YOU NEED TO CALM THE FUCK DOWN
Hey guys. I really hope you’re doing well, but I didn’t become an internationally-bestselling anti-guru by not having my finger on the pulse of my readership, and I am telling you: it’s crazy out there.
The world is on fire, the rent is due, your boss is mercurial, your dog has fleas, and you only have so much time and energy to freak out about any of it. Shit happens. It would be so much better if — instead of freaking out — you could just CALM THE FUCK DOWN and DEAL WITH IT, amirite?
Well, you’re in luck. On December 31st I’ll be unleashing my most expansive and timely No Fucks Given Guide to date, Calm the Fuck Down, and because I also didn’t become an internationally-bestselling anti-guru by not recognizing the benefits of giving everybody a free taste — here’s an excerpt to get your motor running:
A note on the title
This is a book about anxiety — from the white noise of what-ifs to the white-hot terror of a full-blown crisis. As such, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m the world’s biggest asshole for titling it as I have, since everyone knows that the first entry on a long list of Unhelpful Things to Say to a Person Experiencing Anxiety is “Calm the fuck down.”
Indeed, when I’m upset and somebody tells me to calm down, I want to murder them in swift and decisive fashion. So I see where you’d be coming from.
But this is also a book about problems — we’ve all got ’em — and calming down is exactly what you need to do if you want to solve those problems. It is what it is. So if it keeps you from wanting to murder the messenger, know that in these pages I’m saying “Calm the fuck down” the same way I said “Get your shit together” in the <cough> New York Times bestseller of the same name — not to shame or criticize you, but to offer motivation and encouragement.
I promise that’s all I’m going for. (And that I’m not the world’s biggest asshole; that honor belongs to whoever invented the vuvuzela.)
We cool? Excellent.
One more thing before we dive into all of that anxiety-reducing, problem-solving goodness: I understand the difference between anxiety, the mental illness, and anxiety, the temporary state of mind. I understand it because I myself happen to possess a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder. (Write what you know, folks!)
So although a profanity-riddled self-help book is no substitute for professional medical care, if you picked up Calm the Fuck Down because you’re perennially, clinically anxious like me, in it you will find plenty of tips, tricks, and techniques to help you manage that shit, which will allow you to move on to the business of solving the problems that are feeding your anxiety in the first place.
But maybe you don’t have — or don’t realize you have, or aren’t ready to admit you have — anxiety, the mental illness. Maybe you just get temporarily anxious when the situation demands it (see: the white-hot terror of a full-blown crisis). Never fear! Calm the Fuck Down will provide you with ample calamity management tools for stressful times.
Plus maybe some tips, tricks, and techniques for dealing with that thing you don’t realize or aren’t ready to admit you have.
I’d like to kick things off with a few questions:
How many times a day do you ask yourself What if? As in: What if X happens? What if Y goes wrong? What if Z doesn’t turn out like I want/need/expect it to?
How much time do you spend worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet? Or about something that not only hasn’t happened, but probably won’t?
And how many hours have you wasted freaking out about something that has already happened (or avoiding it, as a quiet panic infests your soul) instead of just dealing with it?
It’s okay to be honest — I’m not trying to shame you. In fact, I’ll go first!
My answer is: Too many, too much, and a LOT. I assume yours is too, because if the answer is Never, none, and ZERO, then you have no reason to be reading this book (nor, I might add, the hard-won qualifications to have written it).
Well, I come bearing good news.
When we’re finished, the next time you come down with a case of the what-ifs — whether they remain theoretical anxieties or turn into real, live problems that need solvin’ — instead of worrying yourself into a panic attack, crying the day away, punching a wall, or avoiding things until they get even worse, you’ll have learned to replace the open-ended nature of that unproductive question with one that’s much more logical, realistic, and actionable: OKAY, NOW WHAT?
Then, you’ll deal with it, whatever it is.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — for now, we start with the basics.
Boy, does it. And when I think about all the shit that could or probably will happen to me on any given day, I’m reminded of a lyric from departed musical genius and spiritual gangsta, the one, the only, Prince (RIP):
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
The Purple One had suspect opinions about a lot of things — among them religion, tasteful fabrics, and age-appropriate relationships — but in this regard he was spot-on. Each morning that we wake up and lurch across this rotating time bomb called Earth, our baseline goal is to get through the day. Some of us are angling for more — like success, a bit of relaxation, or a kind word from a loved one. Others are just hoping not to get arrested for treason. (While every day, some of us are hoping someone else gets arrested for treason!)
And though each twenty-four-hour cycle brings the potential for good things to happen — your loan gets approved, your girlfriend proposes, your socks match — there’s also the chance that a big steaming pile of shit will land in your lap. Your house could get repossessed, your girlfriend might break up with you, your socks may become wooly receptacles for cat vomit. Not to mention the potential for earthquakes, tornadoes, military coups, nuclear accidents, the world wine output falling to record lows, and all manner of disasters that could strike at any time and really fuck up your shit.
Especially the wine thing.
That’s just how life works. Prince knew it. You know it. And that is literally all you and Prince have in common.
So here’s another question for you: When shit happens, how do you react? Do you freeze or do you freak out? Do you lock the bathroom door and cry or do you howl at the sky with rage? Personally, I’ve been known to pretend shit is not happening, bury my head in a pillow, and stick my ass in the air in a move I call “ostriching.”
Unfortunately, while these coping mechanisms can be comforting, none are especially productive (and I say that having invented one of them). Eventually you have to stop freaking out and start dealing with your shit, and — shocker — it’s hard to make decisions and solve problems when you’re panicking or sobbing or shouting, or when all the blood is rushing to your head.
Which is why what you really need to do, first and foremost, is calm the fuck down.
We’ve all been there. I simply maintain that most of us could learn how to handle it better. Related: most of us also have a friend or relative or partner whose inevitable reaction to our every crisis is “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be okay.” Or worse: “Aw, it’s not so bad.”
On that, I call bullshit. Well-meaning platitudes are easy to offer for someone with no skin in the game. In Calm the Fuck Down, we’ll be dealing in reality, not nicety. The truth is:
Yes, sometimes things will be okay. You pass the test, the tumor comes back benign, Linda returns your text.
But sometimes they won’t. Investments go south, friendships fall away, in an election of monumental consequence millions of people cast their vote for an ingrown toenail in a cheap red hat.
In some cases, it’s really not so bad, and you are overreacting. You’ve built an imagined crisis up in your head and let it feed your anxiety like a mogwai after dark. If you’ve seen Gremlins, you know how this ends.
But in other cases IT’S REAL BAD BRO, and you? You’re underreacting. You’re like that cartoon dog who sits at a table drinking coffee while the house burns down around him thinking It’s fine. This is fine.
And sure, by saying “everything’s going to be okay,” your friend/relative/partner is probably just trying to help you. But whether you’re making a Taj Mahal out of a teepee, or ignoring a problem for so long that it sets your metaphorical house on fire, I’m actually going to help you. That’s just how I roll.
Thus begins your education in calming the fuck down:
Lesson #1: Merely believing that things will be okay or aren’t so bad may make you feel better in the moment, but it won’t solve the problem. (And a lot of times it doesn’t even feel good in the moment — it feels like you’re being condescended to by the Happy Industrial Complex. Don’t get me started.)
Either way, it doesn’t change a goddamn thing!
Lesson #2: When shit happens, circumstances are what they are: tires are flat, wrists are broken, files are deleted, hamsters are dead. You may be frustrated, anxious, hurt, angry, or sad — but you are right there in the thick of it and the only thing you can control in this equation is YOU, and your reaction.
Lesson #3: To survive and thrive in these moments, you need to ACKNOWLEDGE what’s happened, ACCEPT the parts you can’t control, and ADDRESS the parts you can.
Per that last one, have you heard of the Serenity Prayer — you know, the one about accepting the things you cannot change and having the wisdom to know the difference? Calm the Fuck Down is essentially a blasphemous, long-form version of that, with flowcharts ’n’ stuff.
If you’re into that sort of thing, we’re going to get along just fine.
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt from the beginning of Calm the Fuck Down. It’s full of my usual no-nonsense, no-B.S. tips for living a happier, more productive life — including everything you ever wanted to know about the the Four Faces of Freaking Out (and their Flipsides); “sleight of mind”; The One Question to Rule Them All; Ostrich Mode and how to avoid it; Productive, helpful, effective worrying (P.H.E.W.); and much more. In the end, this book will help you:
Stop freaking out about shit you can’t control.
Enable yourself to make rational decisions.
SO YOU CAN
Solve problems instead of making them worse.
Not too shabby, eh?
As mentioned, Calm the Fuck Down publishes on December 31st in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, with other territories coming in 2019.
But YAY! You can pre-order it now, in all formats, from my website.*
Sarah Knight is the author of the No Fucks Given Guides series of profane self-help books, including The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, Get Your Shit Together (and the Get Your Shit Together Journal), You Do You, and Calm the Fuck Down. The NFGGs have been published in more than 25 countries worldwide and have more than 2 million copies in print.
*Well, all formats except audio — they don’t post those buy links until closer to pub date. Sorry.