1. Brunch with five people – your parents, your aunt, your grandfather and his friend from church – and for some reason you’ve ordered a Nova Scotia benedict
Stressors: The sights and smells of the high fat, high carb piles of meat that show up on your table. The constant churning of your stomach. The knowledge that if any of the food in front of you even comes close to your mouth you’re going to lose it. Worries regarding people at your table noticing you look sick. The overpowering smell of your grandfather’s friend’s perfume mixed with the slimy fish smell emanating your plate. The fact that you’re seated on the inside of the booth, with your grandfather and his friend from church sitting on the outside of you, which means they’ll both be required to move if you have to, say, run to the bathroom and vomit, which means, subsequently, that getting up and having to run to the bathroom will direct the entire table’s focus on you, the thought of which paradoxically heightens the risk of a full meltdown or at-the-table projectile vomit.
Suggestions: Focus on breathing. Ease your way into a bloody mary. Forego the meal for now and order a small orange juice and a carafe of ice water. Politely ask if you can sit at the end. Wear loose fitting clothing. Avoid cigarettes, if possible. Leave as soon as you can; strip down to your underwear, cover yourself in blankets, and commence big budget epic fantasy film marathon upon your return home.
2. Airplane turbulence
Stressors:The fact that the plane may somehow rip and half and you’ll be thrown out at 40,000 feet and fall to your death. The fact that the plane my go through the horrific process of crashing. The fact that, if you’re over an ocean and have an extreme fear of incredibly deep and vast bodies of water and it’s nighttime, if your plane crashes and you survive, you’ll be stranded in a terribly bleak situation. The fact that you’re starting to feel sick. The fact that you’re worrying about vomiting at this point, the thought of which paradoxically worsens your nausea and likelihood of projectile vomiting onto your tray table and seat-back in front of you.
Suggestions: Take sleeping pills before and during the flight. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Avoid cigarettes before flight. Avoid large quantities of food. Turn your iPod up as loud as it will go. Watch a movie on your laptop. Untuck your shirt. Wear loose fitting clothing. Unbuckle your seatbelt. Close your eyes. Attempt to accept the inevitability of death.
3. Times Square at noon in a heatwave after a night of binge-drinking and illicit drug-taking
Stressors: The stifling heat. The fact that you can’t move your arms without violating someone’s space. The fact that you can’t get away. The relentlessly claustrophobic shifting mass of life and machinery. The rapid fire pangs of sleep deprivation-induced dread. The idea that you may appear pale and crazed to families and people that are for some reason purer than you. The shame you feel for having been up all night. The sight of the heat rising from the pavement. The worry that what you’re doing is bad. The feeling that your situation is currently irredeemable.
Suggestions: Remove yourself from the situation as soon as you can. Drink lots of water. If you have the money, get a large, air-conditioned hotel room for the rest of the day. If not, go to Central Park or somewhere less crowded. If all options fail, retreat to a movie theater where you’re sure there won’t be too many people. Order a large Sprite.
4. In a car with no air-conditioning, going up a mountain, with 4 people, with no water available, and your window won’t roll down
Stressors: The stuffiness of the car. The loud music through the shitty speakers the driver is blaring. The fact that no one knows you’re totally on the verge of vomiting. The stickiness of the leather seats. The intense speed at which the driver keeps taking the hairpin turns. The fact that you just want to pour cold water all over your face. The person next to you who’s taking way too many liberties with personal space. The heat. The worry that this is never going to end. The worry that you’re going to lose it, the thought of which paradoxically makes you feel like you’re going to lose it even more.
Suggestions: You’re kind of fucked. Just bite the bullet and tell the driver to stop and that you need to sit up front. Roll down the window once up front. Think about your final destination. Once you get to the top of the mountain, where you’re hiking, you’ll be fine. The air will be be cool.
5. On an extremely crowded subway car, in a heatwave, when the subway has stopped for no discernable reason and you have no idea when it’s going to start again
Stressors: The heat. The fact that you can feel each time the person behind you exhales. The music from some inconsiderate asshole’s cell phone. The fact that this could potentially last forever. The claustrophobic conditions. The fact that there really is no way out of this situation. The fact that if you vomit, practically everyone in the entire car’s going to notice, some of whom will have been vomited on, by you.
Suggestions: Close your eyes and breathe. Know that the situation is finite and that you’ll be able to get off at the next stop. Repeatedly tell yourself that you’re in a finite situation.