What do you do if you have a panic attack?

This article was first published on 3 May 2019.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack about an exam, trust us, you’re not alone.

It can be terrifying, overwhelming and isolating, and can be set off by something tiny, such as your favourite highlighter pen running out of ink.

In the moment it can be hard to process what’s going on and know how to calm yourself down, so we’ve spoken to one of BBC Bitesize’s ambassadors, Dr Radha Modgil, to get her top tips.

Dr Radha breaks down what happens when you have a panic attack, and what you can do to feel better during one.
  • When you’re having a panic attack, your body is perceiving a threat or a danger
  • When this happens, lots of chemicals are released in your body
  • These chemicals can make your heart rate get faster, and make you sweaty, nauseous and dizzy
  • When a panic attack starts, try to focus on your breathing - breathing in and out really slowly can help make you feel better
  • You can also stamp your feet on the ground to bring yourself back into the present moment
  • Sometimes focusing on other senses, such as smell, can help bring you back to the here and now
  • If you have a panic attack, make sure to tell someone you trust
  • Also make sure you rest, and take some time out before you crack on with revising again.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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