How to stop panic attacks: A quick strategy to help you calm down

Here is a quick DBT skill to help with your anxiety. Give it a try and see how it stops your panic attacks quickly!

One of my favourite teachings from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is the temperature exercise. This skill is based off of the “mammalian dive reflex”. Basically, if you jump into a pool of ice cold water, your body will slow down in order to conserve energy for survival. Any body functions that aren’t vital will start to shut down. There is no thinking involved; your body will automatically do this on its own.

A quick tip to stop panic attacks. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy. Treating trauma and postpartum/ pregnancy mental health.
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What does this have to do with panic attacks? When we’re panicking, it’s really hard to tell our mind “to just calm down.” There is no way that kind of malarkey is going to work when you’re freaking out. Instead of trying to change your thoughts, the temperature change activity forces your physiology to quickly change.

Here are the steps:

  1. Fill your sink or a large bowl full of cold water.
  2. Dump in a bunch of ice cubes (or frozen veggies, whatever you have handy!)
  3. Bend forward from the hip
  4. Place your face in water (Yes! Your whole face! I kid you not!)
  5. Hold your breath as long as possible
  6. Come up for breath as needed, and dive right back in
  7. Continue to keep your face in cold water until your body regulates (this usually takes about 2 minutes)

Check it out in action:

As you can likely see, this is a miserable strategy, and NO ONE enjoys it. But, if you have been struggling with panic attacks or severe anxiety, this skill will be able to calm you down as quickly as two minutes!

Words of caution: This is a really cold activity. If you have a heart condition, I’d strongly encourage you against trying this skill. This skill is effective in getting you to calm down, but it is a coping strategy not a problem solving technique. Meaning, if that original panic-inducing trigger has come back, you may need to plunge back into that cold water to get regulated. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!As always, feel free to share this post, or contact me for more details/support.

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