Stress, Coping, And Not Tempting Fate

Of course, the week I wrote about being resilient and capable of managing my stress is the week the world takes another step down the “gone to hell” path. My workplace announces an end to mask requirements, Russia invades Ukraine (keep in mind I wrote this on February 24th and February 24th Chris has no idea what has happened between now and then), and the conservatives of my country have continued to do their best to prove what absolute shithead fascists they are. I really need to stop writing about how I’ve finally gotten my feet underneath me or how I’m managing my stress. It feels too much like tempting the fuckers to fuck something up in the world at this point.

I had a conversation with a coworker today about his general anxieties pertaining to recent events. He’s pretty new to the “worrying about the state of the world” game and is fairly middle-of-the-road on most issues. Not super considerate or empathetic, but generally wants things to be better for everyone. And since he’s a middle class white dude (more middle class than me, so kinda mid-middle class, I guess?) without anxiety issues, he’s never had to really mentally confront a situation over which he has no control and very few options. I talked him through it in general terms and let him in on my catch-all “apocalypse readiness” plan.

He didn’t say he was surprised about how well thought-out it was–since we’ve worked together for five years I’m pretty sure he’s used to me being constantly mentally prepared for everything that happens (it actually came in handy for a work thing a couple weeks ago)–but I could see in his eyes a certain degree of disbelief as we started talking. When I was prepared for every odd scenario he produced and had already accounted for every idea he had, he seemed to settle down somewhat. He walked away in a much more calm and self-assured manner than he walked up, so the conversation served its purpose even if he never thinks of it again.

My plan will work for almost all apocalyptic scenarious because it isn’t dependent on a specific type of apocalypse, doesn’t rely on any specific modern technologies, and is non-specific enough that in-the-moment decisions won’t be constrained by a plan I’ve had for over a decade at this point. It relies on a lot of general knowledge, the power of having a few specific but broadly applicable goals in mind during a crisis, and knowledge of my general environment. I’m not going to write it out here, because that’s a great way to ruin a plan dependent on enough people knowing to build a community but not so many people knowing that it will overburden said community.

I doubt I’ll ever need to follow that plan. It’s great to have it in place, mostly as a tool for coping with anxiety, but I doubt it will ever be useful. Mostly, it’s a way to let people who are struggling to cope with their anxiety about world events feel like someone is prepared. I’m definitely not prepared for life to change that drastically, but I am prepared to cope with it. And, honestly, in times like these, doing your best to cope is sometimes all you can do. Sure, there are a lot of small things under your control that you can do to address broader societal problems within the bounds of the current system, but they rarely feel impactful. Or, at least, they never feel terribly impactful to me. I’ve gotten more stress and anxiety relief from coming up with far-fetched survival plans than I’ve ever gotten from calling my representatives or joining in solidarity with like-minded folks for a good ol’ public protest. Those things are important to do if you want things to change, action is a must in whatever form you can take it, but coping mechanisms are how you survive it in the meantime.

So, if you’re struggling today, tomorrow, or any day, act. Do something. But when you’ve done what you can, cope. Get yourself through today so you can act again tomorrow.

Honestly, I hope that a week passes and I wind up deleting this because things have rapidly changed for the better and it doesn’t seem relevant any more, but I also hope that I will magically win the lottery or that student debt will be forgiven as a means of boosting the economy so I’m not expecting much.

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