Existential Crisis

I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but I have and come out the other end not even sadder, just wiser. I have a friend who’s in the middle of one right now and I’m realizing, again, that there’s no way to help anyone. That said, I do have a little recipe for that time and it’s very simple. Maybe the problem with it is its simplicity. But here goes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these moments, too, and what brings you through them, especially since the cost of NOT getting through them is very high.

WARNING: These aren’t deep. They are simple and mechanical

1) Get up every morning at a reasonable hour, before 9.
2) Eat a healthy breakfast, even just a smoothie, as long as it’s nutritious, and drink a caffeinated beverage to teach your body to get up in the morning.
3) Do your chores. Clean up the dog shit, vacuum your house, put things in order, do your dishes.
4) Work out even if it’s just walking your dog. Outdoor exercise is best — morning or afternoon, depending on your nature.
5) Eat lunch. It can be small, but put something in your stomach. Blood sugar spikes and falls can derail anyone’s mental balance.
6) See friends or do something you love. If you find something you like — even marginally — keep doing it and do it again as long as it’s not self-destructive.
6a) Each of us learns how we can best hurt ourselves. Don’t be fooled into thinking oblivion is something you like.
7) Show sincere interest in others. You’ll find you’re less alone than you thought.
8) If you hear yourself complain a LOT and about the SAME THING recognize you might have either a problem you need to solve or you’re identifying with the negative. Solve the problem or stop complaining.
9) Catharsis is only so good for so long. The good feeling it gives you is temporary. It doesn’t fix anything.
10) Eat supper.
11) Go to bed before midnight. If you have problems sleeping, try an herbal sleeping remedy.

And, most of all…

12) Get professional help. Your friends aren’t professionals and they can’t prescribe meds.
13) Be patient with yourself. It’s OK to feel down. Change takes time.
14) Happiness is a pretty chill thing. It’s not GREAT. It’s not a fantastic balloon ride over mythical landscapes. It’s simply knowing you’re doing OK, your life is mostly good, you’re making progress. To help with happiness, count your blessings every day. Examples of blessings? “Wow. This is good coffee!” “I have somewhere to live and food to eat.” “There are people who care about me.” Other blessings include an education, a car to drive, the sun shining on a particular day, etc. Seriously, happiness is NOT “all that” but it’s millions of times better than misery.

50 thoughts on “Existential Crisis

  1. My internal alarm gets me up around 7:30 each morning, but I got to be early. You know that ‘for every action, there is a reaction’ thing? For me, it’s ‘if there is not so good news, there is good news.’ Not so good news: My PET scan showed the cancer is back. Good news: saw the doc today and he said ‘It’s small. Let’s get it out.’ Even gooder news!: Next week is lookin’ great for surgery. It’s a stretch but I can’t just wallow in sorrow. That’s where your #12 comes in. Great list, Martha.

  2. I was just talking about No. 8 with a friend today. Positive self talk is so important. Otherwise, negative focus makes things more negative (self-fulfilling prophecy).

    • Yeah I think so. I have realized with my friend that his negativity is an excuse for him to believe he’s unable to change anything. It’s as if the relentless negativity has done what you say; self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. Only thing I don’t do is go to bed before 12. Gracias por todo list as it aids in I’d the different areas of concern. Great work again. I don’t go to church but here with ya family I read excellent work which motivate me and everyone else 👍🏾🙏🐕♒️❤️🎈Thank Ya

  4. i have fallen into farmer’s hours and it’s my natural sleep cycle – fall asleep around 9 and wake up at 4:30 or 5, my favorite time of day

  5. Wonderful post, Martha! I share a similar list. My internal
    Clock refuses to let me sleep past 6:30 a.m.{I usually can’t stay awake past 10:30 }But I take advantage of the quiet morning before the world is up. Someone mentioned self-talk. Getting out of my own head is something I have to practice. Dr. Caroline Leaf was a big help on this. And Eckhart Tolle years back. And #1 is my faith. And when I doubt myself and hang on to “stinkin’ thinkin” I feel poisoned. Something I use a lot is music. On YouTube there is a channel (I’m watching it now) called Nature Relaxation. There are videos by Tim Janis of peaceful hymns and other music with scenery that gives me peace {stunning scenes}. While I’m stretching after meditation and in the evening for calm I watch it on my TV (It is a “Smart” TV~smarter than me}. I do feel nature, music, and movement help me the most. I try to find humor at any opportunity ~and it’s difficult when you’re in the eye of the storm. Prayers for this friend. 💜

    • Thank you. My friend needs prayers. He’s fighting the bad guy — or evil metaphor — and isn’t aware that is what is happening. Everything in your beautiful list seems to fit under the category of “do something you love.” This is beautiful because it should be MOST of our days. Nothing you’ve described is any big deal or hard to find. Maybe I should have included “choose things that make you happy” but that seemed really abstract… ❤

      • I was so depressed and felt completely rejected~career gone, relationships gone, my sons left (to build a life which I what I prayed), my memory tried to leave with accident, and I wanted nothing to do with life. Something larger than me, a love that I knew had existed but never really felt, grabbed a hold of me. And I took control of my own brain and let just a little love sink in. But forgiving myself was the hardest. Surrounding yourself with support and a community such as this is a wonderful thing. ❤️💚💜

        • ❤ The meaning of this community to me has become very clear during this past year. My friend doesn't understand that what you describe is a very human experience and he's not the first, not the last, not alone, not incomprehensible. I don't think any of us knows what will reach out to us to hold us up from the abyss. For me it was actually this friend's parents, painting/drawing, time, PROZAC, and financial desperation. The love never left but I was exiled from it. A lot of things happened during that time that showed me so much about myself, about other people, about courage and about God. It was hell, but I wouldn't have missed it. ❤

  6. Good list. Our culture has brainwashed many to believe if they aren’t “successful” (money, money, and famous) their life is useless. We’ve forgotten, if we ever learned, that our life is merely to live, love, laugh, enjoy, find our gifts, do things we like, continue to learn. It isn’t reaching some unrealistic goal and..the end. #14 is the best. I also consume a lot of positive audiobooks, podcasts, TEDtalks, etc. It’s better than listening to the voices in my head.

  7. Positivity is so important. Sometimes you have to fake until you make it. But even contentment can become a habit (like waking up early). I tend to be a worrier. I’ve taken to putting everything into perspective with the 3 questions: 1. Will it matter tomorrow. 2. Will it matter next week? 3. Will it matter in a month or a year? Answering those questions can then determine what I need to do about the situation… Seems that more often than not a problem isn’t really a problem unless I make it into one!

    • That’s very wise. My friend is a worrier, too. He can worry himself to the point that things that are never going to happen in real life are happening all around him. Those questions are great, very concrete. Thank you!

  8. The mechanical things worked for us. During the months of hard lockdown, spent entirely inside one apartment, we stuck to a routine like robots: allocating time for sleeping, eating, exercise, and showers, for house work and profession, hours of streamed movies and calls to family and friends. We are not particularly more sane than others, but the routine got us through that stressful period much better than the average.

    • I get that completely. I have tried to explain this to my friend, but doing this requires discipline. That’s how you find out that a yard without dog shit, a clean house, and regular exercise really do help keep your mind clear. Thanks for adding this comment. It’s (hopefully) going to prove helpful (if he read this 🙂 )

  9. Good list, good advice, allowing for small tweaks to accommodate individual tastes/routines, even if adopted one thing at a time to avoid being overwhelmed.

    I’ve always felt that life boils down to the lesson learned from my ultra-distance trail running days: One foot in front of the other. Over and over again. That’s what gets you to the finish line. Focus on the incremental thing you can control, in the moment.

    • I agree, Rebecca. Many times I emerged from a hike with still a couple miles to go and it was “one foot in front of the other.” Consciously, actually and metaphorically. Thank you!

  10. My routine is much like what you describe. Gratitude is key. I try to bless my food and shelter every day. I bless the fam, which obviously includes the dog. I bless the gift of music and my good fortune. I bless the fact that I can play golf, pretty much, whenever I want. Bottom line: life is good. When that existential angst creeps in, I face it and embrace it.

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