Five Easy Ways to Outsmart a Panic Attack

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I had three panic attacks this week. One occurred in the middle of the night in my homegirl’s crib while I was in underwear and a hanes ribbed tee. That one was fun because I got to sweat from the heat and the panic while listening to car alarms go off in the distance. The second one happened in the middle of the morning while I was getting ready to chill with one of my writer camaradas. I texted her a mini poem about my panic attack and I think my panic attack got pissed off and just went home. The third one happened this morning in the middle of a rush hour mob of grim-faced people on their way to work. So I hustled my chunky ass right back around and stripped off my clothes and doused myself in lavender oil and dealt with it like a grown up. Sana, sana, culito and all that jazz.

Pero like, I mean, there are ways to dodge and dip past the bullshit. SO I’ve compiled a muy scientific blog post with todos los facts about how to Outsmart a Panic Attack.

5. Flip up the collar on your shirt or jacket.


Panic attacks like to consider themselves the coolest kid on the block. By flipping up your collar, you’re saying ‘Hey, I’m the Tom Cruise in this group of fly bois, sucka’. That panic attack will run home so fast you’ll be singing “Highway to the Danger Zone” in no time!

4. Start talking to it in English and then flip into Spanish and then speak again in English.



When a panic attack comes up to you ready to engage in some mental health harassment, flip yo lingo man. Going from English to Spanish and back again to English is like the craziest thing you can do to anyone, especially a panic attack. I mean, it literally confounded and enraged an entire comments section on my friend’s XoJane article. Ay caramba, man, get away from me, coño! See everyone es muy confused now.

3. Pat it on the butt, like mad casually.

You ever just been like chillen with someone and then they pat you on the butt? No, of course not, cuz if that happened you’d probably leave on some creeped out I hope they don’t follow me home type of shit. Cuz people don’t pat each other on the butt unless they’re wearing silver leggings and helmets and chasing a ball down a field. Then it’s normal.

a little ass and a happy tap

a little ass and a happy tap

2. Tell it that you’re pregnant and that it’s probably the father.

Nothing fucks up a panic attack’s day like being told it’s the daddy of your anxiety baby.


and without further ado, the number way one way is

1. Say ‘I see you. I know what you are. I can handle this. You have 5-10 minutes. The rest of the day is mine’.

I did that today. Still cried, still felt mad weird, and then it was over. And now the day is mine again and I know more will come but I also know that every time I acknowledge what is happening, the next one is easier. Ain’t no thang.


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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.


  1. And now I’m feeling weird in that way that happens when I just love somebody so much who I have only ever read on the internet – a feeling induced by AS regularly. <3

    • it is but not when you’re wearing two polo shirts at the same time. i forgot to add that note.
      also thanks so much

  2. I dunno if it’s a straight girls thing or what, but yeah no I have totally had friends (plural! more than one of them!) randomly slap me on the butt.

    • When I thought I was straight this was totally a thing my friends and I did. Looking back, we were all very touchy basically all the time? And now I’m less touchy because I don’t want to make any of my lady friends uncomfortable, but the touchiness is definitely coming back now that my queerness is loosing its newness, I think.
      Anyway I highly recommend platonic butt grabbing between friends, it is always hilarious.

  3. I don’t remember how I figured these out and I don’t know why they calms me down but here is my list:

    1.Put on a hoodie (hood up) and sing “I’ll be your everything” from inspector gadget. Think about the terrible white boy dances that happened in that video.

    2.Curl in a corner and imagine that I cohost a cooking show with Rachel Ray.

    3. Listen to the A*Teens.

    4. Pretend I’m James Bond.

    And the usual isolate myself: find a small-ish dark, enclosed area and focus on my breathing.

  4. I have a Spotify playlist entitled “Be Quiet You Noisy Brain”. It’s mostly ambient music and post-rock. It’s highly effective.

  5. I wish I knew how to explain what I do when I feel a panic attack coming on (or a blushing attack – a real thing that is incredibly humiliating, when you are talking to a random person and start to blush furiously for no reason whatsoever, then blush harder because you are embarrassed that you started blushing) because it’s really helpful, but I don’t know how to describe it. It’s kind of like I consciously release the tightness in my chest and let my body fill with calm and wellbeing. Sort of like a mini express-meditation.

    Also: “gabrielle has written 70 articles for us.” Whaaaaat? That number can’t be right. Either that or each of your articles has had the presence and impact of 10 normal articles, which I suppose is entirely plausible.

    • there was a Grey’s Anatomy episode where one of the patients had a blushing condition. I totally empathized with her (and you) although for me it is not blushing but crying. Not that it’s the same thing or that either of us aren’t totally normal, but dang it stinks to visibly lose one’s composure, and make other people uncomfortable because of it, and be known for that because it happens so often.

        • i feel uncertain as to why that didn’t work properly since i copy-pasta real good, but whatevs. link still shows up, so it does the job, i guess.

        • thanks for linking that–I got to the bottom of the article and was like “oh! lindsay king-miller. no wonder that was a good article!” she made some really good points. (hopefully, too, having read it will prove distracting enough from my 5am bout of crying that I can go back to sleep without feeling the need to apologize to myself for having emotions and taking up space. …even if I think 5am is kind of a stupid time for that to happen.)

        • :/ i hope it was happy stuff and not sad stuff. or at least like a sampler plate, so there was some happy in there.

    • whaaaat, that’s like the sweetest compliment ever.

      the blushing attacks sound like a good queer screamo band btw.

      having them as a condition tho, probs sucks so bad. here all my hugs in one X

    • and on this comment, i will go to sleep w a big ass smile on my face and know that i should keep writing about things. xoxo

      • Keep writing forever! I even follow you on ig because I love your posts. Also you should maybe someday write about cool things to do and see in New York because I’m a California kid that moved to Connecticut last year and I love visiting New York but I don’t know what to do once I’m there. The end, have a nice day!

  6. I’m lucky that I’ve not had one for a while. But I still haven’t found a way to talk myself out of them; even though I know what it is, sometimes I just can’t get a handle on them.

  7. Panic attacks ruled my life for quite some time. I thankfully haven’t had a full-blown panic attack in years, but I’m still trying to break up with my panic- we’ve been in an abusive relationship for nearly 15 years, and I can’t seem to get away from it. My panic was my best friend, my lover, my life.

  8. Aside from classic breathing exercises, I find ASMR videos calm me down pretty well (if I have access to them). And magnesium supplements for that night time panic that keeps you awake.

    Fortunately haven’t had a panic attack in a long while!

  9. This was great. I’ve luckily managed to avoid panic attacks for a little while now, but screaming at myself in Frenglish was always rather effective…

  10. I wish I’d had this post earlier in the week. I had a panic attack so bad that I dialled for emergency services. Brain fail.

  11. This is pretty damn timely because I had a panic attack last night. It was one of those wake you up at 3am with ALL of the horrible symptoms, luckily I’ve been working on “talking myself down” and got through it in about 15 minutes. I’m going to pop my collar and speak spangilsh next time and hopefully get it down to 10 minutes.

    • you know just once it’d be nice to wake up at 3am because you won the lottery, or the brownie fairy brought some magical brownies to your bed, or because the human of your dreams was ready to whisk you away to paradise, right?
      damn panic attacks, ruining some good sleep.
      i’m glad you got through it tho. glad you got here. pop the fuck out of that collar.

  12. I nab whichever puppy is closest to me, stroke it like my life depends on it (don’t say that what she said… don’t say that what she sai…THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID! Ugh, dammit), and repeatedly remind myself not to Lenny the eff out of said doggie in the process.


    Seems to work.

  13. This is such a timely article for me. I had a pretty bad panic attack last week and anxiety has been kicking my ass lately. It’s great to know I’m not the only queermo dealing with these kinds of things and that most things feel more manageable if you can laugh about it :)

  14. #4 Can work with pain too y’all.

    Anecdote: Had the horrid cramps of muffled pillow screaming which after my mother gave me the endometriosis talk she should have been giving me since childhood. I recited the Hail Mary into Latin then Spanish and then English until I passed out. The pain didn’t magically go away but I was able to focus on the recitation well enough the sobbing and need to scream lessened. :)

  15. The first time I went to a gay bar I had my first panic attack. I didn’t know what a panic attack was and I also didn’t really know I was gay at the time.

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