I have a long history of panicking before thinking:
- I thought I was having a stroke when my vision suddenly blurred. Then I realized I’d put on my prescription glasses with my contacts already in.
- I once almost took off my clothes while running because I thought a cave cricket had gotten in my top. It was my house key that had moved in my pocket.
- I dashed across platforms to catch a departing train, only to miss it. I then realized that not only was it not my train but my backpack was still in the station’s locker.
I come across my panicky nature honestly. My mother has been known to call me on a Tuesday to tell me that since there’s a 30% chance of rain on Saturday, I shouldn’t try to make the trip to Alabama.
There are lots of books out there about how to stop panicking and worrying. But here are two methods that work (somewhat) for me:
- Play what are the odds. With my stroke example, it would go like this: “Yes, I might be having a stroke. But before calling 911, what are the odds that it’s something else? Pretty good, considering my overall health. What could that be? Oh, it could be that my glasses are on over my contacts. Let me take them off. Sight restored. Put down phone.”
- Go through an if-then scenario. Just having options will often reduce the panic. For example, public speaking often puts me in a panic, so before going before a group, I’ll run through the following: “If I notice that my hands are shaking, then I’ll hold to the podium or I’ll move around to burn off some excess energy. If I start to feel sick to my stomach, then I’ll remind myself I’ve done this hundreds of times before and I’ve never thrown up.”
I think the key here is that using the rational side of my brain can calm down the panicky side–at least enough to do what needs to be done. (Well, except for cave crickets. And mice. And . . .)