Mental hacks needed, please.
October 28, 2013 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Please share your mind hacks/mental hacks/stories you tell yourself to make things in your life easier.

I'm looking for examples of things you tell yourself to make any aspect of your life easier. Right now I'm dealing with a lot of stress around work, my lack of control over things there and minor job security anxiety. But, I do have episodes throughout my life where I'm dealing with stress/depression/anxiety in other aspects so non-work related things are helpful too.

I know all the usual answers about how to deal with these things: exercise, plenty of sleep, medication, meditation, etc. and I am working on getting the things that I need in that regard. In the meantime, what I really need are little stories I can tell myself or phrases I can use day-to-day to help me get through the all the little things.

Examples of a few things I use would be telling myself "The only winning move is not to play" when I'm tempted to get drawn into a stupid argument or petty power struggle. Another is "Fortune favors the bold" whenever I feel afraid to do something that I know I should do. A story I like to use is Kahlil Gibran's "On Joy and Sorrow" when I'm sad to remind myself that it is my sadness that gives me joy.

I'm looking for little tidbits that I can write down in a notebook which I can look at whenever I feel stressed or anxious and hopefully redirect my thinking into a more positive or constructive direction. These don't have to be famous quotes/stories/authors. It can just be something you made up that helps you deal with things, or things you tell yourself to get yourself into the right frame of mind - anything works. Thanks.
posted by triggerfinger to Religion & Philosophy (74 answers total) 260 users marked this as a favorite
I've used "Fuck it, dude; let's go bowling" a number of times, both to defuse arguments among friends and to calm myself when shit is hitting the fan.
posted by notsnot at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Douglas Adams gave us some advice. Only two words long, but Arthur C Clark called it the best advice that could be given to humanity. It's something I have reminded myself of many times, when I need to calm down, or deal with an unpleasant situation, or when I find myself faced with the frustrations and existential crises of life:

Don't Panic.

That's step 1. Step 2 and onward vary depending on context. But Step 1 is always the same.

1) Don't Panic.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [24 favorites]

Ten years from now, when I look back on this event, will I give a damn? If no, then I shouldn't care now either.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:52 PM on October 28, 2013 [12 favorites]

Let go, and go through the wave, not over or against it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:54 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bull Durham. Yep, the movie. These gems in particular:

"Think classy, you'll be classy."
"The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness."
"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains."
"Don't think. You can only hurt the ball club." Especially useful when you're overthinking things.

(Yes, the closest thing I have to a religion is the Church of Baseball).

I'm also fond of "Life, like baseball, is a marathon, not a sprint," because it's not about a flashy performance in one game or one day, it's about grinding it out one day at a time, day after day, year after year.

And lastly, some wisdom from the Dalai Lama that applies to everything:

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:55 PM on October 28, 2013 [26 favorites]

This too shall pass

Think long, you think wrong.

From the Honeymooners: Pins and needles, needles and pins, a happy man is a man that grins.

Youth is wasted on the young. (Not sure that is relevant here, but hey as I get older I mutter it more and more to myself.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:04 PM on October 28, 2013

"Self-consciousness is like interrupting a song after every note so as to listen to the echo, and then feeling irritated because of the loss of rhythm." - Alan Watts
posted by fishmasta at 9:08 PM on October 28, 2013 [37 favorites]

This only works if you have a fairly dark or dry sense of humor.

"One hundred years, all new people".

Basically, it's all transient. Some people find it really scary or sad, but I find it comforting. (I may be weird). Or as I read in another AskMeFi, none of it matters, so the only parts that matter are the ones you decide matter.
posted by RogueTech at 9:09 PM on October 28, 2013 [46 favorites]

Someone told me once that the root "cide" in "decide" means "kill," like "homicide." That's why it's so hard to make decisions sometimes, because you have to "kill" all but one option. Sometimes remembering that that helps me break out of decision paralysis.
posted by radioamy at 9:09 PM on October 28, 2013 [15 favorites]

Oh also I try to remember that most things don't have to be perfect. For example, today I was freaking out about what to wear for Halloween, and then I remembered that it's okay if this year's costume isn't amazing. I just needed *something*, and it's totally fine to be a generic devil, witch, etc.
posted by radioamy at 9:10 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nobody really knows what the fuck is going on. They might seem like they do, or even think they do, but they don't.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:17 PM on October 28, 2013 [20 favorites]

"I'm doing this because I like myself."

There are a lot of things in my life that I don't like doing, will never like doing, and just don't enjoy (brushing and flossing for example). However I do them because they are good for me and I Like Me. Therefore this is a way that I show myself that I like myself. Similarly when I come back from a long trip and there's some delicious little something in the fridge or I wake up in the morning and my kitchen in spotless, I think "Thanks past-me, I appreciate your efforts"

You spend a lot of your time with you. It's good if you can develop a sense of grace towards yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 PM on October 28, 2013 [107 favorites]

(When I screw up) Did anyone die or get injured by my mistake? No? Then it's not the worst that could happen.

(When I'm feeling self-conscious) Most of the time other people are too focused on themselves to notice what I'm doing.

(When I'm being paralyzed by perfectionism)"Finished and good enough" is better than "still not finished because it's not perfect."

(Multipurpose) This too shall pass.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:31 PM on October 28, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm not at all religious, but I do like the Tao Te Ching when I'm struggling with depression. All kinds of stuff that really clicks when I'm in that mindset. (I've got the Man-Ho Kwok, Martin Palmer & Jay Ramsay translation, not really sure on its quality as a translation but it's got a nice poetry to it)

"The best way to run the world is to let it take its course - and to get yourself out of the way of it!" (ch 48)

"To bend like a reed in the wind - that is real strength." (ch 52) (bonus points for the David Lynch Dune connection)

Chapter 36 is for when I feel really beaten down by depression and need to psych myself up to push through:

"What is going to be diminished
Must first be allowed to inflate.

Whatever you want to weaken
Must first be convinced of its strength.

What you want to overcome
You must first of all submit to...

This is called discerning.

You see, what is yielding and weak
Overcomes what is hard and strong:

(And just as a fish can't be seen
when he stays down in the deep
don't show your power to anyone)."
posted by jason_steakums at 9:32 PM on October 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

posted by ms_rasclark at 9:32 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

The MetaFilter Classic from Dune:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain."
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:39 PM on October 28, 2013 [14 favorites]

Good, fast, cheap--2 out of 3 ain't bad.
And then--from Roadie--everything works if you let it. My favorite motto of all time.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:40 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Make hay while the sun shines."
If you're able to do something right now but are on the fence about whether you should do it now or later... just do it now. You might not be able to do it later. This goes for things you'd like to do and things you need to do.
posted by the jam at 9:46 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lately my job requires a lot more public speaking (by public I mean in front of my highly judgmental and not easily engaged board members) and this is really stressful to me because I am a rambler who swears every other word. In my efforts to not ramble and swear less I feel really awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin, despite being highly knowledgeable about the subject at hand. So, while I will admit that this sounds a bit ridiculous, I get a lot of daily inspiration from this gif from Drag Race where Akashia fell down on the catwalk and turned it into fierceness and glory.

also i think about beyonce a lot
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 PM on October 28, 2013 [26 favorites]

Something else that helps me with depression and anxiety (and especially panic attacks) is to just let it happen, stop fighting it for a while but observe. Not to anthropomorphize it too much, but while depression and anxiety are very good at fighting against you taking steps in your own self interest, they don't know what to do when you're a detached observer, meanwhile you're learning, demystifying them and rendering their tricks less useful. Learn how they respond to what you do. Try different things, see how they respond - little things, stepping out for air, reading a book, drinking some water. Spontaneously out-of-place reactions, like dancing or just taking off running around the block or randomly cooking a big fancy meal. Just whatever you throw at them so you can observe the response, treat it like an experiment. And, sometimes, just let it happen and wash over you and do nothing but observe how it feels, get as much detail as you can. The novelty and fear wear off, and it helps. It took me from crippling panic attacks a few years back to a weird scene like I had today, where one came on out of the blue at work, and then on the way to step out for some air I sort of pushed it to the background, had a brief, normal conversation with a coworker, then walked outside and let it run its course (which was much diminished from what it would have been normally). Knowing it in and out can give you some control.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:01 PM on October 28, 2013 [22 favorites]

From Finding Nemo: "Just keep swimming." Applies in a variety of contexts.
posted by chicainthecity at 10:15 PM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

When resisting temptation (to despair existence, or to skip the gym): "Not this time, maybe next time." I like that it's realistic about the ups and downs of willpower--I don't have to commit to *never* in the moment of temptation, just not this time.

And on the flip side of that, when faced with the evidently impossible: a high school teacher showed us an Army recruitment video, which included a guy dragging himself up a ropes course or something with weights tying him down. The guy is obviously in agony and exhausted and right on the verge of his body just giving out on him, but he looks right at the camera and grits out (I can still hear it) "Too. Easy."

I didn't join the Army and I'll never in my life have that kind of fantastic inborn swagger, but I've gone back to "too easy" many times over the years when I've needed to borrow a little of what I think Grant Morrison called 'the snarling fuck-you of optimism.'

Good luck!
posted by jameaterblues at 11:07 PM on October 28, 2013 [21 favorites]

I often remind myself that I am but a tiny little grain of sand on the great beach of life. Really helps put things in perspective.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:27 PM on October 28, 2013

"Stress is caused by giving a fuck."

My job, which I generally like, can be very stressful at times. I have gone through periods of time where I have so much to do I can't get it all done on schedule; where I'm putting in extra time and still feel like I'm getting nowhere; where I drop the ball or make a mistake, and my boss is being moody, and I start to get into that place where I feel like "oh my god, I'm failing, my boss hates me, I'm not keeping up, he's not happy with me, what if I get fired, etc."

So during the horribly stressful times, I talk myself into not giving a fuck: I'm not even happy at this job right now, quite honestly it sucks! I'm tired and stressed out and I hate this shit. So what if I get fired? I'll draw unemployment for awhile, spend a few weeks screwing off at home, regroup, and go find something else. Hell, they'd be doing me a favor by firing me! Saves me the stress of having to make the decision to quit.

Now, I don't really want to get fired. But I need to understand that the threat of it hanging over my head (either real or imagined) is not the end of the world. If it happens I will get through it, and there's even an upside.

From that point on, I figure out what I can actually do in the situation. For example:

Update my resume, work on my interview skills, figure out how I'm going to spin the story of how I lost my job in interviews, start looking at job ads

Clean off my desk, organize my workload, prioritize my tasks, make a plan for dealing with whatever mistakes I've been making

Get a haircut, get a couple of new outfits (never hurts to look better, whether you're looking for a new job or trying to upgrade your image at work.)

Basically, discerning the difference between the things I cannot change and accepting them (not giving a fuck) while simultaneously changing the things I can.

What do you know, it's the Serenity Prayer all over again!
posted by sock puppy at 11:36 PM on October 28, 2013 [20 favorites]

I started doing this thing when I was on my college speech team. Tournaments were incredibly stressful and there were all of these amazingly talented people running around giving awesome speeches. During one particularly intense two-day tournament, I went into the bathroom in between rounds. There was no one else in the room and the silence was calming. I ran cool water over my wrists and discovered that my stress levels immediately began to drop. I then looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud, "You are a strong, smart, capable woman and you're going to rock this shit."

Ever since that day, this little strategy has become something I do anytime I feel my confidence flagging or stress starts creeping up. It's quick, centering, and empowering. Because guess what? You're going to rock this shit.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 11:52 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
posted by wildflower at 12:02 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Winston Churchill: if you're going through hell, keep going.

When I'm overwhelmed, I try to triage.

When I'm otherwise panicking I remind myself that each new moment is a new chance.
posted by rue72 at 12:21 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Kites rise against the wind. Find some way to use the wind to your advantage. Not always easy, but sometimes a fantastic way of getting on in life.
posted by Solomon at 1:45 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Safe never starts, perfect never finishes.

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen)

Dear God,

These circumstances will change.
This situation shall pass.

(Michael Leunig)
posted by Kaleidoscope at 1:58 AM on October 29, 2013 [11 favorites]

For I am Brahman within this body, life immortal that shall not perish: I am the Truth and the Joy for ever.
(Bhagavad Gita 14:27)
posted by zengargoyle at 1:59 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

When feeling daunted by a task: Millions of people do this all the time, plenty of them idiots. How hard can it be?

When provoked by others' behavior: "The best revenge is not to be like that." -- Marcus Aurelius
posted by stuck on an island at 2:14 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

A former coworker used to say, "It's only a movie." I don't really use it much, but I like the sentiment.

I had a poster which said, "Every day is a beautiful day."
I really believe that.

I frequently tell myself that everything is going to be okay.
Nothing tricky or fancy or deep, there, but it feels good to remind myself. If I get worried, or panicky, or bummed out, I just say: "It's fine, it's going to be fine." or "Everything will be okay." Just taking the moment to pause, take a breath, and think about whether the moment's problem will matter tomorrow is often enough to shake the funk.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:15 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everything changes. This stressful period isn't going to last forever (nor will this time of peace and happiness, so enjoy it!).
posted by Fig at 2:45 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Be a grown-up" gets me out of bed, off the internet, or away from a book when I have to go to work or clean the house.

At work, I switch to "be the hammer, not the nail". This is in a "git'er done" spirit, not as permission to be an asshole.

I wish my self-motivational slogans were more lyrical or uplifting, but they work for me when I feel like everything's an uphill slog.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 3:02 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

"When off track, take the opposite tack." For example if anxiety says don't, then to get to where I want to be I need to do the opposite.
"Take what you need and leave the rest." Because other people say alot of shit.
"Do or not do." Because Yoda makes me chuckle everytime.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:34 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You guys are running around with a chicken and your head cut off.

I know of no way to contemplate this observation that doesn't end in helpless internal giggling.
posted by flabdablet at 3:53 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

These passages are a little long, but I've bolded the key sentences to remember:

Marcus Aurelius:
"Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: 'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?' You would be ashamed to confess it! And then remind yourself that it is not the future or what has passed that afflicts you, but always the present, and the power of this is much diminished if you take it in isolation and call your mind to task if it thinks that it cannot stand up to it when taken on its own."
"When Xerxes had come to Abydus, he had a desire to see all the army; and there had been made purposely for him beforehand upon a hill in this place a raised seat of white stone, which the people of Abydus had built at the command of the king given beforehand. There he took his seat, and looking down upon the shore he gazed both upon the land-army and the ships; and gazing upon them he had a longing to see a contest take place between the ships; and when it had taken place and the Phoenicians of Sidon were victorious, he was delighted both with the contest and with the whole armament.

And seeing all the Hellespont covered over with the ships, and all the shores and the plains of Abydus full of men, then Xerxes pronounced himself a happy man, and after that he fell to weeping. Artabanus his uncle therefore having observed that Xerxes wept, asked as follows: "O king, how far different from one another are the things which thou hast done now and a short while before now! For having pronounced thyself a happy man, thou art now shedding tears."

He said: "Yea, for after I had reckoned up, it came into my mind to feel pity at the thought how brief was the whole life of man, seeing that of these multitudes not one will be alive when a hundred years have gone by."

Artabanus then made answer and said: "To another evil more pitiful than this we are made subject in the course of our life; for in the period of life, short as it is, no man, either of these here or of others, is made by nature so happy, that there will not come to him many times, and not once only, the desire to be dead rather than to live."
posted by rollick at 5:04 AM on October 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

To second rollick, Marcus Aurelius is pretty great in general for pumping yourself up. Another one of his for cold, dark, early mornings or unpleasant or scary tasks: "Or am I to say I was made for the purpose of lying under blankets and keeping myself warm?"

Also, when I'm tempted to feel inferior to others, wisdom from Betty Draper: "Oh, honey, adults don't know anything."
posted by stuck on an island at 5:24 AM on October 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

It just doesn't matter.
posted by pracowity at 5:25 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

This TED Talk about reframing stress as a positive might be relevant / of interest to you: Kelly Mcgonigal on how to make stress your friend.
posted by jus7brea7he at 5:25 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

from an interview with Sharlto Copely: "Don't stop when the hell comes"
posted by alchemist at 5:31 AM on October 29, 2013

I'm loving this thread after the day I had yesterday. It's nice to be reminded that everyone has stressful periods but that they mostly get through them pretty unscathed. Here are my "hacks:"

- To help me not beat myself up over things that have already happened and can't be changed, I try to focus on what I can learn from them. Yesterday, for instance, I had a conference call on which I regret the way I probably presented myself and my, ah, opinion of the person I was speaking with. I spent a while kicking myself and feeling generally shitty about that but I cannot go back in time and change that call now - I can, however, use it to think through how I would like to handle such a situation in the future. My mom says "We learn patience from the impatient, grace from the graceless, etc," and it helps me to remember this is true even when the impatient or graceless one was me.

- It also helps me to consider my dog. When we bathe her it is The Worst Thing Ever, nobody has ever been so miserable and lived, her life is absolutely awful and everything is terrible and nothing can ever make it okay again. The instant she's done and dried off, however, she instantly launches back into Joyous, Frolicking Assclown mode and the world is AWESOME. It's helpful to me to step back and recognize when I'm adopting a dog-in-a-bath mentality over a problem that is no more significant or lasting than bathtime; very few day-to-day stressors genuinely are bigger than this.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:58 AM on October 29, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have trouble making decisions - which topic to choose for a science project, which of the 4 most adorable cookies should I make for the party, etc. I figured out years ago:

Once you make the decision, nobody knows the choices that you considered and discarded - they only see the work that you actually produce. So spend a moment considering the choices, PICK ONE AND THEN MOVE ON. Spend your time working on your actual product, not on the decision of what to produce.

(sigh, if only I would apply this more often. I right now have a bag with the components of ALL FOUR adorable cookies and I'm going to start assembling them in a moment. And I already know that though the partygoers will appreciate the cookies to some degree, it will NOT match the effort that I spent to gather these components. JUST PICK ONE!)
posted by CathyG at 7:36 AM on October 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

Lots of good stuff here. This was recently on Lifehacker: "No one cares, so do what you want." I am often paralyzed by what others think or will say, but mostly everyone is so caught up in their own BS that they don't notice what you do or don't do or wear or say.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:38 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and thanks for asking this question. I'm really enjoying the responses and I've favorited the ones the I'm going to write down for my own life.
posted by CathyG at 7:38 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am pretty into mindfulness and Buddhism. One of the pieces of wisdom I heard at some point was that some of the most detrimental items floating around in consciousnesses are false beliefs about the world or our selves. If I pay attention, I'll frequently recognize myself thinking something like, "Oh, that was soooo awkward! He hates me now. He must hate me." I once heard there's a zen saying, "Is it true?" that you can use to interrogate anything that you are believing.

I like it better than inserting an opposite thought, like: "No, of course it wasn't awkward, I am great!" Because it can kind of steamroll over the fact that you are in fact feeling that way. By just asking, "Is it true?" you are inserting this natural curiosity/openness into your belief system and loosening up some of your crazy-making mental pathways.

Or that's what I have found. I love the "just pick one" advice above, by the way. It really gets to the Paradox of Choice.
posted by mermily at 7:54 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

My dad told me that if I was stuck in a room and needed to get out, I could just knock on the sheetrock to find the studs, and punch a hole to get out between them. Then he'd say that if the door of opportunity doesn't present itself... make one. And lastly, he'd order me to do seemingly impossible tasks, like cleaning kitchen floor grout with a toothbrush, or hand me some tweezers and ask me to clean out the large sand crystals from our lawn that the snow plow leaves behind. That taught me to spilt large tasks up into smaller steps, which is handy for making a new door of opportunity.

He died when I was 12, but I've never been afraid of abject failure. There is always a way to any goal... it's just limited to finding the little steps that lead to it. Best advice I've been taught yet.
posted by jwells at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

Every morning, I go outside, look up at the sky, smile, take a few deep breaths, and just take a moment to be happy and appreciate how great my life is. I find I can bring myself back there if things get overwhelming during the day, by going outside, taking a few deep breaths, and looking at the sky.

Obviously, YMMV.
posted by areodjarekput at 8:26 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have a lot of little tactics, many of them are similar to what's been mentioned already, but one thing that also helps me is to sing, recite, or listen to The Galaxy Song from Monty Python's Meaning of Life. It's entertaining, it's a pretty decent little tune, and aside from making me happy it provides me with a lot of perspective.

Although I think there are a lot of ways you can read the lines, "So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure / How amazingly unlikely is your birth," a couple of readings are useful to me in different ways. One is the more positive spin -- this amazingly unlikely thing (me!) happened, and that's pretty great. The other is the slightly darker one -- you are a tiny thing of not much significance. But that also means: you alone can't epically screw up everything, it's not on you to fix everything. We do what we can and what we can do is enough.
posted by dryad at 8:41 AM on October 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal - John Muir

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

Michael Leunig

I give myself positive feedback. When I've got through a difficult/painful/exhausting experience that I was worried about, I say to myself 'you did really well today'.

When I'm not sure how I'm going to get through the coming hours and minutes which consciousness is asking of me, I say to myself 'I'm going to look after you today'. I find it good to remind myself that I am acting as an advocate on behalf of myself, and that I will do whatever is helpful to get through it. I ask myself what I would most like to do. This can involve: a cup of tea, a hot shower, some fluffy television, some kind of cake experience etc.
posted by little fish at 9:08 AM on October 29, 2013 [12 favorites]

I've mentioned this quote before on AskMe, but I think it's worth repeating:

When I wake up in the morning, I feel just like any other insecure 24-year-old girl. Then I say, "Bitch, you’re Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today.”

I figure if Lady Gaga has to psych herself up, it'll work for my less-famous self too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:31 AM on October 29, 2013 [21 favorites]

One thing I try to keep in mind: "Everyone fucks up sometimes - the trick is to not go over quota."
posted by rmd1023 at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2013 [15 favorites]

The one I use a lot when I'm feeling annoyed by something (usually idiocy in the world) and putting a lot of energy into thinking about fighting it is: "Is this really the hill I want to die on?" The answer is usually NO. This enables me to move on and make it not my problem anymore. Which makes life much more relaxed.

Another one I use a lot (thanks, therapy!) when I'm being kind of harsh on myself is "what would you do/say if you saw someone saying that to a little kid/treating a little kid that way?" Usually the answer is "that would be unacceptable" and that pushes me to stop treating myself that way.
posted by matildaben at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

"And maybe the horse will learn how to sing." Read the tale here. This story comes to mind whenever I feel cornered by an arbitrary deadline. It reminds me that no state is permanent, that the stress must lift at some point, and that if I can "buy time" the situation may even resolve itself.
posted by icemill at 12:33 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

This problem has a solution. I just don't know what it is yet.
posted by Corvid at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2013

I've posted this previously on another related thread, but I heard this from a Tibetan monk and find it very useful to repeat to myself when stressed:

"If there's something you can do there's no need to worry, if there's nothing you can do there's no point in worrying."
posted by inbetweener at 3:13 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sometimes when I am struggling to start a complex piece of work, I try to mentally remove myself as the actor who will do the actual work. It usually gives me a lot of clarity on the best / right way to do something and doesn't allow me to put up barriers and / or shortcuts. Once I have my plan, executing is usually pretty easy if your methodical.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Sometimes when I am struggling to start a complex piece of work, I try to mentally remove myself as the actor who will do the actual work. It usually gives me a lot of clarity on the best / right way to do something and doesn't allow me to put up barriers and / or shortcuts. Once I have my plan, executing is usually pretty easy if your methodical.

This is reason #1 why I'm trying to come up with a company name to work under before I start freelancing again. Even really transparent fictional distance from a problem is hugely helpful.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:15 PM on October 29, 2013

Anxiety triage:

1. "Don't panic!" (Douglas Adams)
2. "Keep breathing." (Sophie Tucker)
3. "Pee first." That's me, reminding myself to do the most necessary thing *first,* and simultaneously buy a little time to figure out the next steps to take. If you really do go into the bathroom, you can use those minutes to compose yourself.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:29 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sometimes when I'm stressed I feel fighty. But I try to stay out of unnecessary scraps by thinking of a mentor's motto: "Under the radar, above the fray."
posted by sestaaak at 6:43 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I'm scared or stressed or sad, I say "We are not lost" to myself. It comes from the end of Dar William's song Mortal City, which is a great song in its entirety, but I think the end is the best part:

I think I have a special kind of hearing tonight.
I hear the neighbors upstairs.
I hear my heart beating.
I hear one thousand hearts beating at the hospital
And one thousand hearts by their bedsides waiting
Saying, "That's my love in the white gown."
We are not lost in the mortal city.

It reminds me that I can never be truly alone or forsaken, because we're all of us here together and connected, no matter what happens. We are not lost.
posted by darchildre at 7:06 PM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

On procrastination: It takes as much time to do it now as it will if you do it later... except at least if you do it now you won't spend all that extra time worrying about that thing you have to do.
posted by belau at 7:50 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
posted by maya at 4:56 AM on October 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it.

(Unknown author, originally found at TinyBuddha, which is, incidentally, a great resource for what you're after. I keep a scrap of paper with this particular quote written on it in my wallet for times when I need reminding.)
posted by mayurasana at 11:02 AM on October 30, 2013

Late to the post, and a couple of people have already said it, but I'll chip in with my take.

this too shall pass

I've got that tattooed on my left forearm facing towards me, and it's something to live your life by in bad times and in good times. The number of different parables about this kind of points towards how applicable it is (varying types of kings, prophets, etc).

You're in a bad spot at the moment, but you know what? This is going to pass like everything else. You're almost certainly not where you were two, five or ten years ago, and you probably won't be where you are now in two, five or ten years. Don't feel like this pressure is going to last forever, because it won't.

The other side of this is that it holds true in the good times as well. When you're feeling on top of the world, when everything's going well, that's going to pass as well. The point then is to enjoy things while they're good, and recognise that they are good.
posted by MattWPBS at 11:45 AM on October 30, 2013

I think no one has referenced this book yet, which is worth reading and re-reading.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:14 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a housemate in her fifties once. She, like me, is future-oriented. She told me that at some point recently she realized that she spent her whole life planning planning planning, and that at some point you just run out of life to plan.

My mental hack is to try to remind myself, as much as possible, to be present in the moment. To think about what's happening *now.*

If I were writing it down, I might say something like "Be present" or "Live in the moment" or something to that effect.
posted by aniola at 12:15 PM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

To echo matildaben:
"Is this the hill I want to die on?"

and the corollary,
"Pick your battles." (If this is about being drawn into a pointless debate, just ask yourself, "do I care what this person thinks of me?" Odds are, the answer is no.)

Remember, it takes 20% percent of your time to finish 80% of your task (and then 80% of your time to finish the remaining 20%). Perfectionism is not time-efficient.

This leads to me new favorite aphorism,
"Done is better than perfect."

Conversely, from one of my favorite books (if procrastination is a problem):
"What, you you don't have time to do it right, but you have time to do it over?"
posted by timepiece at 8:25 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

This thread is wonderful. I can't take so much and leave nothing.

The Beatles:

(And) In the end
the love you take
Is equal to the love
You make.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:24 AM on October 31, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hurry slowly.
posted by spacewaitress at 9:38 PM on November 1, 2013

Where ever you go, there you are.
posted by xammerboy at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2013

this aint a dress rehearsal
posted by dougiedd at 7:34 PM on November 23, 2013

I often use, "This problem, it is a good problem to have."

All my problems are first-world problems. There are millions of people out there who would love to have the problems I have.

Helps me maintain (or regain) perspective.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 7:18 PM on December 13, 2013

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