4 Steps to Derail a Panic Attack

Updated: May 5, 2020

4 Step Intervention:

1. Breathe

2. Recognize

3. Focus

4. Move


1. Breathing: Out of all the physiological processes that happen when entering a heightened state, we can most directly affect the breath rate. Our diaphragm is a muscle that moves automatically so we don’t have to think about breathing, and we can chose to move it on command. When our breath rate increases and becomes shallow, we can modulate the effects of the sympathetic nervous system by slowing and deepening our breath consciously.

2. Recognize: Psychologically, being able to name or acknowledge the process that is happening makes it easier to understand and helps to lessen the emotional intensity. It gives you a starting point, and allows the space to decide to apply an intervention. Realizing or telling yourself that you are not in immediate danger will keep the cascade from escalating.

3. Focus: The increase blood flow to specific areas of the brain create a heightened awareness of movement and anything that may appear to be a threat. Your brain is trying to find a focal point, the threat. Your pupils are dilating and your vision is tunneling so you can find the fastest and safest path out. Panic can set in when you are not able to physically identify a “threat” and can increase if you can also not find a way out.

4. Move: Sympathetic activation is meant to prepare you for any movement that will help in your survival. You body is producing a spike of energy meant to take you somewhere. Releasing this energy helps calm the tension, the jitters and the mind chatter. It also helps use up the hormones that have been released in your body so you can reach a calmer state faster.


1. Breathe: