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Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit

by Lisa Jones
Published: Last Updated on 16 comments
Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit

One of the main reason that I started this blog was due to my anxiety and panic attacks. They would come on without warning and absolutely anything could trigger one – once even a kids film, because it mentioned my trigger! To help (along with therapy) I put together a panic attack toolkit to help distract me when I would feel a panic attack coming on.

What Is A Panic Attack Toolkit?

A Panic Attack Toolkit is what you use to help distract you or ease you through a panic attack. You can include absolutely anything you want in it! As long as the items bring comfort and distract you from the panic attack, anything goes. There are no rules!

I am no expert but 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 explaining how you can put together your own panic attack toolkit!

I generally find that my panic attacks come on when I am at home – I’m distracted when I’m out and about. So some of these steps will only work when you are at home. However, I know that everyone is different so there are options for when you are out and about that should also help!

I hope you find this helpful!

Happy Memories Box

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 - Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit
Some of my Happy memories box items

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;

Photos

This can be photos of anything that makes you smile. I have photos of me and Daz, Little J, me and my nan, pictures of me and friends from years ago from nights out on the town, wedding photos, 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. You could include love letters, letters from penpals, notes that you kept from school, even letters that you have written to yourself. You could ask friends and family to write you letters or notes and keep them for when you are having a panic attack. Don’t forget some good inspirational quotes!

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! Here are some of my examples:

  • Having a laughing fit one Christmas Eve when me and Daz were trying to nap in a single bed together (still living at my mums at this point)
  • Bashing our wedding canvas against our freshly painted wall, seconds after Daz said to be careful
  • My little sister falling out of the top bunk bed when we younger – still makes me laugh now! (She was fine by the way!)

Keepsakes

These could be:

  • The ticket for the first-ever gig you went to
  • A cinema ticket
  • A shell from the beach.
  • Your favourite teddy
  • Blanket and pillow

I have bottle corks. Whenever I’ve had an event with friends or family and a bottle of bubbly has been opened (always!) I usually 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

Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit - write a List Of Distractions
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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
  • Have a bath
  • Play your favourite game
  • Do some colouring

If possible, try and put some of those items in your Panic Attack Toolkit so that you have them to hand when you need them, such as the book or film.

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.

Breathing Techniques

Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit - Breathe
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Breathing techniques are pefect as you can do these anywhere and you can start them straight away:

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. It sounds a bit confusing so 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.

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 with panic attacks. These are the more obvious things like;

Conclusion

I really hope that you have found this guide on Putting Together Your Panic Attack Toolkit helpful. These are all things I do that I have found helpful, but this is just a guide so include whenever works for you.

Remember, if you are struggling or having a panic attack please do not suffer in silence. Please reach out to a friend or family member. I have also included some helpful numbers and websites below:

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

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Cover Photo by Joyce Adams on Unsplash

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16 comments

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!

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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 ❤️

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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A Cup of Wonderland 23/07/2020 - 5:50 pm

This is such a great idea. My dog passed away recently and he always seemed to know when I would be having a panic attack and help calm me down but now I’ve been trying to figure up something to help now I don’t have that option. Think I’ll be creating my own kit soon.

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Lisa Jones 23/07/2020 - 8:39 pm

Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. Dog really are intuitive, aren’t they? I hope the toolkit helps you ❤️

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Loren 23/07/2020 - 10:48 pm

Thank you so much for this! Recently I’ve started to experience more panic attacks and i’ve never though of making a toolkit. The Name 5 Things sounds amazing and useful!

Thank you!

Loren | Plaid and Sugar

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Lisa Jones 24/07/2020 - 9:33 am

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having panic attacks. I hope you find the toolkit helps, it definitely helps me. Name 5 things is definitely my favourite, I find it so grounding and really distracts me ❤️

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