Is it ever the right time to freak out?
Do you do it anyway?
Let me take a wild guess—you’ve had your share of freak outs. I know the feeling—I have too.
And of course you’ve heard this advice a million times—don’t do it!
Because freaking out causes your stress hormones—cortisol, being the main culprit, with a surge of adrenalin and the waking-up qualities of norepinephrine—to shoot to the moon.
Not that they don’t have their benefits. Energy, focus, immediate reaction. When faced with the Wooly Mammoth (or drunken Uncle Fred), these can be helpful traits indeed.
But if we allow ourselves to stay in that stressed state, well, the results aren’t good, are they. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease sex drive, and contribute to a host of other dastardly physical issues.
And of course, during the holiday season, we seem to be faced with an abundance of stress. Like it gets its kicks from egg nog and holiday lights.
Right now, right this very minute, OMG—Christmas is in 4 days. As in, 4 DAYS!! God save us! You’re not finished! Your boss will fire you (even if you’re your own boss), your spouse be mad at you, the kids think you’re lame for not producing that Norman Rockwell holiday!
1. First off, you have to really go freak. With everything you have. Put your whole entire self into it, and do it up right.
In other words, no calmness allowed!
2. You get 10 minutes. Total. Max
Please come back here and continue once you’re done.
Okay, all finished? Did you yell and stomp and the neighbors have called or dialed 911? Or, your dogs go run under the bed?
Then you have succeeded!
Oddly enough, this is the first step in the process—and the one that actually works—to lead you back to calm.
One of my favorite spiritual/psychological texts is a decades old book called Right Use of Will: Healing and Evolving the Emotional Body, by Ceanne DeRohan. The main premise is that in order to live a conscious life, you first must let go of repressed emotion. And screaming at the sky is one of the prescriptions. Because, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s by releasing those emotions that we find freedom from them.
Didn’t you come back from the exercise feeling more energetic and focused?
Now it’s time to do something with that:
1. First and foremost, breathe. Four counts in, eight counts out. Do this for a few minutes. Get that blood pressure back down to normal.
2. Take out that to-do list. Right now—this very second—do something from it. It needn’t be the most-important thing. Just do one thing—anything.
That will give you a sense of accomplishment—which is sorely needed right now.
3. Now, calmer, revisit that list. Prioritize it again.
(Note: Keep breathing while you do this.)
You can actually get a lot of the items done, no? And you know what? If you don’t, your boss mostly likely won’t fire you. Your spouse will get over it. Your kids may or may not be happy with you, but if they’re teenagers, well, what the heck else is new?
We have to laugh through some of this as well!
And besides, Uncle Fred is always drunk and obnoxious, so laugh him off too.
Wishing many blessings to you and yours in this beautiful holiday season, filled with light and love, friendship and good cheer.
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.