themighty logo

I Didn’t Think This Surprising Panic Attack Treatment Would Work


I remember sitting in my psychiatrist’s office as she explains to me what a panic attack is — hyperventilation to get oxygen to your blood, a racing heart to rush the oxygenated blood to your muscles, and your body is numb from lack of oxygen. It made sense.

Until she brought up running in place while I practiced my grounding (also known as breathing exercises). Anyone who knows me knows I don’t even run for real fire drills, let alone the one going off in my mind. She had to be kidding.

I left that session with a good chuckle, not feeling able to wait to tell my brother this nifty new trick. (I know it’s hard to tell, but I’m being very sarcastic there).

Anyway, we all know that saying, “don’t knock it ’til you try it?” Well… they’re not kidding.

About a week later, I found myself having a panic attack at my old job. Normally, I’d rush to the bathroom so no one would notice. However, this time, something made me take my psychiatrists advice — totally not the fact she’s a professional.

I didn’t run, but while I did my breathing exercises, I filed. I’m only 5 feet 1 inch, so I need a step stool half the time to do this. It’s basically cardio and leg day all in one. And I hate to admit I was wrong… but I was wrong. The weird “new trick” from my professionally trained psychiatrist actually worked! Who would have thought? Turns out, any kind of movement that’s considered exercise while having a panic attack works. Why? To help our oxygenated blood pump faster to our muscles.

What goes on in our brain is “fight or flight mode,” and you can either fight it and show it who’s boss, or you can run. The latter is the easiest option, which I still choose sometimes. However, I’m definitely glad I did give my “pretend you’re Indiana Jones running from the bad guys inside the Temple of Doom” trick a try.

I hope this exercise trick can help someone else. And if Indiana Jones isn’t your thing, maybe try pretending to be a Jedi Master fighting a powerful Sith… or whatever floats your boat! Just make sure you’re moving while you’re doing breathing exercises.

Getty Images photo via m-gucci