Earlier this year I was listening to a woman speak about her eating disorder. She said that now that her ED was under control, if a stressful life event happened like getting a flat tire she had the wherewithal to call a towing company rather than the suicide hotline. I was like, lady, how do you know my life? I once ran into my house crying because I couldn’t figure out how to start the lawnmower. I approached every event in my life with this kind of “if something goes wrong it must be because I’m a dumb person—NOW PANIC” mindset. That’s the internal monologue of a person with out of control anxiety.
The speaker told me she lifted the story from a popular saying in AA “call 411, not 911.” I researched more of the sayings. They were amazing. Like zen koans your hard-ass grandfather would say. Reading through them helped my anxiety because I realized that my biggest fear was untrue, I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t special in my stupidity and inability to figure out adult things, everyone feels that way at some point. It was real life wisdom from people who’s anxiety was a whole lot worse than mine.
I’ve shunned folk wisdom like this, because it’s often unexamined harmful thinking and I analyze shit to death. We don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, however. Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s not helpful. It’s nice to have a simple truth to repeat to yourself when you’re on edge.
Here are 14 of the most wise ideas I found in my research: