You’re choking. You’re drowning. You’re going down for the count. How many times have we all been there?
I’m sure everyone has their own way of coping — or else we wouldn’t be here.
Nonetheless, here are some helpful tips to get you over that hump…
1. Take time to relax and calm down.
It feels impossible to think clearly when you’re flooded with fear and anxiety. A racing heart, muscle tension and difficulty thinking as your adrenalin surges. So, the first thing to do is take time out so you can physically calm down. Physical stress can make all the symptoms seem worse. And stress can increase cortisol, known as “the stress hormone” because cortisol is secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress.
2. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
When you’re anxious about something, whether it’s work, a relationship or your health, it helps to think about the worst case scenario. Of course you’re overwhelmed and your thinking isn’t too rational, so that’s the time to turn to reality. Ask questions, do some research. Get some information. At the very least, it will divert you and you’ll be doing something pro-active, instead of freezing with panic. And you might find out that your fears aren’t realistic or it’s not as bad as it seems.
3. Face the fear — in a safe and controlled way.
Hiding your head in the sand isn’t going to make anything better. It will just perpetuate your feelings and fuel the fire. So look that fear straight in the face and go slowly towards your goal. Take baby steps…maybe one each day. Ask for help and support from your family and friends to guide you on this scary journey.
4. Welcome the worst.
I know it sounds counter intuitive, but each time you embrace your fears, it makes them easier to cope with the next time they strike. Sometimes when you imagine the worst, you realize the fear is scarier than the problem. The good news is that over time, they won’t be such a big deal. And you’ll have the necessary tools to deal with them.
5. Get real.
Fears tend to be much worse than reality. Often you’ll assume the worst without considering the possible outcome of the event. Think about it. Has this problem ever happened in the past? What did you do? What was the outcome? Does worrying actually help the situation? (No. But it sure makes you feel terrible.)
6. Don’t expect perfection.
Absolutely no one is perfect. And if you’re expecting perfection from yourself, you’re setting the stage for disappointment. Yes, you want to do the best job possible. (I have a friend who so wisely says: “Each to his own best ability.”) The main thing is you’re trying your best. And that’s what really matters. Yes, life is full of stresses. Bad days and setbacks will always happen. But it’s essential to remember — life is messy!
Just let go. Take a deep breath (Don’t forget to breathe out!) and imagine a place of safety and calm. For me, it’s riding horseback in Yellowstone Park. A moment of pure beauty and perfection. For you, it might be a walk on the beach, a happy memory from childhood, a fun occasion that still makes you smile. Relax. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you’re feeling better.
8. Improve communication skills.
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness. Just saying them out loud and acknowledging them, dulls the panic. If you’ve got a family member, partner or friend you can talk with honestly and openly, speak to them. If the fear is too big to handle, consider finding a good therapist. It could make a world of difference. (I know it did for me.)
9. Take good care of yourself.
Of course others matter. But how can you be there for them if you don’t take care of yourself? That means getting a good night’s sleep, wholesome meals, and a good walk to clear your head and start the day. Put your best foot forward and then, if something is worrying you, take a break and do something you enjoy. Not only will it help you gain perspective, it will also help you relax, so that you can go on.
10. Reward yourself.
Finally, give yourself a treat. When the dreaded deed is done, celebrate. How about a massage, a movie, dinner out, a book you’ve been longing to read? Even a little “retail therapy”. Whatever little gift makes you happy. You deserve it!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
With gratitude and thanks to Dr. Michelle Payne.