Over the last couple of years, various people have told me they admire how I manage to stay so “chill” about things. In the majority of cases, they have all actually used the word “chill”, so I guess it must be at least partially true. From my driving instructor, to friends, to onlooking teachers and professors, it would seem that I somehow exude an “everything’s cool” vibe, and so I thought I’d just address that.
First off, I’d say yeah – I handle things pretty well these days. It’s something I’ve always done fairly well in certain circumstances, but for a long time I’d be hanging on to sanity by a thread in others. Need an example?
Once, my brother was running around with a friend before the school day started and the two of them crashed into each other, resulting in him bleeding from his head. I was the one who took control of that situation. She was freaking out and he was stunned, bleeding and crying. I got him to sit down and her to attract the attention of a teacher I’d seen through one of the classroom windows. Soon after, he was taken to hospital for his head to be glued and I continued with my school day. (No serious damage was done, don’t worry – I’m not heartless.)
FYI: I was seven. They were nine.
Meanwhile, until I was sixteen and halfway through my GCSE exams, the prospect of any exams terrified the living daylights out of me. I’d feel sick, I’d get shaky, I couldn’t open my mouth to talk, I couldn’t eat. During French oral exams, I’d cry.
So what changed?
If I had to pin it down to one thing, it would be my acceptance of the fact that no matter how important these things seemed, or how important people made them out to be, nothing had actually gone catastrophically wrong yet. If I’d not done so well in one exam, that was basically it. I’d just not done so well. It was learning the lesson that mistakes are cool and the world kept spinning, essentially.
Somewhere along the way between then and now, I became a firm believer in changing what you can, and accepting what you can’t. Letting go of some control was difficult, but necessary. I took out some of the emotion and put the energy in on the drive. I also listened to what my mum had been telling me my entire life (and still continues to tell me), which is that as long as you pretend you’re confident, people will believe you are.
At some point, you might even believe it too.
And basically that’s how I approach my life. If problems come my way, which they frequently do, I don’t give them a moment of panic. I ask myself if it’s something within my control, or without. If it’s within, how do I solve it? If it’s without, how do I best get around it?
If I’m in a group project and nobody’s met their deadlines, it’s not in my control that they haven’t done the work, but it is in my control to remind them that they haven’t, and that they aren’t the only party who will suffer if it doesn’t get done.
If I’ve got a deadline tomorrow afternoon and I’ve done less than half of the required work for it by the night before, it’s still entirely within my power to get it done as long as I prioritise it. Until such time as the clock runs out, there’s still time to alter the situation.
I don’t have a magic solution to stress or a cheat sheet to get through life problem-free, but I do have the knowledge that something isn’t impossible until you treat it as impossible, and at that point, it’s just you getting in your own way. I have the knowledge that stressing out about a situation will get you nowhere, but deciding what you can change and acting on it will get you somewhere.
So – long story short – how do I stay so chill? I trust in my capabilities while acknowledging my limitations. I change what I can, and try my best to deal with what I can’t. And in the majority of cases, everything works out A-okay.