Posts tagged: anxiety

PANIC! Some Strategies for Managing Anxiety

By Katie, 10:48 am

Whenever some unexpected problem pops up, my husband Dave’s natural reaction is to remain calm and slowly but steadily devise a logical solution.

My natural reaction, on the other hand, is to PANIC! 8-O

I’m not exaggerating, either! My heart rate starts soaring, my legs get all jittery, and the wheels of my brain start spinning like car tires in the snow. Not exactly the ideal state for finding a solution, huh?

Here’s a basic example. I’m about to head out the door and realize my wallet isn’t where I thought it was. In this situation Dave would stop and thoughtfully consider where he last had his wallet, and trace back his steps in a slow, controlled manner until it is located. In contrast, I would immediately begin rampantly tearing through the house, tossing random items onto the floor in a desperate search, all the while wildly exclaiming that I don’t understand “how things just disappear.” Guess who would find the wallet first?

Here’s another example. Tuesday night I attended my first class of the semester. All was well until I realized that all of my peers were in on something that I wasn’t. Turns out the professor had sent an email the week prior instructing us to prepare for the first class by reading a few chapters, completing an assignment, and choosing a research topic. Everyone received this email…except me.

I am not one to come to class unprepared. And now, on Day 1, I’m already behind on the reading and I’m late completing the first assignment??? EEK!

The second I realized that something was wrong, my brain hit the PANIC button!

I’m sharing this story because in the past I found such anxiety a little overwhelming, and would often numb the uncomfortable feeling by eating emotionally. But over the past year and a half I have put a lot of effort into learning and practicing more effective coping strategies. I put three such strategies to use Tuesday night.

Strategy #1: Relax My Physical Body

I decided to try using my twenty-minute drive home to calm my body down a bit. I turned on some relaxing music and took some deep, cleansing breaths. I squeezed and released some of my muscles to try to release the tension. Many times this is all it takes to ease my agitation; other times it’s merely the first step of the process. In this particular case, the latter was true. Probably because I was driving, so I couldn’t totally relax for fear of running my car off the side of the road! Had I been at home, some gentle yoga would probably have been effective. So then I tried…

Strategy #2: Insert a Reality Check

Because for me, that’s what that “panicky” feeling is all about: losing touch with reality. I was home for a good thirty minutes and my brain was still obsessing over how I was going to remedy the situation. So I tried this little exercise, asking myself two important questions:

1. Is there anything I can do about the situation right now?

In response, I realized that I had already done everything I could do – I talked to the professor about it (although he had no idea why I hadn’t received the email), and I made a list of what I had missed and would need to make up.

2. Is now a good time to work on it?

The answer was a resounding “NO.” It was 9:30 at night, so I couldn’t call the IT department help desk. Plus I was just too worked up to do anything productive. It was just like the situation with misplacing the wallet – you never find it when you’re all wound up, but as soon as you calm down, there it is!

Having answered both questions in the negative, I mentally imagined putting the issue into a box, wrapping it up, and placing it on a high shelf to be opened and dealt with the following day. Basically, I tried to create a mental barrier between myself and the situation.

Strategy #3: Connect to Something Greater

At this point I was feeling much better, but this strategy is always a useful one. I climbed into bed with my gratitude journal and my Bible, ready to give myself some real perspective. It should be noted that I didn’t do this with the hopes that journaling or reading the Bible would give me a solution (either to the specific problem at hand or to my anxiety in general). Rather, I just wanted a little reminder that, even though my eyes were so focused on the situation right in front of me, beyond that there is a much deeper world – one that in calmer states I am able to appreciate. And that is what I wanted to be thinking about as I fell asleep.

This amazing photo Dave took always gives me some perspective.

Now, we all know that the situation I just described is no big deal. (Although my email is still not working, and hence my assignments are still not completed :-x .) But I wanted to share it anyway because I think that practicing these kinds of strategies in small, non-consequential situations is what enables us to employ them when the bigger problems roll around (which they inevitably will!).

Do you relate to my story at all? Does your brain hit the PANIC button, or are you calm, cool, and collected like my husband (LUCKY!)? Do you have any strategies for effectively working through that state of anxiety and agitation?

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