Why Freaking Out Limits You & How To Move Beyond For Good Solutions
“DON’T FREAK OUT!”
Within the first 10 min of New Year’s Day 2019 that was the message.
Loud and clear. “DON’T FREAK OUT!”
Then … “Trust and a solution will appear quickly”.
Emphasis on trust and on quickly.
Here’s what happened New Year’s Morning 2019 that drove that message home for me.
Upon waking early New Year’s Day, I sleepily let the dogs out in the fenced yard and started to boil some water in the kettle. Next thing I know, one of my dogs wanted in. ‘Boy that was quick’ I thought as I opened the door for her. I then noticed my other dog was nowhere in sight.
Curiously I stepped out in the frigid morning air and called for her. She was nowhere in sight. That’s when I saw the fence gate was wide open, thanks to strong winds the night before. ‘Rutroh’ … an open gate is a dog’s invitation to explore the neighborhood, right?
Wide awake now, I grabbed my coat, jumped into sneakers barefoot, and grabbed her leash. As an afterthought, I also grabbed some of her treats.
As I flew out the front door, I wondered if I should wake my teen up … she’s really good at finding and bringing Lilly back. I decided not to as I didn’t want to waste any more time.
As I reached our front yard, my heart is racing and my mind is starting to FREAK OUT … “Where could she have gone?” “Has it been that long?” “Oh No!”
I stopped, stood still for a moment and listened.
There was no traffic. And no dogs barking either. No noise at all in fact.
“Ok” – that was a good sign I decided. I took a couple of deep breaths which slowed my heart rate down and paused. Then, I gently called her name once as I walked peacefully out to the front sidewalk.
As soon as she heard me, she came bounding out from my neighbor’s yard with a huge smile on her face that said “Hey Mom! I’m having SO MUCH FUN!”.
She then bounded across the street to her best dog friend’s yard where I was easily able to put her leash on. As we walked back home, her tail was wagging and her face exuded pure joy. I happily told her what a good dog she was while also offering her treats.
If I had continued to ‘Freak Out’, she would have heard it in my voice and would have run in the opposite direction away from me and fast!
Had I freaked out and woken my teen up, she would have helped out but with a bit of a ‘teen-tude’; not exactly a fun way to start New Year’s Day for either of us!
Had I freaked out, I would have created all this stress for myself, my runaway dog and my teen.
Because I took some deep calming breaths and paused, my voice did not carry any tension or worry when I gently called her name, and she came right to me. In essence, I trusted that she would come back to me quickly.
As soon as we came back into the kitchen, I started to praise my other dog for alerting me so quickly that something was up. As I was rubbing her chin, I felt a lump, which I soon realized was a tick.
“Come on! A tick?!” “In January in Central New York? Really?!”
DON’T FREAK OUT!
Instead, I took a breath, paused, and trusted. She stayed very still, which was uncharacteristic for her, while I calmly got my tweezers and pulled the tick off of her. Thankfully it was dead – again that trust.
Had I freaked out, she would not have let me go anywhere near her or her jaw wondering what the heck was wrong with me.
Had I freaked out, I would have caused her undue stress when, not one minute before, I had been praising her. How confusing would that have been for her?
By breathing, pausing, and trusting, the dead tick was quickly removed and her attention stayed focused on being praised and petted.
It was just then that the kettle started to whistle. Oops! I had forgotten to turn off the stove in my rush. But again, because I didn’t freak out, everything was resolved even before the kettle was ready. That’s also how quickly everything happened New Year’s Day 2019.
As I made my tea, it occurred to me those 1st 10 minutes of 2019 had set the tone for navigating the rest of 2019.
- Don’t Freak Out! No matter what the situation is, don’t freak out.
- Breath. Take a couple of deep breaths.
- Slow Down. The deep breathing will help you slow down. Once you slow down, your brain can start to think logically.
- Trust. Once you’ve slowed down and are breathing normally, trust that the solution is right there for you. You may be surprised at the solution, and because you’re not freaking out you are open to a new perspective you had previously not seen or thought of.
Think of your brain as a huge multi-lane and multi-level highway similar to the picture below, with each lane processing many thoughts at the same time.
When your brain goes into freak out mode, it’s kind of like most of the highway lanes and levels shut down, which causes major backups where only a few cars, or thoughts, can squeeze through like the picture below. That’s why the only options you can think of when you’re stressed are limiting and are typically only variations of the same ineffectual options.
When you breathe deeply, pause, and trust, all of the highway lanes and levels open back up and start processing information again very quickly. That’s when new solutions come into focus that you may not have ever considered before. And quickly!
When my teen was in 4th & 5th grade, she used to get very stressed in school. Coincidentally (or maybe not?), it seemed I was often unclogging drains in my house during that time. It led me to come up with the following mantra for her:
‘A stressed brain is like a clogged drain, the information is stuck. A stress-free brain is like an unclogged drain, it is constantly flowing beautifully.’
She is now in 9th grade and about to go through her first set of regent exams; I asked her how she was feeling about them the other day. She looked at me with a blank look – she had completely forgotten about them. After a pause, she realized she had a ‘chill’ attitude towards them and was looking forward to the lighter school schedule that accompanies those exams. Coincidentally (or probably not!) I have not had to unclog any drains in the house for several years now!
Have you had times when no matter how much you tried to figure out a solution, nothing comes to mind? And once you’ve slept on it you woke up with the answer or several answers? Or maybe you’ve worked out, run, practiced yoga, or danced and then you just knew which solution would work best? These are just other ways of breathing and pausing so your brain comes up with some solid solutions that you can trust.
Do you have a unique way of problem-solving? Have you had times when you’ve struggled with a problem and the best solution turns out to be very unexpected? And the way you figured it out was also out of the ordinary? Please share what works for you in the comments, we would all love to hear.
If you are stuck on a particular problem, maybe another perspective is what is needed, let us know. Or if you would like to learn how to pause, breath, and trust, we are here for you. Simply reach out to one of us in the comments section (it will stay private and will not be published); we are here for you.
Shedding the shyness of my youth, I cheer exuberantly for my daughter, her teammates, and even the opposing Field Hockey team! Their pride & heart filled smiles beam in appreciation regardless of the final score.