This is a follow-up to my earlier article, Seeking Balance During Extremes. In that article I gave some advice in the hope that it might help other people find peace and balance during these times of chaos. Of course, as soon as it was posted, I realized I forgot to address a very important issue: what about when you can’t stop panicking, no matter how much you breathe and try to be compassionate with yourself?
That’s not an easy question to answer. It is important to try to mitigate panic and anxiety, because they are usually anything but helpful during prolonged crisis. Calmness is the most productive state of mind for dealing with extremes, especially unpredictable and volatile extremes.
These are some of my suggestions for how to refocus or otherwise provide an outlet to your panic and anxiety. Different people will find different techniques more or less helpful, so try the ones that sound good to you, and if none of my ideas help you, don’t give up! There is a lot of good advice out there for people who are dealing with panic attacks and prolonged states of high anxiety, be that in the form of books, blogs, or vlogs. I recommend seeking out good advice, especially if it is coming from someone who is a professional in psychology, or has a lot of personal experience with overcoming such issues.
Listen for the Voice of Reason
Even if you are in a state of panic, do your best not to let it rule your actions. Stop and think before you do anything. Do your best to ignore the rushing sound in your ears, the shaking in your body, and the overwhelming sense of dread. Somewhere underneath all of that is your ability to think and reason. Do your best to find that voice. It will be the one that isn’t screaming at you to act right this very SECOND and do something impulsive, rash, and likely harmful.
Find that quiet voice, the one that isn’t in a rush, the one that is willing to be patient and wait to be heard. Find the one that calmly speaks from understanding and compassion and intelligence, and is firm, but not demanding.
Do your best to ignore the voice that is screaming and jumping around like a cranky toddler, demanding immediate attention. Ignore the voice that is acting like a rabid dog, snarling and struggling to attack anything and everything that gets near. The more demanding it is, the more likely it is that you are better off not doing what it tells you to do.
If you can’t find your voice of reason, and you are in a panic mode, you are probably better off focusing on expelling some of that panic energy, or doing nothing until you can find your voice of reason.
Scream and Cry as Often and as Long as You Need To
Panic can act a lot like a boiler that is overheating, and lacks enough vents to properly release pressure. If you don’t release the pressure, eventually it is going to explode, and make a giant mess of everything. Sometimes breathing and “letting it go” isn’t going to let it go, isn’t going to release enough of the pressure.
I cannot say this enough. It is extremely reasonable to be anxious, panicky, or otherwise mentally and emotionally less than OK. The current situation with COVID-19 is profoundly difficult for almost everyone, and I hope the most difficult thing you will endure during your life.
It is extremely reasonable to let off pressure by crying or screaming or ranting as often and as long as you need to.
Worried about alarming the neighbors with your screams? Scream into a pillow.
Running out of paper tissues from crying? Use wash cloths, bandanas, handkerchiefs, clean rags, etc., Set aside a particular waste basket just for dropping them into when they get gross, which will make it much easier to get them all into a washing machine without snotting the rest of your laundry or home.
Don’t want to flood your normal social media accounts with rants and raves, but feel the need to put your feelings, research, and opinions out there publicly? Create a new account, possibly under a pseudonym, and rant and rave as much as you need to. Use hashtags to increase visibility if you want that. You can tell your friends about it if you want to, or not. It is completely up to you. Update it as frequently or infrequently as you need to.
Start a journal on your computer or in a notebook. Write down everything you are thinking and feeling, with as little judgement as you can manage. The point is to give an outlet for all those thoughts and feelings which are swirling around and building pressure. Some of them will be reasonable, and many will not be. Which is the case is immaterial when you are writing them down. What matters is to get them out of your head! If you want to come back later and analyze them, you can. If you want to close the book on it and never look back, that’s fine too!
Some people find tremendous benefit from physical outlets for emotional upset. Emotional pressure contains a lot of energy, and physical movement can provide an outlet for that energy.
When I was a teen, if I got extremely angry with my toxically dysfunctional family, I would take an old phonebook and rip it to pieces. This was the early 90’s, so the phonebook where I was living was easily 3-4 inches thick. It was incredibly satisfying to tear the thing in half and then rip apart the pages until my energy was spent, and it made my family nervous enough they would leave me alone for a time.
While living in isolation, with limited ability to replenish supplies, it is unlikely that you have much which you can destroy without losing something you need, but if this sounds like a good outlet for you, look around. Items like cardboard boxes and soda cans, which need to go out to the curb anyway, are a potential target for destructive energy. Just be sure to set yourself up to destroy them without inadvertently hurting yourself or destroying something else of value, and be prepared to clean up the mess afterward.
Exercise is also a common outlet for emotional energy. Check YouTube, mobile apps, and other services. You can find something for any interest, fitness level, and physical ability. Many subscription services are offering deep discounts and extended free trial periods to help people through this crisis, so look around. Go for things that appeal to you, be it martial arts, aerobics, yoga, home-based boot camp, dancing, or something else entirely.
When you are using physical outlets for emotional energy, it helps to visualize or otherwise consciously channel the emotional energy and panic into the activity. Make a conscious connection that the energy you are expending is the emotional energy, burning it up or sending it out away from you and your space. Maybe visualize the emotional energy a foe you are beating up by doing your activity, forcing it to crawl away and leave you alone. Visualize it however makes sense for you, your emotional state, and your current activity. The important part is to consciously involve your need for an emotional outlet with the doing of the activity.
Reach out To Others
We are all stuck in this together, and you are not the only one who is struggling. Even though we can’t safely visit each other in person, reach out to your friends on social media, or through video and phone chats. Seek out blogs which resonate with you and give you the support you need. Find online support groups which provide camaraderie and support, and don’t be afraid to dump them if they become toxic for you.
This is not a competition. There is always someone who has it worse, no matter how bad you have it. Your struggle is valid, and so is everyone else’s. Try to avoid better-worse comparisons, and instead focus on being there for yourself and others.
If you have the ability, be there for other people who reach out. For many of you, that will be impossible, and that is absolutely fine! You need to take care of yourself, and if that takes every ounce of your energy, then spend your energy just on yourself.
For some people, being able to be there for others, even if it’s just a few close friends and not everyone who comes along, can provide a sense of peace and control when everything else feels like chaos.
If you have something uplifting or fun that you can share generally, and you want to share it, do it! Lots of people are setting up virtual events to share their creative skills and joys, like poetry, book reading, gaming, music, etc. It takes time and patience to garner a large audience, so it’s likely your only audience at first will be a couple good friends who enjoy what you do, but if it helps them and you get through this, it might be worth the effort.
Look for online events which other people are hosting that might give you a positive outlet to dispel your more difficult emotions. Music performances, book readings, hobby-based virtual meetings, and magic rituals are among just a few things which I have noticed being offered for little or no cost during this crisis.
Difficult emotions are incredibly potent when focused towards a goal. If you cannot or do not want to dispel your anxiety and panic and anger and frustration and fear, you can try channeling it towards a magical purpose.
It is extremely critical to listen for your voice of reason if you want to work effective magic with as few unintended consequences as possible, especially if you are crafting your own spells from scratch. You need to find that calm, patient voice of reason, for it will be able to tell you where to focus your energies. If that is difficult for you to do, I highly recommend instead focusing your energy on adding to someone else’s magical efforts, or using their efforts as a template for your own working.
There are a lot of public pagans and witches who are posting about their magical efforts to help with the pandemic, and many are openly inviting others to join in. The witch whose efforts I have been following the most closely is Laura Tempest Zakroff. She has been holding online sigil workshops where they are creating community sigils which you can use as the focus for your workings, and no surprise, all the sigils they have been making are COVID-19 related.
There are a lot of ways to focus your more volatile emotions into a working, mostly depending upon your personal practice and tradition. If my exercise doesn’t work for you, dive into your understanding of your personal practice, or reach out to others online for suggestions about how to focus and channel your difficult and overwhelming emotions.
Breathe, and find yourself. Be aware of your surroundings, your body, your breath, the beating of your heart, and the meanderings of your emotions and mind. It is time to focus.
Dive into your primal emotions, your anger, panic, fear, frustration, and so on. Dive into them deep! Allow yourself to be swallowed whole, and enveloped by those feelings. Dive to the most hidden depths, and grab hold of them. Own them, for they are yours!
If you start to feel overwhelmed, hold tight, but bring your focus back to your breath. Slowly in. Slowly out. Slowly in. Slowly out. You aren’t drowning. You can do this. Grab them tighter. Breathe. If you are so inclined, you can ask for aid from those deities and spirits with whom you work.
Inhale and exhale in slow, steady breaths. Pull all of it from the depths and bringing it to the surface. Focus it. Feel it. Bring it all to bear. Bring it all into your consciousness. Feel the mass of it, the movement of it, but don’t worry about each little thread or detail. If it feels like it is too much, like it will smother you, grab hold of that fear and bring it, too, to the surface.
Hold your breath. All of these emotions, all of this power, it is yours, and you can do with it as you please. It is your power, to hold and to command. Be one with it. It is potent, and it has the ability to affect real change.
Inhale and exhale as you take aim, focus, and begin to transform the energy of your primal emotions. While the emotions and energy bubble and roil, bring your hands to a place of power, and aim. Bring your attention to the focus of your working. Reflect on how the emotions and energies you have brought to bear can find potent purpose in aiding that focus. Give them that purpose. They are no longer aimless, caged, and self-destructive. They have a task. If you are so inclined, ask those deities or entities you work with to aid you in focusing, transforming, and aiming your primal emotions and energies.
Briefly hold your breath. Feel your heart beat. All is as it should be, for you are the calm at the eye of the storm, and you are ready.
Exhale until you feel you can exhale no more, and then push out the last bit of air from your lungs. With your breath, your body, your heart, and your mind, send all the primal energy out from yourself, like a bolt to the target of your focus.
Inhale. Breathe in slow, deep breaths. Ground, center, and allow the beneficial hopes, dreams, and well-wishes of yourself and others to fill you and comfort you. If you practice energy healing or energy shielding, use that to help soothe and heal the wounds self-inflicted by the primal emotions you’ve been carrying.
You might find yourself invigorated, or exhausted, or somewhere in between. Potent, primal emotions are exhausting, even though they can seem like a source of energy while they are urging you to fight or flight. Practice self-care in the wake of a deep emotional dive, and the expenditure of massive amounts of emotional energy, and be kind to yourself.
Remember to Have Fun
It can seem impossible to have fun when life is so bleak, but we need fun in our lives in order to make it through the hard times, as well as the good. Try new or old hobbies, get novel or nostalgic in your viewing choices, turn anything you can into a game*, watch live streamed events (and participate in the live chats), etc.
Do you feel like having fun is nothing but a diversion? Well, of course it is! That’s the point! You need to give yourself respite from the stress and horror of what is happening in the world, or it will crush you.
You can do this.
*The link is a search for “DIY Games Indoor” on Google. You can further refine by “DIY Games Indoor for Adults”, but I opted not to, since “children’s” games are often fun and delightful, quick and easy to set up, and can take as little or as much time as you desire. It can also be wonderful to play a game you don’t have to work terribly hard at, especially when everything else in life is overwhelmingly difficult.