Three Simple Ways to Stop PANIC

anxiety emotion fear panic Mar 11, 2021

When was the last time you panicked?

Panic can range from the instant shock of a misplaced phone or keys all the way to the panic at hearing a loved one may have a terminal illness or the panic of a near accident. This is a wide range for one emotion. 

Panic serves a valuable purpose in our lives. Panic gives us a glimpse at one possible future outcome. We can learn a huge amount from this glimpse. It shows us what is important to us and how important it is to us. It can teach us what we need to do to avoid or limit this from actually happening this way. It can show us what we need to know to change our habits and limit that panic so there is not a next time. 

The problem comes when people get stuck in this glimpse. This possible future outcome can be so real that it terrifies and traps us in what feels like a bottomless cavern of fear. When all you can see or think is what you are most afraid of, you have a greater tendency to see that outcome happen. It is like a horse wearing blinders he only travels in the direction that he sees. We do the same thing when we get stuck in these scary fears that trap us and cause us to not look the other way.

Another way panic causes us problems is because of how our brains work. Panic is one word, it is associated with one feeling. Our brains, unless we teach them otherwise, will react to panic in one way. This means that whether you have lost your keys or you have been diagnosed with cancer your brain responds to panic the same way. It requires intentional training to teach your brain that panic is a scale. 

 

Which brings us to our first way to kill panic:

  • Teach your brain that panic is a scale.  I use the Emotional Discomfort Gauge (EDG)™ to help illustrate this process. You can read more about using this tool here. Basically, when you teach your brain that panic can require different responses based on different criteria then the panic doesn’t feel so intense every time. You have trained your brain to react differently to spilled milk on the hardwood floor than it reacts to milk spilled on your new laptop. It is the difference between getting a serious case of road rage and panic in stop and go traffic when you have plenty of time or it’s really not that serious if you are 10 or 15 minutes late. And being able to enjoy the ride because you know it is not that serious.

 

  • Ask yourself questions. Question your feelings. Question the glimpse of panic and fear. What can you learn from it? What parts do you have the power to alter or change? Is this an absolute fact or is there a possibility, even a long shot, that it won’t work out this way?  What could change this outcome? How do you feel about all the facts as you see them? Do you trust this feeling? Is it hiding your own responsibility in what led you to this place? What if you face those responsibilities and make smarter decisions from here? What will you need to do to get the best results you can? And more and more questions. 

The simple act of asking yourself questions and working to answer them switches your brain from that fight or flight feelings part of your brain to your rational thinking mind. The fight or flight brain’s entire job is to hijack your mind and your body until you again feel safe. By asking those feelings questions you can literally force yourself to think rationally and escape the hold your brain has on you. Ask and answer questions, ask and answer questions. This switch will instantly relieve the pressure you had felt while trapped in the panic.

 

  • Think about the worst case scenario.  What if this glimpse does happen and you cannot stop it? What then? What will it change? Can you accept this and still know you will be okay anyhow? What about a year from now… Will you still be struggling with this in this same intense way? What will have changed? Even if you don’t have all the answers right now, do you know that you will soon and this won’t still be an issue next month or next year or 5 years from now? 

If you can make yourself accept and be okay with the worst case scenario happening, you know it’s not ideal but you can deal with it and you’ll live, then chill out. You know you will be okay even if you don’t yet understand how that will happen exactly. This can calm you down and remove an enormous amount of pressure from the intense feeling of not knowing what will happen next. If you know you can deal with the worst scenario you also know you can deal with anything else that happens instead of the worst. This can be a very reassuring tool to use to escape panic.

 

Can you see yourself using these strategies next time panic and fears seek to trap you in their wake? They work. They are some of the greatest tools to use your mind and your emotions together in a healthy way to make them benefit you and shape your future with a healthier outlook. I’d love to hear about your experience using these techniques to kill those heavy fight or flight situations. Share your story with me at [email protected]

 

Enjoy the process as you build a less stressful and panic filled future!

 

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