Managing Panic Attacks: Ride The Wave of Panic

December 19, 2012 Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Learn how managing a panic attack like a wave helps prevent the panic attack from consuming you. Here’s an simple, effective method for managing panic attacks.
The feeling of an oncoming panic attack is like a wave; managing the panic attack seems hopeless. It begins by lapping at your feet, or at the outermost portions of your brain. Oh no, what if I get anxious right now.

Oh no, I don't want to feel this way! Oh no!

Then, that wave of panic acts like a vacuum, taking all of your skills and knowledge with it as it builds momentum. You forget who you are, what you can do, that you can do something, who is on your side, and sometimes you forget which way is up as the anxiety sucks the energy out of you. The terror is building, and alone you brace yourself, cover your face with your hands, and curl into a ball.

The last thing you think before it crashes down on you is, I can't live this way.

During these times, what is the best way to manage a panic attack?

How to Manage a Panic Attack

Ride the wave of panic.

Rather than brace yourself in resistance to the forces of the wave of panic, what would happen if you went with it? Most of the time, those of us who suffer anxiety worry that "going with it" will have the anxiety overcome us; that we'll go off a cliff somewhere and never return. But that is not what happens. It is the opposite.

Ride the Wave of PanicThis is what happens when you ride the wave of panic...

The panic attack is shorter and far less terrifying. It wouldn't take days to recover from the after-effects of panic. You won't be completely exhausted, re-planning your life, or reaching for medicine. You'll be calmer and confident. You'll handle the next panic attack better.

Here is how to ride the wave and manage a panic attack:

1. Don't be afraid. If you think of it as an Panic Wave, you know it is temporary. You've done it before, you can do it again. Not being afraid will take the power away from Anxiety, who needs you to be afraid for it to exist. Let it flow over you, so it can keep moving and go away faster.

2. Move. Moving helps your mind and body stay empowered. Moving feels like you are doing something and it gives the adrenaline something to do, rather than just terrorize you. Pace the floor, walk around the house, go outside for a walk. Just move your body.

3. Talk. Anxiety held inside of you has more power. Stay with people, call someone, or talk out loud to yourself. Say aloud all of the thoughts in your head. Even if they are irrational. This takes the power away from them. It gets them out of your mind. Say what you feel. Don't worry about how you sound. Allow it all out.

4. Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. You can do it. This won't last. When we panic and have trouble breathing, mostly we are forgetting to exhale. Try to exhale slowly. It will help regulate your breathing.

5. Feel empowered. Keep faith and trust in yourself. You got this. When you start to feel the panic attack wane, have confidence in yourself that you did it. Shake your body to let the rest of the energy out, (like you're shaking water off your hands.)

Enjoy the relief.

Did you ever feel panic like a wave?

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APA Reference
Lobozzo, J. (2012, December 19). Managing Panic Attacks: Ride The Wave of Panic, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

September, 6 2017 at 1:51 am

Thanks for this.
I'm actually just in the middle of a mini-panic attack and I didn't know what to do. That's when I found this post and it really did help me get my mind in order.
When I'm having a panic attack I suddenly forget all the tools I learned to use against it - like breathing and telling yourself "it's okay... it's just a wave, it'll pass."
But when I read this it brought back my confidence that I can do this.
So... really, thank you (:

Springdale Clinic
March, 29 2013 at 10:37 am

Great Article, very useful tips to overcome the situation. Panic attacks and panic disorder are treatable conditions. They can usually be treated successfully with self-help strategies or a series of therapy sessions.

Panic Attack Treatment » Managing Panic Attacks: Ride the Wave of Panic
January, 9 2013 at 4:09 am

[...] you regularly experience panic attacks it is important to realise that even though they are unpleasant, they are only temporary. You will [...]

Dr Musli Ferati
January, 2 2013 at 3:07 am

Panic attack as terrifying anxious disorder indicates most stressful experiences for both: patient who suffer from panic attack and psychiatric team whose professional engagement is to cure this illness mental condition. Therefore your five behavioral-cognitive recommendation on managing the hit wave of fear are welcomed in satisfying psychiatric treatment of panic attack. Indeed fear presents our inherent experiences, which one in easy form is beneficial for our sensitive psycho-social state. Thus, we protect oneself from unfitness impulses which ones might damage our global welfare. But, in critical level of this inner fear, we may to feel a disturbing fear with more somatic and emotional symptoms. This involution of uncomfortable signs that come on as wave sea always constrains the psycho-physic power that are necessary to overcome daily difficulties. This and others bad consequences of panic attack are the reasons for an appropriate psychiatric treatment of this anxious illness. Assistance of your genuine experience completes the complex therapeutic approaching of panic disorder.

December, 29 2012 at 1:28 pm

I love this article. Thank you. Will share.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 29 2012 at 9:26 pm

Thank you, Lily, much obliged!

Managing Panic Attacks: Ride The Wave of Panic | ISO Mental Health & Wellness |
December, 25 2012 at 5:17 pm

[...] The Feeling of an Oncoming Panic Attack When the panic attack comes, it often comes in a wave. It begins by lapping at your feet, or at the outermost portions  [...]

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