Surviving Ourselves – Avoiding the Panic Button

We’ve all been there…we feel the tightening in our chest, making it difficult to breathe…our mind tumbling and tripping over itself. Crying Kitty

We try to focus. We know we need to, if we are to get through the situation, or crisis…but it all feels overwhelming and uncontrollable.

So how do we pull ourselves together and face our situation…deal with it, or overcome the moment?

I realize that we are all individuals, with different takes of how to deal with our problems. But are we really that different? We all have hopes and dreams, fears and worries. We all have our moments of hesitation and lack of confidence.

What if we share our ideas with each other…inspire each other…encourage each other? What works for one of us, may just work for another. Maybe you have a strategy that works for you that I’ve never thought to try.

My hope is that if I share a few of my tried and true solutions that work for me, maybe you will share some of your own strategies that works for you.  And soon we’ll all have a collection of new ideas to try the next time that panic button threatens to activate itself.

Scene: You are rushing out the door, leaving late for an important meeting. You jump in the car and head out to the highway, Watching Timeanxiety gripping you. You are going to be late. You watch the needle on the speedometer rise as your foot presses the gas pedal further…further. If only you can get past this slower traffic and manage to make up some lost time…

Solution: This is my toughest one. I hate being late. But even with the best laid plans, life happens. The moment I feel these symptoms take hold, I make myself take a long, slow deep breathe, exhaling out all that tension. I switch my music to something mellow, and mindfully relax my body back into the seat, relaxing my grip on the steering wheel. Then I run the following mantra through my mind: “I will get there, when I get there. It’s going to be better to arrive late then to not arrive at all because I’ve crashed, or worse yet, caused an accident with another driver. It will all work out. It’s not worth a human life.”

I can’t tell you how many times this has worked out…the other person is also late, or caught in traffic, and I end up being there first anyway. Of course, if you find yourself in this scenario every time you head out the door–you need to work on the root of that problem (we’ll cover that in the future).

Scene: The phone keeps ringing, the emails steadily pour in and I find myself hop-scotching from one task to another with constant reminders along the way of a myriad of other tasks yelling for attention in the background. I’m beginning to run in a circle and not accomplish much of anything…how can I possibly get all this done?!

Solution: I take a walk. Yep…no matter what chores are facing me, when I feel myself at that tipping point…the panic button staring at me, I get up and take a 15-minute walk outside. I know this sounds like an impossible solution, but I repeatedly learned this lesson from my many jobs in Corporate America. Every year I watched my co-workers skip lunch, because they were just too busy to take a break. I learned to never skipped lunch, no matter how hectic my day, because I realized over and over again that no matter how crazy my day had been, when I took a break from it and went back with a fresh perspective, it miraculously seemed far less daunting than it had just moments before. I was able to quickly make up and pass where I would have been if I’d stayed behind and continued to work–in that much less efficient manner.

So when you feel yourself reaching for that panic button–stop. Go outside. Use all your senses to experience nature. Singing BirdFeel the warmth of the sun on your face or the invigorating cool air. Listen to the birds chirping and insects buzzing around you, or the silence of a winter day. Embrace the colors of the season, look–really look at the lush, vivid blooms of flowers, the trees swaying in the breeze, the rich, coppery autumn leaves crunching at your feet, the sparkling, pristine snow…take in whatever your day has to offer and savor it to the fullest.

You’ll be amazed at what 15 minutes can do. When you get back to your office, I guarantee you’ll have a better view of the work to be finished, you’ll see a clear game plan and have the renewed energy to attack the tasks with new vigor.

Another Solution (added 10/17/14): Since writing this original blog, I’ve found a couple of additional solutions that work well for me and wanted to share them with you. Although these wouldn’t help you in the work place – they are good at home. When I find myself getting stressed out about all that I need to accomplish that day, I know I need to stop the cycle, but just telling myself that doesn’t always work. So when I can’t mentally calm myself down, I’ve found that making my muscles relax (which are also tense), tends to break the cycle. A hot, relaxing shower (even if it’s a short one) relaxes those shoulders and back muscles and the water running over my body is good therapy. Also, laying down with a warm heating pad across my chest relaxes those tight muscles and forces my body to relax. Once the body is more relaxed, I can get my mind to relax as well. Hope you find it helpful!


These are just a couple of solutions I use – what strategies work for you?

I hope you’ll share them here…


  1. Kathy

    Great post! The taking a walk is a favorite of mine. Though it is pretty tough to stay in the moment when you are flipping out over all you have to do. Lately I have been trying to just pick one task to focus on at a time – sometimes even having to break it down into twenty minute “jobs” . This helps me to take that first step into action and away from all that unproductive chatter in my head! Something else I need to work on: Quit making impossible goals for the day!!! Reasonable goals should help me get the work done and still be able to enjoy each day…

    • indy

      Boy do I know what you mean, Kathy – about setting impossible goals for myself everyday. It all sound so “do-able” the night before when I make my list…still struggling with it. Hopefully we can find a good solution for that one. Just telling myself to be more reasonable hasn’t helped me much. 😀

  2. Claudia Whitsitt

    Hi Indy,
    My grandmother was one of my best friends, and I often called her when my five kids were young, I was working full-time, and my husband traveled A LOT! She’d say one of two things: “What will matter most in a hundred years?” and “It’ll be there tomorrow.” I still say those things to myself, even though she’s been gone twenty years. Like you, I often find that I’m the first one to arrive for a meeting when I worried I’d be late, and that exercise is fuel for my soul as well as my body. Breathe deep, grasshopper!
    Another trick I use is list making. Somehow, if I write down all of the things I have to accomplish and can see them, it makes it easier to prioritize and tackle one thing at a time. Thanks for sharing, Indy! I love your blog :))

    • indy

      What a sweet story about your Grandmother, Claudia. I’m glad you shared it with us. I’m a list maker as well…although now I use Workflowy and love it. Maybe I’ll do a blog about how I use a filing system and Workflowy to organize my days, weeks and months. Now if I can can just be more realistic about how much I think I can accomplish in a day, I’ll be in pretty good shape! Ha

  3. Lynne Spreen

    What a great post. I loved the graphic of the kitten, but more than that, your two examples were so true to my life that I felt myself tensing up as I read them. I’m going to try the walking idea. It seems like it would play the same role as meditation, the way you go about it. Thanks for the idea.

    I’m right in the middle of a hair-on-fire phase, and nothing is going to really help until I get thru it. I figure summer of 2013, seriously. The only thing that helps me collect my brains when I’m like this is to breathe. I do it very mindfully for a few minutes, and it does help. I once read that there is a calming chemical that disburses from nasal inhalation (that you wouldn’t get from breathing thru your mouth). So there’s that incentive. Good to hear from you, Indy. I like everything about your blog.

    • indy

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Lynne. And I’m so happy you enjoy the blog! I’ve only occasionally tried the breathing and meditation techniques. There is a scene in Eat Pray Love, where Elizabeth Gilbert is trying to meditate in India. She closes her eyes and her mind starts wandering, soon she finds herself thinking about how she could decorate her meditation room when she gets back to the States. She realizes what she’s doing, opens her eyes and one minute has passed. That’s me. I think that’s why walking has worked for me – but in truth there are times when that’s just not an option. So, with your encouraging words, and the fact you’ve been able to make it work for you, I will give the breathing techniques a go again when the right opportunity arises. And I didn’t know about the calming chemical factor in play here – sounds like a winner.

      So appreciate you taking the time to share here, especially considering your hair-on-fire phrase! Went through my own phrase this last year. “This too shall pass”, is what I kept reminding myself. And much good has come from all the hard work and perseverance. And knowing the good causes you work toward…much good will come from your phrase as well! I’ll just call you the Girl on FIre! :0)

  4. suad

    Taking walks soothes the spirit, helps put things into perspective…
    Because as Claudia’s grandma pointed out, Will it be there tomorrow? (translation: probably.) So don’t sweat the small stuff, save it for the big!

    So for me, when a walk won’t work, I say to myself, “Why do I think I have to be perfect, and get it right all the time? Why do I beat myself up? And, of course, the answer is I don’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to get it right all of the time. I’m my worst enemy and critic! Then I loosen up. Though I continue to try to get it right….

    • indy

      Great points, Suad. So many times I think we are our own worst enemies! Having been a bit “laid up” this last week, recuperating from my surgery, has made me realize how much pressure I have been putting on myself to complete so much everyday! Wow – a real eye-opener. My hubby, knowing me as he does, had been working hard to keep temptations out of my view, least I do more than i should right now. But, I certainly plan to ramp back up to a “normal” schedule that isn’t quite as crazy as the past. Now – let’s see if I can keep that promise to myself!


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