Buy, Don’t Borrow: Calm the F*ck Down

Originally published February 17, 2019

Tell me something: Is it too much that I used my “Read a Fucking Book” bookmark with “Calm the F*ck Down,” Sarah Knight’s new addition to her “No F*cks Given” series?

I do swear a lot.

I’m also highly anxious.

So, it would make sense for this bookmark and this book to find each other in my home.

I will say this — it feels like Knight’s books aren’t the kind to borrow from the library and return, as much as I like advocating for the library. “Calm the Fuck Down” packs a punch and delivers practical advice that really needs to be absorbed over time, rather than in a week, when you start getting anxious over library fines and are forced to return it before you can make copies of all the relevant passages.

Knight’s “Calm the F*ck Down” isn’t her first foray into self-help. Instead, it’s a follow-up to several books, starting with “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” I did indulge in her Ted Talk to try to catch up:

If you’re not a fan of the visual or have no time to start at the beginning of her series, no worries — she does a great job of pulling relevant concepts, such as not giving a fuck, into “Calm the Fuck Down.” But, as I already mentioned, it can be a lot to take in over a short amount of time, even though the information is delivered in a straight-forward, relatable fashion. A college-level psychology test, it’s not. But it doesn’t mean the lessons are any less thought-provoking.

Remember those sticky slimeball toys you’d trade tickets for at the arcade? Those gummy tentacled things that once you took them out of the plastic wrapper and threw them at the wall or ceiling, they’d have to be peeled slowly off ? Then you’d drop them on the floor and you could never get all the grime off them?

Anxiety, it’s a sticky beast.

For me, when anxiety hits, it can feel like I am being attacked by a life-size sticky slimeball. As I try to peel one sticky strand off my arm, another one is wrapping itself around my leg. Work, the kids, the home, my dog, this godforsaken neverending winter … it’s coming from all directions. It’s refreshing to read something that acknowledges I am not a freak because what looks like, to the normal person, me obsessing over my daughter’s college choice, isn’t me being just over-the-top. (It is when on its own, yes.) What is is, in sticky slime ball territory, is my sleight of hand mode when I’m taking a break from thinking about other anxiety-inducing issues, like my boys wrapping up their college experiences this spring with no idea of what is going to happen next.

Knight’s advice makes sense to a rational, non-anxious mind. Take it in. Remember that one question over all other questions, “Can I control this?” Start there. And then, when anxiety hits, go grab the book off your shelf because you won’t be able to remember any of the next steps and you’ll need the book to walk you through it. Probably multiple times. Practice makes perfect, right?

In fact, one of my favorite parts of “Calm the F*ck Down”is the “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style practice section, which is why I think it would be so helpful to have this on your shelf — so you can pull it out and play along the next time you feel a panic attack coming on.

Knight acknowledges upfront and often, she’s no doctor and not a replacement for one — if therapy is your thing, don’t give that up. But this book is a helpful refresher for what essentially is the Serenity Prayer.

Keep on keeping on, book buddies.

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