5 Everyday Situations That Wrack Us All With Anxiety
Every day, the world chokes us with events that cause anxiety. For the most part, that's OK. It's completely fine to get a tad worried about a late mortgage payment or the grizzly bear that made its way into your house while you were sleeping. But there are plenty of stressful things that we encounter daily that shouldn't really worry us all. Useless, meaningless, everyday things, like answering the phone or replying to a Walmart cashier's automated "Thank you" with a "You're welcome" and not including any swears. Ever wonder why dumbass stuff like that turns us into internally screaming balls of anxiety and shame at a flip of a switch?
How would you rather communicate with someone: By sending a text message, or actually calling them on the phone? Of course it's the former. No one likes talking to people anymore, especially if they're folks you don't particularly know. Silence is awesome. Who doesn't like silence? So why the hell do we start mentally screwing our own heads off the second we have to be silent with someone else?
"OH GOD, WHY IS HE NOT RESPONDING TO ME?!"
Awkward silence can happen anywhere. No matter how adept you are at hiding your many social inadequacies behind a veneer of vaguely interesting conversation, that shit'll slap you in the face when you least expect it. I had one just the other day. I went to see a soccer match with some friends, and we met a guy who's a regular at the games. We struck up a perfectly nice conversation about many interesting soccerish things, like low scores and vuvuzelas. Then my friends popped off to grab a warm $12 beer and I was left alone with this strange potential hooligan. BOOM! Awkward silence descended, practically mid-sentence. We had plenty to talk about; we just couldn't do it. And so we spent the next five minutes fumbling for our phones to read pretend texts. I think I even did that weird thing where you fake a yawn just to fill the soundless void.
It's all about rejection. Conversations are surprisingly important for our mental well-being, and all it takes is a quick, awkward silence to take all of their benefits away and replace them with a heaping helping of "everyone hates me forever"-ness. Not just for the person who blurted out the awkward-ass remark that caused the lull, either; that shit applies to everyone in the conversation.
"See? Just remember that any break in conversation will wreck everyone's brain chemistry forever. No pressure."
According to research, a good conversation gives every participant feelings of social validation, belonging, and a jolt of self-esteem. If the dynamic gets disturbed -- like when you blurt out your pet theory about Pokemon being secretly Nazis -- this creates a lull in conversation. Whether it's one of those giant pits of muteness I described or a barely-noticeable lull of as little as four seconds, it'll fill your talkin' posse with a whole host of negative emotions and feelings of rejection. That's why you're apt to just bury your face in your phone at that point. Sweet, reliable technology never rejects you.
Sleeping Without A Blanket
I've long viewed the people who can sleep a whole night without a blanket as witches, warlocks, or French. When I try it, it just feels wrong on a basic cellular level. No matter how hot it is, or how aware I am that the boogeyman quantity of my house (three) doesn't change in any way no matter how well I tuck myself in, there's this sense of weirdness and vulnerability.
On a positive note, I probably lose several pounds in sweat every July night.
Based on the fact that fucking everyone in the Western world (except for, you know, witches, warlocks, and the French) sleeps with a blanket, I'm not the only one indulging in this insanity, either. Are we as a society just a bunch of Linuses waiting for an excuse to hug our safety blankets? (Ask your parents, young readers. That was a spot-on reference.)
Yes, we are. But we have a biological excuse for our fuckery. Warming your body helps you fall asleep, and encasing it in a blanket is simply the easiest way to do that shit. According to experts, we sleep best when our body is encased in temperatures between 62-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and we tend to seek that comfort zone in our blanket shenanigans. Whether you tuck completely inside a thick enough blanket to survive the events of the movie 2012 or just kinda-sorta place a thin sheet over the general region of your torso is a combination of personal preference and outside elements.
I don't care what science says, this lady is still a French half-witch.
As for the strange vulnerability feeling of sleeping without a blanket, you're not imagining that, either. The physical weight of the blanket encasing you is comforting -- kind of like a whole-body hug that stimulates your touch receptors and helps you relax. Psychiatry even uses it as a form of treatment. Weighted 15-30-pound blankets are one of the most powerful tools in treating anxiety-related psychological issues.
Remembering People's Names
You're at a party where you only know a couple of people. There's music. Your hand's getting grabbed and shaken at breakneck speeds, and names like "Marla" and "George" and "MechaGodzilla" zip around your skull with absolutely no intention to ever stay there. You could always ask them again later, but you know you're not going to. Besides, you're never going to see that person again anyway. Until you do and, worse, they remember your name, your occupation, and how you like the pleats in your pants. All you remember about them is that they have a face and probably a name. But at that point, you'll be too afraid to ask.
"Look, I know we got wasted on Cuervo Silver and married in Vegas last night, but ..."
Unless your name is Thorgarr Crotchpuncher, no one in a new group is going to remember your name on the first try. Objectively, we all know this. So why is it so damn difficult?
You can't remember names because your brain doesn't really like you. Human beings are visual creatures, because we kind of have to be. Meanwhile, names are a relatively recent arbitrary social construct, so the brain's logic about those tends to be "No one gives a shit what a tiger is called as long as we can reliably recognize it from far enough to run the fuck in the opposite direction."
"The name's Jack, you insensitive pricks."
That's why the brain is, for the most part, awesome at recognizing faces. And because this takes a whole lot of processing power, it does not really give a merry two-bit shit about doing the equations necessary for attaching names to said faces. Things get better if the name provides a cue that correlates with the person's known personal details in some way. For instance, try forgetting the name of a medical professional called Jonathan Treat Paine. But until we give up and start naming everyone John or Jane [insert profession], and stop giggling about the ones who end up as proctologists or turkey masturbators, all we can really do is train our memories by linking the names with easy memory aids. While this should be easy as balls, it should be remembered that our willingness to do everything with the word "training" in it tends to correlate with that gym membership you were pressured into getting in 2014 and have almost used twice.
Unexpectedly Seeing A Co-Worker Outside Of Work
I, like most of you, have three sorts of coworkers: a few whom I consider actual friends, a bunch of people whom I get along with just fine, and fucking Steve. Let's say you walk on the street one day, on a mission we'll all just keep on presuming isn't crime-related, when you coincidentally bump into one of them. It's clear how to deal with the former (normal social interaction) and the latter (drop kick him right in the Steve dick!), but what about the vast majority of the people you only ever see at work?
Pelt them with cats and run away?
Sure, we all know they're people with feelings and families and complex, full lives outside of work. Why is it so difficult to interact with them in an unexpected, non-work environment? Hell, is that why everyone gets so hammered at office parties? Are we just trying to lubricate our social muscles into dealing with the others when they're not wearing their work clothes and work face?
Kind of, yeah.
Socializing with your co-workers is pretty important, but it should happen on your own terms. When at work, most of us have our game faces on to at least some extent. Every interaction with your co-workers is going to come through that veil. It may sound like two-faced asshole behavior, but it's actually a fairly important workplace survival mechanism. That way, you make an attempt at showing yourself to your co-workers in a positive light.
"Hi, my name is Steve, and I'm a proactive achiever."
If you're removed from that zone -- like, say, when a co-worker walks up on you while you're on your way to Comic-Con rocking your best My Little Fedora Pony outfit -- they might see you as you instead of Workplace Social Construct You, which may fuck everyone's brains right up. You know how people always seem to get more drunk at office parties? It's because your brain can't really comprehend drinking alcohol at a clearly professional environment with people you're used to seeing in that setting. It encounters a similar problem when seeing your co-worker out of context, to the point where you might have difficulty just recognizing their face.
Obsessing Over Hypothetical Situations That Will Almost Certainly Never Happen
This is one that never happens to anyone but me. Why am I including it at all? I'm overstepping some invisible boundary just by including this entry, and they'll never give me that bigger columnist cage I was promised. People will all think I'm insane, and pelt me with fruit and live ferrets for the rest of my days, until I weep the tears of the existentially butt-jiggered.
Wait, what about the thing I wrote about my co-workers earlier? What if someone takes offense? What if fucking Steve takes it to HR and I get fired forever, both from this job and every potential future one? What if they fire me so hard that I actually lose control of every sphincter in my body at the same time? My God, it's practically inevitable. I should start loosening exercises right now.
You can call it needless worrying. You can call it anxiety. You can even call it bullshit, because you're a perfect human being who has never once worried about anything, because your trust funds and general fuckery have forever desensitized you to the problems of everyone else, Steve. But that doesn't mean that it isn't real.
Especially when it's 2 a.m. and you have to wake up at 6.
We all worry about random bullshit. It's an emotion, it happens. However, the way you deal with worry is a doule-edged sword. For some, it's a method of relieving stress and finding solutions to life's mundane problems. For others, it's a constant source of stress. Essentially, you're thinking those dreaded 2 a.m. thoughts, constantly, forever -- and gleefully egged on by just about everything in our modern society. Sure genetics play a part. A crapshoot combination of your parents' anxiety genes might slap you with a tendency to worry about inane bullshit so much that you develop a condition called general anxiety disorder, which basically turns you into Piglet from Winnie The Pooh.
So there's a genetic predicament that can turn you into an endless worrier. And worrying about that has to be ridiculous by default, because there's nothing you can do to prevent it. Then again, worrying about the way we worry about that would be a perfectly logical reason to worry, because worrying about everything we can possibly worry about would cause a worrying hindrance to our ability to function without worry ... oh shit, son! Worryception!
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: To get there you'd have to cross a bridge, sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy. If you fell off, you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael, along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi, and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here, and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
Many people smoke pot to treat their anxiety, but it turns out smoking weed actually can worsen panic attacks. See why in 5 Pro-Marijuana Arguments That Aren't Helping and, if you have social anxiety, see why you should try to convince people that you're outgoing. Check out the science in 6 Scientific Solutions To Your Crippling Social Anxiety.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see Daniel O'Brien (a guy who knows a thing or two about anxiety) break down the worst movie concept ever in Officially the Worst Movie Idea Anyone's Ever Had - Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also follow us on Facebook because its a good place to end up when your social plans fail.