I was recently asked to speak at a CRAVEChicago event about how to deal with freakouts and I thought, Well, the most stressful time of the year is almost upon us so I should share what I talked about!
There is a lot of stuff out there in the world that makes us freak out. From current events to what’s going on in our own overly-scheduled lives, I’m sure there isn’t a week that goes by when our hearts don’t stop beating with anxiety.
So why do we freak out in the first place? I think it's because we feel that we have no control over the situation at hand.
And why do we have no control over said situation? I think it’s either because we don’t have enough information to see the big picture (“I’m going out of town for the holidays and don’t know how I’m going to keep up with exercise!”) or we really don’t like the information we have and don’t know what to do with it (“There’s a freak storm coming and all flights have been canceled and I’m stuck at the airport with nothing to eat but McDonald’s!”).
Here are 4 steps that can help you gain the control you feel you don’t have:
1. BREATHE. We stop breathing effectively when we freak out. We start using muscles that aren’t supposed to do the breathing for us and then they get tight. Those tight muscles contort our bodies into funny postures. Those postures create a physiological response that keeps us from sleeping well, thinking straight and being happy. And those responses STRESS US OUT! It’s a vicious cycle. The cheapest and most effective way to get out of this mess is to stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and try this exercise: Lay down on the floor with your head supported so your spine is neutral. Get your legs up in the air so you have a 90-degree bend at the hips and at the knees. Place your feet either on the wall or rest your calves on a chair. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4 (1-Mississippi-2-Mississippi, etc) and then exhale through your mouth as if you’re breathing out through a straw on a count of 4 or longer. You want to breathe ALL the air out. Pause for 2-3 seconds and take another breath in and repeat all the steps. Do this about 4-6 times. It helps to imagine your whole torso as a balloon: breathe into your front, your sides and your back.
2. Zen Out. Physically get yourself away from the area where you are freaking out. Allow yourself as much time as you can reasonably afford to do something that takes your mind off of the situation. Sometimes when you let yourself step away from the craziness, you come up with the best solution on how to fix the mess. Take a yoga class or lift some weights; put on your favorite song and sing and dance to it; go out for a drive. Clear. Your. Mind.
3. Appoint and then call your personal crisis manager. If you don’t have someone in your life that holds that title, appoint one ASAP. My bestie Kate is able to step aside as my friend and calmly ask questions about what’s going on and then she helps me craft a plan with several options that tackle how to take care of the crisis at hand. Sometimes you need fresh ears from someone who is super smart who cares about you/your success and can also support you without judgement.
4. Complete a single task that helps you gain back control. To be completely transparent, I was FREAKED OUT after spending most of October out of town and then sick. I felt like I’d lost control of IzzyFit and that surely business had gone downhill and there was no way out. After going through steps 1-3 I was finally able to pin-point the task I needed to do: Take a hard look at my numbers. So I pulled up my spreadsheet, worked on numbers from the last month and a half for an hour and finally had some information to analyze. From there I was able to calmly form a plan of action to make sure I got back on track and now I can’t be more excited about things to come!
Freakouts are going to happen. Just know that they can be temporary if you allow yourself to go through the appropriate steps to regain control and rewrite the dialogue.
What are some ways you calm yourself down? Share your tips in the comments below!
While we’re on the topic: Do you want to know how to survive the holiday season without going insane or gaining weight? I’m hosting a Holiday Survival Workshop in Evanston in November. Check out more information on my Events page here!