In my work as an antique/vintage dealer, bad days last an entire week. I have grown to expect them. Flush with sales in the previous weeks, I will be super busy shipping, cleaning and delivering the precious cargo to their recipients. I will be expecting another busy week of great sales and easy hustle.
But for some reason, everything will grind to a halt. Sales will trickle, customers will need long emails filled with exact measurements, wood types, weights and other descriptive information. I will provide it, only to hear nothing back. There will be returns. People will want to sell large collections to me but demand ridiculous prices. Packages will be lost in the mail. Items will arrive broken. At least one insane person who doesn’t have command of the English language will pound at my door. The city will need a permit for something difficult to obtain.
On the same day (week) I will receive four unexpected and expensive bills. Something difficult to repair will break. I will receive three dinnertime phone calls from friends and family in a panic mode, needing comfort and reassurance. I will start to feel a strange pang in my back. The kids will go into nuclear meltdown over borrowed brushes and whose turn it is to clean the bathroom. My husband will have received bad news at work. All the writing I attempt to complete will be facile and simplistic.
And on, and on.
I have started to call these “panic weeks” and have exhaustively studied them in an attempt to understand why they happen. They seem not only to affect me, but swaths of individuals surrounding me. It is as if all the stress of a nation compounds in one explosive, weeping heap of anxiety.
Some theories I have tested are:
1. The time of the month. Are these panic weeks happening because of money? Is this the midpoint of the month, when we are a week away from our paychecks and all the bills are due now? I have found some rational and merit to this idea, as panic weeks seem to happen directly between the last paycheck cycle of the month.
2. On the same vein, is it the time of the year. Is August crazy because of back to school stress? What about pre-Christmas stress? Post Christmas stress? Again, there are some correlations.
3. What about the Dow? I keep an eye on the Dow daily and have found that in extreme downcycles panic weeks increase.
4. Could it be the day of the week? Are Mondays and Tuesdays insane because everyone is working? Are Thursdays depressing because everyone is worn down? Again, some of these hypotheses have proven correct.
5. Is it me? Am I stressed and therefore my worldview is laser focused toward problems. Am I looking for them? Yes, this can sometimes be the case!
Whatever the reasons are, panic weeks happen in about one out of five weeks. When they do, I have found a few ideas to be helpful:
1. I like to relive the successes of the past good weeks. That night I cried during a scene I wrote because it turned out exactly right. That client who came in and bought a third of my inventory. That date night where we stumbled into a magic shop and had a blast playing with the inventory. That impromptu dance party after dinner. Good things do happen! It’s a good idea to remember them!
2. If things are slow, use that time to work extra hard. No one calling on a Saturday night? Spend it with a novel, not a half-pint of ice cream. No sales in the pipeline? Use that time to source new inventory or build a website. Writing not coming? Work on another project that excites you.
3. Indulge. I am a huge fan of disciplined hedonism. If I am super stressed I like to dopamine bomb myself with every hedonistic pleasure I can imagine in a very short space of time. I won’t list them here, but you get the idea. Think physical pleasures. They really work!
4. Go to the animal shelter and pet kittens. No explanation needed.
5. Talk it out with someone who has the patience to spare.
6. Remember to take it one action at a time. If I have a lot of customers pounding down my door and editors demanding edits and kids demanding food, I just take it one action at a time. I try not to think of the fifty things I need to do.
7. Talk to yourself. If someone isn’t there to listen to you, turn on the recorder on your phone and talk it out with yourself. This is a surprisingly soothing way to organize your thoughts.
8. Go do something physical. Being physical gets you out of your head and helps you remember you are alive and breathing, so you are already winning!
Good luck with your own panic weeks!
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