Why We All Should Stop Freaking Out

I freaked out the other day. In fact, I freaked out a few times…all due to a chain of events within about two hours.

If you know me, you know that my freak-outs can be a bit…dramatic.

nathan lane hysterical

It went something like this:

  • First, I answered one last email before leaving the office and made myself late for a meeting with a client
  • Then, I made a pit-stop on the way home and drowned my stress in a large, highly-caloric coffee-smoothie-drink of love
  • After that, I snapped at hubby when he called to tell me he was running late coming home

These moments each sent my mind spinning…to a future of various levels of misery, poverty and loneliness. I couldn’t shake the regret…the feeling that things would never be the same.

What happened to cause such overreactions? Despite the true facts, here’s what I told myself:

  • My trust with my client has been irreparably broken…
  • My body just put on five pounds and won’t be able to get them off…
  • My husband is going to want to come home late every day just to keep away from me…

No surprise that in the end, none of this happened. The moments all passed. I made them right when needed. Everything was fine.

We do this to ourselves all the time. We make one misstep and we become sure – no, convinced – that we’ve completely blown it. We believe a single action has taken away all of our hard work, good deeds and carefully-built relationships.

Why? Because in that moment, that misstep feels huge. Because when we are living it we truly believe it’s the center of our world – and the world of everyone around us.

The truth? The one that great leaders and happy people seem to know already?

Life is one big fat stretch of time, filled to the brim with activities, successes and – yes – lots of missteps. And they almost always pass without long-term consequences once we deal with them.

To be fair, life also contains a few truly momentous occasions…rare ones that do change everything. They include things like finding/ending major relationships, having kids, getting/leaving jobs, the death of loved ones. There are also brief moments in time that have truly long-term consequences, like a serious accident or a natural disaster.

The other thousands of moments? They’re all just a teensy part of our ever-continuing – sometimes messy – lives. They are ephemeral…short-lived…blips on the screen of life. And they pass.

And yet…these other moments take on a life of their own:

  • We don’t get an interview for a job we want and freak out, believing we’ll be unemployed…forever
  • We pay a credit card late and freak out, believing our credit will be ruined…forever
  • We have a fight with a loved one and freak out, believing our relationship is changed…forever

These long-term consequences we become so convinced of? They almost never happen.

We know deep down that – for the most part – we are not defined by our many, many short-lived moments. Instead, we are defined by our patterned choices and actions over the long haul.

It’s just not about one mistake at the office (unless you report to this guy)…


Successful, happy people know it, too – so what do they do about their missteps? They make them right, learn from them, and move on. They focus on what matters.

And, they Don’t. Freak. Out.

I ask you now.

When was the last time you made a mistake at work, had an argument with a loved one, made a big purchase…and felt like nothing would ever be the same? Did you figure it out? Did it pass? How quickly?

Now, think about those life-changing moments you’ve REALLY had, when nothing REALLY was the same again. How many have there been? Ten? Maybe less?

So get some perspective. Know your triggers. Know that this moment, too, shall pass. Say it in the moment. And stop freaking out.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Especially when you’ve gotten especially good at being a freaker-outer, like me. I struggle with this all the time. But I also work on it.

In fact, I had to remember it just this morning… when I literally handed over my last dollar at lunch and had the sinking sensation that I was one step away from living on the street. As my heart skipped a beat I remembered there was an ATM around the corner, and that my account did indeed have money in it.

That’s when I stopped freaking out. And got back to enjoying life.

nathan lane calm

This week…

Stop freaking out…or at least save your freak-outs for those true, transformative milestone moments in life.

Learn to recognize just how few there are.

Then move trust this one will pass, and move forward…knowing this next one will be better.

Now go do good…and do it well.

10 thoughts on “Why We All Should Stop Freaking Out

  1. Craig Blower says:

    Oh, I’m all about perspective now. It’s all small stuff. 🙂

    Thanks for a very timely reminder as I work with a new boss after 14 years, a total kitchen demolition and rebuild starting in a week, and a daughter announcing her engagement. Well, the last item wouldn’t be considered small stuff, but you get the drift.

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      I do indeed…because the small stuff gets big VERY quickly. Especially when you’ve got so much going on! Thanks so much for the great comment, Craig – and hang in there!

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the reminder about remembering to see things in perspective Deirdre. Your post came at the perfect time!

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      So glad to hear it…best of luck in having a non-freak-out week!

  3. Christine Mailloux says:

    So timely! As I was kicking myself for not getting up early enough to get me and my daughter out of the house on time to get her to camp on time, I was definitely freaking out- thrown cell phone (onto soft seat of car) and all. My morning was ruined I thought as I had to take time to drive her somewhere else because we missed the bus, my carefully laid plans, everything ruined! Untill….. we pulled into the parking lot only to find all of the girls happily playing games and waiting patiently for the bus I thought we missed. Turns out I had my times wrong, and we were actually a little early. Me! Early! While I was freaking out, “life” was quietly going on as calm as can be. It must have taken me a half hour to calm down, but I vowed to put this freak-out into the “unnecessary” category and learn from it. So ironic that you posted this today. Thanks.

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      What a terrific story…love it! It’s so wild how our minds just rush into freak-out mode, almost automatically! I find my trick is catching it before it gets too far…easier said than done once that heart gets beating, though, yes?

  4. Patty Costa says:

    Oh my goodness Deirdre! You have described ME! Thank you so much for the reminder so wonderfully put. One of my freak-outs is about losing my keys. I usually put them in the same compartment of my pocketbook but if for some reason, I use another or do it differently, immediate dread of what I have to go through! But what’s the worse, I call triple A and they open the door for me. So I have to think each through. As you so elegantly put it, most of the what-ifs don’t usually happen and by not getting myself crazy first, I can deal with it much better if it does. So needed this, Thanks again.

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      Thanks for the great comment, Patty! I’m sure you are not the only one who’s had that EXACT freak-out…in fact, the second I think my keys are lost my mind automatically goes to who I’m going to call and how I’ll replace them. Same thing if I happen to put my credit card in the wrong slot…I’m cancelling the account in my mind before I even finish looking through the rest of my wallet!

  5. Aimee says:

    New to your blogs. Stumbled across them actually. Really enjoyed all the blogs that I read and wanted to say “Thanks.” I’ll be back to read more.

    1. Deirdre Maloney says:

      Welcome to the site, Aimee – so glad you found your way here! Thanks for your kind words…

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