Apropos of not much, except that I was feeling anxious this week and figured other people might also go through this from time to time, here is some unsolicited, highly unscientific, borderline insane advice on coping with stress, anxiety and life's more disastrous circumstances. You're welcome in advance! I tend to be, let’s say, an extreme worry wart. Highly neurotic. Deeply anxious. This actually is something I should probably discuss with a therapist but I don’t have one and I don’t know where to find one and therapists cost money and money, or lack thereof, is one of the top causes of my anxiety and so forth. Plus, who needs a therapist when you can just blog about your problems, right?
Anyway, whatever is going on in my life I fear the worst: work problem? I’m about to be fired. Boyfriend hasn’t responded to a text in a few hours? He’s dead...or cheating on me, depending on what sort of a mood I’m in. Feeling ill? Only two possibilities: fatal cancer or I’m pregnant.
I then obsess about these worst case scenarios for hours upon end until I’m nearly sick with anxiety. It’s…not great. But I’ve found a really weird, totally foolproof way to calm myself down. I don’t take calming breaths or go for a walk or drink tea or anything a health magazine might suggest to calm stress. Instead I think about the situation I’m in and how it actually could be worse…and worse and worse and worse (can you say that more than once in a row? I’m doing it.) until I’ve come to the actual Worst Thing Possible in my head and then I realize: whatever I’m going through is not that big of a deal. And just like that, I’m calm as a kitty laying in a patch of sun.
Take, for example, this week. I was having some really strange stomach cramps, so instead of contributing them to PMS or my already well documented IBS (so many acronyms!), I decided that, of course, it had finally happened: I was pregnant. Despite being hyper vigilant about birth control and safe sex, I’m usually pregnant about every three months or so. Which is to say that I’ve never been pregnant (and don’t worry mom slash Brian slash world: I’m still not!) but because, like I said, I’m a neurotic maniac, every few months I freak out and read into every weird intrauterine twinge or slight breast tenderness as a sure sign that I’ve been knocked up and now I’ll have to decide what to do about that and how can I afford a baby and this really isn’t fair, I know so many sluts who don’t even USE protection and now I’m the one who’s pregnant and I’m so not ready but I don’t know how I feel about abortion personally at this stage in my life and I am getting pretty old and what if my boyfriend decides he’s not ready and leaves me and I end up like Fantine in Les Mis, a desperate single mother who has to sell her hair and her body and hide her kid in a crazy roadside inn.
Like I said, I’m nuts.
So I let myself freak out for a while and then I think to myself: Ok, self, this is NOT the worst. If (and god, please don’t let this happen, but IFFFFF) you found yourself unexpectedly embarassada, you would figure it out. What would actually be the worst, is if these cramps were fatal ovarian cancer. And you died.
But then I think, no, Liz, no. What would be worse if your mom got fatal ovarian cancer and she died and you had to cope with that…and at the same time your sister and brother also died of fatal cancers…and so did all of your friends and other loved ones and you were the only one left and had to bury everyone and live with the grief. But actually, horrific as that would be, you’d probably get through it.
And then I just escalate. I ride this wave of insane thinking until I can bring myself to imagine what the WORST possible scenario could be. For a while I was thinking Zombie Apocalypse but now zombies are really trendy and that show The Waking Dead is really popular so a zombie apocalypse actually looks sort of fun and exciting so I had to rule that out. I decided that the very worst possible scenario, for me anyway, is that I’m flying in a plane with all of my friends and all of my family and everyone that I love (Beyonce included) and there’s a huge explosion and the plane crashes on an island. Half of the people have already died in a firey inferno and their bodies are strewn about the island. Of those left alive, half are immediately pounced upon by gigantic alligators and the rest of us have to watch them be eaten alive. While we’re hiding from the alligators we are apprehended by a band of evil cannibals who tie us up and barbecue each of us one by one – and I’m the very last one. I’ve just had to watch everyone that I love die gruesome deaths right in front of me and now I’m being covered in teriyaki sauce and tossed on a fire pit. THAT, I would say, is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me. Anything else, yeah, I can take it.
And then I calm myself down, stop obsessing and face my problems head on. It works like a charm. Every single time. Some trained professionals might say that fixating on the negative will only make things worse, and other people might say I have a hyperactive imagination, which would be true, but I say do whatever makes you feel good. And cray-cray as it sounds, this works for me.
So, just a friendly word of advice from one basketcase to the whole world: whatever you’re dealing with in life, you will get through it! I know this. Unless you’re being held hostage by island cannibals watching half of your loved ones (the half that didn’t just die in the plane crash) be ripped apart by alligators with the same vigor that Man V. Food’s Adam Richman might apply to a plate of Nuclear Buffalo Wings well, you’re probably going to be okay. Whatever it is you’re facing, you can handle it.
Trust me. I’m an expert.