March 15, 2011

How to Avoid Panicking When the World Seems Like it is Falling Apart.

The world is undergoing a crisis right now. But the panic levels that the media, in general, are fanning, have gone way beyond appropriate.

There is a two-step plan that is useful today:

A) Understanding the reliable sources of information (and the Japanese Prime Minister or random outlets on the web are not reliable sources)
B) Dealing with panic in general (and I describe the tools for that below)
First off, Here’s a reliable source on what’s going on—and they are updating frequently. Latest update: no change in containment.

Below I give some methods for subduing the natural panic that arises in the body in macro situations like we are experiencing as well as micro situations (losing a job, spouse, etc).

I’ve written of how to deal with being fired, how to put yourself on a daily practice for success, and even the “25 unusual methods for making a trillion dollars” (see links below).

But first we need PANIC 101:

This is the prerequisite class. First do what I describe below.

Then you can start doing “The 10 things you should do if you were fired yesterday.”
Then start doing “The Daily Practice”.
Then start doing “The 25 Unusual Techniques to Get a Trillion Dollars”.

But first, exorcise the demons. Panic 101.

Because I know that feeling of being afraid to fall asleep at night. Because you know you will fall asleep but then at 3 or 4 in the morning you will pop awake, and the nightmare visions would begin. The pacing will begin. The demons will start to attack you and you will have no defense.

The 24 HOUR FIGHT THE FEAR Full-proof Method.

Treat it like a checklist.

Recognize that fear is biological. Not all of your fear is intellectually rational. Some of the fear has to do with the fact that Homo Sapiens killed all the Neanderthals. In other words, we instinctively respond to danger and our bodies overreact. We kill or we are killed. That’s why we exist now as a species. If we were always overconfident then we’d probably all be dead now and Neanderthals would be dining in fine vegetarian restaurants all over the world. Hell. I think Neanderthals were locavore macrobiotic vegans. We probably ate them. So part of our fear is an evolutionary reaction. Recognize that and be proud.

(supposedly what a neanderthal would look like. Kind of cute, right?)

Sleep eight hours. I don’t care how you do it. Take a sleeping pill if you have to. Go to a doctor today and get medication. YOU HAVE TO SLEEP EIGHT HOURS TONIGHT.

Imagine muggers were chasing you: you’d get scared, your stress hormones would go out of control, and you’d run faster than you’ve ever run before. Now, take out the muggers and take out the running. That’s where you are right now. Your stress hormones are going out of control but you aren’t doing anything about it.

Your body thinks its being permanently mugged. There’s only four ways to work off those stress hormones so you don’t get permanently damaged and addicted to the hormones. The first method is to sleep. Eight hours.

Run. The second method is to either run (as if you were being mugged) or to do some sort of exercise that produces sweat. Your body releases toxins by shitting, puking, sneezing, peeing, or sweating. Most people never sweat. Shitting, vomiting, and peeing take care of the garbage that’s built up in your digestive system. But what about the toxins that build up in the rest of your body. You need to sweat to get rid of them. Whatever you do today, make sure you sweat. As much as possible without getting dehydrated (water is good, toxins are bad). This is one of the reasons (among many) that sex is a healthy mechanism for dealing with fear. Don’t have time to run? Do 100 pushups. Right now. Take a one minute break every twenty if you get tired.

(he sweats. and he’s worth $20 billion)

Deep Exhale. Meditation is boring. I’ve written about some sixty second meditations you can do but that’s not enough right now. You need to exhale in a particular way. So here’s what you do:

The Secret Exhale: lie down, get yourself as comfortable as possible (no meditation class will ever tell you this. They all want you to sit with your back straight so that you don’t fall asleep but I don’t care if you sleep or not).

Close your eyes. Take ten deep breaths. Hold the breath as long as you can each time.

But here’s the secret about taking a deep breath. Its not the inhale thats important. That just prepares you for the exhale. The exhale is what gets rid of the toxins. Here’s the secret trick on the exhale: exhale as much as you can. Exhale until you think there’s nothing left. Then…exhale more. There’s always a little bit more hiding out in the abdomen. Thats where the panic hides. Get rid of it. Trust me. Its hiding from you.

If you take ten deep breaths, breathe normally for a few minutes, then ten more deep breaths if you are up for it.

No junk food today. I’m a junk food eater when I feel fear. When I am panicking I eat junk food compulsively. Junk food takes a machete to your brain. You need your brain to be in top shape to fight the fear. If you wanted to be real serious about this: no alcohol either, and no food after 6pm. But at the very least, no junk food. Just today. Worry about tomorrow later.

(I could live on Pringles)

Worst-case scenario. Picture the worst case scenario. The absolute worst case scenario of whatever it is you are afraid of. Maybe someone is cheating on you. Maybe your mistress is pregnant. Maybe the IRS wants to audit you. Maybe you are about to get fired. Maybe you are worried about running out of money. Brainstorm at least ten things you would do if your worst fears are true. I know you don’t want to do this. I know its unbearable to even consider that the worst can happen. But it can. Sit for 20 minutes and come up with the ten alternatives in front of you if the worst happens. There are always alternatives and at least quantifying them helps you see that the future still exists. That 40 years from now you’ll still be alive and well and looking back at the crumpled old list and thinking, “thank god I made that list because things worked out pretty well after all.” And by the way, 99.9% chance your worst case fear doesn’t happen.

Take a shower. Its another way of cleaning out the toxins. Get one of those soap brushes that practically rip the skin off when you brush. You need to be as fresh and clean as a newborn baby. Google “neti-pot”. Do that also if you can. You can pick up a neti pot at your local pharmacy. It’s a way of cleaning out the sinuses. Your sinuses need to be clean to help fight the demons. Also, get a tongue scraper. Brushing your teeth is not enough. You need to scrape your tongue. Pick it up at the local drugstore. You have crap sitting on your tongue that’s been there for years. Get it off.

(this is what a neti-pot does. Nothing else cleans sinuses like it).

Talk to someone. When I feel panic its good to talk to someone who A) has my back and B) is not particularly afraid of the outcome of my situation and can see it from an outside perspective. You need to find someone like that. And whatever you do: DON’T talk to someone who is bad for you or, in general, a negative influence. I don’t care if it’s a son, father, mother, wife, boyfriend, whatever. Do not talk to someone who is going to bring you down. They can wait. And you just need this today. Not every day. Don’t be a drain.

Draw. Or play a game. Sometimes when you are most afraid, you need to distract yourself for a little bit and use that energy for something creative or constructive. Trying to kill someone in a game, or using your mental energy to spend a little time drawing is a good way to slow down the fears. This won’t work long. You can’t draw all day. But you need something to distract you for just a little bit. Worrying never made anyone a dime of money. So you need to spend a few minutes doing something a little more pleasurable so you can take your mind off of the worry.

Save a Life. Tell yourself that at some point today, you’re going to save a life. You don’t know who it is, or what the situation is, or how you will do it, but the opportunity will present itself. You will be a superhero. This works miracles in terms of reducing fear. And, every once in awhile, there’s a reward for saving a life. Chances are you have to go outside to save a life. Go ahead. Go outside. Now.

Finally, know this:

This too shall pass. And it always does.

If you are still panicked or just want someone to help understand what is going on, follow me on twitter and message me. I’ll respond.

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