I had a (small) panic attack Sunday night. I was crying, sweating, thinking a million things at once, breathing rapidly, and shaking. My chest was tight. I felt out of control. And it wasn’t nice. It wasn’t fun. I hadn’t had a panic in a while, so I did beat myself up for it having happened.
But, I wanted to write about why it happened, what it meant, and how I’m moving forwards (in the hope that it may help some of you, too).
How I got myself out of panic:
- Got out of bed, went to the bathroom, washed my face, told myself I was OK, I would be OK
- I got out my journal and wrote out the thoughts and fears that had led to the panic attack and kept overwhelming me – then tackled them
- I read – for distraction, another world, solace, all the things
What caused the panic attack?
Trying to do too much, in a nutshell. Even when we think we’re being productive, or even when we think we’re doing what’s best for us, sometimes we’re not. I advocate for mental health and I speak about intentional living and best life and growth all the time. But this can become an obsession if you’re not careful. If you’re not careful, you try to do too much in order to get that “best life” and you break down.
This is what I think happened to me.
I’m trying to find certain clients for my business; I’m trying to do NaNoWri Mo (write 50k words in a month); I’m doing my blog and podcast; I’m trying to read more; I’m trying to get back into a yoga routine; I’m trying to educate myself; have good social relationships; be there for others; grow within myself… and it gets to be too much.
There’s only so much a person can do.
And then there’s the big one…I’ve been focusing on the wrong things. Negative things. For instance, my sister has been considering doing some pretty big travel plans next year. Instead of being happy for her and asking about it, I straight away focus on my lack of bravery or whatever and get jealous. I then get angry.
And what for? Yes, she wants to live in another country and devote her time to travel and being a camp/leisure activity leader, which is amazing, but is that something I actually want to do myself? No! I love to travel and I want to see as much of the world as possible, and I think I will try to live abroad at some point in the right country, but I don’t want to do what she’s doing. It’s not my dream or goal, at least not right now.
So why the hell do I bother getting myself worked up about it?
Why do I take my eyes off my own goals and start to rethink my choices?!?!?!?!
The same goes for my friends or family members who mention university, or have just graduated, or are starting their course this year. I immediately start to get jealous and think “What have I done? I should have finished uni! I should go back! What course should I do? Or how can I pretty much study without going back to university?”
WHAT THE HELL?!
I quit for a reason. Whether or not I go back and finish is a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it, or a decision for the future, but I will not be going back just because I’m jealous of other people or worried to the point of going back. I will only go back and study in that way if I feel excited to do it; if there is a course or a career opportunity that pushes me to do it.
I don’t believe in doing things because you’re afraid to do anything else. Or doing things “just because”. Or doing things because you’re running away from something (usually your dream), not towards something.
So, why waste time and energy worrying about it? Wasting time even considering a path that doesn’t feel exciting or right for me (at least not now)? I know what I want. I know (at least roughly) what I have to do to get it. So why take my eyes off that goal and pursue (or consider) someone else’s goals?
The same has been true about knowledge. I get really worked up about my knowledge sometimes. I get annoyed that I don’t know a lot about science, maths, our world, politics, in-depth history, geography and so on.
But the thing is, I’m not alone! Many of us don’t. Unless we have a keen interest in these fields, we sometimes lack the knowledge about them. And that’s OK! We can’t know everything. There are not enough hours in the day to learn about every subject area, and work, and play, and breathe!
So why do I beat myself up or try to cram time in my day for things that don’t actually interest me? Instead, I should set my ego aside and just ask questions when someone says something I don’t understand. Or look something up in the moment. Be curious. But don’t focus too much time on things that don’t matter for you.
I know I’m a worrier. I’m an overthinker. I’m a jealous person. A comparing person. But this can’t be what I allow myself to do too often, otherwise, I will constantly fall down because I tripped myself up.
What did my panic attack teach me?
- Stop overthinking self-development and trying to do too much to grow
- Time management is key
- You can’t please everyone, not even yourself
- STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS; STOP LOOKING AT THEIR GOALS
- When in doubt, just read, bro
- Know yourself and what you want, and just do your best to be true to that
- Things take time
- Self-development should be an everlasting process, not an end destination
- Reminder: you’re only 23 years old, your life isn’t supposed to be all worked out
- It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and get back up to try again