Standing in the Veterinarian’s office I had just received the news… My cat, Tux, has “severe gum disease”—poor kitty.
And the dental bill could cost upwards of $2000!!! Ahh!! Ok, Kristen, breathe. Tears start to fill my eyes. I’m already starting to feel like a failure as a cat mom. That inner voice takes over, you know the panicked, bleak, self-scrutinizing drill.
Have you ever felt like life just keeps throwing you punches? Are you exhausted by the relentless negative voice inside your head? Are you sick of seeing everything that’s wrong with your life?
Living in Survival Mode makes it difficult and scary to face life’s challenges head-on. You may hide, avoid, and run a self-doubt story loop that keeps you stuck.
How you respond to challenges provides insight into what you perceive about yourself. Are you powerful and able to handle anything no matter how big or small? Or do you feel powerless and stuck on the hamster wheel of life?
When the unexpected shows up it’s natural to go from feeling good to suddenly feeling any number of negative emotions; scared, overwhelmed, stressed, you name it.
However; emotions are simply energy (energy in motion = e-motion). The label you give your experience of these ‘e-motions’ is called ‘feelings’. Feelings are the catalyst for behaviour.
As a child, and into adulthood, if you were not taught how to self-regulate emotionally you end up processing this energy shift in a negative way. You may have developed coping strategies that are not always healthy.
Without being present with your emotions, by allowing them to pass through you naturally, it is easy to slip down the rabbit hole of your story, the worst-case scenario, which leads to (sometimes an epic) FREAKOUT!
If you can relate to this then you are not alone.
Here are 5 action steps to take when you are experiencing any freaking out, that will help you swiftly transition from hopeless to hopeful so you can calmly respond to life head-on.
1. Grab a drink of water.
Dehydrated cells deplete your levels of amino acids in the brain, leading to feelings of anxiety, dejection, irritability, and inadequacy. This emotional dysregulation can make any situation seem direr than it is.
Additionally, when your survival response is triggered due to fear, your body automatically activates your sympathetic nervous system, producing harmful chemicals that deplete your body over time.
In this state your mouth goes dry, your focus narrows on the problem, your brain blocks out any solution, and vital organ function is sacrificed to help you escape the perceived danger.
Drink water to help your body restore and regulate so you can process your emotions in a healthy way and regain cognitive function.
2. Set a time limit.
Allow yourself a specific amount of time for the panic, freakout, crying, yelling and venting to take place. The boiling energy needs to get out in a healthy way.
Physiologically it only takes 30 to 90 seconds for the emotions to run through the body. If you have gotten to the point of freaking out, then you are in your story loop. Story perpetuates and amplifies your negative experience.
Set a reasonable time limit you will allow yourself to freak out and let the energy move through you. Sticking to your time limit will also build self-trust and self-control.
3. Get the energy out.
Call a trusted friend (who will not take on your “stuff”) and outline that you have 20 minutes to vent, not seek a solution yet, you just need to start by getting everything out.
If calling a friend is not an option at that time, write or speak your feelings out loud, go for a walk or move your body in some way.
The important thing is to send the energy out so it is not being repressed or festering and swelling up inside of you. Note: Emptying out often takes less time than you think.
4. Change direction.
Notice that your story has led you in a direction that may or may not be accurate. Start to seek evidence of the contrary to channel your energy toward the positive.
Once you have emptied out, get real and challenge your inner fears (which are likely a story about why things are hard and how you feel like a failure). Find evidence for why that’s not true.
Your brain will look for patterns and gather data to support whatever you put in front of it. Change direction and notice what is working in your life right now.
5. Imagine what is possible.
Our imagination can work for or against us. You’ve already been down the road of what’s possible in times of doubt. Now, start to imagine what is possible in times of faith!
You’ve outlined what is working… and, what do you want? Seek and you shall find. If you are focused on what you don’t want you will get more of it.
Once the immediate panic and freakout have moved through you it’s time to start the process of creating possible solutions in a calm, relaxed and resourceful state.
After my initial freakout, I had to take a step back and thank my little cat, Tux. That experience taught me a lot about where I go when I am fearful and what I do to cope.
She has also reminded me of how far I have come on my own journey, moving from Survival Mode to being in the driver’s seat of how I experience life.
Where, in the past, this would have triggered a spiral of avoidance, guilt and rage; I am now open and able to process these unknowns head-on, in less time and with these 5 simple steps.