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Posted: August 23, 2012

Un-pushing the panic button

Remain calm and carry on

Teri Karjala

I know that I am not alone in this. Sometimes my alarm clock reads 2:00 a.m. and I wonder what I am still doing up trying to master the impossible task of getting everything done. Also sometimes — we have to stop and admit to others and to ourselves that we can't always be superman or superwoman. Tasks may not always get done, even when we think that they should. 

Not getting these tasks done may create a brief yet intense freak-out moment. You know the kind. It starts with the thought, “how am I ever going to get caught up?” — and then slowly your brain starts to fill in the blanks until you are in the throes of a complete meltdown.

These freak-out moments also take place when one thing after another seems to go wrong. These are the moments when, like a domino effect, one unfortunate event leads to another, and another, and so on and so forth. In such moments everything seems to be falling apart at your finger tips and it just doesn’t seem to matter what you try to do.

Moments like these may initially be brought on by additional or new responsibilities, ceaseless bills, unhappy employees or pressure around referrals. They may be influenced by challenges in your lifestyle such as lack of support, not enough down time, or family and other outside issues. 

All of these factors combine as stressors and work under the surface until the right moment when everything seems to peak and fall apart. These stressful moments are the result of living life out of balance and serve as a reminder to re-evaluate where we are at and how we got there in the first place.

Like change and taxes, stress is unavoidable in life and especially in running your own business. Which leads us to the very important question: How do we learn to prevent freak-out moments and deal with them when they arise?

Like any good doctor will tell you, prevention is the best method of defense. Scheduling down time, giving yourself reasonable deadlines, and being kind to yourself in terms of self-induced pressure are ways in which to prevent stress from building up in your life. Having an outlet where you can physically exert yourself to blow off steam is also vital to controlling and alleviating stress. So go ahead, hop on the treadmill, take a bike ride, or take out your stress on a punching bag!

For times when, despite your best efforts, you slip into a panic attack or freak out, it helps immensely to incorporate one or more of these steps. They are easy, usually free and switch you and your brain from panic, to calm.

  • Deep breathing. Get re-centered on what is really important to you. Hopefully you have your goals written out and you can reflect on the bigger picture.
  • Stop what you are doing and get out of the office. Go for a walk or leave work early and do something you enjoy. This may seem out-of-character when you are already stressed, but the more you focus on the negative the more of it you will receive.
  • Get organized. Create a plan based on your current projects. From there break down the tasks into smaller, more realistic goals and then focus on them one step at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Delegate to other employees, contractors and staff. There are always things that you can delegate to someone else if you are willing to let go of some control. Take a deep breath, relax, and let them do it.
  • Learning and using EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a wonderful tool for alleviating both acute and long term stress from the body. Check out for more details.
  • If nothing else, adopt “The 20 Minute Rule.” Set your timer on your phone for 20 minutes. Select one project and then attempt to beat the clock! This is a fun exercise that helps me stay more focused and on task. Afterwards allow yourself a tiny celebration or a pat on the back for accomplishing the task in under 20 minutes. Try it and tell me what you think: I love hearing your feedback.

Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Thanks Doug ! You touched on another aspect which is the importance of sleep!! Which is not addressed in this article but so much research supports how extremely critical sleep is to helping us on a multitude of levels, essentially our "reset buttom." Let's face it if I'm not getting the sleep there is no way I can be 110% the next day. So I give you premission to PUT DOWN the rubber mallet ; ) and maybe check out the other tips listed above! : ) By Teri Karjala on 2012 08 24
Doug - I honestly LOVE a what you're saying. I've learned that my crazy thoughts at 3:14 a.m. have NOTHING to do with facts or reality. They are fear-based baloney. Thanks a million for posting your take on Teri's column. Love her insight! By Cathie on 2012 08 23
Teri, Thanks for the article. I have been running a firm since 1995 and boy you have it right. My clock always seems to read 3:30. I've noticed my IQ is well down below normal at that time and my emotional intelligence non-existant. I tried a rubber mallet on the nightstand for awhile but the bruising was raising questions in the office. A technique that I use is to realize the fact that I will not be making good progress on any subject in that state and being ready. I plan a non-stimulating activity like reading or journaling and set it next to my bed. TV or checking e-mails is not a good idea. Make a commitment that if the awake period lasts more than 10 minutes I'll grab my book and read for a bit. Just having the plan is often enough to put me back to sleep. By Doug McIntire on 2012 08 23
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