We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us how they get through and care for themselves after a panic attack.
Panic attacks are terrifying and debilitating, and they can happen to anyone. There’s usually not much you can do other than wait it out, but these are the tricks some people have found helpful — physically, emotionally, or otherwise — for dealing with panic attacks.
Remember: These aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying anything new for panic attack prevention, relief, or recovery.
1. Listen to songs that will help you control your breathing rhythm.
“I had a playlist of songs that I used to listen to when I got frequent anxiety attacks. All of the songs were around 60 bpm. The song I found most effective was Broken Social Scene’s ‘Pitter Patter Goes My Heart.’” — Jeffrey Samuel Shochat, Facebook
2. Play with a toy that engages your senses.
“I have a crinkly fabric book that’s actually a toy for infants. I concentrate on breathing and pet or squoosh the book. The smooth texture of the book and the crackling crinkle noise it makes is very soothing.” — Justine Fitting, Facebook
3. Count five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.
— Elisabeth Blackwood, Facebook
4. Just visualize doing yoga if you’re not physically able to.
“I’ve always been a regular yoga practitioner and have come to appreciate how beautiful and soothing moving meditation can be when doing a vinyasa yoga flow. When I find myself having a panic attack I try to think of flows in my head, even something as simple as a sun salutation and incorporating yoga breathing as I’m thinking of the flow in my mind. Remembering how calm I can be on my mat helps me to ground myself again.” — katiea45c59c720
5. Play with silly putty.
“I like to completely focus on rubbing it in my hands. This tends to ground me in my environment and calm my breathing.” — sabrinab460931226
6. Reread a book you know really well.
“I pick up a book, or audiobook, that I’ve read and know and focus on that. Harry Potter and pretty much anyone’s autobiography usually does the trick. Once I get my mind going on another narrative I start to feel less panicky.” — kgrenier11
7. Concentrate on a funny cartoon when you feel an attack coming on.
“When I start to get anxious and feel like it might turn in to a full fledged panic attack, I quickly open Netflix on my phone and watch a funny cartoon like Family Guy. Having a story to follow along with the visual really helps me from completely freaking out.” — michellee5
8. Have a mantra that you can repeat as you ride out an attack, like “This is not going to kill me.”
“When I feel like I am drowning in panic, I lie down and repeat to myself, ‘This is not going to kill me. This is all in your head.’ Over and over again until my body begins to believe it.” — Joel Alcaraz, Facebook
9. Use an app like MyCalmBeat to help control your breathing.
— Lara Thomazini, Facebook
10. Make something.
“To deal with the panic, I make things. I’ve gotten really crafty! [It] helps me focus on something other than the feeling that I’m dying and going crazy all at the same time. You can’t stop a panic attack but it helps me to ride it out.” — Christina Cobb, Facebook
11. Chew gum to help relieve panic symptoms.
“I ALWAYS start chewing gum. It helps me feel less nauseous, and in a way gives my body an outlet for all the adrenaline coursing through it without actually having to physically get up and do much of anything. It seems like such a small thing, but it really helps me start to feel in control of my own body again.” — Katie Pal, Facebook
12. Write down whatever might’ve triggered your panic attack for future reference.
“During the attack itself it usually becomes clear to me why I am having the attack, if I didn’t know already. I write the reason down in one sentence (if I can), and usually it ends up coming out pretty damn poetic. Once it’s over I go back and and look at what I wrote and it’s easy for me to recognize the triggers that could lead me to have a panic attack.” — Anna Ritoch, Facebook
13. Call someone who you know can calm you down.
“I try and talk to someone who I know will help calm me down. I usually call my parents or my best friend which always helps.” — Sabrina Heuschkel, Facebook
14. Talk yourself through it out loud.
“I talk to myself out loud. I tell myself I’m okay, that it will pass, that time will move on and I have to move on with it. I find that verbalising my fears / concerns helps me to work out the reason for the attack and therefore resolve it quicker.” — Phoebe McLaughlin, Facebook
15. Cuddle with an animal.
“My go-to for any anxiety-related situation or panic attack is my dog. Just being near him and petting him will instantly calm me. He is actually my Emotional Support Animal for this very reason.” — allisonl42c7de681
17. Say the alphabet backwards.
“[It] shifts my brain to a different mode and allows me to focus on that instead of the panic.” — dylanandchelseah
18. Blow on your thumb.
“This might sound ridiculous but I blow on my thumb. I think I read somewhere that it’s like giving a massage to your heart. It forces me to take deep slow breaths providing oxygen to my brain and helping me relax. I like to think of it as my way of comforting my heart and telling it that everything should turn out ok while convincing my body too.” — greasesushi
19. Use the R.A.I.N. method — Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Not let it define you.
“Recognize emotions and give them a name — is it anxiety? Fear?
Allow the emotions to be there. ‘These are feelings and feelings can’t kill me.’
Investigate with curiosity and kindness — I like to talk to my emotions as if they were people and physically tell them that I’m going to do something else while they pass through because fighting against them has this reverse psychology effect.
And then, Not letting it define you — this is important because I tend to call myself names for experiencing these extreme emotional difficulties, but I have to remember that we have illnesses, but we aren’t products of an illness.” — abigailm4bbd95a38
20. Treat panic attacks like waking up from a nightmare.
“[My friend’s mum] told me to think of my situation like waking up from a bad dream. You know it was just a dream but you’re still scared. Her point being, even though, like waking up from a nightmare, you know the situation isn’t actually the end of the world or as real as you think, your feelings are genuine and that’s okay. But remember the situation most probably isn’t as bad/will not be as bad as you think.” — jasminec4b5b124da
21. Wear rings that you can use when an attack sets in.
“I almost always wear some type of ring and when I feel anxiety setting in I turn it around on my finger and count the number of times it goes around. It helps ground me and distract my mind from whatever is causing the anxiety.” — ginnyeppensp
22. Find a breathing technique that works for you.
“Simple breathing techniques when I feel an attack coming on mostly work for me, breathing in for two seconds and then out for three.” — kateh49b50e36c
23. Touch things with different textures.
“This might seem weird, but I like touching different things; my countertops because they’re cold and smooth, and a rug in my room, because it’s soft and shaggy, etc. It helps me feel more aware of my surroundings.” — gabriellefesta21
25. Read up on panic attacks.
“Anxiety: Panicking about Panic by Joshua Fletcher.” — Kyra Parsons, Facebook
26. Treat an attack like an annoying younger brother who won’t stop pestering you.
“I was told by a doctor to treat the panic like an ‘annoying younger brother who won’t stop pestering.’ What he means is to focus on anything else; laugh it off, do my best to ignore it. It’s not perfect, or easy, but it works.” — nadinelisar
28. Give your attack a name and a face.
“By personifying it, it becomes something easier to control, because I feel like it’s not something that my body is doing to itself, which is terrifying, but an intruder on the outside that I can stop from hurting me.” — Camille Goodwin, Facebook
30. Or try a coloring app.
31. Try to sit with the fear and remember that it will pass.
“This might sound completely contradictory, but I let myself feel it to try to lessen it. I used to be so scared of having panic attacks that as soon as I felt any symptoms (racing heart, sweaty palms etc), it would always go to a full blown attack. Having spent a lot of time in counseling and reading on the subject for panic and anxiety, the best advice I’ve had is to appreciate the fact your body is doing this to protect you — it feels awful but if you can sit back and feel your symptoms with an inquisitive (not an OMG I’M DYING) mind, generally it doesn’t build to a full blown attack. I’ve not had an attack for a long time but I don’t worry about the next one coming — because worrying about it will just bring it closer, generally.” — Jenna Clayton, Facebook
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