If you suffer from panic attacks — or care for someone who does — you know they’re no joke. They’re pretty terrifying, whether they hit during what would be normal activities for others, or taking place in the solitary darkness of night.

Clinical psychologist Steven Hayes breaks down why they happen and offers a way to stop them. The key, oddly enough, is to embrace anxiety.

 

how-to-deal-with-a-panic-attack

 

Panic attacks occur when we treat our difficult feelings as the enemy, doing everything we can to deny them until they fairly scream for our attention. Hayes isn’t suggesting you can solve your issues just by admitting them, but that by “holding” them you treat anxieties as signals of things that are bothering you, the same way physical pain tells you to remove your hand from a hot burner. And by looking at your anxieties, you let out enough of the hidden pressure they generate to keep them from overwhelming you.