NHS Lothian

Arresting your panic thoughts

1 min read

This is a strategy for managing the catastrophic thoughts people tend to have during a panic attack.

  1. Focus on breathing as slowly as you can. Be aware particularly of extending your exhale.
  2. Don’t “fight” the panic – name to yourself that you’re panicking and remind yourself that this is not dangerous.
  3. Remember all the times that you have had panic attacks and have overcome them.
  4. Muscle relaxation – tense and relax your muscles in sequence – feet, lower legs, upper legs, stomach, arms, shoulders, neck, head.
  5. Don’t deny or suppress the thought fuelling the panic e.g. “I’m going to die”. Don’t avoid the thought, but look deeply into it. Question if the thought is a fact, or is it just an opinion?
  6. Write it down – Capture the thought, write it down exactly as you’re experiencing it.
  7. Now write down a more realistic alternative thought. If you’re thinking “I’m going to die”, this could be as simple as “I feel like I’m going to die – but I’m going to be ok”.
  8. Once you begin to feel more relaxed, look at the thought written down and remind yourself that it is just a thought.
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