The Art Of The Planned Freak-Out.
If you’ve been following along, you know that about seven months ago I moved to New York City with my partner Jeremy. I’d lived in Los Angeles my entire life – entire life – so the shift brought up all sorts of emotions (you can read about some of them here and here). About two weeks before we left, I started to get a little bit anxious. Being the calming force that he is, he mentioned to me that we should probably plan for at least 2 to 3 big freak out moments in the first few months. Cool. Okay. Permission to lose it. I can do that.
Fast forward to now, and while I’ve definitely had my own one-off moments of spontaneously crying or stressing out, I hadn’t sat down and really allowed myself to digest the big change. What more, it wasn’t until last week that both of us sat down, frazzled, and realized that neither one of us had truly taking the time to digest the enormous change that we had just made.
I think that, for me personally, I pride myself on being resilient. Change the schedule of a day I’ve planned out and I’ll break out in anxious trembling, but when it comes to big changes, failures, or loss, I put myself in a leadership position and warrior on.
Is my resilience helpful? For sure. Is it a defense mechanism? Sometimes. I have a tendency to take my penchant for resilience for granted – and because of that, I sometimes downplay huge moments and transitions in my life that are completely worthy of a good old-fashioned freak out. I don’t allow myself to lose it because I know the challenge, feeling, etc is not only surmountable, but I “know” in my logical brain how to surmount it. But just because you know how to navigate the waters doesn’t mean it’s meant to be a smooth ride.
So here’s what we did: we scheduled a two to three hour block last weekend and decided we were going to go somewhere, get a nice warm cocktail (because it’s cold outside) (you don’t have to get a cocktail if you don’t drink or that’s not your thing but it felt kind of cozy) – and have a planned freak-out.
At first I thought we were going to sit and, for lack of a better term, vent about whatever we wanted or were worried about and allow ourselves space to stress out, cry, and react however we wanted to in a safe environment. But being the left-brainer he is, Jeremy devised an exercise to provide some structure to the situation (so we didn’t, you know, leave even more crazed than we began).
We ended up spending about three hours on the exercise total. And I’ve got to say it was one of the most cathartic, helpful, impactful exercises I maybe have ever done.
Going through – or just went through – a major transition? Had a stressful year? Life just feeling like a roller coaster? You might be in need of a planned freak-out, too. A note: Something that’s important when you’re planning your freak-out moment is that you allow yourself the time and space to let anything that bubbles up bubble up judgment-free. I’m not just talking about if you do this exercise with someone else – you’ve got to commit to be judgment-free with yourself and create your own safe space to feel. Trust that you’re going to get to a positive, proactive place eventually in this exercise. But it might not happen right off the bat. And that is FINE.
Here’s how we planned our planned freak-out:
• Get a notebook. Any notebook will do. Preferably one that won’t end up at the bottom of your backpack or purse or below your bed under the receipts from last year. Open up a spread of two pages. On one side, write THINGS I HATE (*you know how I feel about the word hate). On the other side, write down THINGS I DISLIKE. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and go.
We originally set the timer for 15 minutes, but realized that not only did we need extra time at the beginning to sit and mull over what it is we actually disliked and hated, but once we got into the zone, the words just flowed. With a planned freak-out, it’s important to recognize and accept that not everything is going to come to you right away. Whether you’ve been suppressing feelings, there’s shame involved, or you’ve just been accepting vague truths as THE truths, this might take a while.
• Now that you’ve got your two lists, draw a line underneath or flip to the next page. Write in bold letters: SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
(After you’re done, I suggest taking a walk to clear your brain. Grab a coffee. Sit in the park. Go pet a dog. Do something to press your internal “reset” button.)
• Once you’re ready, open up your notebook again to a new spread of pages. On one side, write THINGS I LOVE. On the other side, write down THINGS I LIKE. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and go.
• And then, yes, once you’re done, write at the bottom: SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
What I found interesting was that when I started writing my lists, I could see very clear themes.
Some things I wrote under HATE: Feeling ineffective and insuffient. Feeling like “just another so-and-so” – not feeling unique in any way. Societal pressures on women and how they affect me negatively. Holding myself back because of money when I’m feeling financially strapped. Waiting for situations, people, etc to be “ready” – aka waiting for permission – before I take action. Loneliness.
Some things I wrote under DISLIKE: Feeling like I can’t help the people I love when they need help. Feeling like a child. Low work structure and routine. Not making more money when I feel financially strapped. Looking and waiting for opportunities to come to me instead of just going for them myself.
Self-suppression, low structure, stagnation, and disconnection were at the root of most all of my problems, “hates,” and dislikes.
Some things I wrote under LOVE: Love and gratitude. Coffee time in the morning with Jeremy. Walking around and exploring. Helping people feel proud of themselves. Working out for my own enjoyment and strength. Actively listening, and being outspoken when I truly have something to say. Singing loudly. Great conversations. Feeling proud of my appearance and presence. Feeling loved and safe and trusted.
Some things I wrote under LIKE: Good sleep. Good hair days. Dressing in dark clothes. Getting paid to write. Running. Yoga. Putting together the podcast. Holding hands. Hugs. Kisses. Massages. Structure.
Self-expression, definition, progress (personal or professional), and connection were at the root of most all my likes, loves, and happiness.
And when I started to write my second list of “To-Do About Its” and realized I could just refer to the To-Dos on the prior page, I could see one more pattern: that honestly, stepping up, “living UP” (kind of like leveling up or leaning in), and self-assertion were at the root of most everything I could do to feel the way I wanted to feel.
It’s only been a few days, but I feel completely refreshed after our planned freak-out. No, this is not the end. Yes, I’m already planning on allowing myself this time again in six months (or sooner if needed). But the biggest takeaway for me is that sometimes I need to break down in order to build up stronger than before. And planning that – allowing myself the time and space to just sit with all my highs and lows simultaneously – prevents shame or guilt from getting in the way.
Resilience is a strength for sure, but just because you’re able to tough things out or go with the flow doesn’t mean you need to pretend it’s easy. You cannot truly live into your high highs if you ignore your low lows – and if you look close enough, you’ll see the extremes are directly related.
So. What you gonna do about it?
If you’re like me and need a good old fashioned freak-out, block off a few hours in your calendar and when the day comes, get to writing. I’d love to hear what comes up for you. Do you see patterns? Difficult realizations? Stuff coming up you didn’t expect was even there? I’d love to hear in the comments.
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