August 8

How to Prevent Panic Attacks: 10 Easy Anxiety Prevention Methods

How to Prevent Panic Attacks: 10 Easy Anxiety Prevention Methods

If you’ve ever had a panic attack before, you know how much they suck; you’ve likely wondered how to prevent panic attacks from ever occurring in the first place. Fortunately, there are many ways we can decrease our baseline anxiety levels. So, how do you prevent panic attacks?

  1. Exercise for at Least 10 Minutes Per Day
  2. Incorporate Yoga into Your Daily Routine
  3. Practice Meditating for at Least 1 Minute Each Day
  4. Adjust Your Diet to Decrease Anxiety Levels
  5. Eliminate or Minimize Stressors
  6. Make Sure You’re Getting Adequate Sleep
  7. Limit Your Alcohol and Drug Use
  8. Kick Your Caffeine Habit
  9. Start Talking to a Therapist
  10. Consider Taking Supplements for Anxiety

Less anxiety sounds great, but no one wants to waste time and energy on something that doesn’t work. To make this easier for you, I’ll break down exactly how each of these lifestyle changes can help you to prevent panic attacks and anxiety.

This will be a long article but, by the end of it, you’ll confidently know how to decrease the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and anxiety.

How to Prevent Panic Attacks – 2 Important Tips!

First thing’s first: before we dive into how to prevent panic attacks through lifestyle changes, it’s important to understand a few basic facts about panic attacks and anxiety. I recommend reading our article on the root cause of anxiety if you haven’t already.

Now, I want to start this article off with two important tips. These are very important, so be sure you understand them well before moving on. We’ll get into some practical methods for anxiety and panic attack prevention immediately after.

Let’s dive in.

Tip #1 - Panic Attacks are NOT Random!

There’s a very common misconception about panic attacks and anxiety attacks: many people incorrectly believe that panic attacks occur completely randomly.

It’s understandable why people might think that panic attacks are random; it can certainly feel that way sometimes. One minute you’re sitting down reading a book and the next you’re in full blown panic mode: seems pretty random, right?

But the reality is, there are often many invisible factors combining and contributing to our panic attacks and anxiety. Lack of exercise, irregular sleep, and poor diet are just a few possible culprits.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to completely preventing anxiety, research shows us time and time again that certain healthy lifestyle habits can significantly decrease the occurrence of these so-called “random” panic attacks and anxiety.

Whether you believe you can decrease the frequency and intensity of your panic attacks or not, it certainly can’t hurt to try. All of the following methods are easy and accessible enough for anyone to get started; I would personally give a few (if not all) of these methods a fair chance before considering treating my anxiety with medication.

Tip #2 - You NEED to Put in the Work

The toughest thing about self-improvement is always our human preference for instant gratification.

Everyone wants the abs, but nobody wants to put in time at the gym.

Anyone looking to beat panic disorder, panic attacks, or anxiety in general, needs to be in it for the long-run. Medication can be an effective solution, but oftentimes relying on them is like putting a bandage on a leaky pipe; it is not a sustainable long-term solution.

The good thing about the lifestyle habits we’ll discuss in this article is that you can continue them throughout your life. As an added bonus, all of them can enrich your life in ways beyond the scope of anxiety alone.

Something to keep in mind is that, for some of these things, it can take time to notice the benefits. It’s possible that you notice benefits and anxiety relief immediately, and that’s great! But even if you don’t notice the benefits right away: keep at it!

Just like you wouldn’t expect to sprout abs or massive biceps after three days at the gym, it can take some time before the psychological benefits of these activities are immediately obvious.

Put in the work – and stick with it!

*Side note: I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits for anyone looking to get a new habit to stick. This is one of my favorite and most frequently recommend books – check it out. *

10 Major Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety Prevention

The best way to for us to prevent panic attacks is to decrease our baseline anxiety levels. Lifestyle changes such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and better dieting can be implemented to achieve this. Additionally, certain supplements can be taken to help the brain and body to function better, keeping anxiety and panic attacks to a minimum.

Let’s take a closer look at these activities and discuss each in greater detail.

Exercise for at Least 10 Minutes Per Day

How Can it Help?
Not only does exercise help the brain to release all manner of feel-good neurotransmitters, it also helps you to burn off the "bad stuff." As an added benefit, regular exercise helps to remind you that your heart rate and breathing are nothing to be afraid of; that you are in control.

Studies suggest that as little as 10 minutes of exercise per day can lead to a significant decrease in anxiety. As long as your heart rate is elevated for at least 10 minutes or so, you should experience a reduction in your baseline anxiety levels over time.

Many people have a hard time making a habit of exercise. If you’re one of these people, my recommendation for you is to focus on consistency rather than on intensity; you don’t need to be running marathons or out-benching the biggest guy at the gym; for most people, even a 10-minute jog around the block can be sufficient. If you decide to push yourself further, more power to you.

My Personal Experience
I worked out 6 days a week in college. After graduating, I’m not proud to admit, I became pretty inconsistent about exercising. There were years where I exercised regularly, years where I exercised occasionally, and years where I really didn’t exercise much at all.

Perhaps less obvious and disappointing to me than the loss of my 6-pack was the effect that lack of exercise had on my mental health. For myself and probably most people leading sedentary lifestyles, it can be difficult to recognize the negative effects that lack of exercise has on our brain.

While I wish I could claim to be a perfectly consistent gym-goer ("next year’s my year, I swear!"), the fact is that I have been on and off for the past few years. However, what this inconsistency has made obvious to me is that I feel infinitely better (both physically and mentally) when I am getting regular exercise. I’m not even just talking about the confidence boost I get from working out! Exercising regularly for anxiety benefits literally cuts my baseline anxiety levels in half, and it’s among the easiest activities on this list.

I personally prefer weightlifting for anxiety. This is because difficult exercises like heavy squats cause physiological responses in the body that are similar to what we feel during a panic attack (heavy breathing, increased heart rate, etc.). While this may sound counter-intuitive, I love it because it’s a good way to remind and retrain the brain to realize that these feelings are normal, and that we are in control.

If you’re curious to learn more about the benefits of exercise and how to exercise to prevent anxiety, check out this article!

Incorporate Yoga into Your Daily Routine

How Can it Help?
Yoga is a great way to learn to control your own body, and consequently, your own mind.

You don't need to be religious or even spiritual to benefit from yoga. Even a beginners’ yoga class can help you learn how to control your body, your breathing, and your thoughts; essential skills that anxiety sufferers tend to neglect.

Panic attacks often occur when we start to think negatively, scaring ourselves into believing that something is “off” or that we are losing control. This creates a negative feedback loop between the mind and the body; because we’re experiencing fear in our mind, our body follows suit and experiences the physical symptoms of a panic attack.

The great thing about yoga is that it seems to reverse this natural feedback loop in our favor. While practicing yoga, we are in complete control of our relaxed bodies. When the body is completely relaxed, the mind will now take cues from the body; creating a positive feedback loop, instead. In this way, yoga can help us to regain control of our thoughts and stop a panic attack via the body.

My Personal Experience
The first time I ever tried yoga was in high school. My 1st period PE class offered the option between a morning yoga class or baseball. Call me crazy but, at that stage of my life, watching pretty girls stretch sounded lot more fun than sweating with the boys first thing in the morning.

What started as the somewhat sneaky attempt of a lazy adolescent to peak at butts in the morning wound up changing my whole outlook on yoga. I’m a skeptic by nature and had originally believed yoga to be the realm of monks, hippies, and new-age soccer moms. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and quickly realized that yoga served as an excellent way for me to ground myself and regain control of my thoughts, with the added benefit of increasing my body’s general flexibility.

Don't shy away from trying something new, check out our article to learn more about practicing yoga for anxiety prevention

Practice Meditating for at Least 1 Minute Each Day

How Can it Help?
If you’ve never tried meditation before, chances are it’s not what you think it is. Most people have a tendency to dismiss meditation, due to the religious or spiritual baggage that's often packaged along with it. For natural skeptics like myself, the spiritual connotations of meditation can be enough to deter people from ever even giving the practice a second look.

The fact remains, however, that just because many religions have incorporated meditation into their teachings, does not mean that meditation is an inherently spiritual practice. In fact, the “spiritual” aspects of meditation as practiced in some religions don’t particularly interest me at all. On this site, I will solely be focusing on the secular benefits of meditation, absent any spiritual baggage.

For those new to meditation, I suggest you forget everything you think you know about meditation and learn to think of it as an exercise for the brain. When we meditate (especially through mindfulness meditations) we are really just training our brain's ability to keep our mind from wandering uncontrollably. We are taking time to consciously pay attention to our thoughts, and reeling them in when they start to wander. Over time, this practice becomes easier, as we gain greater control over our own thoughts, attention, and focus.

Anyone who has had a panic attack before will not need me to explain how useful the ability to “reel in our thoughts” and return to a state of calm self-control is.  

My Personal Experience
For most of my life I was actually guilty of neglecting meditation, assuming it would be a waste of time and, like yoga, would be “too spiritual for me.” As I mentioned earlier, this is a poor mindset to have with regard to meditation. I decided to take a closer look at meditation after reading a book called 10% Happier by Dan Harris. In his book, Harris details his chaotic life as a news anchor and how meditation eventually helped him to regain control of his panic attacks and anxiety.

I’d be lying to you if I claimed to be a particularly skilled or experienced meditator, and I won’t pretend to be. What I can tell you is that benefits can be observed in people who meditate for as little as one minute each day. I personally like to take a few minutes before bed to meditate and clear my head. My mother tells me she meditates for a few minutes most mornings, and feels significantly better when she does. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to train your brain’s ability to regain control before, during, or after a panic attack.

Of all the methods on this list, this has got to be the easiest, so you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. I mean, the barrier to entry is literally one minute of your time.

For starters, I recommend our article on what meditation is and how to meditate for anxiety relief.

Adjust Your Diet to Decrease Anxiety Levels

How Can it Help?
When we experience almost any physical symptoms, ailments, or diseases, the doctor will almost always want to take a closer look at our diet. How strange it is, then, that we so often forget to consider our diet when it comes to issues surrounding our mental health. Many people, professionals included, have a tendency to jump right to pharmaceutical solutions; often before even considering the effect that diet might be having on our anxiety and panic attacks.

Blood sugar fluctuations, inflammation caused by allergies, and nutrient deficiencies are just a few of the potential dietary factors that can contribute to our panic attacks and feelings of anxiety. Talking to your doctor or nutritionist about the role that your diet may be playing with regard to your mental health is a good place to start when adjusting your diet to reduce anxiety. They may also recommend undergoing allergy testing to rule out any potential unknown allergies you might have.

Adjusting your diet may seem overwhelming, but it’s a worthwhile step to take toward preventing panic attacks and anxiety. It’s far wiser to address the root cause of your anxiety by fueling your body efficiently, rather than simply masking the problem with addictive or harmful medications.

My Personal Experience
Being very sensitive and aware of the fluctuations of my own baseline anxiety levels, I’ve noticed a handful of foods that consistently spike my own anxiety levels.

One example of this for me is that my general anxiety increases after consuming certain high-carb, unhealthy foods. Any time I heat up and eat a large frozen pizza, the main ingredient being bleached flour, I notice a general sense of anxiety and unease for an hour or two afterward. This could be due to blood sugar fluctuations, or perhaps even a mild gluten intolerance causing inflammation. Whatever the case, I’ve learned to avoid foods like this.

Another food I’ve learned to avoid is anything that causes indigestion for me. At the risk of oversharing, I’ll just say that I’ve eaten an entire can of baked beans before; immediately following the intestinal discomfort came a general sense of anxiety. This is because of the powerful link between our gut and our brain. If things aren’t going so well in our stomach, it can absolutely have an effect on our brain.

For more info on how to diet for anxiety, including specific foods to opt for to reduce anxiety, check out our article on how to diet for anxiety.

Eliminate or Minimize Stressors

How Can it Help?
I mentioned earlier how panic attacks can seem random, but they often have many underlying causes that can go unrecognized by us. One of the largest contributors to anxiety and panic attacks is stress.

While major stressors such as phobias may be obvious, we often overlook the effect that smaller, cumulative stressors have on us. For example, it can be obvious why someone with glossophobia might feel panicky before giving a big speech. But we might not immediately recognize the source of our anxiety when it is due to many smaller factors such as work, relationships, and bills.

Nobody wants such stressors in their lives, and it’s likely that some of them are unavoidable. What you can do, however, is take some time to do some introspective work. Try and figure out the major causes of stress in your life, and consider what steps you might take to decrease your stress. This will look different for everyone, but may involve making adjustments to your lifestyle, relationships, or career.

My Personal Experience
My very first panic attack was likely mostly to blame on the stressors in my life at the time. I was in high school, experiencing all of the typical social pressures and hormonal changes that adolescents typically experience. I was overcaffeinated, socially anxious, and stressed out about all manner of things from dating to exams.

I might have lacked the introspection to see a panic attack coming at the time, but you don’t have to be. With a critical eye, investigating the source of your stressors and working to decrease them is certainly a task that is within reach.

Make Sure You’re Getting Adequate Sleep

How Can it Help?
Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep to function optimally.

Too much more or less than that and you can be throwing your brain out of whack, causing all manner of negative effects on your mood and cognition. Lack or sleep, or too much sleep, can also be a culprit contributing to the kind of stress that leads to panic attacks and anxiety.

Since anxiety can cause sleep issues for some, creating a sort of vicious cycle, it may be worthwhile to look into taking supplements for anxiety that can aid with sleep. We’ll get into this a bit toward the end of the article.

My Personal Experience
While I can’t say I’ve ever had any serious issue with sleep, I can vouch for the negative effects of getting insufficient or excessive sleep. In my personal experience, I tend to feel generally mopey and depressed if I get too much sleep, and just generally fatigued if I get too little. I haven’t been able to link my sleep to my anxiety in the past, but it’s not hard to imagine the stress of a sleep disorder contributing to anxiety and panic attacks.

Limit Your Alcohol and Drug Use

How Can it Help?
Alcohol and other drugs are often used by people with anxiety and other psychological disorders in an attempt to self-medicate. And it makes sense; alcohol can certainly be an effective way to decrease anxiety… in the short-term, at least.

The problem is, there’s no such thing as a “free ride” with drugs and alcohol. Your brain will always pay the price in some way afterwards. With alcohol, we experience a chemical rebound in our brain; once the feel-good chemicals are gone, we feel much worse than we did before we had alcohol in the first place. This effect is affectionately called “hangxiety” by some; a day or two of increased anxiety following alcohol consumption.

In this way, occasional drinking and drug use will cause acute effects on our anxiety and panic attacks. If you become addicted to a drug or to alcohol, these effects will be magnified by other factors such as dependence and withdrawal. Take a close look at the role of drugs and alcohol in your own life, and consider how they might be affecting your anxiety attacks.

My Personal Experience
Look, I won’t lie, I love enjoying a few beers. But it would be a downright lie to say that I don’t feel more anxious a day or two after a bender. There are some supplements that I use to mitigate these effects a bit (I’ll get into these supplements later), but if you really want to minimize anxiety, drug and alcohol avoidance is a solid plan.

For more info on how short- and long-term alcohol use can affect our anxiety levels, check out this article on alcohol and anxiety.

Kick Your Caffeine Habit

How Can it Help?
Caffeine can be a good way for many of us to power through the work day but, unfortunately, it’s a terrible choice for most people who suffer from anxiety. Caffeine can cause jitters and other uncomfortable side effects that can exacerbate the symptoms of panic attacks. Caffeine withdrawal can be even worse, sending social anxiety through the roof until we get our morning dose.

For most people with anxiety, my advice would be to avoid caffeine as much as possible.

My Personal Experience
I used to drink a cup of coffee per day for work, which I didn’t consider to be a whole lot. Over time, however, I realized the little ways in which I had become dependent upon caffeine. Actually, I didn’t feel particular anxious from the caffeine itself; rather, I felt anxious whenever I needed more caffeine.

Once I realized that my social anxiety was through the roof in the morning before my coffee, I decided that caffeine was doing more harm than good for me. I kicked the habit cold-turkey, and had all kinds of horrible side effects: from headaches to two nights of heart palpitations. Just brutal. In the weeks that followed my withdrawal, I noticed a significant decrease to my anxiety levels and a boost to my natural energy levels. Now, I swear to all my family and friends that caffeine-free in the way to go.

For more information on the anti-anxiety benefits of quitting caffeine, check out this article.

Start Talking to a Therapist

How Can it Help?
It’s important to remember that you are never alone with mental health issues. If you aren’t comfortable reaching out to a friend or family member about your anxiety, or if you feel your needs are greater than what they can help you with, you should absolutely consider seeking professional help.

Psychotherapy no longer has the negative connotation it once did. Today, many perfectly healthy people see therapists on a regular basis to help then navigate their mental health and relationships. Finding the right therapist for you could be the difference between daily panic attacks versus none.

My Personal Experience
I’ve talked to therapists in the past and have found it to be a helpful and healthy way to talk through things with an attentive and non-biased professional third party. I recommend everyone, anxiety or not, at least try talking to a therapist for a period of time. It may not be for you, or it may be the most cathartic experience of your life; the only way to know is to try it.

For those looking to experience a one-on-one experience with a therapist from the comfort of their own home, I suggest checking out my online therapy review.

Consider Taking Supplements for Anxiety

How Can it Help?
I’ve saved this one for last because, as effective as anxiety supplements can be, you are doing yourself a disservice if you are not trying all of the other methods first.

With that said, anxiety supplements range greatly in their function and purpose. They are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some supplements are only intended for occasional, situational use, while others are safely suitable for daily use. The supplements that I use and recommend are typically much more conservative options than prescription drugs, which I tend to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

Once you finish this article, I suggest checking out the recommended supplements section of the website to learn more about this.

My Personal Experience
I’ve personally used many anxiety supplements and stress relief products to help me manage panic attacks over the years. I have certain supplements that I use occasionally to help with situational anxiety, and other supplements that I use more regularly for a milder, daily-use boost.

Getting into which supplements work best for various situations will take a while, so I highly recommend bouncing over to the page on my recommended anxiety supplements to learn more.

The Cumulative Effect of These Methods

While all of these lifestyle changes can help considerably with how to prevent anxiety attacks, I realize not everyone is going to utilize all of them.

My advice, therefore, is this: Give each one a fair chance.

Maybe not all of these changes are possible in your current work/life situation. But at least give them all a trial run. See what you respond best to or enjoy the most.

And let's not forget about the cumulative effect here!

So, maybe just one of the above methods alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be... But consider what happens when you combine several anxiety prevention methods!

Here's an example (these numbers are my own wildly unscientific best guesses):

50%
Total Anxiety   Decrease

The cumulative effect from each method can add up for staggering results!

Anxiety decrease from:

Exercise

15%

Meditation

15%

Supplements

20%

While these changes may not seem ground-breaking by themselves, consider the cumulative effect! In this hypothetical example, a 50% anxiety decrease with just 3 of the methods we discussed.

And, while hypothetical, this is by no means an unattainable result.

Give each method a fair shot and see which ones work for you.

Plan B: How to Prevent Anxiety Attacks from Escalating

While any and all of the aforementioned methods should help you to prevent panic attacks from occurring, it’s always a good idea to have a plan B; a way to stop panic attacks if and when they do occur. We already have many articles on this site discussing how to stop panic attacks, so I’ll keep it pretty basic here.

  1. Recognize that you are having a panic attack
  2. Remember that you are not going to die
  3. Take control of your breathing (6 seconds in, 6 seconds out works fine)
  4. Find a focus object or something else to think about
  5. Talk to a trusted friend and try to find something to laugh about

These are pretty basic guidelines, but there are plenty of articles on this site that will go into the specifics in much greater detail. A good place to start might be this article on how to stop a panic attack.

What’s Next?

100+ Ways to Stop Panic
Attacks and Anxiety

"Just calm down" not working for you?

Big surprise. Try this instead.

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About the Author

Years of personal experience with anxiety disorders and panic attacks have led me to devise some pretty creative ways to keep my anxiety in check. In the past, anxiety and panic attacks felt like something I'd have to live with forever. Nowadays, panic attacks are a distant memory for me, and I'm free to pursue passions like writing and traveling the world. Hopefully, the information on this website can help you achieve the same. I do all the writing here myself, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions!

Tyler Ellis

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