Why does the smallest thing cause me to panic?

I’m happily preparing for a meeting.  I have my notes and reference material in order and ready to go.  Just as I’m about to put the kettle on, an email arrives suggesting we might start earlier than planned.  All of a sudden, panic sets in.  In the space of a few seconds my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty. Now I cannot remember where I put my notes and, poof, the purpose of the meeting has slipped my mind.

So maybe I’m exaggerating a little, or maybe not; maybe you’ve had just such an experience where what later seems to be the smallest thing sends you into a tail spin from which you find it difficult to recover.  Why is it that something so small can have such a devastating effect?

Think of some of the expressions we use to describe scenarios like this.  We might refer to “the final straw”, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, being “tipped over the edge” or we might say “I just snapped”.  What do all of these expressions have in common?  They all imply a system that is already close to its breaking point.  Even the strongest camel has a limit so when it’s already heavily loaded it makes sense that there will eventually be a “final straw” that will prove too much.  When someone is already walking close to the edge it doesn’t take much to push them over it.  When a rubber band is already stretched to its limit it only takes a little more to make it snap.  The end result in all these cases is also similarly catastrophic.  The final straw is not the only one that gets dropped; the whole load goes down with it.  A small slip over the edge leads to a long and dangerous fall.  The rubber band stretched beyond its limit is permanently broken.

Sadly, too many of us live our lives in a way that puts us close to our breaking point nearly all the time.  Usually, it’s not the result of a single big event that we can easily identify but it’s the accumulation of stresses we encounter every day combined with poor sleep that hampers our ability to process them.  This steady accumulation brings us to the point where it only takes one small thing to tip us over the edge into full-blown panic.

During my initial consultation with a client, I will explain the physiology behind the stress reaction (there’s a very good reason it’s there) as well as discussing what we can do to avoid the build up of stress that takes us to the edge.  Combined with hypnotherapy sessions, this understanding leads to a calmer life where you can feel in control.

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