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How To Distract Yourself From A Panic Attack

by Lisa Jones
How to distract yourself from a panic attack

One of the main reason that I started this blog was due to my anxiety and panic attacks.

Throughout my anxiety and panic attack journey, along with therapy I have learned a few hints and tips on how to distract myself from a panic attack. So I thought that I would put together a little guide to help others.

I hope you find this helpful.

Happy Memories Box

I have a happy memories box and in this, I keep a selection of things that I can look through when I start feeling a panic attack coming on. The sort of things that I have in this box are;


This can be photos of anything that makes you smile. I have photos of me and Daz, baby J, me and my nan, pictures of me and friends from years ago from nights out on the town, Chris Hemsworth 😍 Pick ones that mean something to you and spark good memories.

Letters And Notes

I have love notes that Daz has written to me over the years but it can be letters that you have written to yourself. You could ask friends or family to write you something.

Happy Memories

Sometimes you have happy memories or times that have made you laugh but don’t have photos. For these memories, I have simply written them down on a piece of paper so that I can read through them when I’m feeling anxious. They can be really silly things, but as long as they make you laugh or smile, that’s the main thing!


This could be the ticket for the first-ever gig you went to, a cinema ticket, a shell from the beach. I have bottle corks. Whenever I’ve had an event with friends or family and a bottle of bubbly has been opened I always try to make sure that we write the date, event and people present on the cork and I keep them all in a box so I can look through them when I want to remember the good times.

Fragrance And Smells

Do you ever smell your favourite perfume or aftershave and it instantly takes you back or reminds you of someone? Well, this can be great for including in your happy memories box. Just pop a spray or two on a piece of tissue or cotton wool and every time you open the box you’ll be greeted with the smell. And it can be any kind of smell that you want. For example, my mum uses tumble dryer sheets and whenever I smell them it reminds me of my mum.

Collage of 4 photos from my happy memories box to distract from a panic attack. 1. of me and Daz pulling faces at the camera. 2. my box of corks. 3. Ed Sheeran ticket. 4. love notes from Daz - How to distract yourself from a Panic Attack
Some of my Happy memories box items

List Of Distractions

Sometimes when you’re in the moment and about to have a panic attack you can forget the things you need to do help you, so its worth having a list. For example, these things could be;

  • Read a book
  • Listen to music and dance
  • Put your favourite film on
  • Go for a walk
  • Call your mum/dad/sibling/friend/spouse

Breathing Techniques

Personally breathing techniques do not work for me but I wanted to include them as everyone is different and you might find that these help you;

Alternate Nostril Breathing

To do this you need to cover one nostril and breathe in. Hold the breath, then swap and cover the other nostril and breathe out. Take a breath in, hold and swap back to the other nostril. And if that doesn’t make any sense I’d recommend watching the YouTube video on this by Yoga with Adriene.

Deep Breathing

This one is exactly what it says on the tin. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out through your mouth whilst counting to 5. The NHS has a page dedicated to Breathing exercises for stress that you can check out.

The Name 5 Things Distraction

This one is one of my favourites. This works well for when you are out and about or somewhere where you don’t have access to your happy memories box. For me, I find that I start getting panic attacks in the shower of all places. So when I start feeling the effects of the panic attack coming on I use this technique.

First I look for 5 different colours around me.

⇨ Second I look for 5 different things I can feel. For example, when I’m in the shower I would feel the water on my skin, the cool breeze from the open window, the soap suds on my skin, then I run out of things 🤣🤣

⇨ Third I look for 5 different things that I can hear. For me right now, that would be the noise of the oven, the wind in the trees, the birds chirping, Baby J playing with a set of keys (that he shouldn’t have!) and the taping of the keyboard as I type this.

⇨ Fourth look for 5 things that you can smell.

⇨ Lastly, something that you can taste.

Don’t worry if you can’t find 5 things each time, it’s really difficult to do! I do find that by doing this it really grounds me and helps distract me from what I was feeling at the time and stops the panic attack.

Alphabet Backwards

Other times when I feel a panic attack coming on I try and recite the alphabet backwards. For some, this will be really easy but I really struggle! This definitely helps distract me but only because I get annoyed when I can’t do it!!

Other Options

There are many other things that you can also do help avoid panic attacks. These are the more obvious things like;


I really hope that you have found this guide on how to distract yourself from a panic attack helpful. These are all things I do that I have found helpful to distract myself. Remember, if you are struggling or having a panic attack please do not suffer in silence. I have included some helpful numbers and websites below:

Before you go, make sure that you check out my other posts on mental health:

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esmeerodrigo 12/03/2020 - 9:22 am

this came just in time, lately I have more panic attacks then usual. Thank you for your tips!

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 9:28 am

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having panic attacks but I’m glad that you’ve found the tips helpful ❤️

clairelomax2018 12/03/2020 - 3:00 pm

This is such sound advice. I love the idea of the memories and photos etc, something like that would be so grounding which is going to be so helpful in that moment x x

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 4:06 pm

Thank you so much. It’s so easy to forget what to do when you are in that moment and looking at photos is always a lovely distraction xx

Jenny 12/03/2020 - 3:01 pm

This is a really helpful and informative post. Although I’ve never really suffered from panic attacks, I’ve had anxiety attacks before, sometimes lasting hours! Breathing techniques have always really helped me 😌 I love the idea of having a memories box or objects that make you feel safe and happy xxx

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 4:09 pm

Thank you! I find that my mind goes blank when I am about to have an attack so having the handy box there already to distract me really helps xx

Bexa 12/03/2020 - 3:23 pm

These are brilliant ideas, thank you for sharing! I love the thought of going through old memories to distract you and make you feel calmer. Alternate nostril breathing is such a relaxing thing to do, I also learned it on Yoga With Adriene and it’s such a handy tool to know when things get overwhelming. Fab post! <3 xx

Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 4:15 pm

Thank you very much! Memories and photos are always such a lovely distraction ❤️ I really like that breathing technique as it gets me thinking about what I need to do next 🤣🤣 xx

Sarah 12/03/2020 - 5:23 pm

This is really helpful. I used to have panic attacks regularly and while it’s gotten significantly better in the last few years, I do still get this. I will remember these the next time I feel a panic attack coming on.

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 7:50 pm

Oh I’m sorry to hear about your panic attacks but glad that they’re getting better now. Hopefully these will help next time. If I can’t get to my memory box, my favourites are the name 5 things and the alphabet backward. I think the alphabet one works because I get stressed that I can’t do it!! xx

tayepperson 12/03/2020 - 9:52 pm

These are such good tips! I’m trying to work out more and go to bed at a decent hour. But I love the idea of having a box full of memories and good things to turn to when you’re close to a panic attack.

The Procrastinating Mum 12/03/2020 - 10:22 pm

Thank you. I love my memory box, it really does help. Getting enough sleep is super important but can be so difficult to do!


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