Don’t Panic (Unless You Absolutely, Positively Need to Panic)

I had a great weekend visiting family and family friends. We talked about everything from our kids to hobbies to our jobs. At one point, one of the family friends shared an incredibly wise mantra that I want to share with you: Don’t panic until it’s time to panic. I’m going to take it a step further: don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

We live in a world where anxiety and panic-mode are seemingly the norm. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Oh, that gives me anxiety.” Or “ugh, panic mode setting in!” These phrases regularly show up during a normal day. Why do so many things seem to push us to the edge?

It is because we react instead of respond.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic reminds you to beaware. To be aware of the situation. To be aware of yourself. To be aware of how you’re showing up to the situation – reacting or responding – and which one will help you create the best outcome.

A big part of our coaching process explores the difference between reacting and responding. By understanding the difference, you have the ability to choose how you want to be. The noise, challenges and pace of life don’t have to make you panic. You have the ability to sort through what is going on to determine what to do and how to respond. You become smarter on your feet. You become more thoughtful in your everyday actions. You become more aware and mindful about your world and your role in it.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

Be aware. Be thoughtful. Choose how to respond (not react). Notice the difference.

Take Action
What is something you can do today, or this week, to start to catch yourself in reactionary mode? How can you move yourself from reaction to thoughtful response?

Notice the difference it has on you and your world – your work, your relationships, your well-being. Set yourself apart from the rest. Don’t bring panic until you have considered other, more constructive options. Only then, when it’s absolutely, positively time to panic, can you panic.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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Go Center Yourself

By Jay Forte

Your employees always seem to find some way to aggravate you.

Your kids or spouse know just how to get under your skin.

The traffic on the highway, or the line of people ahead of you at the grocery store, can make you lose your cool.

The person who is too loud on their cell phone sitting near you in the airport frustrates you because you can’t concentrate on reading your novel or reviewing your notes for your meeting.

When you find yourself in any situation where your anger is rising, take a moment. Go center yourself. You will take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions to help you more calmly, sanely and wisely respond to whatever aggravation, frustration or irritation the world is sending you.

You are responsible for your responses and reactions. The situations you find yourself in are just information. Sure, some of them can be tedious, tough or terrible. They can be aggravating, frustrating and even irritating. Some of life is. But how you are in each of these moments is up to you. You can lose your cool or you can learn to get yourself to a place of calm that will help you wisely assess the situation, consider your alternatives, and choose one that can give you the best result. You can’t do this from a reactionary brain.

Go center yourself means you take a moment to get control of yourself, maintain context, get composed and then see the situation for what it is. This creates the ability to see more, consider more and ultimately choose a response that will give you a better result.

Here are three ways to go center yourself.

  1. Breathe. The breath is powerful. It creates an immediate change in you for two reasons. First, it activates a part of the brain that releases stress-reducing hormones, resulting in a relaxation response in the body. This built-in calming response is available to you any time you can remember to breathe. And second, the act of taking a breath interrupts you, even for just a moment, to disconnect you from the stress environment, breaking the default habit reaction. Once disconnected, more options to respond are possible.
  2. Move. Movement activates the brain and can shift it out of reacting. Simply by shifting, standing, sitting or moving a few steps allows you to create a disconnection from the event that can change your view of the situation and give yourself greater response options.
  3. Be inspired. Have a page of inspiring quotes, lyrics or lines from poetry to go to when you find yourself getting stressed. A line from a Maya Angelou poem, or some of the comedy found in Dr Seuss or Ogden Nash’s poems, can help you see things differently and allow yourself to get back in control. Again, it is a distraction that moves you away from reacting.

Centering is a way to be sane, calm and ready for what life sends you. Use it as you approach a big project, a big decision, a challenging situation or a tough discussion. It will help you show up to each in the best way possible by helping you see things more clearly and to manage the reactions.

Take Action

How will you center yourself in a tough situation or in anticipation of a tough situation this week? Notice the difference in the outcome and in how you felt in the process. Recognize the difference in you when you choose how to be. Calm, focused and tuned in is better than distracted, reactionary and stressed. Go center yourself.

Consider reading Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

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