Your life is not an emergency room

Why we panic and how to live panic-free

In 2013, according to the Center for Disease Control, there were 130.4 million emergency hospital visits in the United States. Whether it's a bullet wound, overdose, or cardiac arrest, during our livelihoods, no one is exempt from the possibility of one or multiple emergencies, whether they be medical or not. Therefore, all of us have an idea of how we would react given an emergency situation. We would collect the facts, we would remain calm, and we would let the experts do what they were trained to do. However, emergencies can mess with our sense of rationality, and that's when the panic sets in.

Panic is something we all deal with, emergency or nonemergency. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates anxiety disorders to affect 18% of the U.S. population. But of those, only about one-third get treated. That means some 26 million people are dealing with their panic on their own. It's like having an emergency many times, everyday.

Think about what that does to your body. Panic attacks include terrifying symptoms like rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, and a feeling of impending death. They can drive a person out of control and even simulate the sensations of having a heart attack. Efforts to ease these symptoms on their own can lead to self-medication and dependence on substances like prescription drugs and alcohol. Panic disorders have any number of causes, from genetics, to the environment, to pre-existing conditions. But they are serious if left untreated.

For those of us that don't have anxiety or panic disorders, there are still little things in life that can make us stressed. Maybe it's a long line at the post office or unexpected paperwork. Maybe it's a break up, a failure, or a disappointment. We can panic because we are overwhelmed by the possibility of a major change. We can ruminate about catastrophes because we have negative scripts running through our heads. We can run through disaster scenarios to be prepared for the worst. But what draws the line between being prepared and being paranoid?

One of the yogic principles is acceptance without judgment. There is a certain proportion of life that we are not meant to control. Regardless of spiritual beliefs, knowing that we cannot control everything can provide some level of comfort. We first have to evaluate each plot twist of our lives. We have to ask ourselves if it will have an impact on our physical, mental or emotional well-being. We often hear the adage, "It's not life or death." If your life is not threatened, or the life of someone close to you is not threatened, there is no need to panic.

The easiest way to relieve panic is to remove yourself from a situation to reset. We all know that deep breathing is a way to stabilize and calm down. Learn all the information you possibly can before setting in place an action plan. Often, panic sets in during idleness, so taking action is the best way to distract ourselves from ruminations.

Emergencies happen, and then life happens. Don't make an emergency out of something small if you can help it. If you feel overwhelmed by your anxiety, click here for more resources on how to find help.

For more tips on how to reduce your anxiety, read this.