How To Calm Down From A Panic Attack

This is one of the million dollar question in our community, so let’s take a look at how to calm down from a panic attack.

I know you likely want tips and tricks for how to stop a panic attack and calm down, but could the act of embracing, rather than fighting off a panic attack, be the hidden doorway to “calm”?  Let’s look at true acceptance, and unpack the idea that true calmness emerges not from a frantic search for escape but through allowing and riding out the panic storm.

This isn’t about finding a quick fix. It’s about redefining your relationship with anxiety and recognizing the strength in vulnerability. Remember, every moment of openness to the experience is a step toward lasting improvement and recovery.

This is the third in my “Foundations of Panic” series so come back in the next few episodes for a deep dive into the mechanics of panic and panic attacks, how to best approach them, why they happen, why they’re not dangerous, and what turns panic attacks into chronic conditions like panic disorder or agoraphobia.

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How To Calm Down From A Panic Attack

Panic attacks are often met with a set of standard calming techniques. We’ve all heard them – take deep breaths, practice mindfulness, or focus on grounding techniques. These methods undoubtedly have their place, and for people that see panic attacks as occasional unpleasant and scary interruptions, they can be effective. But in the community of people that develop an intense fear of panic attacks and engage in excessive avoidance and retreat that has serious negative life impacts, standard advice can sometimes be counterproductive. What if we challenged the notion that calming down always involves intense effort? Can we find a different path to the other side of a panic attack?

The Unexpected Power of Acceptance

Instead of resisting the panic, what if we embraced it? It may sound counterintuitive, or even ridiculous, but accepting the fear and discomfort of a panic attack can be a powerful tool. Picture acknowledging the panic, embracing it as part of the human experience, and allowing it to pass through you like a fleeting storm. It’s not about ignoring the panic – you couldn’t ignore it if I paid you a ton of money to ignore it –  but rather accepting it as a temporary part of your reality.

The Biology of Panic

Our brains, marvelous as they are, interpret threats and trigger the well-known fight-flight-or freeze response. While this physical response to threat is strong, feels really urgent, and will make it feel like something horrible is happening, the fight-flight-freeze response is also designed to end at some point. Our bodies can’t maintain that level of arousal indefinitely so please remember that all panic attacks have an ending biologically and chemically built into them. Paradoxically, the more we try to forcefully calm down, the more we signal to our brain that there’s a threat, potentially intensifying the panic or triggering prolonged or undulating panic.

Calm Through Surrender

Imagine a different kind of calmness – one that arises not from a battle fought, but from surrendering to the present moment. It’s about letting go of the need to control every aspect of the panic attack and trusting that, in time, it will subside. This doesn’t mean abandoning all coping techniques; rather, it involves complementing them with a willingness to let the panic naturally run its course without accidentally adding to it. Surrender means turning coping tools from eradication tools into navigation tools. In  surrender we can find calm based on knowing that panic is scary and difficult, but that we can handle that and find our way through to the other side. This is calm rooted in feelings of competence, capability, and over time … confidence. 

The Liberation Of Not Trying To Hard To Calm Down

I can tell you from both personal experience and from the experiences of many thousands of recovered anxious people that there’s a unique liberation in realizing that you don’t always have to try so hard to calm down. By taking a brave leap of faith to treat panic not as its victim but as a capable observer of a natural physical and emotional experience (just triggered at the wrong time), you may find a surprising sense of relief and freedom. I cannot tell you how many anxious people come into this community feeling so excited the first time they manage to let go and “calm down” this way. 

So HOW Do You Do This?

In many ways, the answer to, “How to calm down from a panic attack?” is paradoxically to not try to calm down from a panic attack. The steps here are steps not of doing, but of not doing. Not trying to control. Not holding on. Not resisting. Not running. Not asking to be saved. Not treating panic like a monster that is about to take you down. That’s how we do this, and for the record, exactly NONE of that is easy. Sometimes not doing things is harder than doing things because in this case, not doing all the things requires a brave leap of courage and faith into what will feel like very risky and dangerous territory. How to calm down from a panic attack is about following a simple plan that’s hard to execute.

Navigating The Emotional Landscape

Panic attacks do not exist in a vacuum.  They are part of your entire life and your whole experience. That means that if you’ve been conditioned by your past experiences to see yourself as weak, less than, unworthy, or incapable, then letting go and allowing panic without resistance can be even more challenging and feel even more impossible. Emotions are bound to come up when you embrace this approach to panic attacks. Make room for them, validate them, understand where they might come from, but also keep in mind that feeling weak or incapable because you’ve been told that you are is not the same as being weak or incapable.

Curiosity and Kindness

Consider trying to approach your next panic attack with curiosity and compassion. What if, in that moment, rather than obeying the command to resist, retreat, and escape, you took a chance and allowed yourself to be okay with not being okay? What would happen if you took a chance on yourself and allowed yourself to find the strength baked-in to surrendering to the experience rather than resisting it. The way to calm down from a panic attack is to accept the challenge of embracing a new way, then practicing it while allowing for all the ups and downs that come along with doing difficult things and learning new skills.

Takeaways From This Episode:

  • Embracing panic and accepting it as a temporary part of reality can be a powerful tool in calming down from a panic attack.
  • Trying to forcefully calm down can intensify the panic and trigger prolonged or undulating panic.
  • Calmness can arise from surrendering to the present moment and letting the panic naturally run its course.
  • Overcoming anxiety and panic requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to do the opposite of what the frightened brain demands.

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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)





Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Therapist-in-training specializing in anxiety and anxiety disorders. Author. Podcaster. Educator. Advocate. Former anxious person.