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Tips for managing panic attacks

10 min read
01 March 2021

Panic attacks can be really scary and it can be hard to know how to deal with them. But if you are struggling with panic attacks, you are not alone. Here are some of the ways our bloggers manage them.

Prevention

Panic attacks are often a result of anxiety building up. Here are some things you can do to help you manage your anxiety before it leads to a panic attack.

  • Give mindfulness a go

    Mindfulness practices can help you to manage anxiety and panic. By practising breathing exercises and becoming more present in the moment you can reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety. Public Health Wales offer a free course that incorporates mindfulness techniques, which is designed to help improve your mental wellbeing. Through a set of four videos and activity sheets you can learn to apply mindfulness to your daily life, which can help you reduce anxiety and stress.

    - Ffion, 20

  • Try yoga

    Engaging in regular exercise can also help you reduce stress and anxiety. I have found yoga to be useful in applying mindfulness techniques into my exercise routine. If you are a beginner like I was then fear not, it’s easy to find simple yoga sessions on YouTube.

    Sessions can be done in the morning when you wake up or last thing at night before you go to bed. It can help with your breathing as well as helping you to become more aware of the sensations in your body as you stretch.

    - Ffion, 20

Mindfulness practices can help you to manage anxiety and panic.
Ffion, 20

Preparation

If you struggle with panic attacks, there are some things to prepare in advance that can help you when you next experience one.

  • Download meditation apps

    Using breathing apps in recent years has helped to eradicate panic attacks rather quickly. The apps guide you breath by breath, and it feels like somebody is there with you. You can try apps like Calm. There are also guided meditations on YouTube that offer the same relief.

    - Gabriella, 25

  • Get a weighted blanket

    My weighted blanket is one of my favourite things that I own. Placing this around my shoulders feels like a tight hug and it can be really helpful with grounding me and bringing me back to reality. These can be quite expensive, so if you can’t afford one, then try using a dressing gown or textured blanket.

    - Hannah, 23

  • Use coping statements

    Positive coping statements are a useful calming technique as they replace the negative thoughts that are making you anxious with realistic, positive thoughts. Here are some examples of positive coping statements that I particularly like:

    • I have got through this before and I will get through this again.
    • My anxiety will not hurt me.
    • I can breathe; I am calm.
    • Everything is okay.
    • I am happy, I am healthy, I have many people who love me.

    These are just examples and you can use any coping statements you want. Prepare them when you’re feeling calm and look at them when you’re panicking.

    - Daisy, 20

  • Buy scented oils or sprays

    Using essential oils has helped me a lot. Placing lavender oil behind my ears or sprinkling it on objects nearby helps me to naturally steady my breathing and put myself in a calmer frame of mind when I’m panicking.

    - Gabriella, 25

    One thing I’ve found that works really well for me is using a scented spray. You can buy calming sprays infused with things like lavender to make yourself feel more relaxed, but I find what works best for me is using body sprays that I like the smell of. The one I use cost me £3 and the smell reminds me of holidays abroad, which makes me feel happy. I spray this on the clothes I’m wearing and around where I am sitting in the room. It can be really helpful to use your senses to feel grounded and to remind you where you are and that you are safe.

    - Hannah, 23

It can be really helpful to use your senses to feel grounded and to remind you where you are and that you are safe.
Hannah, 23

During a panic attack

Here are some things you can do to help when you’re having a panic attack.

Breathing techniques are subtle, and can distract you from your worries. Breathing to a steady rhythm will make you count, giving you something other than your thoughts to focus on. Try breathing in for six seconds, holding it for seven seconds, and breathing out for eight seconds, focusing on keeping your breath steady throughout.

This is a technique you can do wherever you are. It doesn’t draw attention to you, which can help if you feel embarrassed, and is easy to remember. If you’re struggling to sleep, it distracts your mind and might help you feel more relaxed and ready to drift off.

- Mary, 19

One breathing technique that I find works for me is picturing a square (or looking at something square-shaped around me) and tracing the four sides with my eyes while I breathe in through my nose for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out through my mouth for four seconds and hold it again for four seconds. Repeating this around ten times normally brings my breathing back to a more normal rate, and the counting helps give me something to focus on.

- Hannah, 23

With the mind focusing on anxiety, it is really difficult to think of anything else. This technique allows you to focus on other things, keeping the mind busy. Look around the room and find:

  • five things you see
  • four things you feel
  • three things you hear
  • two things you smell
  • one thing you taste

If this is too easy, or after doing it you still feel out of control, go through the alphabet and find things beginning with each letter. This is impossible for other people to notice, meaning that you don’t need to feel embarrassed or as though others are watching.

- Mary, 19

Select a topic and list things that qualify to be in that category (e.g. marine animals, types of cake, football teams etc.). Try to name as many things as possible in one or two minutes, or try to think of one thing that fits in that category for each letter of the alphabet.

- Dhyana, 19

Something that helps me when I’m having a panic attack is putting my wrists or placing my face under cold running water.
Laura, 25

When I’m panicking, I find it helpful to purposely make an effort to feel my feet on the floor and press them into the floor; doing this helps me feel connected and grounded. This is a good exercise to do if you ever catch yourself feeling a bit ‘out of it’ or dizzy due to anxiety, which can then prevent more severe symptoms from happening.

- Lauren, 22

Something that helps me when I’m having a panic attack is putting my wrists or placing my face under cold running water. The shock of the cold water keeps me calm and distracts me from my thoughts.

- Laura, 25

Pick up and touch an item near you. Think about how it feels and describe the way it looks, being specific about colours and textures of the item. Rocks and crystals are really great examples of items but anything will suffice, even a pen.

- Dhyana, 19

One tactic for stopping a panic attack is to sing the lyrics to your favourite song and focus on the words and the tune. You can sing the song out loud or in your head. This can relax you, give you something to focus on, and singing also regulates your breathing, which helps with panic attacks.

- Daisy, 20

If you have pets and they’re nearby, sit with them, pet them and even talk to them. Concentrate on the feeling of your pet - are they soft, fluffy, smooth or spiky? Look at their markings and think about the things that make them unique and individual.

- Dhyana, 19

This is hard to do at the time, but try not to fight the panic attack. If this is your first attack, you may find this more difficult, but it’s so important to try. If this isn’t your first attack, remember you’ve been here before – and it will pass.

- Gabriella, 25

Even though this is sometimes a symptom of a panic attack, crying often helps me release any pent-up emotions or tension. Often, once I have cried, I feel better – almost as if a weight has been taken off my shoulders. So if you ever feel like you need to cry and let some emotions out, don’t hold back. It is healthy to cry.

- Lauren, 22

Try breathing in for six seconds, holding it for seven seconds, and breathing out for eight seconds, focusing on keeping your breath steady throughout.
Mary, 19

Afterwards

After a panic attack, it's important to be kind to yourself and listen to your body.

  • Listen to your body

    After a panic attack, it is important to listen to what your body needs - this could be rest, food, drink, or some self-care time. If you are with someone you trust, it is often helpful to tell them that you have just had a panic attack. They can help calm you down.

    - Daisy, 20

  • Talk to someone

    As a child, I hid the majority of my panic attacks because I was so embarrassed by them and was scared that people would see me as being weak or pathetic. Now as an adult, I wish I had been more open about what I was going through. Even though it can be very hard to talk about personal and emotional issues, please remember there is always someone to talk to, and it is always better to talk with a trusted person about these things than going through it alone.

    - Laura, 25

After a panic attack, it is important to listen to what your body needs - this could be rest, food, drink, or some self-care time.
Daisy, 20

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • No Panic

    Supports people struggling with panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related issues - and provides support and information for their carers.

    Offers a specialist youth helpline for people aged 13-20. The opening hours are 3pm - 6pm, Monday - Friday; 6pm - 8pm, Thursdays and Saturdays.

    Call 01952 680835 for a recorded breathing exercise to help you through a panic attack (available 24/7).

    Information about call costs here.

    Opening times:
    10am - 10pm, 365 days a year
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7

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