When Panic Consumes You

We live in an era of information. We have a near constant barrage of information overload. This overwhelming digital era can bring fear and mass panic just as much as it can bring enlightened education. Knowledge is power, but it is a power that has to be harnessed and used effectively. Just as some panic and fear is caused by the unknown, or a lack of information and understanding, there is also fear and panic that can be caused as a result of having too much access to information or becoming obsessive over the information obtained.

Fear is a primitive emotion and essential to the success of evolution and the survival of our species.  A healthy sense of fear serves to keep us safe from harm and guide us away from risky circumstances or poor decisions. Fear can also become our downfall. Rather than protecting us, it can ultimately be our demise. Rather than encouraging us to live a life well protected, unchecked fear, or fear in excess can encourage us to live a life of isolation, and a life covered in a blanket of inescapable fear, panic, worry, and anxiety.

How do we protect ourselves from panic when faced with fear? How do we navigate situations, circumstances, and events that invoke fear and inspire panic? We find a balance. We rectify our emotions with our logical understanding.

When you feel the familiar sense of fear and panic starting to take hold, when your mind seems to spin endlessly trying to find solutions to anxiety inducing problems that seem to be without answer or remedy, first take pause. Take a moment to first acknowledge what you are feeling. Without guilt, without shame, without hesitation, without judgement, without frustration, acknowledge what you are feeling. Think of your brain as a small child experiencing a moment a fear. The small child runs to their trusted adult and relays their fears looking for comfort. Now imagine that small child seeking comfort is pushed aside, dismissed, ignored, or told that their fears are stupid and unfounded. Will that small child feel better? Will their fears be resolved? Treat yourself with the same loving care you would that small child. “I am scared and that’s ok” “I’m worried about ….” “I feel panicked and I don’t even know why.” “I am anxious and I am having trouble calming down and unpacking my thoughts.” Identify your feelings, put them into words, give them an identity, and speak them into existence so you can then begin to address them effectively.

Once you acknowledge your feelings, accept them as being valid even if they don’t quite make logical sense. “I accept that I am feeling this way.” “I honor my emotions.” “These emotions have something to teach me.” “My mind is trying to send me a message and I am ready and open to receiving it.” Even if a small child’s fears are unfounded we would first accept that they are fearful of something. “I know you are afraid of the dark and that’s ok.” Then, after accepting their fear as valid, we move on to an appropriate solution.

First distinguish fact from fiction. Is the thing I am panicked or anxious about factual? No? Tell yourself that what you are fearing does not exist. Tell yourself that you are safe. Tell yourself that there is no reason to fear things that have not happened, things that do not exist, and things that no longer have an effect on you. If what you are fearing is factual, greet panic with calculated action. Panic is a distraction from action. Panic serves to keep us in an endless loop of anxiety induced inaction. It serves to keep us running in circles but making no real progress. Define the problem or root cause and then begin to find ways of addressing it. Step 1, step 2, step 3… and so forth. What small measures can you take to either solve the issue, or at the very least decrease its effect on you? Not all problems will have solutions that fully resolve what is causing us fear, harm, or panic. But regardless of the severity of the issue at hand there is always some small measure we can take to reduce its impact. We are in control, maybe not always to the degree we would like, but we are in control.

When we are facing a fear inducing situation take a moment to decipher an appropriate response from an exaggerated one. Are the actions you are taking excessive serving to only to amplify your fears, or are your actions appropriate serving to take ownership and control?

In our moments of fear, worry, anxiety, and panic, take a moment to reassess. Take a moment to reframe. Take a moment to recenter. Take deep calming breaths. Calm the central nervous system. Slow the breath. Slow the heart rate. Repeat to yourself a soothing phrase. “I am safe.” “I am in control.” “I am knowledgeable.” “I am not alone.” Relax in a darkened room removing unnecessary stimuli. Take a walk. Call a friend. Distract with something soothing such as music, or a book. Know when to log off, or disconnect. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the information you are consuming, know when it is time to step back and take a break.

Fear is a part of life but it is meant to be used by you for your benefit, it is not meant to be the user in control.

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