Don’t panic…it’s under control!

After a day last week filled with ever increasing obstacles, it seemed to make sense for this week’s post to be about staying in control and reducing the panic!

We explore here some ways to manage the panic when you seem to be having that day – you know, the one where it’s frantically busy and things just keep going wrong!

One fine day last week, I had one of those days. True story – it involved a snake, a fire warning, a 50% discount and 3 unavailable websites!

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So as the panic started to rise during this eventful day, I had 2 choices – to succumb to the overwhelm, or to regain control and  take action.

This is what I did, wrapped up as my 6 tips for managing the panic on days like these.

Breathing is good.

On this day of days, when I felt the panic signs, I took a slow and deep breath in, held it for a second, then breathed out again. I did that slowly for 5 breaths.

Breathing deeply helps get oxygen to your brain. When we are in a threat or panic state, our breaths are often fast and shallow. We are not taking in oxygen optimally, then on top of that the oxygen we do take in is needed for our fight or flight response – it’s sent to the muscles or other body parts that need it most to react to whatever the threat is (perceived or otherwise). Deep slow breathing can help reduce the panic mode, as well as getting needed oxygen to our brain, so that the oxygen hungry prefrontal cortex can start taking back control from the emotional quick response centres that trigger the threat or panic state.

Distract the emotions.

At the same time as I did the breathing, I looked out the window at the sky. It  basically in this case for me helped as a circuit breaker. Because at this point I had been fixated on the computer screen, willing the internet gods to fix the websites immediately. This though, only added to the sense of panic – that feeling of not being able to take control or fix something immediately; not knowing what to do FIRST to sort it all out. Looking out the window was a distraction, a brief one, yet one that could break the circuit of unhelpful wishing or willing something inanimate to act.

Gain perspective.

I then took stock quickly to put things in perspective. Sometimes when we have these tricky days or difficult situations, we can catastrophise – everything is going wrong, nothing is working. This can again fuel the emotions associated with panic or frustration.

So taking stock can help us gain a true perspective, rather than our brains running away with a terrible dark nightmare where everything is bad.

Gaining perspective starts with asking yourself a couple of questions. Depending on the situation, this might be “What IS working well?”  and “What EXACTLY is not working?” or “What SPECIFICALLY is concerning me right now?”. Asking yourself a question helps your logical thinking parts of the brain to kick in, which takes resources away from the emotional centers, and thus helps reduce the emotions associated with these situations.

Gather relevant facts.

Once I had perspective, the overwhelm was starting to reduce I gathered more facts that might help determine the cause of the website issue.

If you can describe specifically what the situation is that is concerning you, then it will often point you in the direction of  understanding other things. For me, my websites being down was  a major issue, yet once I had gained perspective (see above) it identified that I could compare my websites to others to see where the issue was (was it an internet issue or my server?)

Action trumps panic.

Finally to regain control, I got action oriented. “What can I do now to help get this fixed?” (see, another question, and my problem solving brain is alight and ready).

Deciding on a course of action, or even just the first step, can help pull you out of the panic mode. As we start taking action, we feel like we are getting back control of the situation, and that naturally reduces the unhelpful emotions.

Remind yourself.

As I worked through the day’s issues, I needed to remind myself to stay on track. If I felt the panic rise as I started unravelling all of the problems, I reminded myself of my plan for the things I could influence, and gave myself permission to let go of the things I could not personally fix or control.

In challenging situations, we might need to remind ourselves of what we can control, and what we can’t. When we feel they have no control over a situation, we can again fuel the threat state, and our emotions rise further. So remembering that we can influence some things and we are not in control with other things. And sometimes we need to give our permission to let go of the things we can’t control.

So remember, don’t panic…it’s under control!

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