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How can I calm down during a panic attack?

298 Answers
Last Updated: 12/29/2020 at 6:10pm
How can I calm down during a panic attack?
★ This question about Panic Attacks was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Lindsay Scheinerman, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

My work with clients is to help them recognize and build on their strengths to find solutions for the conflicts presented in their lives.

Top Rated Answers
June 25th, 2015 7:19pm
First way to calm yourself is by remembering it's a panic attack and try your best not to clench up. Try to relax your body even if trembling. Begin to focus on your breathing... Breath in deep and slow for the count of 5, hold it for the count of 5, the breath out slowly for the count of 5. Do this until you feel relaxed. What's great about this is, you can do this anywhere without needing a prop.
June 25th, 2015 9:16pm
You take a deep breath and focus on your breathing. If you don't, your panic attack could get worse and it could be harder to calm down.
June 26th, 2015 9:43am
calming down during a panic attack is complicated. being with someone or finding your favorite stuffed animal could possibly settle your mind.
Anonymous - Expert in Panic Attacks
June 26th, 2015 3:37pm
Breathing exercises are a good first step. Try mindfulness, perhaps. Mindfulness has been found to help people with a variety of health problems including anxiety/panic.
June 27th, 2015 3:22am
Hold your breath - slows down your heart rate. And count to 10. Or breath in for 3 seconds, hold it for 3 and let it out for 3
June 27th, 2015 1:48pm
Try meditation. Think about what started this panic attack and think about the best-case-scenario. A bit of meditation music helps too.
June 27th, 2015 8:07pm
So many ways. Talking to someone helps a lot, but to listen to music and write or read or even breathing exercises can help alot. It depends on who you are, but you have to be careful that you don't avoid the problem, but come back to it later with a clearer mind
June 28th, 2015 7:02am
By grounding yourself. Listing what you can hear or see. Distraction. Thinking about something else, preferable non-anxiety inducing. Affirmations. Repeating a mantra to yourself that reminds you that you're safe, and if you're not, you are more safe than you think.
June 28th, 2015 10:29am
The best thing to do is take deep breathes and count to 100. Think about a place you want to go and who you want to be there with.
June 28th, 2015 4:36pm
The best thing to do during a panic attack is don't forget to breathe. I always do what I call 3-4-7 breathing which is when you inhale for 3 seconds, hold for 4 and exhale for 7 seconds. If you don this a couple of times, your heart rate will decrease, decreasing your thoughts about having a heart attack and eventually calming down. Also be aware that you're safe and nothing can happen to you, you'll survive. But I do find that the best thing to do is try your best to control your breathing :)
June 28th, 2015 8:12pm
Try to control your breathing and lower your heart rate. Communicate your attacks on doctors and parents please.
June 28th, 2015 11:45pm
Take deep breaths, think about something that once made you happy and keep building it up until you eventually calm down.
July 1st, 2015 11:14am
Focus on your breathing. Count how long it takes you to breathe in and breathe out. Try counting to three, then to four. Breathe in - 1, 2, 3, 4... breathe out - 1, 2, 3, 4. If that doesn't help, try reaching out to a loved one. If it continues, seek medical attention.
July 2nd, 2015 2:15am
You really can't but you just need to breathe, and that will help. That's what I do when I have a panic attack
July 2nd, 2015 5:00am
Breathing regulation is a very easy coping skill that is also effective very quickly. Slow, deep breaths bring down your heart rate and cause you to feel calmer.
July 2nd, 2015 12:11pm
Focus on something else. Sounds easy, but it may be challenging. Find something in the room where you are; a photograph, a painting, a piece of furniture, etc. Describe every aspect of that item in your mind. For example, you feel a panic attack coming on, look at a painting, say either outloud or in your mind: "I see dark blue, light blue, flowers, a barn; the wood on the barn looks aged, the blue matches a necklace I used to have; I wonder what is in the barn, it could be a lamb; etc. Be mindful that you are inhaling deep, slow breaths while you are describing. Be very detailed, get your mind really into that painting. It's a way of distracting that can be very useful and can take you out of the panic attack. Just be mindful of the pace at which you are describing and breathing and keep it as slow and purposeful as possible.
July 2nd, 2015 5:35pm
Maybe just take it slow snd breathe then go for a walk to calm down a little or you could lay down and just rest.
August 15th, 2015 4:27am
Try and breath in and out deeply. realise that you have just had a panic attack then try to calm down
December 22nd, 2014 4:33am
When having a panic attack you are experiencing an overwhelming amount of negative emotion. I would say that during a panic attack, your breathing will generally become more labored and shallow and you may sweat, and it may come on suddenly or it may be affective, in that it is sparked by something. In both situations, it is important to try to control yourself physically and mentally. If you feel an overwhelming sense of negative emotion it is best to sit down and attempt to breathe deeply to calm yourself. You should also turn your thoughts to positive things instead of fixating on what is bothering you at the present moment. Try to be still in body and mind and wait for it to pass.
July 10th, 2015 6:40am
The five steps to overcoming panic attacks are: Acknowledge & Accept Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work) Actions (to make myself more comfortable) Repeat End Let's take a look at what each step entails. Acknowledge & Accept All progress starts here. This is the most important single step to overcoming panic attacks. Acknowledge Here I acknowledge the present reality, that I'm afraid and starting to panic. I won't try to ignore it, or pretend it's not there. I won't struggle to distract myself, tell myself to "stop thinking about it!", or snap any rubber bands on my wrist. I'm acknowledging simply that I am afraid, not that I am in danger. The thought that I am in danger is just another symptom of panic, not an important or useful thought. Accept Here I accept the fact that I'm afraid at this moment. I don't fight the feeling; ask God to take it away; blame myself, or anybody else. I accept, as best I can, that I'm afraid in the same way I would accept a headache. I don't like headaches, but I don't bang my head against the wall in an effort to get rid of them, because that makes them worse. Overcoming panic attacks begins with working with, not against, my panic and anxiety symptoms. How Can I Accept a Panic Attack? What makes a panic attack acceptable (not desirable, but acceptable) is that, while it feels awful and fills me with dread, it isn't dangerous. It won't kill me or make me crazy. Someone pointing a gun at me, that's not acceptable. I might get hurt or killed. If someone points a gun at me, I have to do whatever I can to change that: run, hide, fight, yell, bribe, or beg, because the consequence of being shot is so terrible that I must try to avoid it. On the other hand - a policeman giving me a ticket, even if I don't deserve it, I can live with that, and can hopefully keep my temper in check so I don't make things worse for myself. Accepting the symptoms, not resisting, is a powerful step to overcoming panic attacks. What Can a Panic Attack Do to Me? It makes me feel afraid, that's what a panic attack does. And, if I'm having a panic attack, I'm already there! I'm already experiencing the worst that will happen. I just need to ride it out. That's the surest path to overcoming panic attacks. Why should I accept a panic attack? Because the more I resist panic, the worse it gets. The more I develop the habit of acceptance, the more progress I make toward my goal of overcoming panic attacks. That's Acknowledge & Accept. How does that compare to what you usually do during a panic attack? Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work) Wait What I mean by "Wait" is this: don't just do something, stand there. It's similar to the suggestion "count to ten before you get mad". One of the hallmarks of a panic attack is that it temporarily robs you of your ability to think, remember, and concentrate. This step will buy you a little time to regain those abilities before you take any action. When you react before you have a chance to think straight, what do you do? If you're like most people, you probably flee, or struggle. You do things that actually make it worse. This is what people mean when they say things like "I know I'm doing it to myself" and the harder I try, the worse it gets. Jumping into action too quickly is a big obstacle to overcoming panic attacks. So, even though you have a powerful urge to leave, postpone that decision for a little bit. Don't tell yourself you CAN'T leave - keep that option open so you don't feel trapped - but put off the decision about whether or not to leave. Stay in the situation. You don't need to run away to get relief. Let relief come to you. Watch Use the occasion to observe how the panic works, and how you respond to it. The best way to do this is to fill out a panic diary. The diary is a questionnaire which helps you notice important aspects of a panic attack, so you can respond more effectively over time. Feel free to download and reproduce it for your own personal use. You can also download a set of instructions. My patients often report that just filling out a diary helps them to calm down. How does this work? It's not that they're distracted from the subject of panic, because the diary questions are all about panic. It helps you get a little distance from your emotions. It works because, while you complete a diary, you're in the role of an observer, rather than feeling like a victim. The best way to use the diary is to fill it out during the attack, rather than after. If you're in a situation where writing is impractical, perhaps while driving a car, you can: use a digital recorder; have your support person read the questions to you and record your answers; or pull over for a few minutes to write. What About "Work"? If you're in a relatively passive situation during the panic attack - a passenger in a vehicle, getting your hair cut, or waiting in a waiting room - "Wait & Watch" is all you need. If you're in a more active role - driving a car or giving a presentation - then you also need to attend to the "Work" of conducting that activity. Do "Wait & Watch", but also remain engaged in your task. That's "Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work)". How does that compare to what you usually do during a panic attack? Actions (to make myself more comfortable) At this point, you've already gone through the two most important steps to overcoming panic attacks. These steps, and all the steps necessary to overcome panic disorder and phobia, are covered in much more detail in my Panic Attacks Workbook. What's Your Job During an Attack? It's not your job to bring the panic attack to an end; that will happen no matter what you do. Your job now is to see if you can make yourself a little more comfortable, while you wait for the attack to end. Here are a few techniques that my patients have found particularly useful in overcoming panic attacks. Belly Breathing Regardless of what else you do, do belly breathing. It's also known as diaphragmatic breathing, but I think "belly breathing" is more descriptive. Many people think they know how to do deep breathing, but don't do it correctly, so they don't get good results. A good belly breathing technique is a very powerful tool in the work of overcoming panic attacks! How to Talk to Yourself Talk to yourself (silently!) about what is happening, and what you need to do. One question my patients find very helpful is this: is it Danger or Discomfort?. Some of the other responses my patients like include the following: 1. Fine, let's have an attack! It's a good chance to practice my coping techniques. 2. Answer your "what if...?" fears by saying "So what? I'll get afraid, then calm down again." 3. It's okay to be afraid. Get Involved in the Present People don't panic in the present. People panic when they imagine something bad happening to them in the future or in the past. This is why your panic attacks are almost always accompanied by some "what if...?" thought. If a dog just bit my leg, I don't say "what if a dogbite?". The reason you say "what if...?" is because what you fear is not actually happening! Get back into the activity you were engaged in prior to the attack, and become involved with the people and objects around you. If you're in a store, resume shopping, reading labels, comparing prices, asking questions, etc. It will move you closer to your goal of overcoming panic attacks when you bring your focus and energy back to the present environment. By this I mean, work with what is around you. Work with Your Body Identify, and relax, the parts of your body that get most tense during a panic attack. This typically involves first tensing, and then relaxing, the muscles of your jaw, neck, shoulders, back and legs. Do not allow yourself to stand rigid, muscles tensed, and holding your breath. That just makes you feel worse! If you feel like you "can't move a muscle", start with just one finger! That's "Actions (to make myself more comfortable)". How does that compare with what you usually do during a panic attack? Repeat This step is here because you might start feeling better, then feel another wave of panic. Your first reaction might then be to think "Oh No, it didn't work!". The Repeat step is here to remind you that it's OK if that happens. Just take it from the top again. It's not unusual or dangerous. You may go through several cycles, and you just need to repeat the AWARE steps again, as often as you need. How does that compare with what you usually do? End This is here to remind you that your panic attack will end; that all panic attacks end; that they end regardless of how you respond; that it's not your job to make the attack end; and that your only job is to make yourself as comfortable as possible while waiting for the attack to end. Have these statements been true for you? Don't take my word for it. Review your own history of panic attacks and see. And maybe the next time you panic, when you notice yourself thinking, once again, "Will this ever end?", you'll find yourself answering, "YES!"
July 22nd, 2015 5:01pm
What works for me the best is trying to turn off the whole world around you and just trying to breathe slowly. And also another thing that works for me is music. If you can, just put headphones on and turn your favorite music on. :)
July 25th, 2015 4:33pm
When I experience panic attacks, I personally find it calming to lie flat on my back on the floor to help regulate the physical symptoms of panic attacks (trembling, trouble breathing, choking sensation, dizziness, nausea).
July 26th, 2015 6:18pm
There are three methods you can use (that I know of) that can help you calm down during a panic attack :) 1) Look around the room your in. Try finding a certain color, like red, as many times as you can. For example, you could find it 16 times. Then you'd move on to more colors. Repeat until you calm down. 2) Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. 3) Control your breathing. Breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 1, and breathe out for 5 seconds.
August 16th, 2015 12:00pm
Accepting a panic attack for what it is can help to lessen its effect. To start feeling in control of your anxiety, make an appointment with your doctor and get a full physical exam. This will help you focus your approach, as you’ll find out for certain that you’re coping with panic attacks and not some other ailment. A clean bill of health can also help alleviate irrational fears of dying and doom, which can surface during a panic attack. Also, your doctor can differentiate between occasional panic attacks and a more serious panic disorder, which may require professional treatment and possibly medication. Being able to recognize it for what it is will help you decide what action to take to overcome it. Although symptoms differ from person to person, and only a trained professional can provide a definite diagnosis, some common ones include: Irregular heartbeat Dizziness and lightheadedness Shortness of breath Choking sensations and nausea Shaking and sweating Fatigue and weakness Chest pain and heartburn Muscle spasms Hot flashes or sudden chills Tingling sensations in your extremities A fear that you’re going crazy A fear that you might die or be seriously ill If you feel an attack coming on, simple breathing and relaxation techniques can help you feel more in control. But don’t wait until you’re having a panic attack to perfect the techniques. Practicing them twice a day for just 10 minutes at a time may make your panic attacks less frequent and easier to conquer. A panic attack can trick you into feeling fatigued, but often the opposite is true. Instead of retreating to your couch or bed, try to do some excercise or write in a journal. More information can be found here:
August 16th, 2015 8:23pm
You can use the grounding method. Find something that appeals to each of your senses. What can you smell, hear, see, touch, and even taste. Alternately you can focus on your breathing or on constants in your environment.
January 6th, 2016 2:45pm
Take deep breaths, distract yourself, focus on something happy, and/or talk to someone you really trust.
January 27th, 2016 10:52pm
I personally suffer with panic attacks and know how hard it is to calm down. From personal experience, the most important thing is to get fresh air and walk around. Focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath in, and out. Close your eyes once your heart is slower and just focus on all the things that make you happy and relaxed ♥
February 5th, 2016 11:45pm
you can calm down during a panic attack is to put water on your face and under your armpits and under your legs and do something you love and to just relax.
June 5th, 2016 3:53pm
Take deep breaths of fresh air and go and make a drink of something you like if possible. Sometimes removing yourself from a situation for a brief amount of time and distracting yourself for a minute or two with a simple task can allow you to be ready to step back into the initial situation with a slightly clearer head.
July 17th, 2018 11:43pm
When you are having a panic attack, it is helpful to focus on what is around you to help you feel grounded. Identify and name 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. Remind yourself you are not alone in this pain.