I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday when my friend sent me a message on Slack asking if I’ve ever sat and rethought things I’ve said to people in meetings, as she was currently experiencing a moment of panic.
I read it, laughed to myself, then it dawned on me for the last 5 minutes or so I wasn’t working — I was replaying a conversation I had earlier in the day over and over in my head. I had zoned out and walked through every step — everything I said, everything they said and really thought it over — and then I realized, I do this all the time.
It happens especially after an important meeting or interview or meeting someone for the first time — it’s like I can’t close the book on the conversation until I sit and mull over every syllable and feel confident it went okay.
It might seem like a silly thing to do (and a total waste of time!), but I’ve come to realize it’s another form of anxiety.
It’s also made me wonder: do we all do this? How much of our time is spent trying to change things in our heads that have already happened?
When I’m feeling really stressed about something small — like getting stuck in traffic or the way I acted when I was in a bad mood — I think back to this moment about three years ago while talking with AnnaLynne McCord (the star of our generation’s 90210). I wasn’t expecting to learn something I’d use in my everyday life, seeing as most of the questions we ask on red carpets are fluffy, but she told me something I’ll never forget and it always brings me out of my moment of panic:
She said to visually think about your life as a film reel. Think of everything from being born, to learning how to walk, to grade school, college, your life now and everything that has happened in between. Now think about the thing you are obsessing over — the thing that feels really BIG right now and is eating you alive. Now realize how that is just a blip in your story. And how many times you’ve had silly arguments or ran late or obsessed over things that you can’t even remember now. This moment of stress is merely a tiny moment in the scheme of things and you very likely won’t even be thinking about it years (or sometimes days) from now.
It’s a great visual that helps put things into perspective and remind you to take a second to breathe. Hopefully it’s something you can try next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
And if all else fails, I’ll bring you back to the world’s greatest gif:
Illustration: Izzy Rael