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Don’t panic


Don’t panic! That’s rarely what you want to hear at those crazy moments when, odds are, panicking is exactly the thing you should be doing. The dictionary defines “panic” as a sudden, uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Reactions vary widely, from a little nervousness to a full-on panic attack, complete with hyperventilation, rapid pulse, excessive perspiration, and much more.

Fortunately, I’ve never really been someone who panics. I’m generally calm in high-stress situations. Adrenaline probably creates a false sense of clarity and focus. I would say I’ve experienced anxiety, tension, and worry, but nothing I would call panic. It made me wonder, what makes you panic? It’s likely that you’re not alone in your apprehension. So, here are some things that commonly make people panic.

Number one on the list, meeting the potential in-laws for the first time. This is a great one. Symptoms include sweaty palms, a terrible sense of inadequacy, and the feeling that you just swallowed a lizard – and it desperately wants to come back up.

Next up is the dreaded job interview. You spend the days and hours ahead of the big moment researching, reading self-help blogs about how to prepare for interviews, and generally freak out. And talk about sweaty palms, you nearly break into a human sprinkler system just sitting in the lobby waiting for your turn. That bouncing knee, what even causes that?

What about being stuck in an elevator? Do you panic then? It might be comforting to know that fewer than 50 people die in elevator-related accidents every year in the United States. Fatalities range from falling cars to being caught in the doors between floors. Gruesome! But, what are the odds of you being one of those people? You have a better chance of being hit by lightning or winning the lottery, now that should bring on some panic.

You’re lazily riding your bicycle down the street and suddenly realize the neighbor’s Jack Russel is out and has slipped his tether. There is nothing more panic inducing than a small dog chasing you on a bike. I never worry about the big dogs; they give up at the end of the driveway. But the little ones, oh dear! Just pedal faster and don’t turn around!

A first date. More sweaty palms, overthinking your clothes, and whether your car is cool enough to impress your date. Will you say the wrong thing, talk too much, or manage to seem interesting enough to get a second date? So much at stake and yet nothing at all.

Something I never thought of before – automatic flushers in public bathrooms. My niece shared with me that some people are afraid that the toilet will flush while they’re sitting on it. It’s the anticipation of when the flush happens that apparently induces the anxiety.

Oh, and remember the panic you felt back in grade school that accompanied report card day? (Yes, I’m old. Grade reports were once on paper.) Brow-soaking worry would set in about the grades the comments be, and, above all, will Mom or Dad sign it.

Vacation is supposed to be a relaxing, fun time with family and friends, a break from stress and worry. So, imagine you’re out on the open road and you just passed the first exit you’ve seen for hours and, suddenly, your car’s “low fuel” light comes on. The gas gauge is bouncing on “E” and now you start to worry. Will you make it to the next exit? Your car isn’t fancy enough to have the estimated fuel and mileage indicator so you’re in the dark. How much gas do you have left? Can you make it to the next exit?

What else can induce panic? How do you combat those feelings? Sometimes you can avoid things, but often, you just have to face whatever it is, head on, and move forward. Panic is caused by feelings spun up by thoughts. When I feel anxious or worried, I do my best to try to alter my thoughts, which, hopefully, will change my feelings and I can remain calm. Maybe you can find some practice that will help you do the same.

Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.