I’ve always been a scaredy-cat.
As a wildly imaginative kid who devoutly believed in Closet Monsters and their equally nefarious cousins the Monsters-Under-the-Bed, most of my childhood nights were spent with the covers pulled over my head (monsters can’t see through covers) or curled up on the foot of my big brother’s bed (monsters are afraid of big brothers) until sunlight restored peace to my universe.
As an adult, my fears changed from monsters to everday things such as driving, crowds, and unfamiliar places. After a particularly stressful time in my life, those fears gave birth to a legion of others, and functioning normally became increasingly difficult. Counseling helped, as did a support group, but certain things can still be challenging. Here are a few coping mechanisms that work for me:
When I find myself floundering and the whole world seems to be closing in on me, I ask myself if any of the H.A.L.T.s might be coloring my world.
If any (or all) of the above are in play, there’s a good chance my perspective is skewed. Once I address the neglected component, I can push a mental “Reset” button and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
H.A.L.T. isn’t my own invention. Many twelve-step groups have included it in their programs for years. It’s simple, direct, and it sure can’t hurt.
2. Is the game worth the candle?
Back in medieval times, candles were expensive–not unlike today’s electric bills! After-dark games required the use of at least one candle; if a particular game was deemed “not worth the candle”, this meant it wasn’t worth the expense of the light with which to see it.
So what’s this got to do with fear?
Example: Social occasions scare the daylights out of me and leave me absolutely drained. When I’m feeling pressured to attend one, I ask myself if the game (social occasion) is worth the candle (my limited store of energy). Often the answer is no; when the answer is yes, I can utilize H.A.L.T. and other coping skills to get me through it.
Not too long ago, I developed a sinus infection so severe my husband had to drive me to the health center. Besides feeling awful in general, I was so dizzy and light-headed that when we arrived I had to lie down on a low pallet in the examining room. When the doctor came in, my husband helped me climb onto the raised examing table. Diziness overwhelmed me when it was time to get off the table and I went into panic mode, certain I’d never be able to make it out of the room, let alone to the car.
Luckily the doctor, who was “on loan” from a local E.R. and suffered with sinus problems himself, was prepared. With my husband standing close by, he said, “Okay, we’re going to transition. All you have to do right now is get both feet on the step-down shelf. Good! Take a breath. Now, feet on the floor, first one, then the other. Attagirl! Breathe. See? You can do it! Remember, transition!”
Transitioning has become one of my favorite coping mechanisms. I use it whenever I’m confronted with a task that seems overwhelming at first glance, but looks much more doable when broken down into smaller increments.
5. Panic attacks– A.W.A.R.E. to the rescue!
Panic attacks are awful. I don’t get them nearly as often as I used to, but I’m all too familiar with the sensation of being trapped, and the feelings of dread and utter helplessness.
I came across a neat little self-training device that I was glad to add to my bag of coping tricks. It’s called A.W.A.R.E, which stands for
- Acknowledge and accept
- Wait and watch
- Actions (to make myself more comfortable)
and it reminds me what to do when a panic attack hits. Check out this link for details.