What to do when you’re FREAKING OUT.

I’m freaking out! It’s about my economic situation. I am broke.

To make matters worse, some idiotic decisions are coming back to haunt me. I have an awful habit of driving without insurance. A habit that caused me to accrue over $700 dollars in fines.

Luckily, I paid them off.

Unluckily, I got pulled over last week and found out my license was suspended and my tabs were expired. I had a court date yesterday, which I totally forgot about.

Now there is a warrant out for my arrest!

These tickets are probably going to end up costing me a thousand dollars.

I don’t have a job. I’m freaking out.

What now?

Well, the first thing I did was to call the court. They told me I could come in next Thursday and pay 50 bucks for an opportunity to explain why I missed the court date.

I’m still freaking out, but not as badly.

The problem is that the freak-out is self-justifying. It was triggered by my sudden realization that I spaced-out such an important thing, but it continues because it is finding tons of reasons in my sub-conscious to perpetuate itself, things floating around that feed it.

Here is what my freak-out is telling me:

  • You are lazy.
  • The economy is bad.
  • You are crippled by fear.
  • You are neglecting your responsibilities.
  • You are lazy. (This idea is particularly hardy freak-out food)

My gut is tied in a knot and I feel like crying. Actually, the knot is loosening a little bit. I am starting to feel better.

Why?

I have identified what my freak-out is feeding on. Looking closely at piece of freak-out food, I see that it may be either true and within my control, true and outside of my control, or simply not true.

Not true:

I am not lazy, I am prolific. I am not crippled by fear, I am bravely examining my fear.

Outside of my control:

There is nothing I can do about the economy.

True:

Perhaps I have been neglecting my responsibilites. I can do something about that.

So, after doing what I can about the trigger for my freak-out, I proceed to eradicate the three flavors of freak-out food.

Neutralizing False Fears

I’m just figuring this out myself, but these techniques seem to work on the things that simply aren’t true.

Looking at them – most fears that are obviously false will shrivel under the light of observation. “Look how much I have accomplished in the past month, how can I be lazy.”

Affirmations – “I am prolific and productive. I am brave.” These cheesy statements are often quite effective, even if they remind you of Stuart Smalley.

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!

Writing about them – write a list, persuasive essay, (or a blog post!) giving all the reasons why the fear is a false one. Writing has always given me clarity when I’ve been overwhelmed by emotion, although it doesn’t usually produce very good writing.

Accepting things that are out of your control

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. – Leo Buscaglia

One of the biggest things that we worry about that is completely out of our control is the past. I can not go back and make that court date, so, intellectually at least, I know I shouldn’t be worrying, much less freaking out about it. I find it helpful to remind myself:

I am not responsible for my past actions, only for the present consequences of those actions.

I am not responsible for the actions of others.

and, for good measure…

I did not break the economy.

Acceptance is also a key part of the serenity prayer, another great thing I learned from 12-step programs:

“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…”

Doing something about legitimate fears

Break them down into parts – What are my responsibilities? They are creations of society and my own personal morality. I am responsible for keeping my word, keeping myself fed, paying taxes, and doing what is best for my well-being, which includes helping rather than harming the people I come into contact with. Which of these responsibilities am I neglecting right now? And what can I do about it?

Take action – The only real responsibility I have been neglecting is the promise to myself and my readers to post regularly on this blog. So, guess what? Here it is, a new post! Taking action feels great.

Oscar Rodgers put’s it simply:
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more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

And don’t over-analyze, you can never predict what course events will take, just do the next right thing and know that you are doing everything you can to vanquish your freak-out.

PS – 48 days with no booze!

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