“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.” ~Joan Borysenko
I had a terrible morning. I needed to make a short YouTube video to promote my therapy practice, and I thought it would take twenty minutes at the most.
The technology was more complicated than I thought. I struggled on, wanting to do it by myself. Half an hour later, I surrendered and asked my husband Kaspa for help.
Two hours later, we were still trying to make it work.
I started thinking about all the other things I was meant to be doing that morning. A tense knot formed in my stomach. I started snapping at Kaspa—if only he knew how to make it work, I’d be finished by now. Grr!
I finally finished the video (with the help of a very patient husband!), but I was in no state to do any more work. I felt panicky and rushed, and my brain kept talking me through the list of all the things I needed to catch up on, like a stuck record.
Once I allow myself to get into this kind of state, it takes me a while to “come down” again.
After some time sitting at my desk and feeling agitated, I decided to go out into the garden. I walked slowly up the path, noticing the bang of my heart. I looked at the baby pink roses, the inner-most petals still holding onto drops of dew. I heard the clear song of a blackbird. I took a deep breath. And another.
These are the things that help me when I get panicky.
1. Tune in, stretch, and take three slow breaths.
This is usually the best place to begin. Stop what you’re doing. Notice how your body is feeling. Where do you feel tense? Can you sit up straighter? Take a slow stretch, and then breathe in and out, slowly, three times. Imagine the tension melting away like ice on a summer’s day.
2. Take some time out.
If you’re in the middle of something that needs to be finished urgently, you might think that taking a break is the last thing you should do. However, taking five or ten minutes off will allow you to start again with more concentration, and you might be surprised at how quickly you finish your work.
Have a cup of coffee or walk up and down the stairs. Read a few pages of your novel. Allow yourself to unwind.
3. Acknowledge what you’re avoiding.
Sometimes we feel extra panicky because we’d rather not admit something to ourselves. My panic was tied up with feeling a bit worried about money, and once I’d admitted this to myself I felt some relief.
Are you in denial about how behind you are with your work? Are you worried about a conversation you should be having with your brother? Allow your fears out into the daylight, and take some action if appropriate.
4. Put your worries into context.
It’s easy for us to get swept away in the pressures of work or home life, and to feel that not finishing our essay on time would be “the end of the world.” If the things we worry about actually happen, it isn’t usually the end of the world. They might be inconvenient, or someone might be angry with us, but we’ll survive.
5. Be grateful.
Remember the things we have to be thankful for. There are people who love us, and we have enough to eat. We have a roof over our heads. The sun shines down on us, and the earth supports us. We might be grateful to our purring cat, or for the new album we’re listening to.
6. Share your worries.
Find someone to talk to. Talk about your worries, or ask them to tell you about their days. Try to listen to them properly. Focusing on something outside ourselves can help us to see things more clearly. If there’s nobody there, write someone an email, or write in your journal. Write in the comments section below.
I hope this list helps you. Print it out or write it down somewhere, and add your own tips to the bottom. You’ll have it to turn to when you next get stuck on your computer!
When I came in from the garden, I was able to settle to my work immediately. It didn’t take as long to catch up as I feared it would. A lot of the things on my “mental list” weren’t even important anyway.
When you’ve finished reading this article, take a few minutes to tune in to your body. Are your shoulders tense? Is your brain going at a thousand miles an hour? Breathe… Breathe… Breathe…
Photo by TDNPhoto