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How to Stop Panic in Its Tracks

The method that sends your body a signal of safety during moments of panic.

 Sean Kong/Unsplash
Source: Sean Kong/Unsplash

You know when you see those three text dots and you feel panicked?

Recently I was in knots waiting for someone to reply to a request I had made. This was a different kind of request than I usually make. This was for more than I usually ask for. This request was a stretch, a dream.

The minute I hit send on the text, I felt my body quiver, my heart start to race, and lightheadedness overtake me. I was having panic symptoms. My nervous system was activated and I was in fight/flight. I was terrified.

I stared at my phone, which had zero activity. I then turned to write a post about how I was feeling and my fingers were shaking too much to type.

I was about to pick up the phone and call a friend when I remembered what I tell my clients to do when they are in a highly activated state. I got out of my chair, sat cross-legged on my office floor, and closed my eyes.

I took deep breaths as I placed my hand on my heart. After a minute of focusing on my breath, I asked myself, “Sweetie, what are you most afraid of?”

The answer came tumbling out without any resistance: “of rejection.” I breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to identify the origin of this panic feeling.

Asking yourself what you are afraid of is the key question to ask when you feel panicked.

When your body is in fight or flight it’s perceiving danger even if there is no real threat. The fight/flight response is programmed to make snap decisions about whether you are safe or in danger. It works really fast, and once it determines you are in danger, it is not open to much contrary information.

To calm down you need to look around and list all the ways you are currently safe.

Look around and name five things that are red, four that are blue, and three that are yellow. This allows your nervous system to slow down and take in your environment.

Once you slow down, you can assess that the situation does not pose imminent danger. Your nervous system will begin to adjust to safety and your panic symptoms will decrease.

Once I looked around the room and slowed my fight/flight response down, I was able to say to myself, “You are not currently being rejected. You are safe.”

After this moment I was easily able to return to my work. Have you ever had a panic attack?