Picture yourself out in public, perhaps at the movies, dinner or some other social event you’ve been looking forward to. You are having a great time when suddenly, panic sets in. Your heart begins to race; you feel like you can’t breathe, you’re sweating and about to lose control. Sound familiar? You’re experiencing an unusual amount of panic and need to learn how to stop an anxiety attack when it rears its ugly head.

Anxiety attacks may be controlled through medication, but this usually involves building up a certain level of beta blockers in your body tissue. Tranquilizers can help, but are addictive and may exacerbate the attacks over time. Meanwhile, you can easily learn a few relaxation techniques to bring your panic under control or to actually prevent an incipient attack from occurring.

First, you need to learn to breathe properly. This involves slowly inhaling through your for a count of about 4 seconds. Hold the breath for up to seven seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth, making a slight whooshing sound by clenching your teeth together. Try to prolong the exhalation for about 8 seconds if possible (with practice it is).

Now, try to visualize your panic as if it were an object you could focus on. Tell it to go away, that you’re in control, and that you will not panic. Reassure yourself that there is nothing wrong and that the panic object is a rude visitor who needs to be expelled.

After a moment of “Visualizing” your panic, it’s time to relax your body’s muscles. Begin with the feet by clenching the muscles and releasing them. Work your way up your body tightening and relaxing muscle groups until you’ve reached your head. If you are still feeling panicky, repeat the process, beginning with the breathing techniques we described.

Surprisingly, in most cases, having an attack of anxiety in public often goes completely unnoticed by those around you. Outwardly, you may appear calm and collected, despite the turmoil you feel. Use this to your advantage to silently control your feelings of panic as you apply the relaxation methods discussed.

These attacks of fear or dread are nothing to sneeze at, and you should follow up with your doctor or primary caregiver as soon as possible to determine the root cause of the problem. Meanwhile, these basic techniques to focus yourself and relax have proved effective for many sufferers of anxiety who are struggling to find out how to stop anxiety attacks in a crisis!

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