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Newsletter Dated: 4/30/2009 10:20:38 PM
Subject: Happiness Tips from Tina: Donít Panic!
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Happiness Tip: Donít Panic!
As I write this, the media are in full cry about Swine Flu. As far as I can tell, there has been one death, of a small child in Texas, in this country, and only a few suspected cases in California. How many cases of regular flu do we have in a year? Thousands. In a discussion with a financial advisor the other day, he said people are costing themselves a lot of money by panicking, pulling their money out of stocks, and thereby locking in their losses. Hysterical articles in the media sell papers, and attract eyeballs to websites, but are usually exaggerating the facts.
We are just back from an amazing voyage up and down the Amazon to the heart of Brazil. You'll be able to see pictures and read the travelog on my "Dr. Romance" blog at http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ in a few days, as I post them. At the beginning of the trip, at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, my laptop was stolen. The next day I went out and bought a netbook at Costco, and filed an insurance claim at the hotel. Friends I was e-mailing commented that it was remarkable that I didn't panic when my laptop was stolen. There's a reason why I don't usually waste time and energy on panic and drama.
In my office, I see the negative results of panic every day. People get upset, they're afraid of emotional consequences, and they overreact, which can actually create the consequences they fear. Panic is an overreaction to a real (or even imagined) problem. Frightening yourself beyond the real need to deal with a problem puts your body into "fight or flight" mode -- as though your life were immediately threatened. Emotional panic can create a shutdown of feelings -- so you're in a state of shock. In this state , you cannot think clearly, or make good responses, choices and decisions. In panic, we do not retain information, absorb what we hear, or accurately assess the situation. Panic is the worst thing you can do in a real emergency, and if the situation is not dire, panic will make it worse.
Panic is a natural startle reaction that gets exaggerated and becomes prolonged. People often learn to panic because, in early childhood, panic can get us out of responsibilities. Freaking out, crying, throwing temper tantrums, or shutting down are all panic responses small children use which cause some competent adult to take over and become the hero. This can be okay once in a while, but as this pattern repeats, it becomes rescuing and codependency. Panic creates drama Ė unnecessary and damaging exaggeration of the problem -- which leads to dysfunctional responses and overblown family drama.
We admire people who donít panic. Our new President is admired for being "no drama Obama" because he retains his ability to think clearly, take his time, and make effective decisions even when the people around him are panicking. People who can stay calm usually come out OK, because they think clearly.
So, what do you do in a scary or upsetting situation? Teach yourself how not to panic, so you can think clearly and handle the problem effectively. Practice these techniques to teach yourself to stay calm when the situation is threatening or the people around you are obviously in a panic.
To learn to let go, follow these simple steps for resolving your fear and anxiety:
1. Learn to recognize the signs of your own panic. If you feel the telltale signs of panic -- a racing or pounding heartbeat, flushing of the face or body, and mental confusion -- you are in a state of panic. If you are shouting, saying unreasonable things, or just saying whatever comes out of your mouth, without thinking about consequences, you are in a state of panic. Stop what youíre doing, and follow the rest of the steps here.
2. Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing will calm your body, and burn off the adrenaline thatís been released in the panic. Slow down, count to ten, focus on thinking clearly and factually rather than reacting emotionally.
3. Take responsiblity to figure out what youíre afraid of. Unless youíre in immediate, direct danger, whatís scaring or upsetting you is probably not as urgent as you think. Make a list of what youíre afraid of. This will help you move beyond free-floating anxiety, and begin to think more clearly.
4. Check the facts. Is what's on the news really true? Do we have an epidemic, or only 11 confirmed cases in Calfornia? Does the source you're listening to have something to gain by putting you in a panic? Are they trying to sell you something, get federal funding, or get elected? Are you reacting to someone elseís panic? Get some facts about whatever is frightening you. Is there a real, immediate threat, or is it just wise to be cautious? Is your partner actually going to abandon you, or is he or she just angry about something?
5. Make a decision about what to do about each fear. If itís a health fear, perhaps better hygiene or a talk with your doctor will resolve it. If itís a relationship fear, finding out what your partner is really thinking (instead of guessing) will probably make more sense.
6. Take some action to resolve the problems or threats youíre facing. Get a flu shot, go for relationship therapy, or have a good talk with your partner or family member.
7. Sell yourself on a positive outcome. Think of all the possible great outcomes of the changes you're making. Consider what you will learn, and how much better your life and relationships will be without the panic.
With a calmer outlook, youíll be able to make better decisions, and create a more successful outcome. I wish you peace, within yourself, within your family, within the world.
© 2009 Tina B. Tessina
adapted from: It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page) ISBN 1-56414-548-4
If you want more, here are some related articles you can download from my website at http://tinatessina.com/monthly_column.html
Anger: Cleansing Squall or Hurricane?
Attitude: From Negative to Gratitude
Comforting the Little Orphan Girl
Coping with Critics
Emotions as Weather
Getting Out of Your Way
Handling Anxiety Effectively
How to Stretch Time
Into Every Life
Letting Go of Anxiety
The Meaning of Life
Mirrors and Teachers
The Nail in the Fence: Healing Wounds
Resolving Inner Anarchy
Stop Reacting and Start Relating
What Is A Dysfunctional Relationship?
Winning The War Within
The Worrier's Guidelines
Year of Peace
You Be The Judge
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Wishing you joy,
Tina B. Tessina, PhD
Re: Jealousy, Faithfulness and Distance
Another interesting and helpful newsletter. Have a nice Easter and thanks for all of your help to so many of us.
thanks, Madelyn Ė itís always great to hear from you.
Nice article Tina. Very helpful for those of us in long distance relationships.
Thanks for letting me know you found it helpful, Rob.