How do I calm down during a panic attack?

I have a panic attack at least once a week and suffer from severe anxiety.

Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor

I'm sorry you're going through that.  Panic attacks are terrifying.

One thing to start with is knowing that panic attacks are not going to hurt you and your anxiety will come down with time.  Fighting that process can sometimes heighten symptoms because your brain wants the message of panic to be heard.  Some of the best ways to counter that message is through focusing on the present moment through sensations or breathing.  Taking deep breaths allows your body and brain to slow down, sending the message that there's no present danger.  Focusing on the present can also send the same message, as anxiety typically throws us into the "what ifs" of the future.  If you search google or pinterest, there are tons of methods you can use for this---some people prefer to focus on colors, shapes, smells, textures, etc., while other prefer to pay attention to internal sensations.  

There are also apps that can help with these techniques, such as Calm and Headspace.  They work best when you aren't in a panic attack or when you feel one coming on.  If you are already at the peak of an attack, they can still help, it just may take a bit longer.  

Some clients I have like to track their anxiety with a scale system.  Let's say you scale your anxiety at an 8 out of 10, do some breathing exercises for 5 minutes, then scale it again.  It's likely the anxiety decreased, at least to a 7 or 7.5.  Doing this can give you some physical proof that you have some control over your body.  You can also scale it without the breathing to see how it just fluctuates on its own.  Anxiety will always go down and you can see that happening via numbers.  This method will let you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are other ways that might work for you via a quick google search, or through therapy.  Keep trying new things until you find what works best for you!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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