CBT – Basic Attention Shifting Technique (Mostly Used for People with Panic Disorder, but Lots of Other Clients Like This Too)

People with panic disorder become hypervigilant in monitoring their internal sensations (e.g., “Do I feel light headed?” “Is my heart beating faster?” “Am I going to have a panic attack?”).

Therefore part of treatment is learning how to successfully shift attention away from internal sensations when needed.

We do this using the following technique. Many of my other clients find this technique very relaxing and useful for shifting attention away from rumination.

Here’s a basic version but once you understand the principles you can do any DIY version to suit yourself.


– 5 Minutes Total

– Pick 3 visual cues and 2 auditory cues, or vice versa.

If you were looking out a window you might pick:

– Leaves moving in the wind (Visual)
– Sound of traffic (Auditory)
– Reflections in the windows of the glass buildings across the street (Visual)
– Sound of wind (Auditory)
– Shadows on the footpath outside (Visual)

– Practice 2 times per day if possible. For example, once at home and once at work. You might pick different cues depending on what is available to see/listen to at different locations. Pick out the cues in advance and write them on a piece of paper.

– If you live near nature e.g., a creek, it can be nice to do this at that type of location.

– Initially practice somewhere you feel very comfortable, such as sitting outside at your letterbox or looking out a window. Then go practice in a few places you feel less comfortable e.g., sitting outside of the mall or sitting in a coffee shop by yourself.

– You don’t have to do 5 minutes. You could reduce this to 3 minutes if you wanted (3 x 1 Minute).