Have you ever had a panic attack? I think I had my first one when I was about 8 years old, although I didn’t know it at the time. Panic attacks are funny things, they present themselves in different ways. We might imagine that someone having a panic attack will be fighting for breath, perhaps showing symptoms we might associate with a heart attack. Yet panic does not always show up that way.
For me, a panic attack doesn’t really show up externally, unless you know me well and know what you are looking for. Inside I will be tense, my stomach clenched hard, a lump in my throat, my thoughts skittish and unable to focus. The fight or flight response comes up, and I will either snap and be irritable, or I will get up and leave a room / meeting / situation with no explanation. Inevitably I have been seen as rude and easily offended at times, when in reality I have been fighting hard internally to keep it together and not burst into tears.
Fortunately these episodes are now few and far between, as I understand them far better, understand my triggers and know well in advance when something is making me tense. I can pretty much instantly spot a situation now which will set me off on the path to panic, and can start to work on my mindset and mental stories before I get overwhelmed. I have also this year had timeline therapy with the fabulous Beth Penfold, which has made my panic attacks even less likely to strike, as I have been able to finally let go of some things I have been carrying inside for many years.
I am not immune though, and sometimes I still feel that panic rising. In any case, day to day life is full of its stressors, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed even if you are not suffering from panic itself. Following the work I did in timeline therapy I now have a set of mantras that I can say to myself whenever I feel like things are getting too much, and they never fail to help. Panic and overwhelm can feel so huge, that it seems ridiculous to suggest that simply reading some words can help them subside, but our brains are not as complex as we imagine. Just as fast as they can be triggered to stress, our brains can also be calmed to a feeling of safety, just by us giving them the appropriate messages.
To make it easy for me to find my mantras, and for them to have as much resonance as possible, I have made myself some flashcard images that I keep on my phone. They are all stored in an album that is easy to find, and they are in pretty colours and with images that are meaningful to me. So whenever I need them I can open them up, read through them, see the images, absorb the words and it always helps me to centre myself and find my calm once more.
These cards have been so helpful to me that I wanted to share the calm and clarity with all of you. So I have created two sets of Clarity Cards, one in soothing blues and one in uplifting yellow, each with the same set of mantras but each set has slightly different images. The 10 mantras I have chosen for the set are:
- I am an adult
- I am in charge of my own emotional well-being
- I am safe
- I am loved
- I choose how I approach my life
- I am only responsible for my own reactions
- What other people think of me is none of my business
- I can rest whenever I choose
- I am worthy of care and attention
- I can build the life I want
Just read through those slowly and see how they make you feel.
It is easy to create your own flashcards, either virtually or on paper, but if you would like to purchase one of my ready made sets for just £5 you can do so here: http://www.clear-day.co.uk/clear-your-day/
I also have personalised options available, where you can either send me both your mantras (up to 10) and your images, or you can just send me your mantras and I will find images to go with them. That way you can have your very own set with words and images that are meaningful to you.
Most of the time something that makes us panic or causes us to feel overwhelmed is a real and valid issue, and it will be something that we need to address, work through and resolve. In the middle of a panic attack or period of severe stress is, however, not the time to be looking for those bigger solutions. Those can come when we are calm again and ready to consider our options. Before that can happen we need to remind ourselves of reality, find our clarity and soothe our minds. I hope that my Clarity Cards enable you to do just that.
Helen Calvert, June 2020