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Dr. Stresslove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chaos

December 4, 2015

By: Cramer Lewis

Death! It’s coming for us all. Of the few things we can definitively know, we can be positive of death. This assurance can be a bit of a stressor. WebMD links 10 serious health problems to stress, and the list culminates with premature death. So while death might stress us out, that stress can hasten our delivery towards it. This problem seems scary, but in reality it’s pretty funny. Its irony can easily elicit a chuckle to those willing to laugh at the absurdity of this life.

The only way to adequately express my strategy for dealing with the stressful scenarios of college is through pop culture. Since I’ve been able to understand it, I’ve enjoyed satire. Who doesn’t love a good SNL sketch making a caricature of a politician or celebrity? The strategy to which I’ve resolved myself in order to deal with a mounting flood of immediate stressors like papers and exams, as well as the unfathomably long list of different outcomes linked to those immediate stressors, goes like this: If life resembles the absurdity of satire, you better laugh.

Examples of satirical Zen masters of stress permeate pop culture. Stanley Kubrick’s satirical film Dr. Strangelove tells a ridiculous tale of mounting nuclear tension between the Soviets and the United States, which culminates famously with a rogue U.S. pilot literally riding an Atomic bomb like a horse out of his plane, hooting wildly while waving his cowboy hat in the air. All of these examples serve more of a moral purpose than simply teasing out a good laugh. They provide the basis for a stress reducing philosophy for life.

As college students, we all face situations where papers, tests, difficult professors, personal problems, and busy work schedules all seem to make a pretty good case for a universe schemed in our own destruction. My philosophy to approaching stress assumes that when fate swirls up such an unbelievable storm of nonsense that it becomes laughable, we might as well have a chuckle. If we can take a look at the comedic value of the chaos around us, then those issues lose a bit of their scariness–they seem less like monsters and more like hilarious caricatures of monsters.


Love life, embrace the chaos: Here are some of the practical ways I have learned to embrace the regular insanity of life instead of worrying about the unchangeable.

  • Don’t separate “good” and “bad” daily tasks: Try to find some satisfaction in everything– even if you feel like you’re riding an Atomic Bomb towards the destruction of your academic career, wave your hat in the air as a symbol of solidarity and chip away to the end.
  • Live in the moment: As a historically textbook worrywort, I regularly used to hear my mother’s favorite mantra: “You’re borrowing trouble.” This mantra makes so much sense for someone deciding to embrace chaos instead of worrying about it. The only reality we can interact with is happening right now. So there’s no point in borrowing trouble from the future in order to make right now more difficult.
  • Break larger goals down into tasks: This one’s a bit cliche, but it is exceedingly important to value the current moment, the task at hand.
  • Enjoy sleep: Sleep has such a powerful effect on our ability to handle stressors. A quick and easy way to collapse under the weight of stress and make it impossible to find the “bright side” is to neglect the necessity of sleep.
  • Embrace the bomb: Whenever life decides to throw it all on you at once and release a destructive fate bomb, don’t cower in fear. Try to laugh. Embrace the absurdity of life when ridiculous coincidences and mistakes mount one upon another. Laugh at it because it really is funny, honestly. What good does stress do? What good does borrowing from your future predictions do you now?

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