Anxiety attacks can happen at the most inopportune moments. You could be driving your car on the way to work and the dread starts to set in. You might be trying to wrangle all your kids at the amusement park that is crawling with people when you can no longer breathe. Or you’re at a concert trying to let loose and have a good time when you get that tightness in your chest.
We’ve all had spells of anxiety at one time or another, but for some people they are far too frequent and severe. Anxiety attacks can have a negative effect on a person’s happiness, interpersonal relationships, and overall well being. If you do not develop skills to stop an anxiety attack, they will continue to manifest at an even more frequent pace.
Moments of panic are inevitable, but there are ways of how to stop an anxiety attack before it becomes too much to bear. One way is called the RABBIT Method.
R – Realize
A – Accept
B – Breathe
B – Be
I – Involve
T – Try Again
Here are six steps on how to stop an anxiety attack. Learn to implement these steps before your anxiety attacks get out of hand.
First and foremost, you need to realize that yes, you are having an anxiety attack. Sounds easy, but it is not that simple. Your natural reaction to the first signs of an anxiety attack is that of fear. You already know how this is going to go. It’s going to ruin your time. If you’re with others, they might look at you weird. You might just want to run and hide.
The reason for this endless cycle is because, as we stated previously, “you already know how this is going to go.”
There is a part of your central nervous system called the amygdala. This is a part of the brain stem that creates our “fight-or-flight” response to stress. Our amygdala remembers the emotion we felt the last time something in our life happened, good or bad. It then compares it to similar situations currently happening and decides how you should feel.
The amygdala is the reason why the smell of fresh baked cookies reminds you of childhood and makes you smile. It’s also the reason why if clowns scared you as a kid they probably still give you the creeps now. Thanks to our amygdala, we know that anxiety attacks make us feel horrible. Therefore, we react negatively when they begin.
Your amygdala is trained to be this way by you. So, retrain it. Don’t deny the symptoms. Come to terms with the fact that this is happening and there is nothing that you can do about it. Once you realize that you are having an anxiety attack, turn to the next step to keep retraining your fight-or-flight response.
Now that you’ve realized that the anxiety attack is happening, stop fighting it. When you have a stomachache you don’t deny it. Sure it’s excruciatingly painful, but you know it will pass with time. So did the last anxiety attack you had. So will this one.
Now that you are aware of the situation that you are in, it is time to get you out of it. In order to do so, you need to breathe. Oxygen is pivotal to our health. Breathing allows oxygen into your bloodstream. This rejuvenates cells that are feeling the strain of a weakened immune system. Allowing oxygen into our bodies allows it to clear the pathways to our brains of free radicals and dead cells that affect our moods.
Deep breathing is very therapeutic for calming the nerves. Slowly inhale through the nostrils. Fill your diaphragm with oxygen and slowly release. Release every little last breath out of your lungs that you can. Keep repeating, going deeper with each count. This will encourage hormones to release sensations of comfort.
Following the rhythmic behavior of our breaths allow us to be in the moment. When we have anxiety attacks, we get lost in our own heads. We forget where we are and what we are doing. If we are out with friends and family, we forget that we’re there to have a good time. If we are laying down to go bed, we are there to rest – not worry about tomorrow. Anxiety dictates those moments.
Check in with yourself. Think about what you’re doing. Are you clenching your teeth? Is your fist in a tight ball? Are you fiddling with a piece of jewelry? These are anxious behaviors that are causing more tension in your body. Stop doing them!
Many times we dread things that are not even real. Bringing yourself back to the present checks you in with reality. Once we are able to become one with the moment, we can then realize that our fears are actually irrational and unimportant.
Now that you have recollected yourself , become involved. Engage with your environment. If you are at a gym, continue to work out. If you are with friends, jump back into the conversation. If you are at the pharmacy, finish reading the labels. Getting back to what you are doing is essential to how to stop an anxiety attack.
There’s a good chance that these steps might not work your first time out. That does not mean you should give up on them. When you were learning how to ride a bike as a child and you fell off, what did you do? You got back on.
You are retraining a part of your brain that has a lifetime of bad memories as it pertains to anxiety. Changes to such a vicious and long cycle do not just happen overnight. It requires a lot of work, and you need to be willing to put that work in to guarantee success.
Just because the RABBIT Method may not be able to stop your anxiety attack(s) right away, it does not mean that panic won’t come in another wave shortly after. So do not freak out! If this method worked to stopped your anxiety once before, you can use it to stop your anxiety once again.
Start the checklist over again by beginning at the top with R. Realize you are having another wave of anxiety, accept it, then move through the rest of the steps. You got this!