Panic attacks can create various physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms may include:
- rapid breathing
- a racing heartbeat
Emotional symptoms may include:
- feelings of fear and anxiety
- intense, repetitive worrying
- a feeling of impending doom
The sections below will look at 13 methods that people can use to help regain control and reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.
1. Remember that it will pass
During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.
Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety and that it will be over soon.
Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their onset, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.
2. Take deep breaths
Deep breathing can help bring a panic attack under control.
Panic attacks can cause rapid breathing, and chest tightness can make the breaths shallow. This type of breathing can make feelings of anxiety and tension worse.
Instead, try to breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on each breath. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 on both the inhale and the exhale.
People can also try using 4-7-8 breathing, or “relaxing breath.” With this technique, the person breathes in for 4 seconds, holds the breath for 7 seconds, then exhales slowly for 8 seconds.
It is worth noting that for some people, deep breathing can make panic attacks worse. In these cases, the person can try focusing on doing something they enjoy instead.
3. Smell some lavender
A soothing scent can help relieve anxiety by tapping into the senses, helping the person stay grounded and giving them something to focus on.
Lavender is a common traditional remedy known for bringing about a sense of calm relaxation. Many studies report that lavender can help relieve anxiety.
Try holding the oil under the nose and inhaling gently, or dabbing a little onto a handkerchief to smell. This oil is widely available online. However, people should only purchase it from trusted retailers.
If the person dislikes the smell of lavender, they could try replacing it with another essential oil that they prefer, such as bergamot orange, chamomile, or lemon.
Learn more about essential oils for anxiety here.
4. Find a peaceful spot
Sights and sounds can often intensify a panic attack. If possible, try to find a more peaceful spot. This could mean leaving a busy room or moving to lean against a nearby wall.
Sitting in a quiet place will create some mental space, and it will make it easier to focus on breathing and other coping strategies.
5. Focus on an object
When a person becomes overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories, concentrating on something physical in the environment can help them feel grounded.
Focusing on one stimulus can reduce other stimuli. As the person looks at the item, they may want to think about how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is. This technique can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.
If the person has recurring panic attacks, they can carry a specific familiar object to help ground them. This may be something like a smooth stone, a seashell, a small toy, or a hair clip.
Grounding techniques such as this can help people dealing with panic attacks, anxiety, and trauma. Learn more about grounding techniques here.
6. The 5-4-3-2-1 method
Panic attacks can make a person feel detached from reality. This is because the intensity of the anxiety can overtake other senses.
The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding technique and a type of mindfulness. It helps direct the person’s focus away from sources of stress.
To use this method, the person should complete each of the following steps slowly and thoroughly:
Look at 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a short while.
Listen for 4 distinct sounds. Think about where they came from and what sets them apart.
Touch 3 objects. Consider their texture, temperature, and what their uses are.
Identify 2 different smells. This could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, or the laundry detergent on your clothes.
Name 1 thing you can taste. Notice whatever taste is in your mouth, or try tasting a piece of candy.