In stage two panic becomes normal operations. Your heart rate goes wild, you produce way too much cortisol. It feels like you have an animal living inside you that is constantly on the move, pacing, pacing, pacing.
Your mind races from point to point, idea to idea, never being able to land in one spot and be still. Your thoughts are skating across the surface of thin ice. There is no traction, no depth, no substance to them. It feels like any step you take will have you plunge through the ice into the cold dark depths of no return.
Because of the high burn of cortisol and adrenalin you may reach to food and alcohol to find some quiet. Or, you may forget to eat. You may go hard hard hard at exercise because you are likely to go hard at everything.
For weeks at a time sleep may seem unnecessary. I recall going through this stage and averaging only a few hours of sleep a night and feeling just fine…mostly because of the high concentration of stress chemicals in my blood. Many people actually become addicted to this stage, as the rush of chemicals brings a level of enjoyment. Senses are on high alert, it feels like you have an extreme ability to focus, that you are bullet proof. And for short periods you may be.
But this state is highly unsustainable. You will crash and burn. And it will be a bad crash the longer you stay in the panic stage.
It is often common to cycle between stage 1 and 2, back and forth, back and forth. Paralysis, panic, paralysis, panic. This may go on for years.
To move through this stage you need to create stillness. You do need to STOP. This of course may appear to be the opposite of what we discussed in stage 1, which was to move.
It is important that you stay moving, and you also need to commit to times of staying still. If your moving/exercise is filled with panic, then switch to an exercise that allows movement and stillness, like yoga, tai chi, swimming or a walk in nature. For me, as a long term runner, I slowed my pace and went running in nature whenever possible, taking in the beauty around me as I ran. Running became a moving meditation versus a high burn panic filled run.
Create at least 20 minutes in your day to be still and to sit. No exceptions. Learn to meditate. Or listen to a piece of beautiful music. Go to a place that is filled with natural beauty and sit.
The panic is almost completely unproductive. It is the hamster spinning on the wheel. At most 20% of your activity will be of any value, the rest is simply panic building on panic.
Find that quiet still place inside , the eye of the hurricane..the all knowing, all wise, ever present aspect of self. This part of you is able to be still while the storm rages. Access this. And once there, ask yourself this question…
If I trusted myself now, what would I do?
If the answer is coming from the panic place, it is the wrong answer. If the answer comes from the quiet still place it is far more likely to be the right answer.
You only need the very next step. Not the second step, or the 20th step. Just the very next step. The step to take now.
Do that…take that step, the step that arises from the quiet still eye of the hurricane.
Then go back to the quiet still place and ask for the next step. Repeat. One step at a time. You do not need the big plan, the whole strategy. You just, for now, need the next step. And then the next.
If possible eat good food, get as much rest as you are able. Continue to get support from your mentor, someone who has been through this process. Do not be deluded to think you can get through this on your own. You may be able to, but it is the fools way….the slow way….
Many people have experienced this before. Far more than you realise. They will be able to guide you. Seek it.
Panic is your inner team of horses galloping away….you need to take back the reins.
Photo credit: NASA