One of my mantras that I offer to myself and my friends and colleagues at school is “a bear is not going to eat you.” Taken from Merlin Mann, it’s the notion that we respond with fight/flight reactions to many things in our lives that are not, in fact, actual threats that match such a response. Stress then “eats” at us because we spend so much time in a physiological state that is designed to help us avoid being eaten.
A bear is not going to eat you.
So, you know, relax a bit. Breathe. Don’t let stress settle into your body. Of course all of that is easier said than done, especially when overwhelmed by work or stressful environments or expectations to perform. I wake up and am instantly flooded with panic about the work I have that is coming due at school, about the fact that leaving a complex podcast production to the last minute has potentially let down my editors, about my ability to get everything actually done on time and with a modicum of care and attention. My body is flooded with all the chemicals that prime it for a fight or to run like hell away from the large and devouring beast that wants me for breakfast.
But the truth, the fragile and delicate and necessary and so easily forgotten truth, is that a bear is not going to eat me. Embarrassment is NOT life threatening. A missed deadline, if it comes to that, is not the end of the world. People will forgive me if I fuck up, or at least anyone worth my trust and consideration will, just as I would for them. If I let the imaginary bear dictate the conditions of my experience, I am allowing a misplaced physiological response to damage my health and my equilibrium. If I’m running from the bear, or trying to fight it, I am fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of my environment and making myself a slave to stress, allowing such conditioning to become my default emotional and physical state.
Of course, I say all this, but my body remains tense, my muscles tight with fear and worry and stress and I think I hear the low growls of the bear and feel its hot breathe on my neck and all I want to do is run.
A bear is not going to eat me.
Today is a day I think I’ll need to remind myself of this fact quite often. Actually, I have a feeling that the rest of this semester will be a struggle between finding perspective and balance and breathe, and the feeling, near constant, that I am being pursued by the bear.
I’m willing to bet money, however, that I never actually get eaten. So maybe I will, occasionally, remember that.