What If Freaking Out Isn’t a Bad Thing?

Here's why freaking out isn't always a bad thing!

Here's why freaking out isn't always a bad thing!

This week I’m desperately trying to claw my way out of a pit of deadlines. I know it will be worth it once the work is done and my byline is published, but at this exact moment all I can hear is the clock tick-tocking way faster than I’d like.

Under stressful circumstances like this, I’m sad to say I’m the total opposite of cool as a cucumber (hot as a jalapeño, perhaps?). 

In fact, every nerve-racking situation I’m in generally includes at least one overwhelming moment of panic and hysteria. In this instance, I started listing every upcoming deadline I need to meet, followed by the alarmingly low number of hours I have to meet them—and immediately began to freak out.

My husband, whose middle name is “Composure,” calmly reminded me that panicking is entirely unnecessary, considering that I have been overwhelmed by deadlines many times in my life and somehow it always—always—works out just fine.

The last part of that is certainly true, but I take issue with the rest of it.

You see, there’s a part of me that thinks freaking out is actually totally necessary. As ugly as it looks and as nauseating as it feels, it’s an essential part of the process for me.


Because it is those moments of panic that jumpstart me. The racing heart and sweaty palms push me into high gear, and I start moving at a rate that’s furiously fast yet still highly efficient. 

What’s more, freaking out forces me to do the exact things we Type-A gals tend to avoid doing—like asking for help, lowering my sky-high standards, and prioritizing only what’s most important while cutting out the rest. 

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For some people, the very act of freaking out is paralyzing. The feeling of panic causes them to curl up into a ball and do nothing.

But for me, freaking out is just a part of the process, and often a very valuable part. I’ll probably never be mistaken for a calm and cool cucumber, so instead I’ll just embrace my inner jalapeño—and probably meet every single one of my deadlines. 

How do you react under stressful circumstances? Are you cool, calm, and collected? Or do you freak out like I do? 

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33 responses to “What If Freaking Out Isn’t a Bad Thing?”

  1. It depends on the circumstance. If it triggers certain emotions, I’ll respond one way. If it’s safety/danger stress, I’ll respond another.

    Other factors impacting my response include: does it involve or impact my children/family?, current hormonal state, exercise level, and water/food intake point.

    Many moments I choose to breathe, observe/evaluate, and then act. However, sometimes bawling my eyes out or screaming is what I need to release the energy to focus.

    • Good point, Wendy! Different circumstances often lead to different reactions. My current hormonal state plays a big role, no doubt.

  2. Tight deadlines always make me perform best! In fact, I’m such a procrastinator that it happens to me all the time. But from experience, everything does turn out alright in the end!

  3. My boss freaks out, but puts out her best work, the closer to a deadline she gets. As much as it bothers me because it stresses me out, it does remind me that it’s one of the reasons I don’t want to be the boss. Too much stress!

  4. I’m definitely a freaker-outer, and it’s something I discuss in therapy a lot. For me, it manifests in really crippling anxiety and panic attacks, which is how I know I’m not managing my freak outs as well as I could. I do agree that if I learn to harness that energy, I can put it to work for me (which I have done successfully in the past!) I just hope I can get back to a place where my true amped-up nature shows up as a positive instead of a negative!

    • I can empathize, Wendy. Sometimes the freak-outs are the exact opposite of productive, both in terms of my to-do list and my emotional wellbeing.

  5. I am about the most opposite from cool that you can imagine. Jalepeno hot is probably a good description. I too have a mountain of deadlines this week (some of them today) and I am freaking out. Took the kids to a sitter, and now I’m doing the NEXT thing I do when I’m stressed for deadlines… procrastinate!!!

  6. If extremely overwhelmed, I will freak out (usually on my husband). I agree with you…it brings a certain level of clarity. If it is a life crisis, I stay calm. It’s just an odd thing that I do. So, if I am eerily calm, it usually isn’t the best sign.

  7. I am TOTALLY anxiety girl. In most situations a freak out session just paralyzes me, but when it comes to deadlines, it forces me to kick it into high gear and get stuff done! Embrace your inner jalapeno…Love it!

  8. Outwardly I am very calm, but I internalize all my stress and start doing things like grinding my teeth, clenching my poor shoulder and hip muscles, and stress eating when no one is watching. It’s bad! Getting exercise, being outdoors, and listmaking seem to be my best strategies for getting my nerves under control.

  9. My husband is a freaker-outer but I’m the calm one. I’m a lawyer so if I freaked out about things not going my way and deadlines I’d lose my mind. Although, sometimes I think I need to freak out. Sometimes it’s actually kind of taxing to take things in stride because I think I just shove it all down and then explode.

    I suspect the best way is a combination of both. If you figure out how to accomplish that feat, please let me know!

  10. Love it (especially the ‘hot as a jalapeno part!!)! You have to know yourself and what works best for you. I usually work best under pressure. If I have no deadline on something I tend to put it off and put it off, but when I have a limited amount of time, it’s amazing how much I can get done!

  11. My husband is calm, cool and collected, and I am NOT. However, when he has his occasional freak-outs, I’m calm, cool and collected. Weird, right? I guess someone has to be! It works well. And you’re so right – sometimes it’s just the jumpstart we both need.

  12. Katie, this is too funny. Hot as a jalepeno- love it! I find that when I freak out it just causes me to get more flustered. Although a little pressure helps get my but into gear, if I’m completely stressed it really does not help me. However, I have found that what works me is making a list- seeing each thing I have to do spelled out really helps me, and what I love even more is seeing each one checked off.

  13. Oh, I freak out. It’s just part of my process. I freak out, then I get to work. It drives my husband nuts, because he is the opposite. My kids are freak-outers too, and I’m not very good at being the calm and collected voice of reason.

  14. When confronted with a stressful situation, on the outside I am completely calm and collected. Everyone compliments me on how well I handle stress but on the inside… I AM SCREAMING! Seriously, I am screaming and no one knows it. i don’t think it’s healthy at all.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope everything cools down for you.

  15. I am the same way, Katie! I freak out, despite the fact that I know everything always ends up working out in the end. Somehow I get things done. I think it’s just part of the process of motivating myself. 🙂

  16. Yep. FREAK OUT girl right here!!! I tend to panic with a lingering buzz of anxiety through major tension of due dates or events I anticipate. It’s awful… but? I agree we need to honor how we each process stuff- and it’s just a part of who I am, this I know. So I try to honor it and not beat myself up over being me.

  17. I’m the calm one in our house. My girlfriend freaks out first, but seems to be over it by the time she’s out the door. I find, however that her freak outs signal to me that something is seriously wrong and must be rectified. So I spend an entire day devoted to discovering what caused the freak out and how to prevent it from happening again. I sometimes end up freaking out myself because I reach a point when I can’t find a solution or I fear that the freak out was in response to me rather than a situation.

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