Stop and ask yourself: Are things really as bad as they seem? How quickly is the sludge filling your room? How securely are the doors and windows locked? How toxic is the sludge?

You cannot use your mind, the source of these worries, to fight them. Instead of struggling against your anxious thoughts, observe them. Let them wash over you as if they were merely toxic sludge.

Do not dwell on the difficulties you’ll face in the future as the sludge’s level rises, or look back at the past and blame me for directing the sludge pipe into your living space. To experience true joy, you must live in the moment. Part of that process is letting go of your anger at me for releasing the sludge into your home and barricading you inside so that neither you nor the sludge can escape. For your own good, don’t obsess about what kind of a person would do such a thing. It’s done.

Remember that your mind is a tool you use to solve problems, like how to escape a room rapidly filling with toxic sludge from septic tanks and industrial runoff whose rancid smell is stinging your nostrils and eyes. Your mind ceases to be useful when, instead of problem-solving, it turns its power towards fretting obsessively over the possibility of drowning in the sludge or contracting a disease from its contents.

When these thoughts come up, do not indulge them — but don’t try to ignore them, either. You can’t push the thoughts out of your mind the same way you can’t push the sludge out of your room, because I have caulked the small gaps under, above, and alongside your doorframe. Instead, watch your anxious thoughts as if they were the credits to a documentary about the deadliest home-based sludge accident in American history.

Meditation of this sort is challenging, but worthwhile and necessary for your well-being. This is because you can’t think your way out of anxious thoughts, which, again, are a product of your own mind. It’s like the time this morning when you called me and asked in a frenzy if I could find and stop whoever had locked you in your room and released the sludge. I could not help; after all, I was the one who had started the sludge on its fateful path to you. That’s what it’s like when you ask your mind to clean up the sludge it’s pouring into the locked bedroom of your own consciousness. That sludge came from within yourself, or me — and that’s the story of the mind sludge you’re experiencing as you also confront my actual sludge.

Life brings challenges: professional struggles, interpersonal conflicts, deadly sludge. You cannot control those things. But you can take control of your reaction. By following these strategies, you’ll lead a more tranquil and fulfilling life. And you won’t be anxious forever; soon, the sludge will drown you.