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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Knapp

How To Cope With a Panic Attack When Grief Overwhelms You

I remember my first panic attack. I was scared. Fear engulfed me. The tightness in my chest, struggling to breathe, feeling faint, my mind racing, holding back tears. What is happening? The waves of grief threatened to overwhelm me with emotions I couldn’t control. Silently I cried out, “Lord, help me!”

“But I’m a Christian! I’m a strong, independent woman! I’m not supposed to fall apart, I’m the one who holds everyone else together.” Yet the panic rising in my chest meant my body and mind were telling a different story. It was time to take care of myself by relinquishing control and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to me. 

Maybe this sounds familiar? You’re so busy taking care of all the ‘things’ and all the people in your life that you sometimes feel overwhelmed and struggle under the weight of it all. When your emotions rise up and threaten to drown you in the waves of grief? Where do you turn for help? 

We were never meant to handle it all ourselves and struggle under the weight of our grief. But sometimes handing over the burden to God is easier said than done. We are human, not invincible. Certainly not perfect on this side of eternity. God wishes us to be of sound mind. (See 1 Timothy 1:7) How do you navigate grief to bring hope and healing to your soul?

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” (Psalm 119:50)

When panic threatens to overwhelm your peace, ground yourself with your five senses and thankfulness to God for his promises give us life. Here are five strategies to use your senses to collect your calm once again. 

  1. What do you see? Look around. “Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful sky, the clouds, the trees, the flowers. Thank you for your creation.” “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7)

  2. What do you hear? Concentrate. Listen. “Thank you, Lord, for the sounds of nature, the birds, my neighbourhood, and music.” “Blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16)

  3. What do you smell? Take a deep breath. Slow it down. “Thank you, Lord, for the breath in my lungs, the scents of my life, my home, my world.” “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6) 

  4. What can you touch? Touch something. Feel the solid earth below your feet. “Thank you, Lord, for my fingers, feet, and body that works miraculously” “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see.” (Luke 24:39)

  5. What can you taste? Lick your lips. Kiss your kids. Have a drink of cool water. “Thank you, Lord, for the sweet, salty, bitter, and sour tastes of life that you have made for me to enjoy.” “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)

You can do this exercise anywhere, anytime to calm your nervous system and slow the rising panic within. Breathe deeply as you count to three or four and release slowly. 

Recite scriptures to centre your spirit on the One who brings true peace.

Sing or hum a simple tune to lift your voice toward God.

When we focus our thoughts on God we can stop the spiralling thoughts which threaten to overwhelm us and stop a wave of grief and panic in its tracks. When we focus on the unshakable hope that we have in our salvation through Jesus, we continue to bring healing to our grieving hearts. 


Abba Father, Thank you, for the many blessings in my life. Thank you for the gift of a sound mind and your Holy Spirit which brings peace to my soul. Help me to remember your promises when my fearful thoughts threaten to overwhelm me. Your words bring me peace from my fears and wholeness for my body and mind as I hand my burdens to you, trusting in your mighty strength. Thank you for your healing scriptures and the unshakable hope I have in my salvation through Jesus. Amen.

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