Let me start by saying overwhelm is normal.

It happens when a situation becomes intense and there is no release mechanism. The brain becomes flooded with chemicals and a panic attack can often follow; it’s an expected response to this chemical overload.

When it senses danger, whether that danger is real or not, the sub-conscious brain produces the ‘fight or flight’ chemicals. The logical brain shuts down and the emotional brain takes over.  All the senses are heightened. Everything is too much.

The first thing to do is to remove yourself or the individual from the situation.  Ask for help if you need to.

Once you are in a safer place, do something that will help you rebalance, perhaps:

  • a breathing technique;
  • count out loud from one to ten and back again; or
  • say out loud five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

This will help the brain settle down and bring you back to the now.  It will enable the body to chemically re-balance.

Then, and only when you are ready, go for a walk, listen to some music, chat to a friend.  Do something that calms you.

If a child suffers a panic attack and you’re unable to remove them from the situation, use an object they can focus on, such as a ball they can squeeze.  Get them to look at you or use a visual, and talk about their favourite story or things they like doing.  Use messy play and colouring.  This will bring them back into the present.