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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!!
There are many other things that you can also do help avoid panic attacks. These are the more obvious things like;
- Looking after your mental health
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking
- Eating well
- Practising meditation (I like the Breathe app)
- Sleeping well (not going to bed at 1 am!)
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:
- Samaritans – Call 116 123 for support 24/7
- Shout – Text ‘Shout’ to 85258 for support 24/7
- Calm – Call 0800 58 58 58 or use webchat for support from 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year
- Mind – Call 0300 123 3393 for support from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday.
Before you go, make sure that you check out my other posts on mental health:
- 14 Ways To Look After Your Mental Health
- What To Expect From Therapy – My Experience
- How To Support Someone With Depression Or Anxiety
- The Changing Of The Seasons