In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
This is possibly the best piece of advice I’ve ever received from a fictitious intergalactic self-help manual. And that’s saying something.
As we students up and down Edinburgh have recently entered those dreaded weeks of term when all our activities become tinged with guilty thoughts about word counts and MLA referencing, it seems like a very good moment to remind ourselves of this simple, kindly instruction.
There really are very few circumstances in which panicking is at all heplful. Admittedly, there are some in which it may be appropriate. If there is a giant meteor heading towards Earth and we all have mere hours left to live then by all means, panic away! But to be honest, even if that is the case then sooner or later Bruce Willis is bound to turn up with a massive drill and sort the whole thing out for us.
Panic seems to be a fairly illogical reaction to most dire circumstances when you really think about it. Ok, if you’re being chased by a bear then a certain amount of adrenaline would probably be quite convenient. But panic also makes us irrational, and the last thing you want when attempting to escape the clutches of a particularly grumpy grizzly is to be losing mental faculties.
Another altogether unhelpful side-effect of our nervy ‘fight or flight’ response seems to be the sensation of impending vomit. Sadly I am no stranger to this reaction to a slightly dicey state of affairs (in fact, nausea appears to be my fall-back response to any kind of heightened emotional situation). So yeah, thanks evolution, when faced with looming danger the human mind is preoccupied with one thought: “Oh god, I’m going to be sick.” And I think it’s pretty fair to say that, unless you’ve ingested something toxic, throwing up never makes a bad situation any better.
We should try to avoid panic at all costs because it is just never associated with anything good. ‘Panic attack’ for instance, now aside from the fact that anything involving the word ‘attack’ is probably fairly undesirable, this just goes to show that panic is a totally inappropriate emotion and may result in you sitting in a dark room breathing into a paper bag. ‘Panic Room’ – an awful Jodie Foster film with a plot that has more holes than a tea strainer. ‘Panic! At the Disco’ – well ok, they weren’t that bad, but it was the only other thing I could think of with ‘panic’ in the title.
Anyway, back to my original point before I get bogged down in too many pop culture references, all this applies just as well to essay crises as it does to being chased by a bear. The more you start to panic about how few hours you have remaining to write such an alarmingly large number of words, the less able to focus on actually writing the damn thing you will become. The more you panic, the more cups of tea you make, the tidier your desk becomes, and the more random internet searches you carry out for completely irrelevant things you just thought of.
So the moral of this story is not ‘don’t go to Canada, they have bears there’, although that does sound quite valid. The moral of this story is perhaps best expressed in a quote from Shaun of the Dead: “Can we all just calm the f*ck down!” And there we have it, put down the paper bags, switch on the lights, and stop trying to shoot your best friend’s mum in the head. Just have a little faith that everything will be alright, because it will be.
As long as you don’t scream or throw up or something.