Dealing with panic attacks


Aditi Jain

Psychology Associate

Panic attacks are sudden and abrupt periods of intense fear or discomfort involving symptoms like palpitations, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, feeling dizzy or light-headed, numbness or tingling sensations and fear of losing control or going crazy. Panic attacks are often 'unexpected' or 'uncued', meaning that they do not appear to be provoked by particular cues only. They are extremely unpleasant and frightening.

While experiencing a panic attack our mind is unable to concentrate on anything else and keeps obsessing over one thought only. Even if we try at times, we can’t stop the negative downward spiral it starts. For moments like those here are some things can be done. We can try these techniques to see which ones work for us:

1. Stop!

We can try to imagine a very angry police officer holding up a bright big stop sign in front of us, blowing the whistle. The moment we feel our thoughts are going out of control, we can think of this mental police officer who’s telling us to stop obsessing. Sometimes writing it on a piece of paper also works.

2. Focus on objects in the room

Let’s pick a color and look for at least five objects in the room that are of that color. Or we can go by the use, for example, things one can wear. Or if they are solid or liquid. We can make our own categories and look for those objects, one after the other, until we can feel our body relaxing.

3. Start reciting numbers backwards You can start reciting the numbers backwards from 100 or 1000 if we want to make it a little challenging. Or we can start counting backward by subtracting 3s, starting from 50.

4. Start sketching

We don’t need to be an artist for this. We can just take any sheet of paper and start drawing an abstract figure on it; it can just be a long intertwined snake, the closer the lines are to each other the better it will be. Next, we can start to fill the area inside it, making sure to color inside the lines only. If we have different stationery items, they can be used as well. If our mind is still going back to the negative thought, we can start drawing a square in the air with our other hand while continuing to colour with the dominant hand. This is sure to take our mind away from those pesky and worrisome thoughts.

5. Start reading our favorite book

If we frequently have overbearing thoughts, we need to keep our favorite book with us at all times. If that’s not possible, we can always download the e-book version on our phone. Just by reading a few pages of a book that we love, the whole novel will enter our mind and with it the warmth and comfort that we feel because of it.

6. Call someone up

Just calling a friend or family member and talking about anything with them can calm us. About the weather in the city (or even the hypothetical possibility of aliens attacking the earth!!), we can just talk to them. If we can’t call someone up because of the time of day/night or the place we’re are in, we can simply start making a list of all the weird topics we could possibly talk about.

7. Happy photo memories

We need to make an online album of photos that make us genuinely happy. They could be of time spent with friends or family, or just our own very best selfies. If photographs are not available, we can also use motivational quotes, or memes or just cute pictures of cats dressed up as celebrities. The point is to look at something that makes us smile, literally.

All these tips might not work for everyone in every situation, but we need to mold them and customize them according to our personal needs. The aim is to distract ourselves till the time we are able to come back to reality.

View more content by Aditi Jain

Tulika Agarwal Jain
Very practical and simple ways ... nice 👍🏼
Rohit Chopra
Super simple and effective tips on what to do during a panic attack. Thank you !!
Deepak Dabhi
I Hope you're ways still 🎉🎉🎉