4 Steps to Break An Anxiety Attack

Steps to Breaking Anxiety Attacks

Some anxiety is good.  It’s true! A little bit of anxiety helps to keep us safe and out of trouble (our brains are biologically wired to protect us) and keeps us engaged and performing at a higher level.

Unfortunately, though, there are millions of people suffering with way too much anxiety. They can spend time predicting the worst, avoiding conflict, being wracked by nervousness, chronic muscle tension, among other symptoms. It’s as though their “idle” is set too high and they are frequently plagued by self-doubt, fear, and panic.

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with anxiety, the good news is that you can get control of your symptoms with a simple 4-step panic plan—the same one I’ve taught to hundreds of my own patients.

Dr. Daniel Amen’s 4-Step Panic Plan

Step 1: Breathe.

Often when people begin to experience anxiety, their breathing becomes shallow, rapid and erratic. Since the brain is the most metabolically active organ in your body, any state that lowers oxygen will trigger more fear and panic. By taking slow, deep breaths you’ll boost oxygen to your brain and start to regain control over how you feel.

One way to practice deep breathing is by learning how to breathe from your diaphragm—the area of the body that tends to get “clenched” when we’re anxious.

To practice breathing from your diaphragm, try this:

  1. Lie on your back and place a small book on your belly.
  2. As you slowly inhale through your nose, make the book go up. Hold your breath at the top of your inhalation for 2 seconds.
  3. When you exhale, make the book go down and then hold your breath for 2 seconds before inhaling again.
  4. Repeat 10 times and notice how relaxed you feel.

Step 2: Don’t Leave.

Unless the situation is life-threatening, do not leave, run away from, or ignore whatever is causing you the anxiety. You must face the fear or concern directly, or it will always have control over you and increase your anxiety.

You may need to talk to a trained psychotherapist about your anxiety and fears, especially if you’ve been exposed to trauma of any kind. There are some very good therapeutic methods for helping people overcome anxiety symptoms brought on by traumatic or life-threatening experiences. One method I often recommend is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) which helps to remove the emotional charges of traumatic memories.

Step 3: Write Down Your Thoughts.

Often in panicked situations our thoughts are distorted and need to be challenged. Pay attention to the automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs, as I like to call them) in your mind and write them down to see if they make sense. If your thoughts are distorted, talk back to and challenge them by writing down a more realistic version of the same thought.

Step 4: Supplement.

If you’ve practiced steps 1-3, but are still suffering from too much anxiety, you may need supplements or medication to help you feel calmer. Remember that this is the last step—to be used if the first three aren’t effective. While people with severe anxiety often require medication, others may do well with supplements such as ones that contain magnesium, GABA, ashwagandha and some of the B vitamins, especially B6. Of course, you’ll want to discuss medication or adding supplements with your physician before taking them.

If you follow these simple steps, you CAN regain control over your panic and anxiety!

If you would like to learn more about how Amen Clinics can help you with the stress, anxiety, or panic in your life, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website. You CAN change your brain and change your life!


  1. As a therapist I seek ways to help my clients help themselves when stress occurs and a panic attack is overwhelming stress that can be come paralyzingly uncontrollable. One of the most effective tools I have used on myself, my family and my clients is Educational Kinesiology, or Brain Gym. There are 26 plus exercises that calm or balance mind body functioning in specific ways . One set of movements, PACE, is highly affective as a baseline stress management tool and can be done anywhere , anytime , and takes 3-4 minutes , providing immediate and profound results . You can see videos on YouTube by searching Brain Gym PACE Stress. I also teach this technique to teachers and therapists for such issues as text anxiety (improves memory and attention), phobias , emotionally charged situations , and anger management.

    Comment by Shoshana Shamberg — June 1, 2016 @ 2:56 AM

  2. I used to breathe into a small paper bag. It really helped me overcome my panic attacks

    Comment by Inge Fullerton — June 1, 2016 @ 10:25 AM

  3. My last 30 seconds and make me feel like I’m on my way to help. Goosebumps, feeling of doom and then coming down from it. I usually have bout 15 of these over a period of 3 days. Fortunately, I haven’t had one in two months. Fingers are crossed.

    Comment by Richard Nicoletti — June 1, 2016 @ 12:21 PM

  4. I found these 4 steps to be great advice. Step 3: writing down your thoughts seems so basic, yet a lot of people would not think of doing this step.

    Comment by Shem Isukh — June 6, 2016 @ 9:38 PM

  5. I am a psychiatric NP writing a book on anxiety. One big thing I have discovered is that Benzos make anxiety worse. Not just a little bit worse, but gravely worse. The APA and GP doctors use these extensively. The medical model supports the band-aid approach and an idea that giving people as instant a relief as they want is OK. It is not. I appreciate articles like this and want to get the word out that therapy and what is written above is effective and I have seen lives change when people stop the Benzos.

    Comment by Wendy Burnette — August 15, 2016 @ 4:04 AM

  6. My doctor recommended 250 mg of magnesium and 50 mg of B Complex and that has served me well for decades!

    Comment by Nancy — February 17, 2018 @ 1:16 PM

  7. With all due respect, you consistently miss the highly effective, immediate, non-invasive interventions for anxiety, phobias, traumatic events and related emotional dysregulation: the various techniques of Energy Psychology, being Thought Field Therapy, the Rapid Relief Process and properly applied Emotional Freedom Techniques.

    Comment by Marti MacEwan — February 18, 2018 @ 9:36 PM

  8. Shoshana i was wondering if u can help me with my stress and anxiety?
    Thank you.

    Comment by Alan Weinberg — April 3, 2018 @ 7:29 AM

  9. I want to point out from experience that these methods work for anxiety attacks. However PANIC attacks are a whole other beast, and i would never have been able to apply the above suggestions except maybe for medication…. There is a different dynamic at work that is a lot more primitive. My body would take over in those instances and i just tried to survive

    Comment by Nicky Brockman — November 20, 2019 @ 11:59 AM

  10. Do you knowif “prozac” is one that worsen anxiey. It is taken at 8AM. But the nights, 12 hours later, are very BAD. THANK YOU.

    Comment by jan pamanes — November 20, 2019 @ 12:09 PM

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