6 Steps to Exchange Panic with Peace in Your Expatriate Experiences

I woke refreshed and energized, having had a night of uninterrupted sleep – a rarity at this stage in my womanhood!  Life was good! Walking downstairs, I saw my husband sitting in the overstuffed leather chair, face in hands, leaning forward.

“Good morning” I said cheerfully. He looked up, brow and forehead furrowed in concern. “Munchy Crunchy Bar (endearing name of child #4, teen-age son) didn’t come home last night”. We aren’t talking ”sleep over”. Our attempts to text him home from 9 p.m. on, as it was a school night, went unnoticed. I went to bed at 11. He cut off contact with his dad around midnight. He was out with less than desirable people (our judgement). This is our child with a history of trauma.

My heart went from 72 beats a minute to 140 pounding beats in less than a minute. Mind racing, I pictured all the worse of places he could be and all the things that could be happening to him. My head felt like it would explode. My stomach was a twisted tangle of knotted anxiety. My throat tight. I was in the grip of fear! You’ve been in this place too.  To deal with panic:

Red Panic Button1. Acknowledge the panic. This will help the logical part of your brain convince the scared part that there isn’t any danger… at least none that you can’t deal with. Scanning your body is a good way to do this and only needs to take a few seconds. Notice, without judgement, your body sensations and feelings: “Becky, your boy is in some unknown place, your throat is tight, heart racing and stomach knotted. You care so much and you’re panicked. It’s ok.” 

Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds  on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.    Anais Nin

 2. Breathe. Deeply. Slowly. In and out.  Our mid-brain is constantly checking for two things around us: pain vs. pleasure and danger vs. safety. Of course it wants pleasure and safety. When it perceives pain or danger, it initiates a call to action through the flight-fight response. The body prepares by increasing heart rate, breathing shallowly, tightening muscles to get ready for action.  This can all happen with a THOUGHT of perceived pain or danger. Slow and steady breathing helps interrupt this process.

“Becky,” I tell myself “just breathe. In slowly. Out deeply. Breathe in Love. Breathe out anxiety. Breathe in Peace. Breathe out fear. Breathe in surrender. Breathe out panic. He’s ok. I’m ok…”

3. Surrender. Realizing helplessness and powerlessness is key. Surrendering to a Higher Love and Sovereignty allows ‘letting go’ and moving to calm. Research shows prayer is powerful in our minds and bodies, so take it to God or the universe.

“God”, I prayed over my son “please protect him, love him, and bring him back safely.” I admit I added a little about not killing him when I saw him – suffocation from a bear hug!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds… The Bible

4. Make a plan. “What do I have control over?” It’s important to ask this question, make a plan and take some sort of action. You have control over your thoughts, behavior and feelings. What do you choose in this moment and the minutes and hours ahead that will empower, rather than keep you stuck? 

My thoughts went something like “I can handle this. I am his mom and Munchy Crunchy Bar doesn’t need me crumbling now. It’s 7 a.m. and I’m hoping he’s sleeping. I doubt he’ll be at school, so I’ll give them a call at 8 and wait to text him at 9:30. What do I want to say in the text? How will I give 100% to my coaching clients who call until I know he’s safe?”

5. Stay in the present. “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life. Some of which actually happened.”  Mark Twain   How often do we think the worst? And it doesn’t happen! This robs us of precious energy and focus needed for NOW. Be present. Work with the facts you know. Most of the time it isn’t half as bad as it feels.  Deal with what’s now… not what might be. I often say ‘WHAT IS not WHAT IF’.

“My son is ok. I’m ok. I will wait in peace until I hear from him. We will work this out. There is always a way.”

6. Think the best. What do you love about the person over whom you’re panicked? Realize what makes them unique and Thinking Bubblespecial.  What miracles are happening in this hard experience? Review them. If you can’t see any, start to look with new eyes. What are you grateful for? Write these in your journal.  Begin to think on these things and see what unfolds in time. This can be a beautiful and daily discipline.

Panic is a sudden desertion of us and a going over to the enemy of our imagination. Christian Nestell Bovee

“My son is smart and creative. He’s loyal and makes us all laugh.” I’ll stop there because otherwise I’ll get carried away… “He’s taking more responsibility and most of the time makes good choices. We have a great connection… still have influence. He cares about what we think and has 3 siblings he loves and respects…”

6 Steps ListTry any one of these steps. Come up with 3-4 to put into practise next time you want to press the panic button. Write them on a 3X5 card. Carry it with you. Try them out. Let me know how it goes, ok? I’d love to hear your stories.

You and I are stronger, smarter and more resourceful than we give ourselves credit for when we panic.  We are resilient and do bounce back from hard experiences. Allow panic to shift to peace, no matter the experience you find yourself in. And know I’m here cheering you on,  

 Becky Signature


P.S. – Munchy Crunchy Bar texted late a.m. saying he was safe and returned home early p.m. We are both alive to tell the story!  My husband commented how peaceful I was along the way. That wouldn’t have been me a year ago. You, too, can learn peace from panic too.

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