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David and Goliath: Fighting Panic With the Little Things

By — One of many Emotional Health blogs on

I want to talk to you about something I’ve experienced a bit since I graduated college. It’s something I suspect many of you may have felt at some time or another as well, if not constantly and in a terribly scary way that you can’t seem to shake. Kind of like you saw a cockroach in your house this morning before you left for work and now you’re home again and can’t stop thinking about where it went. I call this feeling The Panic

The Panic can catch you anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Let me paint you a picture. You’re at a coffee shop with a good friend, talking about your jobs. Your friend talks passionately about her work. She loves it! She can’t believe she has ever done anything other than this job. Not only is it fulfilling, but she also makes good money, and thinks it will help get her into grad school. Everything is just falling into place for her! How wonderful! Then, suddenly, you begin to panic.

Let’s break that down down. You’re truly and really happy for your friend. That’s real. The other real thing though, is The Panic. You begin asking yourself questions. You think, oh god, I don’t love my job that much. What should I do instead? Should I just quit now? What do I love? Do I love anything? Can I even think of something that I’m vaguely interested in? Oh my gosh, do I even have feelings? Was my ex-boyfriend right all along? Did I ever really love him? Have I ever really loved anyone? Does anyone love me? Do you see where this is going? It doesn’t have to be about your friend loving her job. It could be the fact that you never recycle – you don’t even have one of those blue bins! You could be insanely worried about the fact that you’re not in a relationship and everyone around you is. Or your poor pop culture knowledge. You can literally come across The Panic anywhere.

This is my remedy: the little things. Maybe you’re not in love with your job. Maybe you’re becoming worried about a relationship. Maybe you haven’t seen your best friends in much too long. Maybe you simply can’t stop eating cake – you just can’t. Maybe you’re afraid that you’re settling before you’re ready to. These are all hard things, things that you might be struggling through; things that you’re worried might never be resolved.

Here’s a secret though: it will slowly be resolved. Your today will turn into tomorrow and eventually tomorrow will be yesterday and things will be moving without you even realizing it. So take things one at a time. Have one conversation at a time. You’ll see him again. You’ll hug your best friend or your mom again. You’ll find what you were truly meant to do. You’ll read a poem that makes you feel alive again. You’ll visit a place that makes you catch your breath for the first time in a long time.

But if you don’t slow down and take in the small things now, you very well may not slow down and take the big things in later. And what a tragedy to miss such important things. What a tragedy to miss the way the waves hit the beach tomorrow morning, loud and gentle at the same time. How terrible it would be to miss your niece giving you a goodbye hug. How awful to miss such small and important moments. These small moments build your life, so I urge you to notice them. Amidst The Panic and the worries about the future – notice the small things.

Notice how good an orange tastes after you’ve been out for a long run. Notice the color of the sky early in the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. More importantly, notice the people around you. Notice when they’re happy, or when they’re sad. Notice when they’re goofy. Notice when they’re frustrated. And then respond. In the same way that you want to be recognized for the small things happening in your life – maybe you’re styling your hair differently or joined a running club – others want to be recognized. So I urge you to notice the small things going on all around you. They are what make up the majority of life, and they can be absolutely wonderful.

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