Panic attacks can be an extremely distressing experience. It probably feels like the world is falling around you or coming to an end. The unpredictability of panic attacks makes them harder to deal with, too, but there are panic attack grounding techniques you can use to manage them when they arise. Here are some tips for learning to handle and overcome panic attacks.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden and overwhelming episode of fear that causes extreme psychological and physical responses, even in the absence of any real threat or danger. An estimated 13% of people experience a panic attack at some point in their life.1 However, about 2.7% of the population has a panic disorder, meaning they experience recurrent and unexpected panic attacks.2

Panic Attack Grounding Techniques

Though they are stressful to go through, developing and practicing some grounding techniques will help you overcome panic attacks.

1. Recognize it’s a panic attack

Understanding that you are experiencing a panic attack is the first step to overcoming panic attacks. Notice when you start to experience symptoms such as intense, sudden fear, rapid heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath.

2. Find a safe space

If possible, move to a quiet and safe place where you can sit down or lie down, away from crowds or potential stressors, and begin to implement your panic attack grounding techniques.

3. Focus on your breathing

Pay attention to your breath and try to slow it down. Take deep, slow breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. This can help reduce the intensity of physical symptoms.

4. Use panic attack grounding techniques

Panic attack grounding techniques can help you stay in the present moment. Try naming five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

5. Practice progressive muscle relaxation

Tense and then release each muscle group in your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head. This can help relieve physical tension as you learn to overcome panic attacks.

6. Challenge negative thoughts

Often, panic attacks are triggered by irrational fears. Try to identify and challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself if there is real evidence to support your fears.

7. Use positive affirmations

Repeat positive affirmations to yourself, such as “I am safe,” “This too shall pass,” or “I can handle this.” This can help you regain a sense of control.

8. Visualize a calm place

Close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel safe and relaxed. Picture the sights, sounds, and sensations in this place to help calm your mind.

9. Reach out for support

Reach out to a friend or family member, let them know you’re having a panic attack, and ask for their support. Sometimes, just talking about it can be helpful.

10. Consider professional help

If you have frequent or severe panic attacks, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with strategies, therapy, or medication to manage and reduce your symptoms.  Programs like those at Steps to Recovery can equip you with additional tools and skills so you can overcome panic attacks. If you’re ready to ask for help, find a program near you today and reach out to us to start your path to recovery. References
  1. Depression and Anxiety. (2016). Cross-national Epidemiology of Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks in the World Mental Health Surveys.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Panic Disorder.