Gah! I was going to write about freshness today, but Anne Mini beat me to it! Check out her excellent post here and read her blog, Author! Author! She has lots to say and what isn’t directly useful is highly entertaining.
So, on a suggestion from a commenter about a word I used in my last post, I’ll tackle freaking. No, there isn’t some naughty connotation there; I mean as in freaking out, losing your cool, blowing your top, going ballistic, etc. Who among us hasn’t had a moment where everything narrows to a point and the slightest tip is enough to push us over the edge? The freakout moment could be a scary one, such as “Where did my kid go?” or one that makes you angry, like terrible service in a restaurant.
It seems more and more people are choosing to flip out rather than calmly state their grievance to relevant parties. A rejection garners a vicious blog post, someone keys a car parked too close to the line, and recently there have been a rash of incidents where someone called 911 because they didn’t get pickles on their burger, or some such nonsense.
Why do people do this? Is it the lousy economy, pushing everyone to that tipping point? Have we turned into great big spoiled entitlement babies to match our ever-increasing body size? Is the instant gratification of the Internet to blame?
Whatever the reason, freaking out isn’t the best way to handle conflict in your life. I know, because I’m quite prone to it and everyone around me knows it. Frustration is a big trigger for me. If I can’t finish my work, for example, because the Internet has gone down in the middle of researching the mating habits of South American sea monkeys for my diver character’s mortal peril scene, I’m apt to take a great big bite out of the nearest person/place/thing. But honestly, what good is it?
Doctors and mental health professionals have always advised people to stay calm and not freak out, claiming it’s not good for the heart, it shortens lifespans and keeps you angrier overall. New research has come to light, however, suggesting that cursing when you hit your thumb with the hammer can actually reduce the pain you feel. I know yelling makes me feel better (even though the people around me don’t like it), but it doesn’t solve the initial problem.
Constant, unrelenting stress does have adverse effects on the body:
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased immunity to colds, etc.
- Depression and/or suicide (WARNING!!! If you are contemplating suicide, please get help immediately. Depression is treatable and suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem!)
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders leading to obesity/malnutrition
How can you temper the effects of stress and keep from freaking out, especially when a solution to the situation is not forthcoming?
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and blow it out slowly through your mouth. Do this several times. It is physically impossible to remain agitated while doing this, because it slows your breathing and pulse. A therapist I know said, “As you exhale, imagine you are blowing out a candle in the corner.” I used to use this for pain control, and it works. Once you’ve calmed down a bit, then you can focus.
- If the problem doesn’t require immediate attention, put it out of your mind for a while. Refuse to think about it until you can sit down and go over the pros and cons of that decision you have to make or the revisions your agent or editor sent you. I used to get really mad when my writing professor would mark up my papers, but I realized he was just trying to help me improve my work, not decimate my opinion of myself.
- Making a list divided into two columns—one side good, the other bad—is a great tool to help you think through a problem, worry or decision.
- If you must deal with the problem right away, try to go with your initial instinct. It’s usually the best one. Don’t second-guess yourself. Now I don’t advise smacking your smarmy boss right in the mouth when he rails at you. That’s not what I mean by first instinctual action!
- Take time out to pamper yourself. You don’t have to spend money to do it. A little alone time in the tub, the garden or out of the office/your house works wonders. Take a walk if the weather is nice; it’s good for your health, too. Spend some time on a silly website you enjoy. Play a game, have a (small!) bowl of ice cream, it doesn’t matter. Pick something that relaxes you.
If you have any remedies for relieving the freakouts, please share them in the comments.