6 Ways to Find Composure When You Feel Panicked

“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

About Fiona Robyn

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  • Er Juzerali

    If you are still falter over keeping your mind quite, how come you think you can help others?

  • :D

    Thank you for this 😀

  • Michaelhoffman03

    because that is the nature of practicing. to understand this basic concept will be the beginning for you. 

  • Carla

    I am most likely to get stressed, crabby and panicky if I forgot to eat. I find that taking a walk around the building and eating a handful almonds helps me put things in context:-)

  • Sometimes just by sharing a story it lets others know they aren’t alone if they experience the same thing. Knowing you’re not alone helps.

  • Gary M. Hucker

    no don’t have another cup of coffee, have a cup of ‘Celestial Seasonings / Tension Tamer’ tea. I’m a wreck and it really helps me.

  • Er Juzerali, consider all the helpers in the world. Is any one of them perfect at everything? Can anyone say they never falter over achieving a quiet mind?

    Reading insights about another person’s process while they’re dealing with similar things to what I’ve been experiencing can help me in that moment. Later, I might be able to help another by sharing those same insights, along with my own.

  • (oops, that reply was meant to appear under Er Juzerali’s earlier comment. Somehow the process of signing in moved the comment to the main thread.)

  • I often take a long time to ‘come down’ from tension or an agitated state. I’ve grown to realize that *time passing* does it for me. But, like you described with Kaspa, I do know that when I’m agitated it affects those around me, so I’m glad to read some tips that may help me speed up the process of getting re-centered. Thanks!

  • Brooke

    The greatest learning and insights come in faltering.

  • You think one needs to be perfect before being able to help others?

  • Pleasure – thanks for commenting : )

  • Lovely to hear from you Kate. Yes, sometimes time is the only way… Hope all’s good with you – Happy Christmas!

  • Sounds good Gary… I’m enjoying ‘vanilla chai’ at the moment, no caffeine. But I also like earl grey in the mornings…

  • Me too, Carla! Reminds me of the ‘HALT’ acronym – look after yourself especially well whenever you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired…

  • Er Juzerali – thanks for your question. All – thanks for your answers. Signed… a faltering human being : ) 

  • Being able to remove yourself from the situation to breathe and regain your focus is essential. I find it hard sometimes to shift my energy mid-stride. Taking a few moments to walk away and somehow change my environment can make it easy for that shift. It can be as simple as saying you need to go to the bathroom, just something that allows you to take yourself our of the space you are currently in (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).

  • Excellent post, Fiona, thank you. I’ve just sent this to a couple of people who can really use this right now. And I know it will be useful to me as well. Much appreciated. 🙂

  • @Fiona, of all the things you should be grateful that you have a patient husband who understands your plight and helps you and understand your panic. You are lucky!

  • Hi

    For me, when I am feeling really stressed-out (to the point of snapping at other people), I try to be mindful of what my current state is and to practise deep breathing.  I also tell myself to let go and not to be perfectionist. After a while, It tends to help in gaining back my composure. 

  • Hello Kelly. Yes, I know I’m SUPREMELY lucky in this account : ) 

  • Thank you Cynthia! Happy Christmas….

  • Changing our environment, even for a few moments, can have a huge impact, can’t it? Thanks Jon. 

  • Thanks for the tips,Mulkurnia. Spot on.

  • Bhaskar

    We try to avoid thinking about something just to give our mind some rest.. for example say u have mentioned in ur post that accepting that i am panicked coz of money…but accepting it causes our mind to think forceably…thoughts like… .what to do to get that money..fill our minds…it doesnt really help right in every situation..

  • Delphinegreene

    Thank you for being here for me to come to whenever I need to get balanced again. My family recently lost our dear aunt and now the past has been dragged up and a lot of unresolved issues have resurfaced making the grieving process more difficult for everyone. It will take time but with the right thinking I will make sure i protect myself from negativity and aim for an amazing 2012. Keep up the good work!

  • Hi there,

    I didn’t write this post, but I felt compelled to respond to your comment. In case you don’t know, my name is Lori and I run this site. I’m so sorry to learn about your loss. I’m sending lots of love your way!


  • whenever i feel panicked , my pulse rate goes up.. its an effective piece of writing .All the 6 ways are quite practical .

  • Miss Panicky

    I get stressed when I get calls and messages from numbers that are not on my contacts. 🙁 🙁 I am so stressed out right now.

  • Elaine

    I try these things… But what if the person you want to talk to about your stresses has heard them over and over again and doesn’t want to hear them anymore? What if the people you want to talk to feel like you should have gotten over it by now and therefore feel frustrated when you’re still talking about the stresses?

    I’m kind of struggling with that.