How to Stop a Panic Attack – The 20 Second Count Down

One of the most common questions I get from my readers is “how to stop a panic attack“. What to do now, when the fear is building up and panic is lurking behind the corner?

I know from personal experience that when panic starts, it sure feels like there’s nothing you can do to stop the horrific panic attack, but you’re wrong.

how to stop a panic attack

There is a way to stop a panic attack dead in its tracks. A little CBT trick/exercise that has always worked for me and now I want to share it with  you.

I’ve “stolen” this exercise (with permission…:)) from the Panic Away program, and you’ll be blown away by how simple and effective it is:

How to Stop a Panic Attack in 20 Sec.

When you feel the sensation of a panic attack building up, do the following:

Tell the panic that it has 20 seconds to initiate the full panic attack. 20 seconds and no more.

After the 20 seconds are complete it must stop making empty threats. You are allowing 20 seconds for it to fully manifest but not a second more. Whatever the bodily sensation that you fear is, it must happen within that 20 second time frame.

- If you heart is going to explode then it has 20 seconds to do so.

- If you are going to lose control, then your mind has 20 seconds to do so.

- If you are going to faint – 20 seconds! But absolutely no more time than that.

You get the picture. By setting a specific time frame you establish boundaries of control. You turn it into a game where you call fear’s bluff. If it were a poker game, you are asking anxiety to show its hand. This works because it establishes a sense of control within your mind and body.

You think to yourself “I am not prepared to spend my time worrying about this. I’ve had enough. I am going to be generous and give it 20 seconds but after 20 seconds and nothing has happened then the opportunity has officially passed and I am going to go back to what I was doing.”

Then start counting – But nice and slowly, don’t rattle it off as fast as you can. Really tease it out like you did when you were a child and you never wanted to reach zero. Teasing it out is the key because it allows you to feel generous and that you are giving anxiety every chance possible. Deep down you know there is really nothing to fear.

To really help tease it out, break the last few numbers into fractions. 5………………………….. 4………………………….. 3…………………………… 2…and three quarters… 2…and half……………… 2………………………….. 1…and three quarters… (last chance anxiety) 1…and half……………… (I really can’t wait any longer) 1………………………….. 0. Sorry too late we’ve reached the end.

By not rushing through the countdown you will feel your confidence rising because you are demonstrating real control and authority over your anxious thoughts and bodily sensations. You are saying “look, I am really trying to give you all the time I can to unleash X,Y, and Z, I am being very generous here with this countdown.

Count your way to freedom. Count your way to confidence.

Will This Technique Be Enough to Stop a Panic Attack?

It will stop your panic attack right now, but it won’t resolve your general anxiety or panic disorder. In Panic Away you will find a complete CBT program that you can implement from the privacy of your own home, without going to counseling (and for a fraction of the cost…)

I can’t guarantee that it will work for you, but it did work for me, and you won’t know until you try it. That’s a fact.

Will you try this CBT technique? Come back and let me know how it worked for you, o.k?

To your health and happiness,

Meital

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PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Comments

  1. Lillian Mendez says

    I had two attacks today one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. your articles and ideas made me feel better. I hope that I do not have to feel that way again but I’m definitely trying this & the breathing exercises.

  2. Jason says

    I’ve been suffering with major anxiety attacks and panic disorder for well over a year I’m on meds but they only seem to mask my symptoms. How do I figure out what is causing these attacks. I’m so over it. It is driving me mad and ruining my family life.

    Jason

  3. Breanna says

    Ive been having panic attacks for about 4 weeks (if that long). Ive been doing the deep breathing exercises and it helps temporary. But in ready to put this to an end. It comes and goes and when I do have them the symptoms are not as bad as they were in the beginning. Is that a sign that its fading away because I gotten to the root of my problem and why I’m experiencing this ???? I need help

  4. Ray says

    I’ll definitely be trying this next time I have one! It’s the worst feeling on the world, having a anxiety attack! It’s been troubling me for awhile now. I’m staying positive to beat it and enjoy life! Especially with how young I am! I’m 22 and I’ve been living everyday worrying about when my next attack is going to happen and if it is going to be somewhere in public! I’m tired of feeling this way! I’ve had enough of it and ain’t going to let it bother me! Thanks for sharing this!!!

  5. Rob says

    After going 3 years with no panic what so ever it had returned after one day of drinking to much coffee. I now can not get control of this to save my life it is actually ruining it all over again. I am at a point where I feel like nothing is working and there is no way to stop this beast called panic disorder. I have tried what seems like everything and luck. The part I don’t get is I know I am not going to die from theses attacks but they still happen. I hate drugs and refuse to go down that road I have done it before and it’s horrible. Things got out of control and drugs are not the way to go they change you as a person. I wish there was something else I could try that actually had success. This post is true and does work only for the initial attacks but that’s all. I need some advice on how to beat this disorder. My family needs there dad and husband back.

  6. angeline says

    Just had my first panic/anxiety attack.. it’s the worst feeling! Thought I was gonna die n more can’t sleep help

  7. says

    Angeline,

    I know it’s the worst feeling and it’s very scary. But, if you want to prevent your next panic attack you must do what ever you can to stop thinking about it, and especially fearing the bext panic attack.

    I suggest you immediately start with some breathing exercises to help you relax, calm down and get some sleep.

    Here are some of the best breathing exercises, do them at least 3 times a day. They are very effective:

    http://www.natural-alternative-therapies.com/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety/

  8. Marissa says

    Hi,

    I have had a severe panic disorder since 2009 when i ended up in the emergency room. I was on SSRIS and it seemed to not only make me feel like i was on an emotional rollercoaster but it made me gain 30 pounds. I stopped taking them and it seemed to get better. Now in the last year i have landed in the ER twice and have panic attacks every day. I went to a cardiologist because the heart palpitations and dizziness were so severe. I feel hopeless since i work in sales and spend most of my days with clients. What other natural and behavioral techniques are there?

  9. Katie says

    I Have been dealing with panic attacks for about 7 yrs and they are very harsh I have negative thoughts daily from the attacks I’m starting to think it’s turning into mild depression I think I’m going to die over everything it hurts because I’m an outgoing person who enjoys life! I need help im scared.

  10. says

    Katie,

    Wow, 7 years is a long time.

    You’re not going to die from this.

    I wish you told me about the methods you’ve tried to deal with this so far – Any dietery changes? lifestyle changes? Did you check your Magnesium leveles? Did you try CBT?

    Here’s my article about the best natural methods to overcome panic attacks, I think it can really help you:

    http://www.natural-alternative-therapies.com/overcome-anxiety-and-panic/

    As for the deprssion, it’s a side effect of the panic disorder. Once you’re able to reduce the panic attacks, your mood will be lifted and the depression will vanish.

    Hang in there, you sound like a very strong woman.

  11. Tanisha says

    Hi, my name is Tanisha. I think I’ve had anxiety for about 4 years now. Had my first one when I was 16. I’m 20 years old now. I used to be able to control it by walking around, listening to music, talking on the phone etc. Now its to the point where I cant get out of bed sometimes without worrying about my health (dying). I’m an emotional rollercoaster so all I can do whenever I get panic attacks is just cry, and hope that I’m going to be okay. I just had a bad one a couple minutes ago. My heart was pounding like crazy, legs wobbly, head was hurting, felt like straight death coming my way, and I was scared! I’m so tired of this. And I need relief, because this is not like me to just lay in bed, and worry. The last thing I want is to be dosed up on meds like I’m Some crazy person.

  12. says

    I was skeptical. It really helped!! I was able to realize my feelings were swirling above me like a tornado, and not actually in me. Then I was able to detach from them somewhat (enough that my stomach stopped convulsing so hard).
    Thank you!

  13. Danielle says

    I would just like to say thank you for this. My anxiety likes to hit when I am trying to go to sleep or when I am just waking up. In the mornings I am ok because I meditate pray and read my Bible. But it is the night time where I struggle. I HATE the way medication makes me feel. I would rather deal with the panic attack before taking meds. I just took some meds tonight and now you see me still awake feeling more crazy because of the side effects.
    But I needed this technique to use as well as the chamomile tea suggestion just to help me to relax about to go make a cup now. Thank you so much again. Because I hate medications.

  14. says

    Hi Meital James

    i had a hyperventilation last march 20 , 2014 after that i was experiencing it plus anxiety attack ( fear for so many ways ) but i had survive that hyperventilate by drinking to much water. okay.

    after i have cured that anxiety, i feel something weird in my heart ( sometimes its heavy, abnormal heartbeat like its normal sometimes. sometimes its fast, and some times i feel pain in it :( ) like i have a feeling of having a heart attack. or scared of death. then i have panic disorder after that feeling like I’m not comfortable in myself i feel crazy,numb,sweating,tingling,cold hands and feet, chest pain and neck, shortness of breath. and about the fears i fear of so many people around me like ( public places ) like i don’t want to go outside anymore. its completely destroying my life. >_<
    i am taking exercises like walking after waking up in the morning and drinking too much water, and relaxing at our backyard of the house feeling and smelling the fresh air and eat moderately. .<) i therapist told me to push my nerves in the palm ( left hand in the middle of the finger at the palm ) to help me relax of feeling pain in my heart it work but sometimes it keeps coming back. do you think a have a heart problem? or this panic disorder and anxiety is just making this bad feeling and worst.

    please make a reply :(

    i really need to cure myself :'(

  15. Nadia says

    I have a severe case of anxiety but my mom would not let me use medication. I am so happy to have found this because you must have gone thru or experienced something similar to this in order to compile these thoughtful and helpful tips.

    Thank you so much!!!

  16. Katie berchiatti says

    Thank you meital James
    It means a lot that someone put there is capable of helping us with our problems, ladies we are strong and we all seem to be on the same page here! I get weak get hot out of nowhere and sometimes start to sweat I get light headed like I’m going to faint and sometimes I feel like I cannot breathe and I feel like I’m going to die. Its a horrible thing to to go through i experience them daily. It’s hard to get through them, but lately I have been experiencing a different type of anxiety, where I feel there Is something in my throat I get a weird sensation and it makes me really sad, I’m giving up smoking cold turkey maybe that might help me. I’m scared that my life is going downhill but I know I can get through this I have faith, any other advice?

  17. Amber says

    hi,
    I have been dealing with anxiety/panic disorder for about 4 years. I tried therapy, a lot of medications (which I do not like) and I can pretty much control my panic attacks now, but ever since I had my daughter in December my anxiety has been full force. I find it hard to breath all the time, worry about everything (mostly my health or something bad happening to me or my children). I have also been having major stomach issues and GERD since all of this..The 10 step process you have written about, can all those be taken when nursing? And do you have any advice on how I can control just the all day anxiety? And did anyone ever tell you why you just developed your anxiety or panic out of nowhere?

  18. Lisa says

    My first major panic attack was about a month ago, i have had several since then and even rang the ambulance as the fear of passing out and dying terrified me soo much, my doc has put me on valium but its only a short term fix annd im back to being a nervous wreck when it wears off and im on my last pill and am dreading what to do next with no pills left any suggestions? i feel like i cant cope with my kids as im continuously agitated and frustrated about feeling this way :(

  19. Victoria Hunt says

    Hello. I have been suffering from anxiety ever since I was a young girl. In fact, I am having one now, which is why I have been looking up methods to relieve this. It is the worst feeling not being able to sleep, eat, or concentrate in school. I constantly have this fear gnawing at my insides, and I am considering if I should ask my mom to take me to a doctor. I have a question about your method. While I was counting down it was scary to let it overwhelm me. When I reached one it still wouldn’t go away, and I have been having this attack since yesterday afternoon. How do you be more assertive when doing this?

  20. Lynn says

    Yesterday I took a medicine for a spine problem I have been treating. And I started felling the chest, anxiety, though I was going to die. I went to the ER.
    This simptoms always happens every time I take medicines. It started when I was pregnant just w a simple medicine as zofran, phenergan, unison.
    During my labor they gave me other nausea medicine that had other components and I had the reactions. I did not see my baby being born I was hallucinating as the docs said.
    I thought it was normal, maybe I had allergies to those medicines. Than now it happen again and after we were at the ER last night the dr came with the discrage papers saying: anxiety and panic attack.
    I am scared very much.
    It means that I am having panic attacks since pregnancy and even during labor. But it just happens if I take any medicine.
    I do not know what to do.

  21. says

    Lynn,

    Just listen to your instincts because they are right! This is a reaction to medication and nothing more. Just don’t take medication as much as you possibly can and you will prevent this from happening again.

    Don’t be scared! You’ll be fine!

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