What If Freaking Out Isn’t a Bad Thing?

What If Freaking Out Isn’t a Bad Thing?

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Here's why freaking out isn't always a bad thing!

This week I’m desperately trying to claw my way out of a pit of deadlines. I know it will be worth it once the work is done and my byline is published, but at this exact moment all I can hear is the clock tick-tocking way faster than I’d like.

Under stressful circumstances like this, I’m sad to say I’m the total opposite of cool as a cucumber (hot as a jalapeño, perhaps?). 

In fact, every nerve-racking situation I’m in generally includes at least one overwhelming moment of panic and hysteria. In this instance, I started listing every upcoming deadline I need to meet, followed by the alarmingly low number of hours I have to meet them—and immediately began to freak out.

My husband, whose middle name is “Composure,” calmly reminded me that panicking is entirely unnecessary, considering that I have been overwhelmed by deadlines many times in my life and somehow it always—always—works out just fine.

The last part of that is certainly true, but I take issue with the rest of it.

You see, there’s a part of me that thinks freaking out is actually totally necessary. As ugly as it looks and as nauseating as it feels, it’s an essential part of the process for me.

Why?

Because it is those moments of panic that jumpstart me. The racing heart and sweaty palms push me into high gear, and I start moving at a rate that’s furiously fast yet still highly efficient. 

What’s more, freaking out forces me to do the exact things we Type-A gals tend to avoid doing—like asking for help, lowering my sky-high standards, and prioritizing only what’s most important while cutting out the rest. 

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For some people, the very act of freaking out is paralyzing. The feeling of panic causes them to curl up into a ball and do nothing.

But for me, freaking out is just a part of the process, and often a very valuable part. I’ll probably never be mistaken for a calm and cool cucumber, so instead I’ll just embrace my inner jalapeño—and probably meet every single one of my deadlines. 

How do you react under stressful circumstances? Are you cool, calm, and collected? Or do you freak out like I do? 

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33 Comments

  1. Wendy
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 08:12:48

    It depends on the circumstance. If it triggers certain emotions, I’ll respond one way. If it’s safety/danger stress, I’ll respond another.

    Other factors impacting my response include: does it involve or impact my children/family?, current hormonal state, exercise level, and water/food intake point.

    Many moments I choose to breathe, observe/evaluate, and then act. However, sometimes bawling my eyes out or screaming is what I need to release the energy to focus.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 08:16:47

      Good point, Wendy! Different circumstances often lead to different reactions. My current hormonal state plays a big role, no doubt.

      Reply

  2. Tarana
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 08:17:25

    Tight deadlines always make me perform best! In fact, I’m such a procrastinator that it happens to me all the time. But from experience, everything does turn out alright in the end!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:04:27

      I think lots of people respond really well to the pressure!

      Reply

  3. Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 10:08:00

    My boss freaks out, but puts out her best work, the closer to a deadline she gets. As much as it bothers me because it stresses me out, it does remind me that it’s one of the reasons I don’t want to be the boss. Too much stress!

    Reply

  4. Wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 12:43:42

    I’m definitely a freaker-outer, and it’s something I discuss in therapy a lot. For me, it manifests in really crippling anxiety and panic attacks, which is how I know I’m not managing my freak outs as well as I could. I do agree that if I learn to harness that energy, I can put it to work for me (which I have done successfully in the past!) I just hope I can get back to a place where my true amped-up nature shows up as a positive instead of a negative!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:05:52

      I can empathize, Wendy. Sometimes the freak-outs are the exact opposite of productive, both in terms of my to-do list and my emotional wellbeing.

      Reply

  5. Alexa
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 12:49:43

    I am about the most opposite from cool that you can imagine. Jalepeno hot is probably a good description. I too have a mountain of deadlines this week (some of them today) and I am freaking out. Took the kids to a sitter, and now I’m doing the NEXT thing I do when I’m stressed for deadlines… procrastinate!!!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:06:26

      Happens to the best of us! I’m sure it will all turn out just fine for you!

      Reply

  6. Tara Newman
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 12:53:33

    If extremely overwhelmed, I will freak out (usually on my husband). I agree with you…it brings a certain level of clarity. If it is a life crisis, I stay calm. It’s just an odd thing that I do. So, if I am eerily calm, it usually isn’t the best sign.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:06:43

      I find that so fascinating!

      Reply

  7. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 13:51:14

    Hah – I freak out all the time! I live my life in a state of panic. No, seriously, I have my moments. It’s funny, some people think I am calm, but my family and close friends know the truth. 🙂

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:07:12

      There are definitely some weeks/months where I live my whole life in a state of panic too!

      Reply

  8. Lizzi
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 15:50:13

    I am TOTALLY anxiety girl. In most situations a freak out session just paralyzes me, but when it comes to deadlines, it forces me to kick it into high gear and get stuff done! Embrace your inner jalapeno…Love it!

    Reply

  9. Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 16:42:32

    Outwardly I am very calm, but I internalize all my stress and start doing things like grinding my teeth, clenching my poor shoulder and hip muscles, and stress eating when no one is watching. It’s bad! Getting exercise, being outdoors, and listmaking seem to be my best strategies for getting my nerves under control.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 21:44:39

      List-making helps me too! Makes me feel like I’ve controlled the chaos a bit.

      Reply

  10. Lisa
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 19:49:20

    My husband is a freaker-outer but I’m the calm one. I’m a lawyer so if I freaked out about things not going my way and deadlines I’d lose my mind. Although, sometimes I think I need to freak out. Sometimes it’s actually kind of taxing to take things in stride because I think I just shove it all down and then explode.

    I suspect the best way is a combination of both. If you figure out how to accomplish that feat, please let me know!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 21:43:37

      I’m working on it, Lisa, but I’m pretty sure it will be a lifelong endeavor!

      Reply

  11. Lauren
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 08:42:07

    Love it (especially the ‘hot as a jalapeno part!!)! You have to know yourself and what works best for you. I usually work best under pressure. If I have no deadline on something I tend to put it off and put it off, but when I have a limited amount of time, it’s amazing how much I can get done!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 31, 2014 @ 10:13:39

      It’s amazing how it can light a fire under us!

      Reply

  12. Tamara
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 11:46:29

    My husband is calm, cool and collected, and I am NOT. However, when he has his occasional freak-outs, I’m calm, cool and collected. Weird, right? I guess someone has to be! It works well. And you’re so right – sometimes it’s just the jumpstart we both need.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 31, 2014 @ 13:12:30

      That’s the sign of a good couple, I think. You balance each other’s freak-outs out!

      Reply

  13. Abby McDonald
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 13:13:54

    Katie, this is too funny. Hot as a jalepeno- love it! I find that when I freak out it just causes me to get more flustered. Although a little pressure helps get my but into gear, if I’m completely stressed it really does not help me. However, I have found that what works me is making a list- seeing each thing I have to do spelled out really helps me, and what I love even more is seeing each one checked off.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 31, 2014 @ 13:16:33

      It’s all about finding the exact right amount of stress and panic, I guess! Not too little but not too much!

      Reply

  14. Tove Stakkestad
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 14:06:05

    It depends- if the stress is about my kids, or life or death – then I am cool. If its work or something I have to do – FREAK OUT! – at least on the inside

    Reply

  15. Dana
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 17:35:04

    Oh, I freak out. It’s just part of my process. I freak out, then I get to work. It drives my husband nuts, because he is the opposite. My kids are freak-outers too, and I’m not very good at being the calm and collected voice of reason.

    Reply

  16. Rabia @TheLiebers
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 10:03:10

    Usually I’m pretty cool and level-headed, but a complete freak out every once in a while is kind of motivating!!

    Reply

  17. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
    Aug 03, 2014 @ 18:05:44

    When confronted with a stressful situation, on the outside I am completely calm and collected. Everyone compliments me on how well I handle stress but on the inside… I AM SCREAMING! Seriously, I am screaming and no one knows it. i don’t think it’s healthy at all.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope everything cools down for you.
    xoxo

    Reply

    • Katie
      Aug 04, 2014 @ 05:36:45

      That’s so interesting! I’m usually unable to hide my true panic—if I’m freaking out, pretty much everybody knows it!

      Reply

  18. anotherjennifer
    Aug 03, 2014 @ 22:47:28

    I am the same way, Katie! I freak out, despite the fact that I know everything always ends up working out in the end. Somehow I get things done. I think it’s just part of the process of motivating myself. 🙂

    Reply

  19. Chris Carter
    Aug 05, 2014 @ 13:14:57

    Yep. FREAK OUT girl right here!!! I tend to panic with a lingering buzz of anxiety through major tension of due dates or events I anticipate. It’s awful… but? I agree we need to honor how we each process stuff- and it’s just a part of who I am, this I know. So I try to honor it and not beat myself up over being me.

    Reply

  20. Donna
    May 16, 2018 @ 13:28:01

    I’m the calm one in our house. My girlfriend freaks out first, but seems to be over it by the time she’s out the door. I find, however that her freak outs signal to me that something is seriously wrong and must be rectified. So I spend an entire day devoted to discovering what caused the freak out and how to prevent it from happening again. I sometimes end up freaking out myself because I reach a point when I can’t find a solution or I fear that the freak out was in response to me rather than a situation.

    Reply

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