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Just Breathe!

Just yesterday I went to the park near my house and watched a soccer game from a distance. Children were playing on the playground, all of the tennis courts were full, and there was a group on the side of the field in a workout boot camp of sorts. If I hadn’t just heard the Mayor of Atlanta on the radio explaining why she had to make the difficult decision to implement a curfew, all while pleading for the people of Atlanta to adhere to the social distancing requirements, I would have thought that the state of the world was peaches and cream...rainbows and sunshine!

What struck me most was that while unwise at best, these people were obviously unbothered by the widespread panic that is sweeping this world right now. Just listen to CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC or any of the alphabet channels for 5 minutes and you would know the world as we know it is falling apart at the seams, people are fighting over toilet paper for God's sake!

While I certainly do not recommend that we all go out recklessly and ignore the warnings and medical advisories, there has to be a balance.

If you are feeling a certain degree of panic during the pandemic regarding your health, finances, loved ones, job etc…, you are human and it’s okay. Panic is an emotion that everyone has felt at one time or another. Feeling panic is normal, but if panic is taking over your daily life, it's time to take action to reduce it. Understanding what it is and what you can do about it can help immensely.

Panic serves a clear purpose in life. It gets your adrenaline pumping and allows you to act quickly to save yourself when you're faced with danger. Humans are complex creatures, however, and your mind may create panic in situations where it wouldn't help you.

Also, if these situations continue to arise, you may be dealing with a serious panic disorder, so please consult with your physician.

Here are some strategies that can help you overcome panic:

1. Breathe deeply. Deep breathing techniques can bring you a certain level of calm during any situation. When you start to feel panicked, you tense up and your breathing becomes quick or heavy.

  • Take a moment to find your breath and take deep breaths in and out. The deep breathing will relax you and help you focus on taking in oxygen, instead of the stressful situation.

  • Instead of being glued to the TV, take some quiet time alone, and focus on breathing. Just 10 deep breaths per minute will lower your blood pressure. Invite your children to join your quiet time, or create their own. All of this stuff is really stressful for them as well.

2. Watch your health. Your mental and physical health are all part of the same system. When you take care of yourself, many of your problems tend to right themselves. If you have a poor diet, lack exercise, or don't sleep well, take action to correct these core problems. Doing this will often address your panic directly or indirectly.

  • If you are new to working remotely, it’s easy to let the day get away from you. You look up and it’s already 3:00 PM and you haven’t even had lunch. Be sure you schedule time for healthy meals, walking breaks and some social breaks as well. Believe it or not, work-life balance can become even more difficult when working remotely.

3. Seek professional help. Discuss treatment options with your physician and naturopath. There are natural treatments available as well as several well-studied prescription medications that can help with your anxiety and panic concerns. Your doctor will know best if you're a good candidate for these medications.

  • Remember that you must always take a holistic approach that addresses the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of your health.

  • Personally, in addition to all of the above, I love to diffuse lavender, peppermint, and lemon oils in my home as a natural calming agent. Spiritually, I have a list of scriptures that I lean on such as Psalms 91, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Timothy 1:7 and Hebrews 13:6. These scriptures help me to remember that I can only control what is in my sphere of influence. Everything else I have to surrender to a higher power.

4. Address the problem. Try to locate the source of your panic. Are you only panicking in certain situations like the pandemic, or do you feel anxious at all times? If you can figure out the source of your panic, you can address the problem by facing your fear directly.

  • Exercises to reduce your fears enable you to become more comfortable in situations that could set off a panic attack.

  • Think through the worst-case scenarios, and then think through the best-case scenarios. It’s always worse in your mind than it is in the world.

5. Deal with your stress. Panic is more likely to arise in a stressed mind. If you study certain relaxation methods, you can keep your stress level down and make it less likely for you to experience a panic attack.

  • There are many relaxation methods for you to choose from that can keep you healthy and happy. Practicing yoga, daily meditation, prayer, and listening to soothing music are just a few ideas.

  • One of the best stress relievers is to make time for yourself each and every day. This time gives you a chance to relax, rejuvenate, and continue your day with renewed positive energy.

6. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. I admit this one is difficult for me, especially caffeine and red wine; however, alcohol and caffeine can increase the frequency of panic attacks. To be on the safe side, avoid or limit their use. While this tip may not cure your symptoms, it can be an important factor for getting you back into a healthy mental state.

Getting Help

Panic and anxiety fears are quite common and there is no shame in getting help for you or your children. Recognize the triggers and early signs of panic and start fighting it. When you do, you'll feel free once again!

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