Calm down deer

The last few weeks have been pretty bloody odd.

Something terrible happened to me.

We were blindsided.

As the days are passing, things are starting to return to “normal,” although on the inside, I’m still not quite back.

I find myself lying in bed in my childhood home in Aberdeen tonight, not really engaged with how I got here, a trip usually planned and executed with military precision.

Bar a few very close friends, I have closed off my diary to the Christmas holiday “should sees” in favour of me time.

Please don’t be offended if you think this might be you!

I’ve not been drugged, nor am I depressed.

Don’t worry, I’m actually ok.

Despite what these ramblings might suggest.

I just feel like I’m starting to wake up from four weeks of aimless drifting, draining random emotions in my wake.

Usually, I’m completely manic in the run up to Christmas and by that I mean suffering from high levels of self-inflicted anxiety caused by my need to ensure that everything is perfect.

This year, stuff hasn’t been done and I honestly couldn’t care less.

I’m perfectly calm.

As someone not particularly accustomed to tragedy or grief, this is the weirdest, most unexpected and, bizarrely – an overwhelmingly positive – side effect.

Hopefully this is what they call a “normal response!”

Clearly being massively self-aware, it was quite timely that I should read an article on this very subject.

In his regular Saturday Guardian feature, “this column will change your life,” journalist Oliver Burkeman describes this calm-in-crisis state as being symptomatic of something called the, “region beta paradox.”

A.k.a the opposite of what I would call the “worried well syndrome,” something I now recognise in myself, despite having been heavily critical of others about in the past.

The theory behind this label is that when truly bad things happen to someone, a line is crossed which releases the necessary coping mechanisms which help us to recover.

The converse response should therefore hold true in respect of an individual’s approach to more trivial matters – such as Christmas, in my case – where if in doubt, panic sets in.

Burkeman hilariously, and somewhat flippantly, examines this syndrome by referring to a buzzfeed article, highlighting that sometimes responding to trivia can evoke total meltdown if the necessary biological crisis threshold isn’t met.

If you don’t have time to read the above, just do a Twitter search using the phrase “Wholefoods has run out of…” And you’ll get the gist.

A more measured comparison seems to come from studies that suggest that people close to a person in crisis often become more distraught than the person in crisis themselves, teetering on the brink, yet falling short on coping mechanisms.

But should this mean that second hand grief is somehow not quite as worthy?

I do feel that I need to stick up for the caring stress heads out there a little on this. It does seem unfair in a way for those with a better insight into bad shit to trivialise things that are pretty bloody-annoying-slash-stressful for others, or indeed to bandy around the term “first world problems” as an explanation for losing the plot over something generally considered by the sanctimonious as silly.

Distress is subjective.

A perfect example can be seen in a post that I wrote earlier this year in which a guy eventually got arrested in my local post office for taking umbrage at being told that a form he had filled out was not acceptable as it was completed in blue ink instead of the required black.

To me this seemed crazy. To him it was worth everything that day. Without knowing any more than what I saw, I’m not sure how psychologists could say for sure that this wasn’t his unique way of reacting to a major life event anymore than attributing it to being a total over-reaction to an annoying rule – but who am I to question clever clogsy brain academics?

As Burkeman states, “the worst thing that has ever happened to you is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.” And responses to things have to be considered in that context.

So now something bad has happened to me, it is proven that I’m capable of achieving appropriate internal crisis management. I’m now wondering whether my new found discovery of beta paradox theorem will help cure me from over reacting and getting stressed out about so-called trivial things in the future?

Is there really anything wrong with me over reacting to other people’s idea of what trivia is?

Could all of this just be part of the complexities of individual personality, therefore rendering this syndrome a load of old tosh?

Surely I’m allowed to get annoyed or stressed at minor things without making it into a “thing?”

I would love to hear what you think.

Yes, this would cheer me up immensely.

[Featured Image sourced from Twitter, proprietor unknown.]


10 thoughts on “Calm down deer”

    1. Hi Mara. It is, isnt it. As usual it’s kept my mind boggling about crisis vs theory and what the meaning of life without triviality actually is πŸ˜‰ Aka more worried welling!! Its an interesting little weekly column if you are into extreme over analysis just like me!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have been through very difficult tragedies and experienced acute and profound distress and emotional collapse. Nevertheless, I still panic over things my husband sees as small and insignificant. Even in the midst of a stress out, I am often capable of recognising my response is disproportionate – especially given that I have experienced actual, awful tragedies. My theory is that my early experiences of distress and anxiety have hard-wired me to respond in that way to circumstances outside my control or which escape my control because those same experiences triggered my becoming a control freak. However and conversely, like Mara, if there is a real crisis where action is required, then I am completely level and calm and do what needs to be done. It is as if I need adrenalin in order to function. Maybe I’m a mess. πŸ˜€

    Thanks for this interesting, thought-provoking read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! You sound just like me. Im beginning to suspect that most people are a bit like this, just in varying degrees depending on the overt drama queen scale of the individual. Otherwise, we probably dont realise it goes on atall. I would love to look inside the mind of a super confident and/or calm, cool collected friend and see how they process the daily drudge when not in full on crisis mode. The more I think about it, the more “normal” low level anxiety most of the time seems. Now all I need to do is think up a fancy name for it πŸ˜‰ thanks for commenting and for allowing your thoughts to be provoked!


  2. I tend to agree as I’d rather be slapped by a bear rather than attacked by midges. It’s the little things that sometimes become unbearable. This reminds me of the lady that divorced her husband because he wouldn’t eat his peas with a fork.

    The same might be applied to work as well. The disappointment of not getting a raise or promotion might in the long run cause less distress than some more trivial daily occurrences like people running off with your pens. This is why it’s probably a good idea for people to incorporate some sort of meditation/relaxation in their lives. As Milne said, “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Perhaps that’s just a male perspective though, lol.

    Thought provoking article and certainly a timely one with the gathering of relatives and crazed shoppers on the loose. If I don’t see you before, best wishes for the holidays, peace, prosperity, and lots of other good stuff. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am hoping this distress shakes off and you feel yourself again. In the meantime, yours sounds like a perfectly normal response. Take all the time you need.

    Liked by 2 people

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