In human terms, options imply contracts you make with yourself. They aren't obligatory, but they will help you TRANSACT with yourself!!
I did a little checking and discovered that the term OPTIONS often surfaces when working with the most vulnerable populations, who often do not feel like they have options, like impoverished youth, youth facing mandatory military service, those with illiteracy problems and so on. In the middle of a Panic Attack we do not FEEL as though we have options, we feel like it's fight or die ... or we run away. We are vulnerable.
OR options are associated with the PRIVILEGED, those who have money as a tool and can "buy" something or use their power over others. The use of options is something we can do get our power back, an empowering set of possibilities.
And the possibilities for healthy living are literally endless. Below is an exercise to help you tap all those inner potentials.
In a PANIC attack, or in an intense anxiety situation, the idea we have options appears pretty limited, maybe even non-existent. Am I ringing any bells yet? A good preplan for panic attacks is giving ourselves a way to feel empowered. So being able to recall the exercise below was part of what became for me, a big tool in my recovery tool kit. It's these little time savers that make a difference over the long haul. Using these tools can turn our lives around.
We find out when we list out a few options that we have more time, can use our energy wisely, live with a passion (instead of internal constriction), wish to LIVE in reality and can go from an emotional/mental prison to freedom very quickly.
Take a DEEP breath -- relaxing right into it -- and then:
1. Take a piece of paper and number from 1 to 10
2. Write down each and every option that comes to mind, including those really dire ones.
I mean take a pen or pencil and list out the ghastly options we don't like anyone to know are there, burying themselves in our mind, such as: eating an entire chocolate cake, calling up an old toxic friend (or two or three), taking a trip down to the local bar where we got plastered last panic attack and so on. In a panic, our minds are likely to throw up the MOST despicable options at a "time like this". So we want to take a good look at those, later.
On the other hand, our Survivor inside also remembers some pretty good options, and is really excited to let them have some fresh air, so write down options like praying, meditating (not always easy in a panic attack, but the rest of the exercise should clarify that), take a walk, listen to some LOUD and WILD rock and roll, visit a friend, drink a glass of water or brew some tea ..
Hey, this is up to YOU! This is YOUR list! This is YOU figuring it all out in a framework you can understand.
You will find the limitless possibilities; a good list of 10 will help us reconnect with our intuition.
Write down ONLY ten, no more. We are not aiming for overwhelm. Concentrating on verbs helps us see the possibilities for action and find solutions, if you have a mind to do that.
3. Decide which you are willing to do. Circle those which seem appealing.
Take a look. What ten things were SCREAMING at you ..? The reason we do ten, is that it forces the mind to list more than one, thus we see how our having options is the greatest resource bank to draw on.
If you are like most of us, you will quickly and noticeably just leave the old, stale, self-harm non-options where they belong -- on the piece of paper. By now, your inner balance should have reached a point of equilibrium.
By now, those dire option will seem like what they are, dire and undesirable - these will hurt those we love and who love us. They surely will not lead to growing a healthy self of SELF esteem. They don't lead to growth and change, and perhaps we notice that they were robbing us of our human birthright which is, after all, creativity.
By looking at the list when we are feeling a bit less desperate we find that we can find at least one, or two or maybe more events or activities that we CAN do -- right now.
4. DO one of the circled OPTIONS!
This taking back our right to make decisions is very empowering.
Maybe things are so bad, we have to call a crisis hot line. This is actually an act of self empowerment, strange as that notion may sound. Our hands and mouth connect so that our brain can tune into in some new information by simply dialing a phone number and becoming ready to listen. Our mouths get used in a productive way as we speak our truth. For resources, here is a list of great numbers to call. It really is a great DO option.
You'll find it really doesn't take much to find that you have lots of power, right under your nose.
That's one thing about meeting our needs, they usually -- if not always -- can be fixed by something just as close as our nose, our fingers, our eyes, our ears, or our tongues. Use of the five senses rapidly changes our emotional landscape and our minds begin to clear.
5. Celebrate your success!
This can be so important as it reinforces that we can find our way back from any and all crises. It's a healthy form of self parenting and an amazing stress reducer.
The importance of a long term recovery PLAN
Meditation is a powerful tool for many. But if our mind/body/spiritual connection isn't authentic, meditation can stop us from experiencing emotions that need to be dealt with. It is a great and powerful recovery tool, but I have doubts about its use when having a panic attack. To be useful, some form of meditation must be used every day, even if it's just a few minutes of sitting quietly. I personally call this psi time; you can call it what you like.
I've met meditation addicts. This is a controversial area and not everyone will agree with me. Most people use meditation for the intended purpose - to help relieve a sense of inner peace and to help the subconscious mind unlock inner truths. According to Dr Thynn Thynn, meditation can be as addictive as your
morning cup of coffee or tea. You can become addicted to meditation also. Although this is definitely not a bad conditioning per se, there are many subtleties that one must be aware of in meditation. The mind is very tricky, and one must always be aware of how the mind can be trapped.If you are using meditation to help your subconscious find new options to deal with your panic then that is a healthy use for meditation. But, if you are using meditation as a way to escape from having to deal with your underlying issues, or to repress anything outside your "comfort" zone, then you will stay stuck in old unhelpful patterns. I have hung out with people who suppress their problems and end up reverting back to the same old, same old answers that never worked. As Ernie Larson has pointed out, insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. You can only resolve these issues and thought patterns by digging deep into the mind/body connection.
And ditto for the affirmations "racket". What I mean by this is that in a crisis, it's hard to trust WORDS. It's great to SAY, right aloud, with each syllable ringing above the din, "I CAN COPE!" But what I am saying is that writing down "I am a beautiful and loving person" 100 times is like scratching on a blackboard with chalk after being found guilty at school. AWK!
Try everyday to take time out for both these things. Make friends with your mirror and say the afirmations right aloud to yourself and get totally comfortable with saying them. But don't expect them to be cure alls during a panic attack.
Ever hear this joke ...? The good news is you are in recovery. The bad news is there are no days off.
When we start making a plan for recovery, the tools we select should accomplish job. No need to use a sledge hammer when a gentle pat will do the job. Prayer, meditation and affirmations are part of Daily Plan - they are not rescue workers.
What looking at active options accomplishes
During a panic attack, what I need is more room for growth. And I need it NOW. My bet is so do you when out feeling overwhelmed.
I know that if I start writing other types of activities down I get the relief I need. Usually it is my Inner Child who just wants to have some FUN. I find instead of engaging in "word work" that I want to reach UP! and OUT, flinging away all the webs and creepy crawlies that are lodged in my inner garden.
I am a walking meditator. I CAN sit for hours, I've had years of practice. And I can go "way out there" with mediation, too, in terms of hitting "other worldly" states of consciousness.
But I find that when my body is full engaged in the walking meditation activity, those inner promptings have a way of coming right to life inside this old noggin of mine. My best ideas have a way to flow. The possibilities enlarge while I am out there among other living beings. Nearly every really good thought I have had has come on "walks". When I lived in the UK, going to Stonehenge and sitting waiting for "answers" didn't do much for me. I went to the awesome Avebury, took a walk all the way round those inimitable stones (where did they come from?), crossed the old riverbed and climbed to the top of the hill. I felt AWESOME! That is when I realized, "Virginia, you are a walking meditator." All of me became open to CHANGE. Even the air I was breathing up on that tor seemed charged with possibility.
The two tools of sitting mediation and affirmations "work" and are most wisely used in a disciplined manner, setting aside prescribed times, rather than being used as a "fix". They deserve proper respect, not to be utilized to "cover up" and distract us from truly dealing with our problems. Most "word answers" have layers upon denial that might mask the real problem, still waiting to be addressed.
Instead, this list making frees up our right brain, coming up with just the right answer!! I love seeing that all I want to do is dance, dance, dance the night away and shake my sillies out. Indulging this craving allows me to get my "stuff" in a proper perspective, which only time can provide.
I am truly amazed how checking in with this "assignment" has accomplished for me over the years. I have a profound sense of what I am really excited about doing, what makes me doze, what has been imprinted on me as being "acceptable". After all, emotional well being is, at least in part, socially determined. Nobody wants to live in shame spirals by straying too far from what their social connections tell them are acceptable.
This options list making is easy, simple and HONEST. The ability to help me in moments of panic increased the longer I employed it. And that has made me into a better, kinder person. I take out my contract, no obligation but to myself to be just as I really AM; happy, joyous and free. What a freeing option. The lists become a way to take an inner breath, a process not an event.
Care to try it ...?
This is the fourth in a series of Lessons from Panic
Lesson 1: Inside panic and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Lesson 2: Learning to set reasonable goals and deal with PTSD
Lesson 3: Cut to the Chase - write about it!