How Sour Candy Can Calm You Down From A Panic Attack

Anxiety can be helpful in some situations. It can give you a boost of adrenaline when faced with a fight-or-flight situation, or encourage you to pause and think before making a momentous decision. But when your anxiety response is a little too helpful, you can become nervous, sweaty, and jittery — sometimes at the most inopportune times. Thanks, but no thanks, anxiety; sweaty underarms and a sense of dread won't help us confidently tackle this first date. If you're feeling anxious and need to ground yourself quickly, a sensory zap can help.

Sensory zaps have been around for quite a while as temporary remedies to jolt oneself out of an anxious moment. For example, a common trick is to snap a rubber band on your wrist whenever you feel a sense of panic coming on. Some of these tactics are more closely related to aversion therapy, which works to associate an uncomfortable sensation with anxiety to try and deter the brain from panicking.

A newer tactic, sucking on sour candy, uses the same sensory zap method — minus the pain. Its goal is to distract the brain with sensation instead of punishing it. Here's how sour candy might help you calm down from a panic attack.

Calming candy?

Micheline Maalouf, a licensed trauma therapist for Better Help Therapy, posted a TikTok where she advises popping a sour WarHead candy when a panic attack starts brewing. Instead of focusing on your symptoms, your brain will be shocked by the extremely sour sensations, effectively distracting you from your anxiety. All manner of sour candies would likely work, such as Sour Patch Kids or Toxic Waste candy.

During a panic attack, not only are you focused on the anxiety, but you're also spending effort to control the attack. This can create additional pressure and may even feel dire, especially if you're in a public place. Like snapping a rubber band on your wrist, your brain is temporarily drawn in a different direction when the candy's tartness overtakes your tastebuds. You're no longer thinking about how to de-escalate your anxiety, instead thinking about the waves of sour overtaking your tongue.

Maalouf told Insider, "It sort of puts us into a mindful moment using our sense of taste." Toya Roberson-Moore, M.D. concurs, stating that "Sour candy shifts our attention quickly to the sense of taste, intensely, which in turn dampens our amygdala (the feeling part of the brain) and gives us better access to our frontal cerebral cortex (the thinking part of our brain)." (via Health). This allows the thinking part of the brain to communicate with the feeling part and say "Hey, we're not really in any trouble." Intentionally focusing on the flavor may help to further results.

What other sensory tricks can help?

Because the trick relies on your sense of taste, other shock-factor flavors might work too. If sour isn't your thing, you could try something really salty or spicy. However, these candies or snacks may not be great if you need to talk soon, like in an interview or on a date. And if you have a sensitive stomach (another side effect of stress and anxiety), eating something might not be the best remedy for your panic attack. Fortunately, Maalouf offered up a few other sensory techniques.

In another TikTok, Maalouf suggests placing a freezing cold ice cube in a sensitive spot, like your neck. If you are at home, a chilly shower may also help distract your brain. Texture is excellent for your sense of touch, like a spiky acupressure mat you can lay or stand on, helping you to pay less attention to your worries while feeling grounded at the same time. Pressure, such as a weighted sweater, plays into touch too. The sense of smell has long been a channel to produce calming sensations. Lavender and lemon oil are popular options for relieving anxiety — although many individuals with anxiety have already tried aromatherapy.

If nothing else seems to be working, this sensory trick might be worth a try. Tart treats might be just the jolt you need to zap your brain out of its worry-induced state, and scale back your panic attack — one sour candy at a time.