I woke up at 1 pm on a Wednesday afternoon feeling groggy, dehydrated, and sore, as a result of the partying I had done the night before. Like most people my age, the first thing I instinctively thought to do in the morning reached out for my phone. I checked the lock screen and panicked when it dawned upon me that I was now living in the 2020 timeline. I’d briefly forgotten that in my sleep-induced daze. It was January 1st and I was absolutely terrified. An immediate stream of thoughts started to aggressively flood my mind, ‘I haven’t even written my fucking resolutions yet!’ In the couple of weeks that followed, a feeling of nagging unrest clung to me like a piece of gum permanently stuck to the bottom of my shoe. In those couple of weeks, I would also have had one too overwhelmingly many #2020goals conversations with friends, which essentially made me even more panicky.
I was on edge and I felt like I was losing time from being on the edge which made me feel more on edge- leading to an inescapable cycle of alarming. I was fixated on the inevitable passage of time, the transience of my youth, and other Young Adult™ things. Sound familiar and hits close to home? I had just spiraled into an existential crisis, my friend. A common distressing occurrence that plagues people of all ages but especially those of us who grew up spending 5 neuron-frying hours a day on Tumblr.
A crise existentielle in a feeble human mind can be triggered by anything, really. From something that shakes the very core of your being like losing a loved one, to watching a Wong Kar Wai movie to even falling down a rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories on Reddit. Or, if you’re a Lana Del Rey fan and feel the need to revisit Born to Die from time to time (like me). Either way, it’s never pleasant and if unlucky, can have you feeling like poop for weeks.
Something we don’t realize, however, is that these feelings are pretty universal. In the warped muddled realities of our subconscious, and our very individualistic lived experiences, it’s very easy to forget that. This results in the all too common feelings of loneliness and helplessness that usually accompany an existential crisis. To battle this condition that torments all our demented little minds, I have compiled a list of activities that help ground me when I feel like the simulation that is my reality, is glitching.
1) Reducing sensory overload.
Put your damn phone away, get up from your desk, turn off the radio, and remove yourself from the stressors, whatever they may be, at least for a few minutes. All you probably need is a few minutes to feel like you’re able to quiet your thoughts again anyway. I like to take a moment for myself when things get overwhelming to just stretch. The focus on getting the tension out of knots drops my focus from my mind down into my body and helps me be more mindful.
2) Making gratitude lists.
When I’m very overwhelmed by my own loud thoughts, this is a life-saver. I have a specific gratitude journal for this purpose. How I personally do this is I write a detailed list of everything I’m overwhelmed about, then on the next page, I counter my previous list with solutions and reassurance. It’s a great reminder that my feelings are valid but I’ll also definitely have solutions to my qualms. This practice almost always gives me instant relief. There is just something so consoling about penning your problems on paper and being able to dissect them.
3) Do something physical.
Whether it’s yoga, going on a run, or twerking in your room to Megan Thee Stallion, you better do that damn thang, bitch! The goal here is to stop the hyperactivity that’s happening in your brain. Focusing on something physical is a sure way to help with that. Plus we all know that the endorphins we get from breaking a sweat are a natural mood-booster. I like dimming the lights, putting on a great playlist, and dancing with myself in my room- makes me forget the world.
4) Rediscovering what life means to you.
What’s the thing that lights your soul on fire? My advice would be to find it. Having this raging inferno in my gut is what’s kept me going. I realized in recent years that having hobbies and causes I am passionate about is a privilege that not everyone can say they have. I make an active, conscious decision to surround myself with like-minded individuals who feel as strongly as I do so we can tread the waters together.
There are so many blessings life has to offer; concerts, waffles, bodies of water. You just have to take a breather sometimes to– quite literally smell the roses. When we had our yearly ‘haze season’ I was in a funk the entire way through, only then realizing how I’d taken being able to wake up to a clear blue sky every morning for granted. That felt super humbling to me.
5) Get comfortable with not having the answers.
At the end of the day, we are mere people made of flesh, bone, and tissue. I have found comfort in the fact that I don’t know everything. Nobody has ever and will never know everything. Of course, feeling like you have a higher purpose seems like the only solution to our intrusive nihilistic thoughts, but it’s completely okay to still be searching. It’s something. Or even if you aren’t searching that’s fine too; life is what you make of it. We are all specks of dust in the cosmos anyway. That doesn’t unsettle me anymore.
It’s easy to get lost in the sauce (distress) at the start of a year, you’re not alone. Just remember to take a moment for yourself because I guarantee everything seems bigger and scarier in your head. Happy 2020!