Beat Panic with P.E.A.C.E.
Stress is a natural reaction to events in our lives that warrant our attention. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, a healthy amount of stress can help with motivation, energy, and overall feelings of purpose and well-being. When stress is in check, effort does not supersede surrender. After we come to a solution and are able to act on said solution, our body system calms back down, and we are able to go about the day with a clear mind and continued ability to connect with joy.
An example of this natural progress of stress > solution > calm would be something like this…
You wake up in the morning and realize you did not have the ingredients for the pancakes you had intended to make. You naturally feel a zing of stress to the question you ask, “what now?” That stress prompts your mind to think of an alternative given the resources your have. You notice you have milk, eggs, and bread. The solution to your problem you come up with is, “I can make French toast instead.” You then go along making the French toast and your body and brain can resume normal day to day activities.
Now, what if you begin making the French toast and one of your kids falls down, scrapes their knee and needs a Band aid. Slightly stressful but you realize you have enough time to get the Band aid on before the toast burns. In the middle of putting on the Band aid, you realize your other kid is coloring on the wall, then the dog is barking, now the phone is ringing, now the toast is burned….and, and, and, and….
Sound familiar? Panic might set in at this point and you may feel out of control. You stop being able to concentrate, get irritated, yell, slam things, curl up in a ball, cry, stomp your feet, and/or shut down. Your body might feel pushed to its limit and you end up feeling defeated. This is just a small, yet everyday example of how panic might take over your day. You may be going through something much more emotional or difficult on top of the everyday stress, which puts you at a risk for feeling panic more often.
Panic is a response to prolonged and unresolved stress, as well as any life or death emergency. The life or death panic is a bit different in that is in response to an actual emergency, so a reaction to remove yourself or others is more of a primitive instinct to get away from danger. Panic in response to prolonged and unresolved stress is more of the focus in this post, since this is a more common occurrence in the life of a mama.
Panic can feel like an emergency, even when it is not. The reason is that the same part of your brain that is wired to react to an emergency does not discern well between a real or perceived threat. It just has the job of reacting, and it does it well. Your body may feel like the world is ending, even when it isn’t. This isn’t to say your feelings that underlie the panic are not real or unwarranted, they very much are. The issue is that we spend more time dealing with the panic feelings, not what is driving it. Once we calm down, we think we are good to go. Unfortunately, that does not resolve the deeper issue.
The deeper issue that drives panic may be linked to a negative belief system about yourself or feelings you have difficulty resolving. One or more of the following examples you may resonate with.
Negative beliefs around: “I am not enough,” “I shouldn’t feel XYZ,” “I can’t handle it,” “They are making me feel bad,” “I don’t have any control,” “I should know XYZ,” “I am inadequate.”
Underlying feelings of: powerlessness, uselessness, sadness, grief, loneliness, exhaustion, fear, rejection, insecurity, helplessness, worthless, inadequacy, insignificance, embarrassment, humiliation, disappointment, betrayed, let down, anger, and shame.
If we look at the French toast example above, what might be underlying the panic is a negative belief of being inadequate, and feelings of powerlessness and shame. When a certain threshold is passed, this belief system is triggered, and the result is feeling out of control and desperate. Desperation then leads to desperate behaviors, which look out of proportion to the situation.
It can be hard to recover from a panic episode. Our body needs time to relax and our brain must come back to full functioning before the panic feelings fully go away. The way to help yourself is two-fold and can be resolved through the acronym P.E.A.C.E.; Prevention (P) and Intervention (E, A, C, E).
1. P> Prevention: If we want to change something, we need to first realize why something happens in the first place. Taking time to journal, self-reflect, meditate, or read a self-development book is essential to discovering what your underlying beliefs and emotions are. Once you understand your narrative that lies subsurface to your panic, you have an opportunity to heal the pressure that keeps panic rising in you.
2. E> Emergency (if any): If there is an emergency, deal with it. You don’t have to think about it. Trust that your body and brain know what to do. You can rely on your primitive instincts to respond to danger here. If you are unsure if the moment is an emergency, ask yourself, “is this a life or death situation?” Hint: if you have time to ask yourself that question, it probably is NOT an emergency.
3. A> Accept: This is where you get to take a deep breath and be present with your circumstances instead of resisting them. Resistance feels threatening to the brain. In acceptance, you release the need for control of everything and instead refocus on what your can control (YOURSELF). You can acknowledge any underlying feelings or narratives your have previously discovered in prevention.
4. C> Change: Good news is that once you find out what is underlying panic, you can change it. If the belief underlying panic is “I can’t handle it,” you might come up with a few affirmations that are soothing or correct the belief to a new and more positive one; such as, “I am only in control of myself, and I trust that all will work out in its divine timing.”
You may have underlying feelings of grief, resentment, guilt, or many others.
MAMA, FEEL THOSE FEELINGS!
The only way to work through feelings is to allow for their natural progression from beginning to middle to end. Most of us are taught to stuff emotions, that they are bad, or that having them means you are needy, clingy, or too much. If this resonates with you, go back up to the Prevention step and understand where the story around emotions came from.
5. E> Express: Talk about your underlying feelings and beliefs. Shame is a strong motivator for panic. Shame exists in secrecy. The more you talk about what is really happening for you underneath the surface of panic, the less of a grip shame can have. You can journal or do something creative that allows for your truth to exist somewhere other than your body. Finally, self-nourishment is a form of expression. Letting go of what no longer serves you, releasing control, not picking up an old story or habit, asking for help, taking a break, and receiving love and support from others are all forms of self-nourishment that restores your body and mind back to its calm state.
PEACE to all who read this.