A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety. Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, sweating and dizziness.

What to Do When You’re Having a Panic Attack

Here, some strategies that have worked for others that may help you:

  • Relaxing your body can help sidestep a panic attack. Practice breathing in through your nose for a count of five, hold it for five, and then breathe out through your mouth for a count of five. Or take a class in meditation and breathing techniques
  • Don’t drink alcohal. They may seem to calm you down. But they can throw off your emotional balance, interfere with your sleep, and conflict with medications.
  • Regular exercise. It’s a proven stress-buster and it helps your mood, sleep, and just about everything else. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 2.5 hours a week of moderately intense activity, such as walking and jogging.
  • If you suddenly feel your heart pounding or experience other physical clues that a panic attack is barreling for you, try this distraction suggested by Rob Cole, LHMC, clinical director of mental health services at Banyan Treatment Centers. Start counting backward from 100 by 3s. The act of counting at random intervals helps you to focus and override the anxious thoughts that are trying to sneak into your psyche.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks.
  • Breathing exercises. When you learn to control how fast you inhale and exhale, then practice it every day, that can ease anxiety. You can also draw on it to help calm you if you do have an attack.