Every worthy pursuit hits a snag. Most are minor annoyances and you get through them pretty quickly. Others are more entangling, tearing at your sense of vitality.
Prolonged indebtedness. Unresponsive markets for your products and services. Chronic health challenges. Persistent entanglements come in many forms.
Rarely do these intrusive robbers of your vitality suddenly appear. Rather, like untended vines, they relentlessly evolve from small daily nuisances to more insidious barriers to your hopes and dreams.
Usually, you can ignore them and go about your day. After all, what more can you do than to keep in the game? But every once in a while you stare at the enormity of the challenges you face. And you’re overwhelmed by its encroachment on your dreams.
Panic sets in. “Can I really make it through this?” you ask yourself. Almost simultaneously you consider the possibility that it could get even worse. Quick! Vanquish that thought. You feel guilty for even considering it, as if doing so might actually cause it to happen.
But you still can’t help feeling the dread. A nervous energy replaces it. You recognize it because you’ve felt it before. Dread has morphed into panic. You know you’re not at your best right now, but you must act. You must do something. Anything. But what?
I’ve asked that question countless times when I’ve been in a panic. And there’s never a good answer. Why? Because no good action is conceived from panic. Except one: to remind yourself of truth.
Here are three truths that can break the panic cycle and get you thinking at your best again:
1. Most likely, your situation did not materialize instantly, nor will it be solved by any decision you make when you’re not at your best. Panic seeks instant outcomes and may cause you to choose unwisely.
Instead, remind yourself, you’ll be ok. You’ve been through tough situations before and you’ve grown by them. You’ll grow from this too.
2. Your situation requires creative thinking. You can’t come up with a big idea when your brain is small, telling you to fight or flee. Panic holds you hostage to the confines of your situation and shuts down imaginative solutions.
Instead, remind yourself that no one is as familiar with your situation as you. Nor does anyone have as much invested in making it work. This is what you’ve been entrusted to do. Pray. Rise up. And lead yourself to think rightly about your next moves.
3. Your situation is never as hopeless as it feels. Panic is like the mirror of our car reminding us that “objects are bigger than they appear.” Panic casts doubt on what we know while magnifying the importance of what we don’t know.
Instead, draw on the counsel of trusted advisors. While you have the most at stake, you don’t need to go it alone. Panic dissipates with good counsel.
Fifty years ago the Shirelles sang “Momma said there’d be days like this.” When you have days like this, it might help to sing that song too and, more importantly, remind yourself that your best thinking is yet to come.
What approaches do you find work best when you are in a panic?