When I was 24 I had a panic attack.
I didn’t know what it was, but clearly I was dying.
I was sure my heart was going to explode right out of my chest. Apparently I was wrong, since I’m still here!
Sometimes it turns out that the things in our head are far worse than any reality. Something worth remembering when life feels totally out of control.
I needed something to calm me down…so ‘they’ said.
But I wasn’t having any of it.
Medication can often be the best route for many people, but this day, at this time, it wasn’t for me.
I wanted to find another way.
It turned out, that for some of us, there are some ways to get over the things that upset us, that stress us or that cause upset and panic attacks. Things that didn’t involve a large swig of whisky, popping pills or a visit to a mental health facility.
There definitely isn’t a one size fits all when when life throws anchors instead of lifelines our way. But we don’t have to get sucked into some dim dark place within, with nothing in front of us but an aching void of blackness either.
So how to get over things that upset you, or cause you fierce feelings of panic? How do you move from upset and panic attacks…to peace?
Here’s what worked for me.
Though it didn’t happen overnight. And honestly, if I hadn’t found something that helped me, I would have gladly taken whatever medication was offered after the fifth or sixth, albeit infrequent, attacks of panic.
1. Making sense of upset and panic
There’s plenty of research showing our minds need something to hang on to. Some ways it can make sense out of our experiences…a story that gives the whole experience meaning. Then it can calm down and let go of the really scary stories it’s been glomming on to.
And in the process you are released, for a while, from panic, or fear or just plain old upset.
2. Tap into the power of written words
Writing is a powerful way to help your mind make sense of life. Words have an amazing way of shrinking fear, upset, or panic into a more manageable size. And as you put those solid words down on paper it helps you feel better, much like a tranquillizer at the dash of a pen!
You have nothing to lose my lovelies, apart from a few minutes of your day. Minutes that you could invest in your health and well being. The remarkable thing about you is that you are capable and deserving of so much more than you think you are.
Write about what’s bothering you. Every day for a week or six weeks or more. However long it takes.
Make your writing real, make it personal. No one else will see it, you can throw it away when you’re done if you want.
3. Using healing words
Use your writing to reframe experiences. Be compassionate and empathetic. Write with gentleness about everyday events, with great attention to detail in a spirit of support, and love.
James Pennebaker and John Evans in their book about words that heal suggest:
”Write about what keeps you awake at night. The emotional upheaval bothering you the most and keeping you awake at night is a good place to start writing.”
It allows your focus to be shifted from the pain and anger of upset and panic and moves you into a space where you can feel a positive difference in your life. Your path to a clearer and more peaceful future is illuminated.
4. Give me a break
When babies are overtired all they can do is cry. They can’t fall asleep and they have a wonderful ability to keep everyone else awake too.
Adults are a lot like babies. When you’re overtired you can’t relax. You make the worst decisions imaginable and taking a refreshing, restorative break never feels like a good idea when you’re worn out. Yet, this is when you need one the most…those times when it feels as though you can’t turn your brain off.
5. Short breaks are good for you
We all need to withdraw from a world that won’t withdraw from us, a world that gives us no peace.
That’s when our most important thoughts arise…during those times when our mind is at rest from managing our physical realities. A quiet mind should always be your number one tool against the challenges of fear, panic and upset.
But, as Christian Jarrett explains on his website 99.u.com it is only genuinely relaxing activities like stretching, taking a brief walk or social ones such as chatting with colleagues, that have been shown to deliver end-of-day benefits, and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
So forget about using a break to troll through the internet, or play games on your phone. It just won’t give you what you need to operate from a more peaceful and creative space.
You might never be able to stop worrying or live a life free from upset…but you can reach a state where things bother you less. Where you are filled more often with peace and the joy of living.
Use your mind and imagination for the life you desire, the life you deserve to live, and stop misusing them to produce confusion, upset, panic or fear.
Remember…you are not your thoughts. [Tweet “You are more powerful than your thoughts”]
And whilst you have control over your thoughts, sometimes you need to have a handy tool or two available for the times when your thoughts think they’re in control of you. 🙂
Encourage one another
12 thoughts on “How to Better Manage Upset and Panic”
I totally agree that short breaks are very helpful. It is easy to get into overwhelm when there is so much to do each day. I like to ask myself: what is the worst that can happen if I don’t get a task or done? The question totally shifts my state into one that is calmer.
Hi Evelyn…it’s only when I was writing this that I remembered I don’t always practice what I preach…so I’m on to short breaks this morning. I like your thoughts about what’s the worst that can happen question moving you into a calmer state. Really useful wisdom. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Managing our emotions can be a real challenge but you have really given some great tips to help Elle. Thank you <3
Hi Allanah…thanks for stopping by…I appreciate it. 🙂
Love this, Elle. I respect that you looked for and found other ways to work with your anxiety besides medication. Medication can help, but doesn’t touch the cause. Words definitely help. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.
I was young and thought I knew a lot Debbie! As I get older I discover somehow I seem to know less. How does that work? 🙂
And I’m happy that I found ways to manage panic, anxiety and fear…without medication…and at the same time I’m so glad that there is a route for those who need something more. We’re all such unique expressions of life and as I mention, one size simply doesn’t fit all of us.
Great article, Elle !
Employing the writing of one’s troubles really does help to put things into a very manageable perspective. In my experience, it helps to dissolve the perceived power of the problem which in turn returns that power to its rightful place . . within me not outside of me . . .
Write On, Elle !
Hi Joseph…lovely to hear from you again. As usual you have a wonderful way with words…”returns power to its rightful place…with me not outside of me…” Awesome. 🙂
Great tips here, Elle. Love this line – “And as you put those solid words down on paper it helps you feel better, much like a tranquillizer at the dash of a pen!” Journaling has helped me so much when I’m feeling challenged. Thanks!
Hi Cathy…lovely to hear from you as always. It’s always interesting to hear what other’s use as a way to deal with challenges and I’m glad to hear that writing things down works for you too. Who knew that something that simple could make such a difference? 🙂
Hi Elle, Tap into the powers of written words, that usually goes well for me, it is very effective and it somehow releases every stress i have inside. Thanks for sharing another beautiful post. Great Read. 🙂
Hello Noah…the power of written words. You’re so right. Immersing ourselves in words that expand our consciousness and uplift our spirits is a wonderful way to release stress and take us out of the chattering mind. 🙂