It’s hard going back. Everybody’s tired. Teachers are tired, students are tired. It’s tough getting back in a routine.

It’s like any problem, though. Just about every problem can be discouraging. It can make you want to give up. It can make you feel like saying, “Nuh-uh. I’m not doing it. I’m going to turn around and go the other way. I give up!”

This is true of many things: work, new projects, learning new skills, facing difficult social situations. As the graphic novelist Harvey Pekar once said, “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.”

But most problems can be handled this way:

  1. Acknowledge that they’re not going to destroy you. This means that most problems that you face aren’t going to get you killed, fired, failed, or dumped. Some will. And for those, maybe a little more urgency is good, but a lot of what I’m about to say still holds. For the most part, you’re going to be mostly okay.
  2. Do your best to listen and pay attention without getting upset. If you’re busy getting upset or discouraged, you might miss something important. Pay attention, be cool, remember that in the long run, you’re most likely to be okay.
  3. Look for advice, clues, and other what to do’s in the problem. Chances are that you won’t be able to fix everything. Maybe your biggest job is to acknowledge that everything won’t be perfect and move on, accepting that or mitigating it as best as possible. Maybe it’s not all your problem, maybe it’s your job to call attention to something, and do your small part to fix things. Maybe the biggest part of your job is to say, “This is going to need more time.” Whatever it is, find your role, and do your best.
  4. If your role is bigger than you know how to handle, it’s probably not just your role. Ask for help. Maybe someone knows more than you, or maybe someone can work with you to make things better. Maybe you’re in over your head, or you’re working above your paygrade. Do your best, but get help with the stuff that’s beyond you. Your ego doesn’t help here. If you can’t do it by yourself, be upfront about that, and move on!
  5. Be as wonderful as you can be. Share credit. Be modest when something works. Be honest when it doesn’t. If it all falls apart and no one dies, chalk it up to experience. You aren’t meant to be perfect. You weren’t built that way. You are built to learn and do. Do that.
  6. Be cool, Honey Bunny!
  7. Remember — if the problem is catastrophic, and everything will be ruined if you don’t get it right, if death is imminent, take it less chill than this list. Get help right away if you’re in over your head!