How to Survive an Existential Crisis
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? An emergency situation. Red, flashing lights. Sirens. Fire. Murder!
When you’re not in the middle of it, it seems like some serious #firstworldproblems. And even when you are experiencing it, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your head going, “You know, somewhere in the world, people are experiencing crises too. For food. In wars. Families trying to make their lives manageable. And you are getting stressed out because you don’t feel…what? Happy? Satisfied? Get over it!” And isn’t it funny how that voice always sounds like the parent trying to get you to eat brussel sprouts? Those starving kids, right?
In the American work culture that walks an uneasy line between “live your dream” and “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s easy to feel conflicted when you are trying to deal with struggles of self. I speak from experience. Here is a simple guide to getting through these really awful feels.
1. Journal about it: write down everything that’s sticking in your head. Don’t think too much about it. Just take a few deep breaths and write it all out. The plus side to this is that you have it down so you can come back to it later. Often times, you will find later that you’re not really sure what the big deal was. Or, on the other side of that, you can assure yourself that you have in fact felt this way before about something and start making decisions on how to change it.
2. Talk to someone: make sure that you let them know which you are looking for – an attentive ear or actual advice. Give them a heads up beforehand that you are going to share things that may seem self-involved, petty, etc. I know you may be thinking “why would I have to do that with a real friend?” but sometimes it actually serves to open them up more to getting your struggles. Because you’re saying that you’re trusting them.
3. Understand that this is happening and give yourself a break: a lot of times existential crises will spiral into shame trips. Don’t let them. You are having this moment, so accept it as it is. Be okay with the fact that you are going through this, even if you’re not okay with the feelings themselves. Think of them like weather or traffic or illness; you don’t have to like it, but it’s here for now, so just relax.
4. Give yourself a solid 60 seconds: freak out. Scream into a pillow. Hyperventilate a little bit. But just for that minute. Then, you need to go do something else.
5. Be present: I say this a lot, but it’s an important aspect of dealing with things like this. A lot of times, even though it’s called “existential,” a lot of the mulling over we do involves the past and the future. Fuggedaboutem. Think about what you’re doing right now. Focus on that thing, even if it’s just sitting at your computer, reading comics. Be 100% in that.
You can handle this. I dare you.