She wiped away my tears, helped me sit down, and asked me to breathe deeply. My heart was exploding. I couldn’t control my breathing. The breaths came in rapid succession like a train pulling into a railway station, one on top of the other and I felt out of control. Helplessly, utterly out of control.
My mom held my hands, looked me in the eyes, and continued to ask me to breathe deeply. Finally, my breath returned to normal. She is a rock and the most compassionate, level headed person to have by your side in a crisis. Today’s crisis was one of the smaller ones I would ever encounter, but at the time, it was the largest one I had faced in my short life.
I was a junior in high school, preparing myself for prom. A group of my friends had met to get our hair and makeup done and had just arrived back at my house to finish getting ready when my boyfriend called me. He said he wouldn’t be able to make it to prom that night. No explanation, he just couldn’t go. Later I found out he had been dating another girl at the same time and she found out about me.
In retrospect, thank goodness that was over. But at the time, I was devastated. This is one of several panic attacks I have endured over the years. This one caused by someone else’s actions, but some for sure, were caused by my own.
Today I want to share with you the practical steps to getting through times of crises, whatever that is to you. You see, I run in a community of high achievers. That just means that we press ourselves to be the best, to control our outcomes, to control our emotions. These are all acceptable things, in measure, but can wreak havoc on your health and mental well being if not dealt with in a healthy way.
1) Breathe – The best thing you can do in a moment of crisis is slow down your breathing. By taking deep slow breaths in, you can slow down your rapidly increasing heart rate. Try focusing on a specific action in your breath. For instance, the rise and fall of your chest or stomach, how it feels when the air enters your nose and exits back out. Just focusing on the act of breathing will give your mind something to do and help it stop spinning out of control.
2) Practice Breathing – This one sounds strange. But if you make it a practice to focus on your breath, you’ll be better prepared when moments of anxiety hit you. If you’re in a tough conversation, it’s nice to have this tool so you can remain calm, allowing the blood to continue flowing correctly and your thoughts to remain in order. Set an alarm on your phone to practice breathing once a day. The app I like to use is the Calm App.
3) Meditate – Meditation is proven to calm brain waves and help reduce anxiety. Take advantage of this powerful tool daily to help rest your mind and train it to respond in healthier ways when confronted with immediate stress. Again, the Calm App is my favorite for guided meditation.
4) Pray – Sometimes all I can muster is, “God please help me, I can’t do this alone.” The peace that can come just from reaching out and asking for help has been the biggest source of comfort even in the scariest situations.
5) Walk – Get in nature if possible and go for a walk. Nature is therapeutic and movement restores your body. Notice and be grateful for your ability to walk and your ease of breath. Just being thankful for what’s good can ground you and take your mind off what is bothering you.
We will always have times of stress. So why not be prepared with the healthiest ways to deal with that stress. So, what works for you when you when you feel overwhelmed?