1 In Motivation

Stop, Look, and Listen Before You Panic

Three healthy ways to reframe negative thoughts and shift your mindset

I was a 17 year old high school junior when it first happened.

The darkness of the morning was present and still.

I was sick with a fever, ear infection, sinus infection, and severely dehydrated as I had not been able to digest any food in days.

I found out a former classmate had committed suicide earlier in the week and still couldn’t comprehend the why’s or how’s.

My breaths became shorter and shorter.

I started to become dizzy.

My parents were both in my room looking after me when I heard my Mom say, “Let’s go to the emergency room.”

She made me recite my ABC’s to ensure consciousness as I got dizzier and dizzier traveling down the stairs with my Dad holding my arm and side.

She threw the hazard lights on as we flew down the street (breaking all sorts of speed limits).

Once admitted, the Doctors gave me a Xanax and oxygen and I was out.

And that, ladies, was my first panic attack.

The memory, very much so present in my life today, is one that I keep at the forefront of my mind. Although blurry, I can still remember how I felt.

I was there, but I wasn’t present.

I knew that, subconsciously, that I was physically running on autopilot.

It was almost as if it were an out of body experience because I lacked control of my own body.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you haven’t had that servere of an experience, but, as a creative woman, you might have had moments where your art self and analytical self have collided. This intersection can be a breeding ground for anxiety, cognitive dissonance, and even feelings of panic as you are also influxed with negative thoughts:


  • I’ll just settle for this [friendship, relationship, offer, etc]
  • If I ask for that price for my product/service they won’t want to work with me.
  • I’m not “as big” as [insert comparison]. I won’t get this sponsor.


And I’m here to tell you to stop it.

Yeah, I know it’s not that simple and I wouldn’t dare downplay the severity of anxiety, depression, PTSD or trauma. However, I have to start there because we have to reframe where we are when this feeling of angst begins.

Although a teenager when I experienced my first panic attack, I knew immediately that this was not normal. The thing about negativity is that it typically moves in cycles or it is brought on by a series of factors. It can only exist in a container, and it’s time to take the lid off. Luckily, we learned a habit as children that can help us to accomplish this. These three words taught us to be alert and to avoid the danger of cars as we walked across the street: Stop, Look, and Listen.

So, before you “cross the street” into the Neighborhood of Negativity (was that too corny?), let’s stop, look, and listen:

  1. STOP: Recognize where you are in the moment. As soon as you feel the negativity or hear the negative thought whisper, pause for a second. Immediately tell yourself, “No, I’m not going to think this, I’m going to walk through this. I know who I am.” The simple act of slowing down can be transformational. It allows us to see things for how they presently are, not how we perceive them to be. Sometimes, it’s the unknown or the past that has us all riled up – the potential of things. However, none of those are the present moment! Don’t rob yourself of real time because you’re worried about things that haven’t happened yet (the future) or things that already happened and you can’t change (the past).

2. LOOK: Look around for the triggers that started you on your spiral. In my example above, it was a combination of physical factors (sickness, dehydration, etc.), emotional factors (finding out that my classmate had passed in such a horrific way, and the pressure I felt to maintain my 3.8 GPA once I returned to school, etc.). When I started to mentally process everything, my body physically reacted. Ask yourself this question: How does my body physically respond to stress?

It could be actions such as overeating, insomnia, overworking, etc. Notice it now, so you can immediately call it out when it happens. I keep a checklist of what a stressful atmosphere looks like for me in my phone and a list of options to combat my stress so I can pull it out when I’m feeling negative. Personally, my negativity creeps in when I’m working way too much and not spending my alone time with Jesus! So I immediately stop, breathe, and ask God to open my eyes to what needs to be seen and what priorities I should have. That simple prayer helps to rid me of the pressure while still maintaining my responsibility.

3. LISTEN: You are responsible for the narration that plays in your head – and that narration can change at any time. It is influenced by the people you hang around, the music you listen to, the podcasts you hear, the books you read, where you’re at in your faith walk, the accounts you’re following on social media, etc. It boils down to this question: what are you feeding your spirit?

If you’re not constantly depositing the truth into you, you won’t be able to withdraw it when you need it the most. Don’t let the truth be dampered, be intentional about making that voice resounding. Also, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you continue to experience negative thoughts that are out of the ordinary – there’s no shame in that. You may need another voice to listen to that echos what your positive voice is is attempting to say.

Oh my creative sister,

I wish you knew how powerful you really are.

I wish you knew how beautiful you really are.

I wish you knew how talented you really are.

You have a whole host of people rooting for you in the tribe and you’re not in this alone. Take care of yourself…and I mean that.

Always speak life,

Vannesia Darby

Vannesia is an experienced, results- driven digital marketing consultant who has  launched successful online campaigns for major brands such as Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and the YMCA. A dynamic public speaker and writer, she helps others pursue their passions while creating a vibrant culture of success. Her candid and thought provoking blog posts have been published on online outlets such as Teen Vogue, Blavity, Thought Catalog, and Madame Noire.

Owner of the digital marketing agency MOXIE Nashville, she strives to bridge innovation and motivation for her clients and workshop attendees. Committed to the empowerment of others, Vannesia Darby holds a Masters Degree in Management / Organizational Leadership from Middle Tennessee State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Bradley University.

*Photography released from Alicia Thomas

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    Here's three ways to reduce the stress in your daily life
    June 17, 2019 at 7:03 am

    […] My first panic attack came at age 17. […]

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