Take charge. Stay calm.
1. Come into the present moment. When you panic, your thoughts break time barriers. You imagine, “This will go on forever.” Or, “Nothing will ever change.” Take as much time as is needed to move your awareness around your body, noting where you are in time and space at this very moment. Breathe slowly into the moment. I know it sounds silly. That’s good. Silly is better than panic. “Breathing slowly as I stand in the airport…I calm my body.” Or, “Breathing in through the soles of my feet, I feel more grounded.” You will actually feel some of that anxiety leave you and a greater sense of control and calm return. I promise.
2. Ask yourself: “What’s needed right now?” Or, “What would help right now?” When your primitive mind says, “Nothing”, persist. Keep asking: “What memory, what plan, what breathing, what comfort would help right now?” In very bad moments, write down the question and your answer. Keep writing until you have some clarity and less confusion and helplessness. It will also help just to remember that, “This too will pass.” At times when you can’t write, say your helpful phrase over and over like a mantra. This literally soothes. When stuck, imagine what you would say to the person you love best. Say that to your own self.
3. Use physical aids. Rescue Remedy, a glass of water, the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping – lots on the web about this). It can help to rest your hands together with hands pointing in opposite directions, palms touching, and to breathe into your hands and push them gently but firmly together. If you are free to do so, go for a walk, run or swim. If you are having a hard time generally, take more exercise, not less. Don’t ask yourself whether you feel like it. Your feelings as well as your physical chemistry will change as you take action.
4. Be deeply sceptical about your bleak conclusions. And so, so much kinder to yourself. When we are highly anxious or in a state of panic, we are literally viewing ourselves – and our problems – from the least sophisticated, most fear-driven parts of the brain. This will always, always, always give you a grim view. Switch that off by switching on your more creative, strategic capacities. Ask yourself: “Who is the person who would know best about this…?” Then ask, “And what would they be most likely to do/say/think right now.” Some people are also helped by deciding what “Plan B” would be. Panicking, there is no Plan B. Thinking more creatively, a “Plan B” will always emerge. Write it down.
5. Pray. This is not for everyone but it helps me. I simply ask the angelic forces to be with me, to surround me, to support me. I see my way into this prayer by using my imagination to visualise angels (in whatever form) and then allow myself to be in their presence. Sometimes I hand over whatever is causing me most distress. It helps so much not to feel alone.
6. Ask for help. Accept help. You needn’t go into how bad you’ve been feeling. In fact, don’t. Just say, “It would really help me today if you could…” Or, “This seems to be a hard day and it would make such a difference if you…” When there is no one to help, stay with your own inner resources. Ask yourself: “What decision would a really calm person make to help them through the next five minutes?” You will be surprised how much you already know.
7. NEVER tell yourself what an idiot you are, how hopeless, doomed, etc etc. If you tap (EFT), you might use a phrase like, “Even though I call myself an idiot, I thoroughly and completely accept myself.” At other times, you can simply say, “I thoroughly and completely accept myself.” Going to war against yourself adds to panic. It does not relieve it. Making peace with yourself brings greater calm.
8. Limit whatever will exhaust you. We all get far more anxious when we are exhausted. Get as much physical exercise as is humanly possible. Also get as much rest as your circumstances allow. Let your standards re everything else drop. Even the essentials can sometimes wait. Oh, but eat well. Eat lots of protein and fresh vegetables and delicious fruit. Do not drink any alcohol. I write about all this in Everyday Kindness.
9. Limit the triggers for panic. Keep every event, outing or occasion as simple as possible. Think about what “Go with the flow” might mean today. Welcome stimulation and positive company. They are great distractors. Hard to chat, laugh and talk – and panic successfully at the same time. Taking care of other people can be exhausting. It can also be a wonderful distraction from ourselves. Oh, and assume in any social situation that other people are far more concerned about how they are being judged than they are about judging or criticising you. And if they do judge you harshly? Sorry: their horrible problem (for having such a mean view), NOT yours. If someone close to you increases your anxiety, you must place limits: “Not now. It would be very bad timing for me.” Walk away, disengage.
10. Write lists. They do help you to see what you have done already – as well as what needs to be done. Strike through all the “unnecessaries”. Add some things that are just for fun, stimulation, pleasure. Don’t panic about what you will forget. Most things don’t matter. You can limit panic about the things that do matter by writing short lists or creating memory prompts (“Yes, door locked, 1,2,3.”). Limit what you could lose: credit cards, money, phone etc etc. Create check lists and checking habits that are simple and reassuring. (“Yes, phone; yes, wallet; yes, baby’s things.”) Give yourself credit for everything that goes well. Write down every day at least THREE things that went well in your day. Pat your back. And end your day with at least five minutes of slow breathing: “Breathing in I know that I am calm. Breathing out…I am peaceful and content.” And please, please remember: Every day, a new beginning. God bless.
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