How to Handle an AFib Episode

Tips to Get Through an AFib Attack Quickly and Comfortably

How to Handle an AFib EpisodeAn AFib attack can feel scary or uncomfortable, but rest assured that they are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, the irregular beat, flutter, or rapid heart rate will last for a few minutes, and disappear without leaving any residual discomfort.

If you’re feeling new sensations or more pain than you have with AFib in the past, you should visit your doctor to rule out complications or other possible conditions. In other cases, you can learn to lessen the symptoms and relax your mind to weather the AFib episode swiftly and more comfortably.

Learning to Relax During an Episode

Relaxing during an AFib episode is easier said than done. It can be difficult to ignore the flutter in your chest, and it’s natural to worry that it will last forever, or turn into something more severe. If you let this anxiety overtake your better judgement, you may even find yourself in a panic attack, or at least in more discomfort than when the episode began.

If you can alleviate some of the physical sensation in your AFib episode, you are more likely to stay calm and comfortable for the duration. These techniques can interrupt your racing heart and may return your body to a restful state more quickly than mental exercises:

Change Positions

In some cases, lying on your left side can trigger or prolong an AFib attack. Simply shifting your weight by rolling onto your back can bring some immediate relief. You may also find that propping yourself up at a comfortable angle with a couple of pillows to take the pressure off your back and chest altogether works nicely.


If you begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy (both palpitations and your anxiety about them can bring on a bout of dizziness), try sitting in a chair, leaning over your lap, and hanging your head between your knees for a few moments.

Focus on Your Breath

It may seem obvious, but the way you breathe can affect the way your heart flutters – or doesn’t. Slow, deep breathing is generally the best way to relax your muscles and mind, but there’s a specific technique that can help calm your heart, too.

With a hand on your diaphragm (around the center of your lower ribs), take a deep breath and hold it, then slowly exhale while you press firmly down into your diaphragm. Draw out both your inhalations and your exhalations to the count of four, breathing in a circular manner until you feel calm.

Use Heat and Cold

A warm compress or cool towel on the back of the neck or forehead can have a very soothing effect. Alternatively, you can use cold to jolt your body out of the episode: fill the sink with cold water and dunk your face in it to shock your system a little bit.

Next page: using activity to slow your heart rhythm, diet changes and distraction.

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Angela FinlayAngela Finlay

Angela is a freelance writer and blogger committed to learning, understanding and communicating about the matters that affect daily life. From fitness and lifestyle, pregnancy and medical ailments, she has covered a range of health topics throughout her web writing career, contributing to major websites for over three years.

May 26, 2015
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