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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.
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