When Should You Freak Out?

Ho, Ho, Ho?

It is January 21st today and my Christmas tree is still up. A hectic holiday season that included 2 bouts of the flu, preparing to teach Abnormal Psychology, and other commitments have taken their toll on seasonal order.

All my other Christmas decorations are down and put away, except for my Christmas tree, which still smells wonderful after 2 months. Okay, I lie…the wreath is also still on my front door. And the Santa Claus welcome mat, in case you want to know.

I’m So Behind!!!

I can be honest and tell you there was a time that this would bother me. It would literally have driven me almost insane to feel I was “so behind” in getting something important accomplished. Not today. Not since I started using a very simple way of determining whether I should stress or freak out. (Yes, I know that sounds just like an infomercial!)

I Know Freaking Out

I wish I could take credit for this technique, but it doesn’t belong to me. I borrowed it. I was 14 years old, away at a summer education program in the hills of Northern Georgia and I was freaking out about something. I can’t remember now what I was freaking out about. But at 14, it could literally have been anything: boys, roommates, parents, money, aliens…

The Question That He Asked Me

So, thank goodness there were actually some really cool, really wise adults around to help out when 600+ of us teens were freaking out. In this case, it was one of the teachers who was in charge of the Social Studies group of kids, the group I was there to study and learn with. I was bemoaning how horrible my situation was (I so wish I could remember what it was!) and this teacher just asked me if it was okay to ask a question. And I said, “Sure. What?”

The Important Question

He looked straight into my eyes and asked “Is anyone going to be severely injured or die?”

I was shocked. The answer (of course) was No. “Then you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Boom. Just like that, he dropped that bomb and left me to think about my “horrible” situation. That seemed suddenly to not be so horrible. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t what I wanted. But no one was going to be severely injured or die if things didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I cannot count, if I tried, how many times I have used that question to bring myself back to the reality of a situation, to help determine if I really need to freak out or not. And by freak out, I mean, I need to do something NOW about it, which isn’t even freaking out…it’s just getting busy.

The Question for My Christmas Tree

Is anyone going to be severely injured or die if I don’t get this tree down this week? I’m watering it and the needles are not all dropping in clumps, so I’m thinking it’s not a fire hazard. So, for today, the answer is No. It’s not ideal. It’s not what I wanted or thought things would be by mid-January. But it’s okay. I will move it up on my To Do List and get to it as soon as I can. But I am not going to worry about it, stress about it, or freak out in any way.

Stress is Inevitable, Freaking Out Is Optional

So what horrible situation is going on in your life right now? If it IS the kind of situation where someone could be severely injured or die, then that truly is a horrible situation, and you probably need some major help and support right now… And, I want you to go and get it. It would be hard not to be freaking out in that kind of life situation. But if the answer to the question is NO… no one is going to be severely injured or die… then it’s not time to stress out. It’s time to either “let it go” because it is what it is, or “get busy” taking care of things when you are able to.

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist

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