How to have a 24-hour meltdown

It seems like we’re always fighting off a cold, managing work stress, or holding down the fort at home. The level of anxiety in every day life is pretty high, so when life lobs a big stress-ball at you, it can be overwhelming.

Stress is part of life

Photo by Jchetan via Flickr

But we’ve got stuff to do, and people who count on us, and bills to pay. So we suck it up and keep going.

The effects of long-term stress are pretty intense. Your body is basically releasing “fight or flight” chemicals in response to danger on a regular basis, which means your body never goes into “safe” mode. Your brain thinks the dinosaurs are always after you.

One thing we advocate on this blog is pursuing your dreams, which gives you the life you want. But it takes work and time to get there, and there is plenty of stress along the way. Hey, even when you get there you’ll still have stress.

So I have devised a 24-hour “managed meltdown” that allows you to give in to your stress – wallow, cry, yell, eat, sleep, drink, veg, etc. – and then get back to life. Try it once and you’ll never do the stiff upper lip thing again.

Your mind and your body will thank you (and probably those innocent bystanders, too).

How to manage your meltdown

  1. First things first, you have to have a reason for your meltdown. Are you sick, heartbroken, mad, upset, crazed or just physically exhausted? Good. These are perfect conditions for a 24-hour meltdown.
  2. Next you have to pick a time and a place for your meltdown. If you can do it on your day off, all the better. But hey, this is also what sick days are for. Pick a day where you have no obligations, or cancel the ones you do. You are not doing anything for anyone this day, and if you can be alone, even better.
  3. Stock your meltdown appropriately with the things that bring you comfort – rent movies, buy foods you don’t have to prepare (unless cooking relaxes you), make sure your comfy clothes are washed, get some gossip magazines, buy tissue, get a nice bottle of wine (or rotgut, if that seems more appropriate), etc.
  4. Prepare your environment by locking the front door, closing the shades, turning off the phone, and letting your nearest and dearest know you are in lockdown for 24 hours.
  5. Finally, you succumb to your stress/sickness and wallow in it. Completely. In fact, go overboard with it. Wail if you want, watch terrible movies, sleep the whole day, or stuff yourself silly.

Why it works

I’ve been using this method a couple of times a year for a while now, and it works beautifully. When you run out of steam feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll start to feel a little ridiculous. And then you’ll start thinking of solutions or just start working yourself out of it. (I’m not speaking of clinical depression or chemical imbalances here, just everyday life stress and setbacks.)

Time really does heal all wounds. Or at least stops them from hemorrhaging.

We push so hard to take it all in stride without ever stopping to think what it does to our overall stress load. By letting it out on a regular basis, you can keep your equilibrium and handle the joys and stresses of life.

How I’ve used it

The last 24-hour meltdown I had was just before I left to take my cat to New Mexico to her new home. My cat has been with me since my divorce, and she’s seen me through a big solo move, career advances, failed romances, a new marriage, and a couple of moves since. She’s more than just a cat; she’s the only permanent thing I’ve had in my life for the last 10 years.

Parting with her caused me a lot of angst about our trip, this stage of my life, and wondering if I am just bat-shit crazy for wanting to do this thing. You can see that this is pretty fertile ground for a 24-hour breakdown.

Your meltdown could be due to anything that is meaningful to you – you are the only one it has to make sense for. But the meltdown should not be overused or it will lose its significance. I only do it a couple of times a year and find that it helps me get back to life faster than I would by keeping it all in, and that’s what we’re all after, isn’t it?

Can you see yourself using this strategy? Have you done something like this before? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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