10 Ways to Use Candles to Calm Panic Attacks in 60 Seconds or Less
Beating heart. Shallow breathing. Walls closing in. No time to stop, to breathe. Nowhere to turn.
I think I’m having a panic attack
Over 8 million people in the UK suffer from anxiety, with 13% struggling with panic disorder.
A panic attack is a coping mechanism when the brain gets overloaded and needs to get rid of excess energy.
I would spend hours delaying the onset and resisting a panic attack, but the truth is, if your body needs a panic attack, you need to let it happen.
Easier said than done, I know!
But you can learn how to comfort yourself and reduce the length of a panic attack.
If you want to have less frequent and severe panic attacks or how to calm a panic attack, so it passes more quickly, you’ve come to the right place.
I understand how horrible and unbearable panic attacks can feel. That’s why I want to share my trade secret:
How to use candles to stop a panic attack in 60 seconds or less.
If you want this technique to work, you need to dedicate a candle solely for panic attacks and have it on hand at all times.
It can be something as simple as a tea light.
If you practice some of the following techniques daily, they will become second nature, which is even more helpful when a panic attack hits.
The number one therapeutic benefit of candles is their aromatherapy properties (natural scents that treat the body, mind, and soul).
Soothing smells calm down an overactive fight or flight response (the excess adrenaline your body produces during stressful situations).
Your body naturally responds to pleasant scents by breathing slowly and deeply.
Scents take a little longer to calm a panic attack because the candle needs to burn long enough to release the fragrance.
If you don’t have a smell associated with a happy memory, choose a naturally soothing fragrance. Lavender candles are a great choice due to their relaxation properties.
Pay attention to the scent and breathe deeply for as long as needed.
The ancient practice of trataka involves focusing on a soothing object. A flame is a brilliant and natural option because the gentle flickering engages and calms the mind.
80% of our bodily responses are through sight.
That means the calming effect of lighting a candle and watching the flame is almost instant.
Looking at nothing else but the gentle motion of the flame will bring your mind to the present, quietening loud and overbearing thoughts.
- Light a row of candles and blow each one out. (Time: 10-30 secs)
For this technique, opt for one candle or a row of tealights. I find using the tealights more satisfying as I don’t have to stop repeatedly, re-lighting the wick.
Set up a station of candles, or place a few in a row and light each one. The action of lighting the candles forces your mind to concentrate on a single activity, stopping your thoughts from spiralling.
One by one, go along the row and blow out each candle. The technique encourages deep inhales and exhales, slowing your heart rate and bringing much-needed oxygen into your body.
You can repeat the process of lighting and blowing out the candles as many times as you wish.
- Switch off the lights and light a candle. (Time: 2-3 seconds)
Relaxing lighting goes straight to your brain, which means as soon as you turn off harsh lights and switch to romantic candles, the mind starts to chill out.
You will start associating candlelight with relaxation techniques, resulting in your body winding down. Perfect when you need to move quickly from a state of high anxiety to smooth, rhymic breathing.
- Note what you can see, hear, smell, and touch. (Time: 1-60 seconds)
Focusing on everything you notice about the candle is an excellent grounding technique to use during a panic attack. It moves attention away from the panic attack symptoms and brings your brain back to the here and now.
Note the smell of the candle, the colour of the wax, and the flickering of the flame.
It brings you back in touch with all your senses. Can you see small furls of smoke? How many colours does the flame have? Can you smell the beautiful scent and hear the wick burning?
Before you know it, your brain will be more focused on the present moment than the worrying thoughts that can trigger a panic attack.
Don’t leave the spot until the candle burns out (Time: 60+ seconds
If you know you aren't moving from one place for a while, your brain can focus on calming down and feeling safe.
Panic attacks often become prolonged or worsen because you don’t know what to do with yourself.
Your body doesn’t feel safe. It wants to change the environment, but thoughts are so noisy you become paralysed by indecision. You cannot make a logical choice to calm your body down.
Knowing that you are staying in one place for a certain period gives your brain a time boundary. It doesn’t have to think, make decisions or worry about what’s happening next as long as the candle is burning.
Sit down, light a candle, and don’t move until the candle burns out.
Okay, that could be hours, so if you either don’t have that much time or the thought of sitting still for so long causes further anxiety, then set a timer on your phone—one minute, for example.
For the next 60 seconds, you are not leaving that spot, just sitting in front of a candle.
- Drip candle wax onto paper (60 seconds)
The simple relaxation technique of dripping candle wax focuses the brain on something calming, creative, and fun. It does take a little longer because the wax needs to melt enough.
Get a piece of paper or something you don’t mind dripping candle wax onto and gently tip the candle.
Watch the wax fall, see if you can make different shapes, and feel the texture of the wax as it hardens.
Make sure you don’t put your fingertips in hot wax! But by all means, enjoy feeling the warm wax before it solidifies.
- Make shadow hand puppets. (Time: 5-7 seconds)
Light the candle in front of a blank wall and make simple shadow puppets with your hands.
You don’t need to know how to make a butterfly or anything extravagant. Just wiggle your hands in front of it to see the shapes you can make.
Experiment with getting closer and further away to change the size of your hand shadow puppets.
If you are panicking too much to decide on a shape, put up all ten fingers and gently fold them over, counting down to zero.
You can count down out loud or just watch and focus on the movement of your fingers.
This fun and engaging activity is something you can come back to whenever you feel stressed out and in need of a short break.
- Listen to the wick burning. (Time: 5-20 seconds).
Listening to the crackling of a burning wick can be the most soothing and comforting sound. It takes our brain back to caveman times when you would be sitting by the safety of a fire, surrounded by your community.
Choose candles with wood or crackling wicks and sit and listen to the sound. If you don’t have a crackly candle, light a candle anyway and play a crackling fire sound on your phone to get a similar effect.
The sound of the crackling wick will shift your attention away from the panic your body is feeling and onto one simple and soothing sound.
- Blow on the candle to move the flame without blowing it out. (Time: 5-60 seconds)
Blowing on a candle is a form of breathwork that takes concentration, perfect for a mind that can’t stop thinking about a million things at once!
Light your chosen candle and gently blow on the flame. The aim is to see if you can move it without blowing it out.
It takes some practice!
The exercise requires controlling and slowing your breath. The effect will slow your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and adrenaline because you are actively signalling to your body that you are safe.
It also forces you to gain some control over a situation, which is particularly helpful when your body feels so out of control from a panic attack.
Panic attacks can take control of your life and determine where you go, what you do, and who you see if they are left unchecked.
Candles are a simple and reliable technique that ground you back to the present moment and lessen your fear of having panic attacks.
If you need a candle to manage your anxiety, check out our range of Soy Wax Candles that are great for your mental health and the environment.
Remember, it’s okay to lose control sometimes, and it’s okay to forget to use healthy coping techniques when you have a panic attack.
But when you’re ready, your candle will be there waiting for you, providing quiet and unwavering support in your time of need.
If you want to learn more about using candles for your mental health, check out the Wellbeing Hub.