For many years, I have sought clarity, sanity, and peace of mind. I have desired efficiency of thought, and I’ve worked to cultivate the ability to appreciate my emotions without capitulating to them.
And on this quest, one thing I’ve noticed is how much my mental state is about context. Like, when I am looking out a window with a hot cup of tea in my hand and a cat in my lap, it’s simple to assume this stance, to stay quiet inside and look at myself with equanimity.
But when I’m in Sephora with a $50 eyeshadow palette in my hand and I’m starting to feel sweaty and fidgety and I just want to buy the damn thing to make it stop, even though I have like a bajillion eyeshadows at home and student loans debts still to pay and I am forty for Chrissake …
Or when I’m on the phone with someone who is telling me that I can’t have this very reasonable thing I’m politely asking for because of some arbitrary rule that doesn’t apply to my situation anyway and I’m one breath away from blowing a gasket …
Or when I wake up the morning after drinking five beers and eating a vat of chocolate caramel popcorn and feel like the grossest fattest fuck in the world and I never want anyone to look at me ever again …
Well, in those moments, it’s a little trickier. Which means a girl needs tricks. A system, if you will, a routine to run through in that last split second before the Crazytown coaster goes over the first hill and gains too much momentum to be stopped.
Luckily, I have developed such a system, and it actually, honestly, works. It’s based on Science, and even has a silly acronym to help you remember it. I’m so proud of this system that I named it after myself! I call it NERD. Notice, Exhale, Reason, Distract.
Here’s how it works. When you start to feel all hot and bothered in Sephora, and you’re rationalizing how this palette is different from all the others you already own, because it has a red purple instead of a blue purple, and you’re only forty points away from the next VIB reward anyway …
Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is notice that you’re about to do something a little crazy. You’re getting that hopped-up don’t-give-a-crap feeling, and you’ve gotten it before, right? You know what it means and what it feels like. Pay attention to what’s happening.
Then exhale. Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett had to wait, but you don’t. You can just force all the air out of your lungs in one big satisfying whoosh, whenever you want. This will cause fresh new air to rush in, bringing you into the moment and helping you step back from what’s brewing in your brain. Miraculous.
Next, reason with yourself. Picture the drawer full of eyeshadows you have at home. Think about your student loans. Imagine yourself with that red purple color on your eyes. Does it make you look pretty, or … consumptive? Is this the best use of your fifty bucks, or are you just being manipulated by a shiny colorful atmosphere that was, in fact, designed to manipulate you? It’s important to approach this step from the right perspective. You’re not arguing with your craziness, or getting angry at it — you’re just raising a skeptical eyebrow. And that’s all you need to do: pull the energy out of the hot and crazy part of your brain and put it in the cool Spock-like sector.
Finally, distraction. Do something else. Ask the friend you’re shopping with what she thinks of red violet eyeshadow. Go outside and watch some kids skateboarding. Indulge in a $6 ice cream, or in a rant about how ice cream now costs $6. Whatever. You just need to find something else to put your attention on. And reflect on the fact that we are all exactly like little children in that this totally works.
Wait — now what were you freaking out about again? Do you even remember? High five yourself because you just skipped a potentially costly trip to Crazytown, simply by remembering one goofy acronym.
Seriously, though. Honestly. This works. Sometimes it works so well that the first two steps are enough and you don’t even need to try to be reasonable — it will just happen automatically after you notice what you’re doing and start breathing.
So I hope you’ll use it — in traffic, at work, with family or friends who are driving you bananas. Anytime part of you wants to do something that another part of you recognizes as a bad idea, just notice what’s happening inside you and exhale. Breathe. Apply reason and distraction as needed. And — bam! Equanimity maintained, collateral damage averted, mental state/bank account/life improved.
Do you play any little games to pop yourself out of a stressful moment and just be cool? Are you willing to try the NERD thing, or is it just a little bit too dumb to follow acronym-based, internet-delivered advice? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.