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Preventing Panic Attacks

QUESTION: What are some tips for preventing panic attacks?


When asked about preventing panic attacks, a doctor once told me, “Instead of looking for exotic cures, let’s try the simple things first. If that works, that’s your remedy and we need go no further.” The same advice is true for preventing your panic attacks.

Keep a Diary
One of the first and simplest things to do is to start keeping a diary of all the situations that trigger panic attacks. When and where did they happen? What were you doing, thinking, feeling? Exactly what were the symptoms? Recording and describing each attack puts you in charge of the situation. You will learn how modifying your environment helps prevent panic attacks.

Learn Breathing Techniques
Next, check up on yourself. Were you breathing? Most people stop breathing when faced with frightening, difficult, or challenging situations. At the very least, people may find that their breathing becomes shallow and ragged. These responses, part of the inborn fight or flight response, reduce the body’s supply of oxygen. As carbon dioxide builds, the body begins to feel like it is drowning. Hence, a full-blown panic attack follows with breathlessness, heart palpitations, etc. Your body is screaming, “Give me air!”

If you do hold your breath or breathe shallowly, try “pursed lip breathing.” This exercise can be done at any time, any place, and in any situation. It will quickly eliminate unwanted carbon dioxide and replenish your body’s supply of life-giving oxygen. It will give you clarity of mind to function optimally. Even when you are anxious, help is only a breath away.

To try “pursed lip breathing,” start with an exhale, pursing your lips as though you were gently blowing out a candle. When your lungs are comfortably empty, close your mouth and inhale a normal breath through your nostrils. Exhale that breath through pursed lips. Continue gently breathing this way. You will be amazed at how quickly your heart rate slows down and calmness returns to your body. You can do this while driving in heavy traffic or while listening to an aggravating person. This technique works well because more carbon dioxide is dumped out with a pursed lip exhale, leaving more lung space open for breathing in life-giving oxygen.

Improve Diet
Another tip for preventing panic attacks is to check your eating habits. If you find that your panic attacks are happening when you are hungry or after you haven’t eaten for a long time, you may have hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a silent, pre-diabetic condition characterized by periods of low blood sugar and concurrent mood swings. When the blood sugar lowers in those individuals, they will feel anxious and shaky. If they’re unaware of the cause, fear of the unknown worsens the symptoms.

Hypoglycemia is treatable with diet alone. While there are a number of variations of this diet, all of them eliminate or severely restrict caffeine, sugar, white flour products, and alcohol.

Faith in Christ
As with any life challenge, you can overcome it through Christ. Turn in faith to the God who made you. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13, “I am up to tackling any challenge through Christ who empowers me” (author's paraphrase).

Learn More About Panic Attacks

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