disorders
  4. How to Stop a Panic Attack before things get really bad

Panic inhibits our ability to reason clearly or logically. Think about the explosion of fear, the borderline hysteria you felt the day you momentarily lost sight of your six-year-old in the mall. Or the time your car skidded violently on a rain-soaked road.

Even before you registered what was happening, your body released adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that signal danger. Those hormones cause physical reactions: heart pounding, shallow breathing, sweating and shivering, shaking, and other unpleasant physical sensations. At some point in our lives, most of us will experience a panic attack in response to an actual danger or acute stress.

But when panic attacks occur or recur for no reason and in the absence of danger or extreme stress, or when the fear of experiencing another attack is so strong that you change your behavior by avoiding certain places or people, you may have panic disorder. Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago.

Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years.

1. Stand up straight

For a long time, she had full-blown attacks nights a week. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Take our 2-minute panic disorder test to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment. It literally felt like something was pulling me down. I would usually have to head home immediately. I would then experience foggy vision where it …actually looked like there was fog in the air. I also experienced double vision and parts of my body—like my neck or one arm or one entire side of my face— would go totally numb.

Isolated attacks are bad enough. But when the attacks recur in a short period of time or when the fear of another attack is so strong that you begin to avoid situations, places and people that may trigger an attack, you may be diagnosed with panic disorder. Practice breathing in through your nose for a count of five, hold it for five and then breathe out through mouth for a count of five.

16 Little Ways To Keep Anxiety From Ruining Your Life

Or take a class in meditation and breathing techniques. Start counting backward from by 3s. The act of counting at random intervals helps you to focus and override the anxious thoughts that are trying to sneak into your psyche. Better still keep loose change in your pocket. Add a dime to a nickel, then add two pennies and so on. By controlling your thoughts and focusing on something outside yourself you will being to feel calmer. The problem is it's a false alarm for most people. A lot of us say "I'm so anxious! You really do have to get all this work done and you are incredibly busy.

The anxiety comes in when you start telling yourself that you won't get it done, that your boss will fire you, and that everyone will view you as a complete failure. So if you notice that a lot of your anxiety stems from being overbooked or overworked, first look for ways you can lessen that stress. Are you constantly overcommitting at work or in your social life?

Are there ways you can cut back in one area to give yourself more time to just chill? Obviously, there might not be, but it's worth a shot to see if there's something you can say "no" to, even just temporarily. Even if it seems like your anxiety is all over the place, there's almost always a tangible trigger or several that you can trace it back to, says Galanti. She suggests keeping a journal, not to ruminate on your anxiety but to look for patterns.

But that just reinforces your anxiety and keeps you from dealing with it. Instead, use this intel to better prepare yourself for when anxiety might crop up and have strategies ready to help you deal with it. You can buy the journal above here. Like Carol. Or Anne as in Anne Ziety.

Anxiety Disorders

Whatever works, as long as you're able to call it out on it's bullshit. And that has a way of taming it. You can do this pretty much anywhere; just take a minute to focus on what you're seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and even tasting right now. This has a way of refocusing you on your current reality rather than the worst-case-scenarios that are escalating in your mind. When you're really anxious, your body can go into a fight-or-flight response, which explains those annoying physiological symptoms like racing heartbeat or shortness of breath.

Controlling Anxiety

When this happens, it's helpful to regain control by taking big belly breaths also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The best way to do this is lying down or sitting, with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Inhale slowly through your nose as your stomach expands, then exhale through pursed lips as your stomach falls.

The hand on your stomach should be moving up when you inhale, down as you exhale while the hand on your chest stays completely still.

We know this, and yet we also tend to stay up all night watching Game of Thrones , have way more than the recommended amount of caffeine, and make day-drinking an activity. It happens; but it's helpful to admit when you effed up so you can prepare for some impending anxiety. Plus, being able to place the blame on something specific and realizing that it isn't permanent can help alleviate some of the anxiety-spiraling. Maybe that means recognizing that you're shaky and nervous from three cups of coffee, not impending doom; or that you're feeling vulnerable because you're hungover, not because you made some horrible, embarrassing mistake last night.

Usually when we're anxious about something we want to isolate ourselves with these thoughts, because we don't want to sound like we're overreacting or being ridiculous. Just the thought of opening up or being vulnerable can be terrifying.

How to Stop a Panic Attack before things get really bad

But keeping it to yourself can create a vacuum where you're sitting alone surrounded by your anxieties, unable to really pull yourself out of that frame of mind. If you have someone you trust and whose opinion you value, try talking to them about it. Or sometimes just saying it out loud helps you hear that a certain line of thinking was irrational. Or, if nothing else, at least you won't feel so alone when it comes time to deal with whatever it is you're worrying about.

It seems like a silly thing, but "it can go a long way in stopping the slide into panic or anxiety," says Howes. When you feel your anxiety building, try saying or thinking things like: I'm safe right now.

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I'm prepared. I am in control. I'm OK. If you're a late-night worrier who spends the better part of an evening mentally running through every looming task, stressful responsibility, and worst-case-scenario that can happen in the next month or so, this might help. Howes suggest having a notepad near your bed or on your phone where you jot down these thoughts as soon as they come to you. Try to just write a few words or phrases so you're not actually ruminating on these thoughts for several pages. Promise yourself that you'll look at it in the morning if it's important, but for now, you just need to get it out of your head and somewhere else.

This way, if it's truly something you need to devote your attention to, then it'll be there when you wake up.