3 Things to Do During a Panic Attack

January 28, 2021 Annabelle Clawson

It's difficult to know what to do during a panic attack, especially because completing even the simplest tasks feels like my head might explode. When I have a panic attack, I feel helpless and terrified and can't focus on anything else. Learning to cope has been a messy process, but over time, I have gotten better at it. Here's what I do during a panic attack.

What to Do During a Panic Attack

I'd like to share what has worked for me during panic attacks so that you can have some tools to try out the next time you spiral. Here are three simple ideas that have helped me survive my panic attacks

  1. Focus on your breath. Because panic attacks can cause hyperventilation, slowing down and deepening your breathing is both physically and emotionally grounding. A good practice is to think of the number one as you inhale and think of the number two as you exhale. I can't think straight until I have better control over my breath. I like to imagine breathing out badness and breathing in goodness.
  2. Don't run from your emotions. My instinct is often to numb my anxiety, but that usually lengthens the duration of the panic attack. The anxiety wants to be heard, and if I don't listen, it will make me listen. Sitting in my discomfort is, well, uncomfortable, but it works wonders in calming me down. I'm able to observe what I'm really feeling.
  3. Repeat affirmations to yourself. These don't have to be anything fancy or planned ahead of time. I like to remind myself of truths that anxiety makes me doubt: I am loved. I am kind. I am strong. I am worthy of belonging. I repeat these positive affirmations aloud to myself, albeit through tears and choppy breaths, but saying them aloud reminds me that I am more than my anxiety.

Learn to Trust Yourself Even During a Panic Attack

I never know when a panic attack will ambush me--I could be at school, driving a car, at the grocery store, or in bed. I might not always have a friend to be there with me. Sometimes, I don't have my phone on me and I can't listen to my favorite music. Learning coping skills that only require myself has given me power over my anxiety during a panic attack. I trust myself more. And, remarkably, my panic attacks don't feel quite as crippling as they used to. 

What coping skills have you leaned on during panic attacks? What has been the most helpful for you? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.

APA Reference
Clawson, A. (2021, January 28). 3 Things to Do During a Panic Attack, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Annabelle Clawson

Find Annabelle on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

December, 1 2021 at 6:23 pm

breathing! and repeating to myself that it’s just anxiety! i can usually feel one coming on, my whole body gets hot and i can feel my heart start to palpate, so i know to start my breathing then. i haven’t had a terrible one since i discovered breathing exercises, but i know if it ever does get bad, i can go to my car and hug my legs or splash cold water on my face and neck, sit in front of an a/c and wait for it to pass. attacks are ROUGH, i’ve had to leave class a few times because of them, but thankfully i’ve learned to manage.

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