Panic attacks
Blog,  Mental Health

5 simple grounding techniques for panic attacks

Panic attacks are an awful thing to experience. If you’ve ever had one I am truly sorry you had to go through it.

They can be caused by any number of things. I used to get them frequently on the way into work or before going out with friends. I’ve also had them in bed when I’ve been particularly stressed out worried about something the next day.

The weirdest ones I’ve had are when I’m not feeling anxious at all, about anything. I’ve been on the tube in London, and just suddenly fall into a full blown panic attack. I’m not claustrophobic, it wasn’t particularly busy and I didn’t feel stressed or anxious, it just came out of no where.

Panic attacks can be unpredictable. And I think it’s important to know how to deal with them when they happen because you’re not always in a place where you can just lie down and ride it out.

Grounding techniques are designed to take the mind off the state of panic that you’re in and respond to something else instead. It can help you calm down faster, or avoid the panic attack altogether. They don’t work for everyone, but here are some of my favourites.

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My 5 top grounding techniques for panic attacks.

1. The 5 senses

This was probably the first technique I learned, and it’s a really good one because it can take you away from where you currently are. It removes you from the situation completely.

All you need to do is think of a happy memory, or just a pleasant memory, and keep it in your mind. Then go through each of the senses and name something you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

Really think about each of those things for a moment. It can really help to bring you back and too calm you down. I often try to use a memory from the summer, because the colours are more bright and vibrant, and there is more to see, but you can use ANY memory.

This also works if you pick an object around you and describe it using the 5 senses. For example, if you’re not able to think of a memory in the moment. The possibilities are endless.

2. Listing

I had a friend in uni who had panic attacks quite frequently, and this was the technique she used. We had a mutual friend who had siblings and each one of their names began with the same letter – J.

Whenever she felt a panic attack coming she would begin to list them out (in birth order), and it would help her to ground herself back to reality and calm down.

This could work with anything though, just pick a letter and start listing things beginning with that letter. It’s a good task to distract your mind and give it something new to focus on. And there are endless things you can list, so you can keep going until your symptoms subside.

3. Pick a colour

Take a look around you, is there a particular colour you can see? Blue, green, pink?

Now, search the area around you and find as many objects as you can in that colour. Once you run out of things, you can move on to the next colour. And repeat, until you start to feel better.

This one is quite fun, and if your are a visual person it may be a better option than the two above as you are focusing on things that are actually in front of you.

4. Describe objects

This one is better for when you are at home, but can be modified if you’re not.

Once again take a look around the room, but this time really focus on the objects you see. One by one describe them, where you got them, who gave them to you, why you placed them were you did, try and remember when you got them and how you felt.

If you’re not at home you can still describe the objects you see, but you can try and imagine where they came from. Think up a story for each one if you can, be as elaborate as you want, and keep going until you begin to feel better.

5. Trick your brain

For this one you need to be able to obtain something either warm or cold. Whether it be a warm drink, a hot water bottle, an ice pack or just an ice cube.

Hold the object in your hands and really focus on it. Doing this can trick your brain into focusing on something different, as your body will start reacting to the change in temperature and less on the panic it’s in.

Obviously if you’re out of the house, it can be difficult to get your hand on an ice cube, but a cold drink from the fridge in a corner shop will also work.

Finally, remember to breathe.

When we have a panic attack the tendency is to breathe faster, to try and get more air into our body. But this can exacerbate the problem because we often don’t breathe all the air out and our body starts to suffocate from having too much carbon dioxide.

This makes the panic so much worse.

So, when you are breathing, make sure you breathe in deeply, and then breathe out for longer. I use the 3 seconds in, 5 seconds out method, but you can make it longer if it’s not working.

Combine your breathing with any one of the above techniques and you should be able to regulate yourself again, and stop the panic attack in its tracks.

If you don’t get on with any of the techniques I’ve described here you can find more suggestions here.

Mental Health Blog Philippa Claire

Please remember that I am not a medical professional, and any advice I give is from personal experience. If you are experiencing frequent panic attacks it is important to contact your doctor!

If you like this one, why don’t you check out my 5 step self-care routine that takes less than 30 minutes?


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