The news of Melbourne going into Stage 4 lockdown hit me hard.
Despite knowing that Melbourne was likely to go into Stage 4, it was still a shock on some level. I woke up in the middle of the night and jumped up from my bed with panic.
Thoughts that I won’t be able to leave home for six weeks between 8 pm to 5 am were going round and round in my mind.
Even though in the last five months, I had rarely left home after 8 pm, not having this option anymore made me breathless.
At that moment, I did not try to push the feeling of panic away or try to deepen my breath.
The only thing I did was focus on my feet on the ground. That touch and the sensations that arose from that touch calmed me a little bit – the softness of the carpet and the solid ground underneath that.
I continued to shift my focus from my shortened breath to the ground. And the stability the ground provided me.
I could feel the panic leaving my body.
This was not a mental conversation. It was happening at the body level.
Once I was feeling a bit calmer, I lay down on my bed. I focused on the mattress under the back of my whole body and the sensation that comes when we let our body sink into the mattress.
This was to let my body feel the safety in that moment.
My body had woken with fear earlier. I needed to support it with comfort.
Words of gratitude do not work in such moments.
Our primal feelings don’t care about how grateful we should be.
Again, it’s us imposing this on ourselves.
Our feelings only want to be witnessed and felt.
So that’s what I did.
No feelings of gratitude.
No running away or distraction by checking my phone.
I brought my attention to the present moment by focusing on body sensations.
As I was feeling a bit safer, I could let my focus settle on my lower belly.
I did not force long breaths or take belly breaths.
I only let my attention settle on the area two fingers below my belly button.
And my breath started to get elongated.
I did not force more things onto my body.
My body was already feeling forced with all the changes of going into lockdown, coming out, and then going in again.
My intention was to only support my body by giving it comfort and letting it air out my feelings.
And then I finally slept.
Five years ago, when panic would occur often in my life, I did not know what to do.
Now, after working with various clients and managing my own life stresses, I can share below the things I do when an overwhelming sensation takes over.
1) Gently, I focus on different body parts and sensations. My breath is already shortened so I don’t focus on it or tell my clients to focus on their breath during moments of panic.
2) I journal so I can get the chaos happening in my head onto paper.
3) I go for a slow walk if it is possible – it could simply be around my apartment or even outside if it is daytime.
4) I try to ground myself by focusing on my feet and the contact with the solid surface underneath them.
5) I don’t try to deny my feelings and force gratitude. Instead, I create safety in my body so I can feel my feelings. In the beginning, it can be scary to feel our feelings. Yet, once we have felt whether it is sadness, fear, anger – gratitude is something that naturally happens.
These tools work for me. What do you do when things feel out of control?
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