• Kristen Stuppy, MD

10+ Things You Can Do to Stop the Panic

Updated: Apr 3

People with ADHD are often overly sensitive or have true anxiety and panic attacks. What can we do to stop the panic?


We all can get stuck in a rut. Catastrophizing is common. When we catastrophize, it’s as if the sky is falling and we lose the ability to cope.


We panic.


Learning to cope when life throws problems and stressors in our way builds our resilience.


Being resilient helps us to be successful.


Let’s look at ways to stop the negative thinking of panic.


1. Lean on a friend or family member.


Most of us recognize how good we feel when we help someone else out, yet we hesitate to ask for help. Why is that? When we’re in need, there are many people who can help.

It’s preferable if you can talk to someone who is at least in their mid-20s. Their maturity can offer many benefits. If you’re not sure who you can talk to, think of the many adults in your life who would be happy to listen. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, coaches, teachers, neighbors… there are many people who care about you.


If you choose to talk to a peer, choose wisely. Some people can’t take the pressure of hearing negativity. Others will shut you out. And of course many kids overshare other people’s business, so don’t talk about things that are private with peers.


2. Mindfulness

Don’t roll your eyes and presume mindfulness won’t help.


Mindfulness trains your brain to be aware of your body and environment without judgement.


Yes, it takes time to learn how to be mindful, but a lot of research shows that mindfulness can help with anxiety, chronic pain, stress, focus, and more.


Mindfulness is often referred to as a practice for a reason. You should practice it often, but there are no right or wrong ways to do it.


If you can’t sit still, don’t. It’s okay to get up and walk while being mindful.


When your brain keeps thinking of things, don’t get upset. Just redirect.


Start simple with breathing. You breathe every day, so you can do this step. Take deep belly breaths. Nice and slow. Focus on the breathing.


For more tips on being mindful with ADHD, see

  1. Forget the Lotus Position: How to Meditate — ADHD Style

  2. Free Guided Mindfulness Activities from UCLA Health

  3. Mindfulness Pinterest Board with many more resources

  4. Calming for your body and mind - a recorded version of a past meeting

3. Journal

Sometimes it helps to get your thoughts written. Even if you don’t like to write school papers, journaling can help.


Grab a pen and paper or start typing.


It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct or interesting to anyone else. You can just make word jumbles or lists. If you like poetry, make it into a poem.


Just get your thoughts written down.


There’s a very cathartic benefit towards journaling.


You can even take it a step further and write down things you’re thankful for each day. Gratitude helps our overall mindset, and focusing on gratitude can lift our mood.


4. Color and doodle

There’s something really soothing about coloring or just doodling.


You can even use free printables like these online if you want some coloring sheets.

And this is something that can be done nearly anywhere.


5. Sing or listen to your favorite tune

Need a fun way to get into a good mood? Listen to a favorite song. Sing along!


Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain. It can also help sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.


Pick your favorite feel good songs and make a playlist that you can pull up when needed.


6. Exercise

We’ve all heard that exercise helps our bodies, but many people minimize the value it has for our mental health.


Regular exercise helps our mindset in general, but if you have the opportunity to work out when you’re upset, it can help lift your mood.


Combine numbers 5 and 6 and workout to some great tunes!


7. Change the scene

If you’re getting worked up, it can help to get up and walk around.


Especially if you are worried you will say or do something you’ll regret, leave the situation if you can.


If you can go outside, even better. Fresh air can be mood-lifting.


8. Think about what has gone right.

We tend to ruminate about what’s wrong. Negative thoughts are all we can think about. We need to learn to stop this rumination.


When you recognize that you’re ruminating, accept that you’re having whatever thoughts you’re having. Recognize that the thoughts might not be accurate and allow the thoughts to pass rather than trying to block them out. Trying to block out negative thoughts will just cause increased intensity of the thoughts you’re trying not to have. You can replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts: what is going right? What is the best possible outcome? How can you turn the situation around?


If this is hard, start to make it a practice to write down at least one thing at the end of each day that went well. Your hard studying paid off. You met a new friend. You had a good hair day. Whatever it is, keeping a list gives you something to reflect upon when you’re really down. Doing this daily also helps your brain practice finding the good in things. Like anything, practice makes things easier. It is really hard to find good things to think about when you’re in a bad place, but it gets easier when you’ve practiced when you’re not in a foul mood.


9. Be silly

You have to use this one sparingly.


Obviously in the middle of class you can’t start being silly, but if you’re able to get to a place that you can do a silly dance or anything silly to unwind: do it. Acting the part can help relax you and set the mood.


Be careful to not offend anyone or be hurtful in your humor and silliness.


10. Find perspective

Run through questions that help put your worries into perspective.

  1. What are you really worried about?

  2. How likely is it that your worry will come true? Use evidence to support your answer.

  3. If your worry comes true, what is the worst thing that will happen?

  4. If your worry does come true, what’s the most likely thing that will happen?

  5. If your worry does come true, what are the chances that things will be okay

  6. In one week?

  7. In one month?

  8. In one year?

Try a Thought Record to help get your thoughts in order. Here’s a completed example and one you can use for yourself.

11. Sensory stuff

Sensory items can help calm our minds. Think of sounds, smells, textures, and visually relaxing things.

  1. Squishy play doh or silly putty

  2. Textured cloth

  3. White noise machines

  4. Chewable jewelry – if you don’t know what this is, just search “chewelry”

  5. Weighted blanket

  6. Noise reducing headphones

  7. Rock or sway

  8. Run your fingers through a bin of sand, dry rice, or dry beans

  9. Aromatherapy – Use candles, diffusers, or scented objects. Jasmine, vanilla and other scents might relax you.

  10. Glitter jar – make your own!

Need more?


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is very effective for anxiety management. Ask your physician to help find a good therapist for you.


If you’re not willing or able to work with a therapist, there are some interesting options to try online. These are not meant to replace professional help, but they help to remove the most common roadblocks to working with a therapist: cost, time, and not wanting to talk to a real person. Learning online might help you see what can be done with therapy and open your mind to finding a therapist.

  1. Woebot is a free app that uses artificial intelligence to teach CBT. It can help you think through situations and learn about yourself with intelligent mood tracking.

  2. MindShift™ CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety.

  3. What’s Up? is a free app currently only available for iOS users using some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more!

  4. NEW! Common Sense Media is a well known resource to assess if a movie, game, or other media is appropriate for kids. They now have a list of mental health apps with suggested ages and rankings. Check it out on Common Sense Media Apps to Help Mental Health!

#anxiety #mindfulness #panic #relax

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