Panic attacks can be very frightening. If you or anyone you are with suffers from one, the first thing to remember is that this is not something from which you can just tell yourself to pull yourself together. It is basically a physiological response with psychological effects. Second is to remember it will pass, you are not going 'crazy'. The trick is to reduce the response which has origins in the amygdala part of the unconscious brain. This works like an alarm button gearing you up for flight or flight. You might want to see it as a fire alarm that has accidentally been set off.
Calming this response turns off the alarm. To do this breathe deeply right into your belly breathing in counting steadily up to five and breathing out again counting up to 5. If you feel able to, stand up and move around gently. Finally, distract your brain by 'noticing' using 5-4-3-2-1 steps below, (maybe for 'taste' imagining your favourite food). If you are helping someone else - simply, quietly take them through this process. I hope it helps.
It was world mental health day recently, and #worklifebalance has been trending on Twitter. I have always been a bit troubled by the idea of work/life balance as if they were somehow opposites or alternatives. Isn’t work an essential part of life?
Sure, when I think of work, I can think of its stress and how it can demand too much effort. I know about the anxiety it causes and the bullying it breeds. But I can also think of how it offers companionship of the most profound kind, the opportunity to be intensely creative, the chance to care for others and to be cared for and the stupendous gift of laughter. Sometimes, the posts here and other social media characterise work too much in terms of struggle, stress, overcoming adversity, bias, and prejudice. ( And I have been guilty of this!)
We celebrate too rarely perhaps, how work can help us flourish as human beings. Of course, work for some is just a crushing, monstrous struggle, but for those who can make choices then assumptions about work should be challenged. The fundamental question is not what but how I work and how I live the rest of my life. How do I engage with both? How do I make the choices that enrich me? It is perhaps too easy to see work as a functional necessity that enables someone to do other things, things for which ironically, they find themselves because of work too tired and stressed to do! In my book How to Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World, I wondered about the idea of an ‘artisan’ approach to life that would encompass work.
By an artisan approach, I am suggesting life is something you craft. Something in which you need to be close to the raw materials you are dealing with, in this case, the potential in yourself and the potential in the world around you. It is about you being inspired. Inspirare is the Latin origin of the word, and it meant to breathe or to blow, bringing life to something. An artisan brings life to everything they make. It is your calling to bring vigour and vitality into your life. Finally, you are a good artisan when you are authentic. You are not here to make copies of someone else’s life: there is something of you in everything you make.
How To Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World is now also available as an audio book. (see https://adbl.co/3Bwsh83 )
#mentalhealth #work #creative
Taking a walk today may just be the best thing you can do for your mental health and your well-being. It might make you just a bit cleverer and creative too!
It has been known for some time that walking of all sorts is beneficial for our sense of well-being. But more recent research is emphasising just how important it is. We are, it seems, walking animals, we have evolved to walk and think as an integrated and contiguous activity. We should not think of our brain as some sort of captain directing all our actions and behaviours but rather that our bodies and brains are continually interacting to make sense of the world that we are in and to enable us to survive. For example our feet have pressure sensors which communicate directly to our brain when we were walking with our full weight on them to increase the blood supply to our brains to enable it to function more effectively.
It seems that if we don't walk enough, we lose a lot: creativity, memory capacity, cognitive skills and computing power. We are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Our sedentary life, stuck in front of a computer, tablet or phone screen may be behind two disturbing trends in human potential. One is a global trend in which performances on intelligence tests having risen consistently decades has during the last two showed a significant decline. The other is an accelerating decline in our ability to be creative. Kyung Hee Kim, who is professor of psychology at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg has demonstrated that standardised scores on creativity tests have been declining significantly for the last few decades.
There could be reasons other than more sedentary lifestyle for these effects but controlling for these factors does suggest that our lack of locomotion is not doing us any good at all.
Good news! It's not just fast-paced, power walks that are required, in fact it may be that slower paces can be specifically beneficial. In my book How to Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World, I suggest that "sauntering", may be the best thing of all. Sauntering at 1 mile every 20 minutes seems to dramatically improve our mood and our ability to think clearly. It can lower depression, anxiety and pain severity. Latest research has shown it is also very useful psychologically to be aware that you are moving forward.
If I think about, it most of the ideas and insights I ever have are gained when I have put one foot in front of the other and kept going. And it is not just my experience that the problems of the world seem to diminish as I walk away.
In these strange times, when the old rules and ways are breaking up around you, then letting go of old certainties and assumptions may be one of the most important and liberating things you can do. To do this, you will need to embrace the sense of being lost reasonably regularly!
Being lost is about not knowing where you are and not knowing where to go next. Or both. Being lost is not knowing what is essential, what matters, what is expected. It is when' they' are not around to help. It is not knowing what a reasonable goal might be.
This can be disturbing.
Our childhood fears of wolves in the wood, sleeping dragons, or being alone in the wilderness make being lost troubling. It brings out the vulnerable boy or girl within us, instinctively reaching up an arm to take a parent's hand.
But being lost is also a problem to solve, a land to be discovered, the key to the prison cell, the place you finally meet yourself.
To be afraid of getting lost is to be afraid of living.
I have had the immense privilege of being remarkably lost in the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, Tsim Tsa Chui in Kowloon, New Mexico, the back streets of Athens, Germany (where I accidentally ended up in Poland), and Nashville - nobody told me there were two Nashvilles in the USA.
I have also been more psychologically lost – when I left university without a clue of what to do with my life. When, as a teacher, I ran out of the love for the job, When I was recruited to a role in an organisation which the Finance Director informed me on day one didn't exist and hadn't been agreed. Or when my business collapsed around my ears. All of which unexpectedly led me to quite wonderful discoveries.
As you enter the 'borderlands' between the assumptions and expectations of the old world and the potential of a place where nothing makes sense, a kind of psychological wilderness, embracing the feeling of being lost and then liberating yourself, may turn out to be one of the significant challenges of your life.
I mean this literally and figuratively. Getting lost awakens you more than anything else to the situation you are in and the way you are dealing with it – that feeling of being out of your depth, disoriented, and on your own. The first thing you meet when you get lost is yourself: your emotions, your abilities, or lack of them, your judgments about the situation.
I travel chaotically. The secrets of the competent wanderer are lost on me. Considering the farrago of misunderstood directions, impossible transport connections, and incipient disaster I bring to the endeavour, the fact that I invariably get to my destination is most often due to the kindness of strangers rather than navigational talent.
I speak, therefore, as one who knows.
Choosing to be lost is not so hard. It is letting a chance rather than a map guide your way. It is about doing something unfamiliar to you. It is doing something you have perhaps dismissed, something you were not capable of or of which not all others would approve.
Getting lost is about putting yourself undoubtedly in your discomfort zone.
The great joy about getting properly lost is you never quite get home again. For the act of adapting to the challenge changes you forever.
Think of your first day at school or in a new job. How lost were you? But you could not find your way back to where you had come from even if you wanted to.
Sign up to my mailing list
I'll only send out newsletters every so often, so you won't be bombarded! And you can unsubscribe at any time.