Just do it?
May 30, 2006 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Mind over matter: what strategies are good for psyching yourself up to do something scary, uncomfortable, difficult or painful? The moments I'm thinking of aren't interpersonal situations. More like: you're standing on the high dive. Or you're doing your own bikini wax, and it's time to rip it off. Or you're on a bridge about to bungee. You're at the top of the half-pipe, about to take off. You're about to get stuck with a needle for medical or decorative purposes. Surely "just do it" isn't the only strategy?
posted by xo to Religion & Philosophy (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I am going to get stuck with a needle, I:

1) Don't look at it.
2) If possible, find a clock and look at the second hand.

And I never flinch.

I guess it is that Fight Club, "white healing ball of light" guided meditation cave thing.
posted by 4ster at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2006

I find when doing things like that (Like I don't know, cliff jumping) it really helps to do a mental countdown. Don't think about anything else except for

posted by patr1ck at 8:15 PM on May 30, 2006

I try to just ignore whatever is about to happen; sort of a "eh, whatever" mindset.
posted by aramaic at 8:16 PM on May 30, 2006

Personally, the "just do it" strategy is all that I can do. Trying to hype myself up doesn't work because while I'm hyping myself up, it reminds me of why I need to hype myself up, which creates more anxiety. One of my biggest fears is public speaking. I had an easier time jumping off a bridge than I do speaking in public. One speech teacher I had described the feeling and the fact that everyone gets it, even people that seem comfortable speaking in public. The only difference is, those people that don't mind it/seem natural doing it use the feeling like a rush. I mild high I guess you could say. And it makes sense to me. The moments before I jumped the feeling was much like the fear I feel in public speaking, though I was excited about it and it made it a good, exhilerating feeling. I find that's what I do in most stressful situations. Try to enjoy the ride.

As for painful things, the "just do it" is still in use, but I just keep telling myself that the pain will be short, in most cases, and time actually does go by pretty fast and soon I'll be thinking about what the pain was like, not what it is going to be like. Maybe not the best, but it works for me.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:18 PM on May 30, 2006

Just don't think. If you give your self time to think on the high dive or before bungee-ing off of a bridge you'll be more likely to start thinking about how much it will hurt and chicken out. Jump as quickly as you can, as soon as you are sure you won't be diving into someone.

For things like needles or bikini waxes distract yourself. Bring a friend or a magazine, but most of all try not to think about it.
posted by Alison at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2006

Yes, the point is to take your mind OFF what you are about to do (assuming preparations are over) and distract it.

Music and Rhythm and chanting does this well (why they are so popular in religions, but I digress)

When skydiving, we would all sing some mindless song from the 50's or do a chant. Engage in other things. Then, as you are about to jump - you're part of a rhythm: 3....2...1...there goes a jumper....3...2...1...there goes a jumper....3....2...1....there you go...into the yonder.
posted by vacapinta at 8:28 PM on May 30, 2006

Put yourself totally in the moment. Flood yourself with the details around you until your mind is quiet, then just go.
posted by 517 at 8:40 PM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nope... pretty much a "just do it already" attitude. Although, I try to arrange the situation so that I can't easily back out. Once events are set in motion I spend a lot of time convincing myself that there's really no other choice; that I'm no longer an active participant, just someone going with the flow.
posted by sbutler at 8:57 PM on May 30, 2006

I love the adrenaline rush of things like that so I "just do it."

Thinking about the end result and how much you desire that end result is helpful. Because even though something is terrifying, if you know that, afterwards, you will feel awesome about what you just did or have the result that you wanted, the scary/difficult becomes just another obstacle to overcome.

Or you can mentally convince yourself that doing something will make you better/more daring/more [anything] than people who cannot or will not do something and give yourself a bit of a god complex about it. That can help.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 9:03 PM on May 30, 2006

Just before bungee jumping, I told the guy in the hot air balloon that if anything went wrong, he should tell all the girls I ever dated that I was thinking about them at the last moment.

Seriously, I get Chandler Bing-style funny at these inappropriate moments (which is to say, probably not very funny to anyone except myself and my wife), but it works for me.

Doing something that's about to painful (e.g. needle, bikini wax)? I'd find myself saying things to psyche myself up like, "Holy schnikees! Wow, this is gonna SUCK!" And then I just do it, finding that by acknowledging the fakey suck first, it seems to limit the suck afterward, which is the real suck. If that makes sense at all.
posted by frogan at 9:05 PM on May 30, 2006

I get stuck with a fair sized needle every 56 days to donate blood, and yeah it hurts.

As opposed to what other people suggest though, I focus on the sensations involved. First the needle lays on my arm, then it will slip in which will sting significantly and usually then the nurse will turn it to get the best possible flow and that usually burns a bit.

I don't like the pain, but manage it by focusing on it and the process. I feel it distinctly but by focusing on it acutely my natural reaction such as jumping or moving away, etc. melt away.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:15 PM on May 30, 2006

There's a saying: "Grasp the nettle tightly." I translate that into my head as my "get it over with" mantra. I know too for myself that I am perfectly capable of making the worrying MUCH worse than the actual thing will be, so I reach out, grasp the nettle (or, er, whatever) and bang, the thing is over. Or on its way to being over, at least.
posted by GaelFC at 9:16 PM on May 30, 2006

Oddly, I used to use frogan's method for tests.

As for uncomfortable/difficult stuff, I use the "just do it" mindset also. (I still turn pale and sometimes almost pass out when I get blood taken, though...)
posted by danb at 9:18 PM on May 30, 2006

I was an international development worker and arrived a posting where I learned that the quality of my accomodations, and town were greatly oversold.

I relied on my scout training

Find good shelter, get something to eat and water to drink. You will live and tommorow the sun will come up again. This will get you through most anything.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:28 PM on May 30, 2006

I picture the moment after it is all over, and how I will be glad then that I did it. If it is something that takes time to heal from, I picture a reasonable amount of time afterwards that I will be glad I went through with it.
posted by sperare at 9:37 PM on May 30, 2006

In sports, I focused on the object I had to get, which was usually harmless. In rugby, when I was the last man back and had to tackle the much larger guy coming at me, I just focused on his legs rather than the torso that was going to land on me. When I played goalie on my high school soccer team, I just focused on the ball.

For the jump situations, the first time out I recommend having somebody push you when you're not expecting it (if it's safe). The first few seconds of sheer terror fade away nicely as your mind becomes able to understand you're safe. The second and third times are always easier.

Otherwise, for things like a high dive, a running start always helps (I think that applies for the sports scenarios as well... I still get terrified when dropping to block a shot in hockey... it's just too passive a way to give up control of your fate).
posted by dsword at 10:23 PM on May 30, 2006

For the bikini wax, first hold your breath and then exhale as you rip the wax off.
posted by invisible ink at 10:34 PM on May 30, 2006

ok, this is probably just plain weird. but when I was going to rappelle off a frighteningly high cliff I told myself, "what if you ever have to perform an emergency tracheotomy with a ball-point pen? you have to do this to prepare yourself for moments like that."

and no, i'm not a physician. i don't know where these ideas come from. but somehow it worked.
posted by lisaj32 at 11:23 PM on May 30, 2006

Maybe this is what aramaic was saying... I pull sort of a "hey, what's that over there?!?" trick on my mind and then jump when I'm not looking.
posted by salvia at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2006

Oh, or if I'm making more of a big deal about it. I'll think to myself, "gawwwd, all those billions of other moments of my life, when I was on firm ground, I didn't even appreciate how wonderful it was to not have this horrible, impending jump I had to----"

(All the whining and pondering works kind of like "hey, what's that over there!?!" crossed with "get it over with already.")
posted by salvia at 11:39 PM on May 30, 2006

As invisible ink said, deep breaths. But it also works for non-bikini-wax problems. Remember to breathe.
posted by occhiblu at 11:52 PM on May 30, 2006

There's always the The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear:

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 quite unimportant at 12:48 AM on May 31, 2006

I basically tell myself: "Oh well, I have to do this anyway, I will do this anyway, so I might as well do it right now. Here goes."
posted by bloo at 1:48 AM on May 31, 2006

I think of all the awful things I've already gone through and say to myself, "Hey- you lived through _____, you can certainly get through THIS." It usually does the trick.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:23 AM on May 31, 2006

When I get blood drawn, I get a good conversation going with the phlebotomist. (If they're not talkative, I explain that it's easier on me to talk about something.)

When I was a kid I had horrible stomachaches - they never did figure out the cause, but I'd sit there and repeat "This too shall pass" over and over. And I wasn't particularly religious; I just somehow picked up the phrase.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:56 AM on May 31, 2006

1. Breathe. Stressful situations are worse if you don't breathe.
2. I always think that thousands of other people have done this before and gotten through it--so can I.
3. Let 'er rip!!!
4. Talk to the person drawing your blood or ripping your hair out. Distraction works.
posted by FergieBelle at 4:44 AM on May 31, 2006

The "just do it" mentality works for me.
posted by Meagan at 5:45 AM on May 31, 2006

You are a character (whatever works for you) and this is part of that character's mission/persona/whatever.
posted by Morrigan at 6:14 AM on May 31, 2006

The "just do it" works for me, if someone else is doing something to me (like getting stuck with a needle, or the dentist).

I find it works to recognize that I'm scared and excited. I mean, how often are you ever really that excited in life? It sounds weird, but when I point out to myself that I'm scared, it separates me from the feeling.
posted by hooray at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2006

What works best for me is witnesses. I will never chicken out of doing something if it makes me look like a wuss in front of people.

As a result of this I have done some incredibly stupid things, but dammit, I didn't wuss out!
posted by longbaugh at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2006

The way I see it, there are three different kinds of "scary events."
1. Passive. Things like going to the dentist, where you just sit there and something happens to you. The best thing you can do is just not think about it. Think about the rest of your day, sing a song, whereever else your thoughts take you.
2. Almost passive. Things that you have to start, but after that there's nothing you can do. e.g. flying, bungee jumping. It helps me to say, "There's nothing I can do about it now. This is perfectly safe. It's all up to the professionals."
3. Active. Things like skateboarding, performing surgery, etc. In that case you need to tell yourself that yes, you can do it. Running through the list of actions you need to perform helps, especially if you picture it in your head.
posted by Sibrax at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2006

I teach & train on flying trapeze, so I deal with this a lot. When it's something that requires some consciousness and attention (rather than just blocking everything out and pulling the bikini wax strip), I find the best thing is to focus on what you need to do, imagine it going successfully, and not allow any room in your head for doubt, what-if scenarios, or the possibility of wimping out.
posted by nevers at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2006

I generally grab my arm or hand and pinch [sometimes using my fingernails.] I use the pain to distract me from whatever else is about to happen.
posted by ubersturm at 9:40 AM on May 31, 2006

I try to focus on the long run, which might be as short as "It's not like this will even be hurting still tomorrow" or, "By the time I graduate college, this will totally have been worth it."
posted by ElfWord at 11:52 AM on May 31, 2006

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