It’s All Going To Be Okay

I’m a big fan of feeling relaxed and at ease in life, but sometimes that’s just not possible in short-term stressful situations.

This could be a test that you have coming up, or someone that spikes your adrenaline when you’re not used to it.

As someone who has experience extremely stressful situations that haven’t resolved themselves immediately, I’ve been the unfortunate victim of anxiety and panic attacks from time to time…and they haven’t always ended in the best decisions. I’m pretty sure someone up there is looking out for my best interest, because anytime I’ve “gone off the rails” so to speak, something happened that stopped me and forced me to look at what’s REALLY going on around me.

Call it God, the Universe, whatever – it seems that this reality loves its equilibrium, and if you’re out of balance, eventually it’ll stop you, too.

Now, that is a microcosm of the greater aspect of life, as we start in motion from the day we’re conceived and guess what happens?

We die. We stop. We halt all functions of a living human body.

That’s the way everything works – gravity wants to pull us into its center and keep everything in a state of stasis, of equilibrium. If you live your life where you allow this to happen naturally, it’ll go much more smoothly for you…however, it’s not always possible in short-term situations.

Dealing with Fight-or-Flight

I’ve had situations where I’ve been challenged by those who are close to me and spiked my adrenaline. Being someone who is easily triggered when challenged, it’s become somewhat of a problem. I’m not woke by the way; this is a legitimate thing that happens – just ask a PTSD-suffering combat veteran; “triggering” isn’t a woke concept but has been abused by the “woke” community so it’s gotten a bad rap.

Adrenaline is released only in one instance: when we enter an animal state of fight or flight after a realization of potential physical or social danger.

Now, unfortunately some people in our lives – although we love them – trigger us because we care about them, and they say or do something that starts this fight-or-flight process. If they have their own issues (hint, we all do) then it can be all the more difficult to get out of that situation when it arises.

Plus, adrenaline spikes can take hours to dissipate throughout your body.

I’ll never understand “adrenaline junkies” who love the rush of being in this state. Maybe it makes them feel more alive than anything else in our media-driven world, in which case I guess I get it…but it’s not for me personally.

The truth is, dealing with this state of being for a short period of time is just plain difficult. Not everything has a pill or a remedy to get rid of your discomfort right away, and we just have to actually deal with it. However, keep in mind that everything your mind and body experiences is stored in memory. This means that the next time you experience a similar event, you’ll be all the more ready for it.

That’s how the human body works – it’s an evolutionary trait.

Look At The Big Scheme Of Things

When people get anxious, it’s because we don’t feel ready for potential challenges and we know that our adrenaline is going to spike. We know that we don’t have full control over a situation.

In my experience, anxiety and panic attacks are an overreaction to a perceived loss of control.

The only way to sustainably battle our reactions to stressful situations is to train ourselves. Sometimes, this means purposefully allowing ourselves to be in situations that we consciously know won’t hurt us physically or financially, but will affect us emotionally. You can’t tell anyone about this (except perhaps your therapist) because it would ruin what is effectively a controlled experiment.

To do this, you need some kind of anchor like in the movie Inception. This can be done by having a recurring thought, something on paper, or a physical object that you carry with you at all times to remind you that in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to be okay, and you’re doing this on purpose to strengthen your nerves.

It’s Normal To Get Stressed

Stress is the reason human beings have advanced as far as we have.

It started out with “I’m hungry, which makes me stressed, so I’m going to find food” to “if the boss finds out I didn’t do that thing he asked me to get done, I might be in trouble and lose my job”.

See a pattern here? It’s a survival concern – no food, you die. No job, you can’t get food, and you die.

It’s normal to get stressed. It’s so, so incredibly difficult to rise above this basic human instinct for safety and sustenance – that’s why we distract and entertain ourselves. Pure and simple.

Dealing With Stressful People

Now, there are two types of people: those who stress you out, and those that don’t normally stress you out.

Everyone has the potential to stress you out – that’s why the joke goes around of “I hate people” because people understand this intuitively.

Human beings are notorious for stressing each other out. We’re all trying to control our lives in various ways, and sometimes other human beings get in the way of – you ready – our control.

Control is just another form of mental equilibrium. The human mind wants to be in a state of comfort and ease, just like nature abhors a vacuum that forces things to move and be out of stasis.

Most human beings aren’t intelligent enough or simply aren’t self-aware enough to think about their own thoughts, so they end up causing others stress by default…right?

Well, no. You’re actually the one being stressed out.

Have you ever seen a Buddhist monk get stressed out? Normally, they don’t. They choose not to react to stressful situations because they’ve trained themselves to be in a permanent state of perceived control of every situation that they’re in. Now, that’s not to say that they don’t get stressed – they’re human too, after all – but they’ve been practicing dealing with how to reframe stressful situations simply as a part of their subconscious everyday philosophy.

You’re not a Buddhist monk, but there are some things we can do to combat stress.

Reframe and Rethink

As someone who constantly thinks, I can tell you that it’s not easy being a thinker. My partner is a self-proclaimed “doer” and she doesn’t think about things the way I do. However, this means that I have a lot of experience with how to reframe situations in my mind, and I’m able to maintain my composure when presented with an extremely surprising, adrenaline-inducing situation.

Reframing is the key method to combat stress, and if you want it to be effective for short-term situations, you’ll need to practice a form of optimism that fits your way of thinking. This is a longer approach, but can help you deal with coming off of an adrenaline spike.

Rethinking is basically taking your thought, asking yourself the question, “Am I thinking of this the right way?” immediately, and then coming back to the thought – all within a matter of seconds.

It’s going to be uncomfortable either way, so you might as well choose a method that works for you.

Checking Your Safety

Keep in mind that adrenaline spikes when the brain perceives an immediate threat to your physical and social safety. I include social in there because it always links back to the physical safety, but because human beings are self-aware, it’s an additional layer of perception that can cause stress (e.g., a girl who’s being made fun of in school in front of her classmates gets upset).

High levels of “stressful situation adrenaline spikes” can lead to mild or severe trauma, depending on that individual’s frame of mind. They don’t feel safe, they have no way out of the situation, and it’s a prolonged experience. Those are unfortunate situations, but they happen, and that’s something we all need to be prepared for as much as possible because trauma is (in my own opinion) disruptive to our daily lives and honestly, just annoying to deal with later on.

Get into a habit of asking yourself if you’re safe.

If you’re in traffic and you’re getting angry, ask yourself if you’re safe.

When you are impatient at the grocery store, ask yourself if you’re safe.

The next time you have to tell someone something they’re not going like, ask yourself if you’ll be safe afterwards.

You do these things anyway without realizing it – as I mentioned, that’s just part of human nature – but it’s good to practice being in control of your mental state by purposefully putting yourself in super low-stake situations and checking your own safety. This will help your brain get into the practice of checking its safety, and if it doesn’t feel safe, then you’re in conscious control again and can make calm and rational decisions to remove yourself from that situation.

It’s All Going To Be Okay

Remember that stress kills, but we’re all going to die someday anyway. None of us are getting out of this life thing alive, so we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible while we’re here. That means being prepared for whatever life itself has to throw at you, and we’re all given different levels of tolerance to deal with those challenges.

I personally have a lot of work to do in some of these areas, but it’s helped me a lot to reframe, rethink, and get into a habit of reminding myself that I’m physically safe. Anything I do to react will potentially change that state of being, so I absolutely have to remain in control of my own actions so I don’t make others feel like they are not in control (that could end up literally in “mass panic”, and we’ve all seen how that turns out when a bunch of human beings are spooked at the same time).

We’re all animals, but human beings are capable of higher thought so we can control our actions through self-awareness and mental preparedness. Because of that and our common doom in the end, I know that it’s all going to be okay in the end anyway…so I might as well enjoy the ride as much as possible while I’m here.

Paul Cassarly is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, musician, and entrepreneur originally from Altoona, PA. He owns and operates Cassus Media, a digital marketing solutions company that focuses on helping small businesses and government entities achieve their digital marketing goals.