CJ’s 11 Steps for Not Completely Losing Your Shit
Rent is an abominable amount of days late? Lose your job? Car broke down? Career-making gig spiraling out of control? We’ve all been in a situation that made us feel like the world was crumbling around us, where we saw no possible resolution in site. For me it was having still not paid rent by the goddamn 21st with two other late payments hanging over my head and the job I thought would save my ass turning out to pay half as much as anticipated. Literally thought the world was ending. Hyperventilation. Impending death.
Then I got out here to this idyllic place; on a mountaintop surrounded my pine trees and nature and sleeping outside and having this simple fucking life where it feels like everything that exists is right in front of you, and the reality of the situation is… it is. Example: think of your last catastrophe; was it stressful because your life was being threatened? Were you in mortal danger? Or was the stress reaction due to anticipating an outcome that hasn’t happened yet? (I’ll never pay this off, omg my credit score, I’m going to be homeless blah blah blah).
Chances are you’re not my friend who just got stung by a sting ray, and your situation did not involve physical pain or nearly losing a limb, right? So, your and my situations are all about expecting one possible outcome (possible, not promised) and predicting the absolute WORST result. “Omg my credit, I’ll never be able to buy a house, what if I can never get an apartment again ahhhhh,” which brings me to my first point:
1.Imagine the best possible outcome. I’m not asking you to ignore the situation and live in a state of dissociation, however you kind of already are. You’re living into this nightmare future you’ve dreamed up for yourself based on something that hasn’t even happened yet, so what’s the harm in giving the other direction a go? This is an exercise I’ve started employing when I catch myself going down the rabbit hole. Instead of, “Rent is due in 5 days and there is no way I’m going to be able to pay it and then I’ll get evicted and then I’ll have to move home with my mom and then I’ll live in Iowa forever and life’s a bitch and then you die…”. What if instead of this being the common thought thread, people in general imagined all of the ways in which a situation could go right, or perhaps think of all the ways in the past a situation has worked out better than expected. I never really understood why we are generally obsessed with the negative, why is that what is ALWAYS expected/feared? Just change the narrative, put a positive spin on it. It’s a mental shift and definitely isn’t easy, but neither is living in anxiety. There are also some people that would say that feeling happy manifests more happiness and envisioning yourself in the preferred outcome is a form of manifesting what you want (I am one of these people). Whether you believe in the spiritual/energetic concept of like energies attracting like, having positive expectations will put you in a positive headspace, which will allow you to be a more pleasant person to be around, giving the populous greater motivation to be pleasant back, and generally gives you a greater ability to think clearly, aka better decision making and no silly mistakes from being distracted. No matter your religious background or lack thereof, a positive outlook is beneficial for anyone and everyone to improve a shit time.
2. Ground yourself. Chances are, in this moment, you’re safe and sound and fed and have a place to sleep and loved ones to cherish and its probably a beautiful day outside that you could be enjoying but you’re not because you’re in your head about something that isn’t immediately hurting you. BE HERE NOW says myself and a trillion New Age books. Go stick your toes in some dirt, wiggle your finger tips, do something that demands your full attention and makes you work with your hands (no computer screens), you’ll feel better I promise.
3. In the event of getting stressful news, go about your day as usual. Unless there is something that needs your immediate attention, don’t scramble, don’t cancel plans to stay home and mope, and ESPECIALLY don’t do any of these things if there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t throw your day into chaos. Go get dinner with your friend like you planned, go grocery shopping, etc. Sometimes anxiety-inducing situations work out best when we’re not obsessing over them, sometimes they don’t. In that case it will still be around after your regularly scheduled programming and at that time you can give it your full attention
4. With that being said, PLEASE don’t ignore the issue indefinitely. Face whatever you are dealing with, see it and accept it. Don’t pretend like it isn’t happening, don’t bury your head in the sand, don’t hope it will work out with no input from you (aka parking tickets don’t work this way, I tried). You may think you can’t handle dealing with whatever it is right now, but you can, you really can. Additionally, I know from experience that ignoring a thought, feeling, or situation keeps it hanging around. Take a deep breath and check out the situation fully, there might be a solution you couldn’t see before you gave it the attention it deserves.
5. Make a gratefulness list. I don’t know about y’all but by default, I am SUCH a bitter bitch. I used to be of the mentality that if I expected the worst I couldn’t be let down, that’s nice and logical isn’t it. Logical, yes. Contingent for happiness, definitely not. So after that conditioning, noticing the good and being grateful is one of my greatest struggles, ESPECIALLY when stressed. It may not have been as obviously logical, but this happens to be what improves all my situations by leaps and bounds. Similarly to #1, the more grateful I am and the more I stop to take stock of what I appreciate, the calmer, kinder, and more in the moment I am… which all happen to be key ingredients for making life gel. Example: imagine your package is late, you need it for an event you’re planning the next day, let’s even say its pivotal. Past Chelsea would be stressed stressed stressed, call customer service, and due to untamed nervous energy be rude as hell. The poor customer service rep responds accordingly with: “I’m sorry ma’am there’s nothing I can do, that’s just how it works, please stay on the line for a quick survey”. However, new and improved Chelsea would stop and cast around for a positive thing or five: at least I’m breathing, I love where I live, I love the work that I do, I adore my roommate, it’s sunny outside, I’m safe, etc… THEN I would call, and by result be such a goddamned sweetheart the customer service agent goes, “See this isn’t really my department but let me push this through” TADAAAAA. The power of brightening another person’s day (authentically) is astounding. So gratefulness lists, do them. I do a short one every day when I wake up and y’all should be very happy that I do, add it to your gratefulness list, because without it I am categorically the worst.
6. Try to find purpose. From this situation, think of one thing that you learned, or think of a positive that came in it’s wake. Looking back on my life I see purpose in every “negative” experience I’ve ever had, even my father’s death (it was painless and best for his wellbeing). To me, everything has fit together to bring me to exactly who and where I am today, and I have no regrets (all of this is actually a philosophical life model called Amor Fati). It’s SO hard to do in the moment but if you can dial back and take a second to asses, finding purpose makes even the most difficult of situations more manageable. I personally think everything happens for a reason and we aren’t given anything we can’t handle, personal theory but hey.
Let’s give it a go with my situation now. There are two ways I could spin it, I could spiral and cry and lament my irresponsibility and look back on all the things I bought this month that weren’t necessary and place blame and have many other self deprecating thoughts, or I could step back, accept it, and see all of the ways that this hardship made me grow as a person. For example, I can now handle much more copious amounts of stress, my mental resolve is much stronger, and it lit a fire under my ass to figure out how to be the fastest trimmer possible (aka trim more pounds aka make more money). It also made me remember how much I LOVE working hard and seeing the fruits of my labor, especially for something I love. Realizing all of this, I see the purpose now. I realize how much I needed this, at this exact time and not a moment later in order to prepare for Japan, how I’m no longer afraid to put a ton of things on my plate and how I’m no longer afraid of hard work (there was a time I drastically overworked myself and became very ill so have been lowkey afraid of hard work ever since). As a result of this situation, I am now 100% ready to fuck it up, while also having converted a painful situation that challenged a lot of my deeply engrained money fears into more material for my gratefulness list.
7. Be a giver. Whereas focus is one of my greatest attributes, when I am upset it does not do me any favors. I tend to zero in on my grievances and not look up, resulting in a small world view and obsessive thinking. I don’t think I’m alone here. If this is where I find myself, I shift my focus to someone else and do some good, help them with an issue they are currently trying to resolve, maybe even volunteer. When you’re giving, your entire focus is on the giving, AND IT FEELS SO FUCKIN GOOD. You have a purpose and a place, and with that there’s no room for sad. It also allows me to see that there is more to the world than me and my life (why is that so easy to forget?) and my problems seem teeny tiny. Additionally, you will be doing something good for someone else which is always a win/win, amiright? This very seamlessly leads into number 8:
8. Appreciating people. SUBTLE difference here. When we’re in crisis mode it’s easy to lash out, blame others for our shit storm, or maybe you get distant and angry (hi it’s me). If there’s one thing that keeps hitting me in the face it’s how important people are, hell, they’re all that’s important. We focus on ourselves a lot, we focus on our careers a lot, we focus on things too, but at the end of the day all of that wouldn’t mean shit if there wasn’t another human on this planet to trade insults with and send me Mr. Rogers memes. The long and the short of it, don’t forget what’s important when you’re stressed. Rephrase: remember what’s important, your people. Remembering what’s important in a time of chaos completely pulls you out of stress-brain. Tell your friends you love them, pick them up a cupcake, freak them out because you’re never like this, but at least you’ll feel better, yeah?
9. Give yourself advice like it’s not you, think about the situation as if it’s happening to someone else. The change in perspective is astonishing. Example:
To self: Omg you’re such an irresponsible person I can’t believe you fucked that up why are you even alive
To friend in same situation: Shit happens
WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS. Step back for a minute and imagine your situation is happening to someone else. Would you think it is as bad as you are making yourself feel? Would you be as mean to a friend as you are being to yourself? No, so cut it out. Speak to yourself the way you would to a human you cared about. Another side of this is when you no longer feel attached to the situation, the obstacle seems much smaller and the steps to resolve it much clearer. I recommend writing it out. Take your very best friend, imagine them in this situation, and write out exactly what you would say to them. You will have strokes of genius wrought from compassion and a clear mind that you likely would have never had for yourself. Life hack af.
10. Resist the urge to “treat yoself”. Especially when you are upset, it is 10 times as important to eat well. There are over 100 million neurons in your stomach and gut (sometimes called the little brain) and when you are stressed your digestive system is already compromised (please show me one person who doesn’t hold tension in their abdomen). Thus, eating something rich and heavy will literally, LITERALLY make your mood worse. It’s simple guys, no stress-cake, and by simple I mean remind me of this every day.
11. And finally, be nice to yourself!!! Shit happens, you are human, no one is like you, your situation is unique, everything will work out better than you thought possible I
Some of these are extensions of each other with subtle differences, but dealing with anxiety is all about subtleties. Keep your mind in check and the nice part of your personality in overdrive and you will make it through my lovelies.
Until next time,