All that fear and all that pressure…

I’m thinking we probably have some newcomers to the world of overwhelming anxiety. Panic is a no win kind of game, but there a few cheat codes. Since I’m an old pro and a real darling, I’m going to clue you in.

Full disclosure, none of these are a cure. Anxiety is a fucker and you should definitely seek professional advice if you are worried about your mental health. However, none of these calming hacks will do you any harm & so you can totally give them a bash. They might buy you a little temporary peace or even just knock the steam off your panic attack.

Gratitude Lists

I know that sounds wanky, but bear with me. Sometimes when I’m dealing with that grinding, slow burn type of anxiety this can be helpful. I go through things I’m grateful for in my head. It can be anything. Often I’ll do the simple I have a warm house, comfy bed, not being pursued by the mob type of thanks giving. Other times I’ll get specific about factors that mitigate whatever I’m worrying about. Either way it switches my head away from catastrophising for a minute & lets me catch a breath.

Slow Sips

If you’re wholesale panicking, slowly taking small sips from a bottle can help. It forces you to regulate your breathing, which can ease the physical symptoms of a panic attack. Thus giving you an opportunity to stave off a really bad episode.

Waves of Sound

Get yourself a sound machine app. Lying awake all night feeling scared is awful. Waves, thunder storms, pouring rain are all rather soothing. This can also be helpful via earphones if you’re feeling freaked out in a public space.

Waves on Scottish beach

Play it Out

On a similar note I like to prepare playlists of songs that I know will be good for certain situations. For instance I have calming bedtime tunes, waiting somewhere stressful songs, help me do these things that need to be done lists and so on.

Child’s Pose

I know yoga isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it does work for me. Child’s pose in particular is very helpful for chilling my body out and making my brain stop for a minute. You can access loads of good yoga vids on YouTube. It’s worth a try to see if anything helps you feel more ok.

Repeat Yourself

This probably sounds a little dumb, but it can be surprisingly effective. In moments of panic/fear simply repeating a reassuring phrase can help. I usually go for ‘you’re ok’. The repetition and saying the words out loud has an impact.

Text ‘you’re ok’ repeated on pink & green swirly background

Hide

This probably sounds even more daft. Again, it can work. Taking yourself to a small, safe space can reduce your body’s desire to flip out. I’ve taken myself into my tiny home office & given myself a minute many a time. Being somewhere that I know no one can see me or even know I am there is great for combatting rising panic.

Dark & Loud

When the world is really too much, blocking it out us the way to go. Find yourself a dark room, get comfortable and turn some beloved music up really loud. Assaulting the senses like this aids a positive disconnect from whatever is distressing you.

Write

This one obviously works for me. Getting the terror out of your head and onto the paper/screen is a lifesaver. Something about making those words concrete rather ever growing worries is hugely cathartic. Give it a try.

This week I have been mostly…

recovering from surprise surgery. So, what do you listen to keep calm when the dr in a&e says ‘we’re going to operate right away’?

  
First stop was a little John Lennon introspection via The Beatles with Across the universe. This song has always held a calming magic for me. I completely identify with the notion of words ‘possessing & caressesing’ . In times of crisis I often turn to words, be it writing, reading or soothing lyrics. Naturally I got a bit scared when the dr’s started making rapid decisions & letting Lennon’s words drift over me really helped. 

You can always rely on Massive Attack for an epic chill out tune. My favourite take a deep breath song of theirs is Teardrop. I love the repetitive, grounding percussion that runs throughout. Repitition is mirrored in the lyrics which further offers a steadying hand. The rest of the musical arrangement feels like being emerged in a hot bath. 

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen was the next call up for operation no panic attack. Cohen’s steadfast vocals slowly unraveling a story captures my thoughts & prevents them from wandering into worry. The imagery of the river in the song also lulls me into a gentle place. Suzanne allows me let my breath ebb & flow like a peaceful stream. 

Hysteria averted & procedure complete I woke up feeling in need of a boost. Being stuck in a hospital bed, music once again came to my rescue. 

  
In search of a defiant sounds, I of course turned to Robyn. Dancing on my own  has long been my just do you jam. When confronted with yet another hospital room, you need a little mental boogie. The song isn’t actually particularly upbeat, but I like the concept of just saying ‘fuck it’ & rocking the dance floor all by myself. 

What better way to convince yourself that your emergency procedure was no big deal than singing along to Bobby mcferrin? Any reggae style tune has a sunny bounce, but come one, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ is right there in the lyrics. I have been telling myself everything was ok with the aid of this song since I was kid. It still works.