Help me avoid a panic attic/crisis
August 16, 2017 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I just ended my job of nearly a decade. I am freelancing with a very large and prestigious firm that has a real possibility of turning in to a permanent job. I have a lot of experience in my field of expertise, close to 20 but the new place works at a much faster pace. I am prone to anxiety and panic attacks...

And I have already convinced myself that I will be unable to keep up with the workload and quick turnarounds. I’m going in to this gig in a state of near panic. What can I too to calm myself down and not freak out? I’m on medication but is there a way to boost my confidence or at least not be so convinced I’ll be a disaster? Thanks.
posted by captainscared to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
David Burns has written some really excellent self-help book using cognitive behavioral therapy. This is the one on anxiety. Buy the Kindle version, download it tonight, read it and DO the exercises, andyou will be feeing better by Monday.
ps Just owning it doesn't work - you have to do the exercises to get the real benefit :)
posted by metahawk at 5:35 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hi, I was in nearly an identical situation, just a few months ago. Same company for 11 years, jumped to a big company with a big name, much faster with super tight deadlines and turnaround. I too have plenty of panic attacks.

I've been at the job for two months now. The first week, I was alternating between sheer horror ("What have I done? I cannot cope.") to "I think I can do this." Gradually, thankfully, the latter has won out.

These people hired you for a reason. You have 20 years of experience, you are confident in the work you do, that is what you can rely on. Just do the work in front of you as you can, that is all you can do. The pace will come with time. You'd be surprised of what you're capable of!

Panic attacks, as you know, come and go. Steady on! It can be done!
posted by brappi at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Boundaries. Don't act like an employee. Act like a contractor. Every task they "assign" isn't assigned until you've agreed to it - at a price!!!

Prioritize. "This latest task... it looks great! I can get to it in 6 weeks with a delivery of 12 weeks from today. If you want it sooner, you'll have to slip something else." They'll keep loading you up with new tasks until you push back.

Do you work in their office? Don't! Only show up for meetings. Leave their office and go work in a coffee shop. Get them used to you not being around. Get it in your head that you're not an employee. They're your clients and you can choose which projects you take on, and which you pass on. If they don't get everything they want, they'll still find you useful and still continue to give you work.

"By the way, I'll be on vacation week of ...." The thought of taking vacation is probably inconceivable to you right now, and that's the problem!

If you don't yet have any other clients, imagine that you do. How would that look?
posted by at at 4:20 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're trying to "avoid" a panic attack you're already coming at it from the wrong angle.

I'm a long time panic-attack-haver, and meditation practice has opened me up to turning *towards* the panic attack instead of away and avoiding it. The 10 months I've meditated daily (10-45 min/day) have done more for my panic than ANY medication, including Ativan.

I couldn't have done it immediately, even with the intellectual knowledge that trying to run from a panic attack only makes it worse: you have to practice meditating and accepting uncomfortable feelings, and eventualy you can train your mind to not get carried away with panic like a runaway horse.

You know how panic goes from "what's happening" to "OMFG IM DYING" so quickly that your conscious mind barely knows? Well meditation somehow allows me to feel "what's happening" and go to "oh, this... okay" seeing the approach of an attack. Then I attend to the early panicked feelings, note them, maybe sit with them... and they... go away instead of pushing me ahead of them.

Good luck. I recommend Sharon Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zin

Oh and for reference, I used to have roughly 1-2 attacks per month... and now I can't remember the last one I had.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

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