When panic attacks, this is how I regain control

My anxiety has this charming habit where it can completely derail my life when it’s in the mood, but, today I wanted to share some pretty neat ways that I calm the Anxiety Monster when it throws a tantrum.

They definitely don’t completely rid me of my panic, but, they do help me regain control over my mind, and that really speeds up the process of recovering from crippling anxiety to being able to get on with my life – because that doesn’t wait for us when our mental illnesses are having a go at us.

These are pretty effective for run-of-the-mill stress, and if you’re a pro-Worrier like me, then these are (I hope) really helpful.

If you decide to try any of these, even when you’re just feeling a little stressed, I would love to know if it helped!

The Can-and-Can’t Controllables

When faced with an immediate and triggering situation, I make lists with two columns: “Things I Cannot Control” and “Things I Can Control”

The root of all stress (a certain trigger for my anxiety) is our perception of control over a the outcome of a situation. We often don’t realize how significant our abject horror is at the fact that we can’t control everything, and how much it can exacerbate our already-prone-to-panic minds.

Today, my panic attacks were triggered by the sudden news that I have to find a new apartment in 2 weeks, so my list looked kind of this:

Things I Cannot Control

  • The price of property
  • The fact that I have to move

Things I Can Control

  • Where I will live
  • How much information I have about my options

I know it seems slightly silly, but when you have a full list of things you CAN control, highlighted with colorful lines and exclamation points reminding you to only focus on those, you also have a list of stuff on the “can’t control” list that you now recognize have no business being worried about, because – well, you can’t control them.

List of stuff you’re allowed to worry about

This is a habitual reminder. Before you label this as way-too-obvious, it’s very powerful for someone with heavy control issues like me. I am a firm believer that we can engrain stuff into our brains and make them part of our lifestyles, and this list is an attempt at just that. It lists the things in the world, my life, and my character that I am responsible for, and is stuck up next to mirror, so that every morning I read the following:

“Stuff I’m Responsible for/Can Control

  • My choices and actions
  • My attitudes and priorities
  • With whom, where, and on what I spend my time, money, labour, and resources

If the thing you’re worrying about is not on THIS list, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!”

I love lists – maybe a bit too much. My psychology textbook says people with over controlling, A Type tendencies (like me) are more prone to illness, and even Coronary Heart Disease (yikes).

But, even though I’m trying to lighten up on the whole totally-mortified-at-the-chaotic-consequences-of-losing-total-control thing, I also think my list-making is a way of making affirmations and it’s necessary step to regaining control over my mind when anxiety pushes it off the rails.

Maybe lists and being obsessed with what I can control can be detrimental if overdone, but, in the case of using these controllable vs. uncontrollable lists as a GPS for my brain when Generalized Anxiety throws it into the wild, I think it’s a helpful habit.

If you don’t make lists, are there any other ways that help you regain control over your mind when panic strikes? If so, I’d love to hear them!

– Steph

10 thoughts on “When panic attacks, this is how I regain control

  1. Nice post, really helpful advice to write down these can’t control and can control lists, when they are only in my mind, my head gets frazzled!
    Personally, I decide to write a to-do list when I get anxious. On it, I will write literally every single thing on there (no matter how stupid or small something is) that way I am less likely to forget anything, and then follow it exactly, ticking bits off as I go along. As soon as I start ticking things off, I start to feel my anxiety lessen.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m hoping to try this next time I have my panic attack, I don’t why anxiety always has to be associated with worrying, its the most painful thing ever, what is it about worrying about the inevitable situations that we have no control off? It’s either I worry too much or there’s this voice inside of me that keeps on repeating”you are not enough” and its really hard to get it out of my head. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your feedback! I once had this really crazy thing I had applied for, and in the run-up to having to convince strangers to vote for me, I made this cute kind of mind map to combat that little voice. I took a small notepad paper and wrote all the doubts I had, like, “I’m not good enough” and “someone else is better at this than me” or “i am secretly painfully average,” and even “even if I do my best it won’t be enough” and then I stuck it in the centre of big page, and drew a bubble connected to each negative thing and wrote myself a little motivational paragraph about why it was unreasonable or silly, disputing each and every doubt. It really helped build my confidence and silence the mean voice in my head, so there are ways to get it out of your head!


  3. Yes, I like lists too. I find that it frees us my mind. All the rubbish that keep floating around in there is down on paper so that I can’t forget it which is half the reason why I keep on thinking about it because I’m worried that I’ll forget it. In fact, I think in truth I need to do one now as I’m having a procrastination moment and need to get some emails and stuff done. Great post and thank you for the reminder! Katie

    Liked by 1 person

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