Try time-boxed panics
My mom is very clever and thoughtful and when I was in my early teens and easily overwhelmed and generally freaking out or panicky she'd say, "feel it. Be here. What is your body telling you. Freak out fully but put a time limit on it."
This idea of "time-boxed freak outs" has always stuck with me. A few times a year I get overwhelmed. I think we all do to some extent. Often I'd try to fight it, don't cry, don't get overwhelmed.
But I remembered what my Mom said and I started being present in the freak out. I'd set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and REALLY own it. Get upset, cry, and not feel bad about it.
I deserve the release and by time-boxing it, it allowed me to own it and accept it. I can ramp up, and then ramp down. I've found this to be far more healthy than trying to swallow feelings and hold it in. Sometimes it needs to be OK to go and cry in your car in the parking lot.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm a random person and this is my random blog. This advice works for me and has worked for others, but know yourself and talk to a therapist if you are having uncontrollable panic attacks or feel unsafe. If this doesn't sound helpful, be present and be safe.
I tweeted about this idea and found a number of replies that also found this technique helpful. Here are some anonymized quotes:
“time boxed panic” I love it. Don’t skip the feelings. You can’t. You just defer them often to disastrous results. Sit with the discomfort a while. The way out is through.
Great advice. For some reason, we have been taught to suppress emotions, not to let things get to us and to not panic. And unfairly, men in particular have been encouraged not to show emotion. But it is a natural human response. Give yourself permission to feel & time box it.
This is a phenomenal idea. I would add, if you could add a few more minutes, take a walk away from whatever is stressing to clear your head. Sometimes being away from what is causing the stress can help as a reset.
You don't even have to cry or freak out. Just give yourself a time box to sit, stare, and clear your mind. No phones, no distractions. We have too much swirling in our heads.
Again, as with all random internet advice, you are under no obligation to do anything you don't feel is safe for you. However, some have found this helpful. I also recorded a TikTok about it that is just 1 minute long:
I hope it helps you. Be well!
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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
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