Depending on where you live, you might have experienced a recent gas shortage panic. While visiting my mom in another state, I woke up to the news that people were flocking to gas stations all over the state (and neighboring states) because a security breach had halted the Colonial Pipeline. Thankfully, I filled up my tank a few nights earlier and knew I had enough to get home to Virginia, but I was still nervous: nervous for what this event meant for our country, nervous for our way of life, and nervous for what it might mean for the future. So much has changed lately.
As much as I wish I could turn it on and off, that sick feeling sometimes sets up shop in the pit of my stomach. As I anticipated my trip home, I messaged a friend who lives an hour west of my Mom to see what was going on in his town. He responded as I expected – people were panicking.
“Get gas. Fill up now. Do not wait. Drive straight home and make no unnecessary stops.”
He was not wrong. As my sister-in-law and I pulled out onto the road, we saw lines at gas stations everywhere. It reminded me of those iconic “No Gas” photos from the 1970s. As we drove further, we noticed a lot of empty gas stations with signs or bags over the pumps. Word spread, people became afraid, and before long entire portions of states were without fuel.
Though “the experts” told us there was no need to panic, some did anyway. And panic, like a virus, spreads quickly. Thankfully, the gas shortage situation did not last as long as we all feared it might. As of today, gas stations in my area are running smoothly again, but not without a large price increase. Good rarely comes of panic.
Panic makes it difficult to make sound decisions.
Panic turns off our ability to think clearly.
Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options. – Simon Sinek
When was the last time you panicked over something real or imagined? What caused your panic? How did you get through the situation? Though not obvious to the world, it does not take much for me to panic. Most of my anxiety is internal and only Eric and my closest friends get to “enjoy” it.
As one who is prone to internal panic, I jotted some thoughts on how we can all avoid the continuous rush of dread, alarm, and paralyzing anxiety.
- Freedom from panic starts with preparation. “A failure to plan is a plan for failure” (attributed to Benjamin Franklin). I would add that a failure to plan is a recipe for panic. Though we cannot know what is coming and therefore cannot know how to plan for every eventuality, we can look at the signs around us and make informed decisions. It is hurricane season and I live on the east coast. I should probably make sure I have batteries, extra food, a generator, and an evacuation route. Preparing for situations beforehand creates a blueprint for those times when it is not so easy to think clearly. Wise older people who have lived through a lot of adversity can give us great advice on how to prepare for possibilities. God’s Word tells us to prepare for Christ’s coming. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:32-33, ESV) The first line of defense against panic is preparation. “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4, ESV) “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27, ESV)
- Freedom from panic requires focusing on the goal (or solution) rather than the obstacle. Are any of you, like me, easily nauseated by car rides? Ever since I was a toddler, too much jostling in the car causes me intense nausea (and all the fun which comes with it). The worst is during that time of the day when the sun beats down through the trees causing flashes of light, dark, light, dark, light, dark. If I let myself stare at the passing trees and the psychedelic light show they create, I will always get sick (every. single. time.). However, if I pick a focal point far away and look straight at it, I am less likely to become ill. Staring the problem dead in the face while it jumps, flashes, and dances in your eyes will cause your heart to beat faster and your breakfast to start climbing back up the shoot; but looking past the problem at potential solutions helps keep the panic from taking over your mind.
- Freedom from panic is more accessible with proper rest. So much of our lives are affected by how much rest and sleep we get. When we are not well rested, it is more difficult to see life objectively. Some people get goofy when they are tired. Others, like me, get emotional or grumpy. I remember my mentor saying, “It is harder to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit when we are tired.” Sometimes we cannot control how much sleep we get. New babies, seasons of school and work, and health issues can all cause us to forgo sleep. However, when possible, prioritize rest. It is so much easier to think clearly in crazy situations when our minds and bodies are rejuvenated. Additionally, rest in the Lord. Spend time with Him in prayer and in Bible reading. Let the living, breathing Word of God wash over you (Hebrews 4:12). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
- Freedom from panic is easier when you understand why you panic. Years ago, my grandma asked my mom, “Do you always have to have a crisis?” Interesting question. Mom becomes overwhelmed easily and outwardly. Me? I am laid back (i.e., I freak out on the inside and go numb). Part of why I panic is because I saw it modeled. Mom exhibited her anxiety verbally and through hyper movement. Dad showed signs of anxiety, too, though it manifested itself differently in him. Like me, he would escape into a distraction like TV. Mom panics easily, in part, because of her genetics (her paternal grandma was the same way and she rarely ever saw her). My anxiety issues comes from both nature and nurture. Why do you panic? Did someone teach you (unknowingly) to seize up in stressful situations? Does panic work in your favor in some way? If you have never thought about it, try to get to the root of when and why you panic. How can that root be pulled up and discarded?
- Freedom from panic comes in realizing who is ultimately in control. As believers, we can rest in the sovereignty of God. As a child, Mom quoted this verse to me ad nauseam “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV). When I felt the anxiety rising, I often went to that verse and it calmed my heart. Scripture is powerful, living, and able to renew our minds and change our course. Tips and tricks may help keep panic at bay for a while, but only trusting in the finished work of Christ supplies lasting peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV).
What do you turn to when you feel overwhelmed or panicked? Is your personal or professional life affected by being on high alert? What about your romantic relationship? Does frequent anxiety or feelings of impending doom cause rifts between you and your significant other? If you still battle panic after preparation, prayer, rest, introspection, and confronting problems, do not hesitate to sit down with a godly trained professional who can help you take steps towards overcoming this struggle. We all need a helping hand sometimes. There is absolutely no shame in seeking solutions. In fact, it is a sign of strength and wisdom.
Keep breaking free!!!
Panic implies that there is no rational thought taking place. That we are frozen and incapable of adjusting. Powerless to logic, and subject to seemingly unthinkable behavior. – Anthony Scaramucci
If you panic that’s a good way to lose. You have to stay in control. – Ted Turner
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7, ESV)
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. (Luke 12:4, ESV)
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4, ESV)
Do you tend to panic in unexpected situations?