Amy Ward Brimmer

mother daughter wife teacher writer dreamer sister worker seeker activist minister healer student human


On-the-Spot Ways to Not Freak Out

Last week I found myself in a challenging situation that felt like a crisis, in spite of knowing that it wasn't -- at least not yet. My husband, who has a history of heart problems, was experiencing dizziness and other symptoms that might have indicated another heart attack, so a friend took him to a nearby ER. I got a phone call to consult about whether the ER visit was necessary, and I agreed that it was a good idea. During this discussion I was a model of calm concern. I remembered to stay grounded in my body, to breathe, to listen carefully. My dear one was in New York City and I was in Philadelphia, so it made sense to wait for a report from the ER before deciding whether to take any action, like hopping the next train to NYC.

I don't know about you, but waiting patiently is not my strong suit. Having nothing constructive to do feels helpless, and that is not a feeling I enjoy. I did what I had been doing, which is to breathe, send positive healing energy to my husband and those caring for him, and get back to the tasks at hand, hoping to be distracted from the supremely unhelpful running commentary in my mind.

At one point I had the bright idea to post on Facebook: What is your go-to method for letting go of worry when there is zero you can do about a scary situation?
I got a lot of very interesting answers, and many of them are listed below. Some are religious or spiritual, some are body-based, some are more psychological. These are practical, easy things anyone can do under stress, and I thank everyone who replied on my Facebook page.

And hallelujah, it wasn't a heart attack. Just a wakeup call.

Coping Methods (in no particular order):
  • Breathe.
  • Pray. 
  • Once when I was scared for someone, I sat through the fear and wrote them a letter. I never mailed it, but the duration of the focus was a true "Holding in the Light." Now I do that by coloring and drawing too. You could do it with movement.
  • A prayer I use is "God is with me now and all is well." Also, say the name Jesus repeatedly.
  • Something I've used with some success is the idea that if there is no solution, it is not a problem but rather an event -- like, say, a rainstorm. Problems have solutions that require planning and sometimes can benefit from a bit of timely worry.
  • I try to stay very present. Wash hands, feel temperature, etc etc....keep coming back....and of course breathe.
  • Going for a run.
  • Do an activity you enjoy - reading, crafts, TV, walking, etc.
  • Put on a song I love and focus on the music. Breathe with it.
  • Placing yourself firmly in the present can help. Rub your toe into the floor to remind yourself where you are. Grasp something small, whatever is close by.
  • Say the Serenity prayer.
  • I remember I am never alone, whether I simply visualize love and support from my community or reach out like you are doing now.
  • 4-7-9 breathing. From Dr. Andrew Weil. Breathe deep to count of 4. Hold to count of 7. Exhale to count of 9.
  • Look at the big blue sky. Makes every worry seem small.
  • Worrying is praying for what you don't want; it is always better to just pray.
  • Herbs that ease anxiety and fear - motherwort, oatstraw, nettle, skullcap.
  • Under the circumstances, let the rain wash it away. [It was pouring on this day.]
  • Looking at what is the worst case scenario and asking if you can survive it. Thank Mother-Father God for giving you the strength to deal with it.
  • Trust my gut to take the next step. I choose to take one step at a time without trying to figure out an ultimate solution. I remember I'm not alone.
  • Relax your pelvic floor. You will feel better immediately.
I put my favorite one last. I cannot tell you how often that has made all the difference for me. I know it's not helpful or even necessary for others, but I'm so grateful to my Alexander colleague for reminding me of this.

Next time you feel like you are in a tough situation that is out of your hands and all you can do is wait for more information and then be ready to act -- try one of these methods. Or combine several: Breathe and look at the big blue sky and relax your pelvic floor muscles while you remember that you are not alone. And ask for help on social media; people just love giving advice!