Saturday, 26 May 2012

Premature panic

You look for your car keys in all the usual places: your drawers, the kitchen counter, the dressing table...they're nowhere to be found.  With your keys missing from the places you're accustomed to finding them, on cue the worst-case scenarios start to flash through your head.  What if they fell out of my pocket yesterday and the rain washed them down the drain...worse yet what if the dubious looking gardener next door found them and he's holding on to them, waiting for an opportune time...it's going to cost so much money and time to arrange a new key set and change the car's locks... 

Depending on your experiences and outlook you will have any number of different permutations playing through your mind as your breathing becomes heavier and heart rate goes up.  You face feels hot and you may even start perspiring a little.  Losing a set of keys seems to be a mundane problem, yet you find the symptoms of panic setting in.

Reptilian reactions
Our reptilian brains react to potentially bad situations as if they are already happening.  When our ancestors were faced with wild predators they had to react to the worst possible scenario then and there, because the worst could very well happen then and there.  A drastic, quick reaction was necessary to prevent oneself from being mauled and panic was the trigger for such appropriate action.  The reptilian part of your brain was concerned with basic survival only and it served mankind well when we lived in the wild.

Centuries on though those instincts haven't left us as we continue to have such reactions to losing our car keys, hearing of a possible stock market crash or receiving an impossibly tight deadline at work.  In such scenarios these reactions are unhealthy as they result in increased blood pressure and stress accumulation without actually yielding much benefit.  We're unconsciously treating daily events as life and death situations.  Calmly and systematically working towards your deadline will in all likelihood produce a better result than if you were to panic and work frantically, for instance.

Now there's a good chance your car keys are stuck in the couch or fell on the floor somewhere if you would retrace your steps.  Maybe you unconsciously placed them on the coffee table in the lounge while someone caught your attention as you walked in last night.  Whatever it is, don't react prematurely and consider the worst case scenario, because in most instances they are hypothetical situations that never end up happening.

Like any reaction, premature panic can be worked out of you if you would just be conscious of every time you panic over a mundane situation.  Don't think too far down the line when you struggle to locate those keys or your ID.  If you lose your keys, focus on finding them, nothing more.  If you can't find them and you fear someone stole them, you can get another key set made with a phone call and a one hour visit to the auto dealership.  If you fear the stock market is going to crash, you can log on to your share trading account right now and sell your shares before you suspect they will plunge.  Life goes on and it's a waste of energy to fret over all the possible consequences.  Most of the time the things you worry about are hypothetical, and of those that do manifest, they never amount to a consequence as dire as you feared.

With consistency you can condition undue reactions of panic out of your system.  Very few things warrant panic in this iteration of life, and it's time we evolved via conscious effort to reduce (albeit not eliminate) the inappropriate influences imposed by our reptilian brains.

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