Anti-Stress Hacks: Looking for Tigers – How to Deal with Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Have you ever got so stressed about something that it starts to feel like life or death, even when it isn’t? If so, you’re not alone, and there are really good reasons why you feel that way. And even better, I have a hack for dealing with this situation quickly and easily.

Why do we get anxious and panicked about things that aren’t life threatening?

Modern life, for most of us in the West, is relatively free of life-threatening disasters. We don’t have predators lurking behind every corner, and most of the things that cause us stress are much more mundane and not immediately dangerous, like money troubles and inter-personal problems.

The trouble is that our bodies can’t tell the difference. When you’re up late worrying about how to pay the bills next month or how to resolve a conflict at work, your nervous system reacts in pretty much the same way as it would to an immediate threat.

That’s why we get stuck in a thought loop. If your system could resolve the threat by running or fighting, then you could let it go. But most of the stresses we face aren’t that simple to resolve, and often continue for weeks, months or years.

Looking for Tigers: Showing your body that you’re safe

Looking for tigers anti-stress hack

When we get stressed, our bodies respond as if there is a tiger waiting to eat us, even when there’s no physical danger.

If you’ve ever had the experience of freaking out about something till you feel anxious or panicked, and you’ve tried to tell yourself that it’s not that big a deal, you probably found that that doesn’t work very well. The thing is that your body doesn’t respond well to words, so telling yourself to calm down is unlikely to work.

So what’s the solution? Here’s one I’ve been using for a few years now, and I find it works very well.

The trick is to speak a language your body can understand and actually show  yourself that you’re safe. As in, literally go looking for threats in your immediate environment.

I know, it sounds kind of ridiculous (which I find therapeutic in itself – if I have the luxury of doing something ridiculous, it can’t be all that bad!). But it really does work, so watch the video and learn how!

How to calm feelings of stress, panic, or anxiety by looking for tigers

This exercise is designed to communicate to your body that there is no immediate danger, and it helps switch your nervous system out of fight or flight mode. Literally looking around can reassure us on an unconscious level that there is no immediate threat to our safety. This technique is ideal for feelings of anxiety or panic, or when you just can’t calm down and your mind is racing.

Quick (not-looking-like-a-weirdo) version: Slowly turn your head to look over your shoulder, rolling your eyes as far as you can in each direction. Look all around you as if you were stretching your neck, making sure you are looking thoroughly in all directions. Then take a deep breath and notice if you feel calmer.

Full (ridiculous) version: Actually go looking for tigers. Are there any in the closet? No. What about behind that door? Nope, none there either. Check in cupboards, behind curtains, underneath tables. Look in as many corners as you can, deliberately searching for immediate dangers, and showing yourself that there are none (hopefully!).

So next time stress has you feeling crazy, go looking for tigers and show yourself how safe you are!

Moss Andrewes is an acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, specializing in women’s health and chronic illness. Originally from the UK and now residing in Canada, she is a writer, speaker, and event organizer, focusing on health, sustainable living and community. Her lifelong passion for making the world a happier, healthier place has led her through many adventures, including off-grid sustainable living, disaster relief, and various community health projects. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with her partner and two cats.

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