‘memeber when I said I’d post the Anxiety Protips post last Saturday? That obviously didn’t happen — I had anxiety about it — but let’s make it happen now.
Purposefully putting yourself into anxiety-inducing situation apparently teaches you to adapt, and you’ll deal with it better than you’d think. It seems counterintuitive but it also makes sense. People adapt to any situation they’re in and the best way to learn anything new is to jump right in and hope for the best! Scared of spiders? Start holding spiders. After awhile they’re not as terrifying. Sure it sucks at first but eventually it doesn’t suck quite as much. The same is true with anxiety.
So after having the most stress-inducing weeks in recent memory I’ve been falling back on a couple of techniques that have actually been helping. It’s pretty crazy to see progress with one of your main personality flaws; like damn I really am not quite as anxious as I used to be! So here’s a few protips on what has helped me deal with my irrational anxiety and hopefully they can help others!
Just Don’t Have Anxiety
This is just a joke. There’s a common understanding between depressed/anxious people of those certain others that say something along the lines of “Stop worrying!” or “Just be happy! Cheer up!” We can receive a knowing look from another fellow depressive and instantly know the struggle when someone is spouting this nonsense.
Like damn if I knew the cure for depression was to just not be depressed then I probably would’ve done that instead of devolve into alcoholism for a few year. I’m an idiot! Why didn’t I think of that?!
Acknowledge the Anxiety. Own It.
The first real tip is to own your anxiety. Take the emotion, label it, and put it in a box. Make it known as a thing on its own and not part of you by default. In a way: you’re not the person that is anxious or fearful, you’re just a person who is feeling that sort of emotion at the current time for reason real or imagined.
Emotions have a way of dominating our way of thinking. When we’re happy everything is amazing and it’s shocking to think there was a time we were ever depressed. Depression is the same; everything is awful and any happy memories feel like vague things that never actually happened to you. Anxiety is the same. When you’re anxious that’s all you’re aware of and it can be easy to define yourself by that emotion.
By detaching yourself from it and labeling it you separate it from who you are as a person. As a person it’s fine to feel anxious from time to time, it’s a whole different beast to become and embody that anxiety to where it owns you. I found it helps to talk to others about this. Just simply saying, “Boy, I am really fucking anxious and stressed about [thing]!” helps separate you from your anxiety. You’re telling yourself (by telling others) that you’re feeling anxious and that’s okay. Even better if they’re friends because they might be willing to give you some support!
Think of the Big Picture
Think of the big picture and I mean the really really big picture. You know, the inevitable heat-death of the universe/proton decay sort of thing. The void that awaits all of us. How even your far descendants won’t know anything of you as a person. How you probably won’t have a legacy or be famous or anything. Something about that Kansas song about wind/dust or something. Sure this sounds nihilistic and it is, but if you tweak your mind just a bit it’s freeing in a way. Nothing you do really matters and isn’t that kind of a relief? It sure takes a lot of the pressure you put on yourself if you internalize it a bit.
What tiny little insignificant thing has you unable to sleep at night and leaves your brain worrying nonstop? What little stupid trivial thing in life has put you so on edge that you’re unable to enjoy anything through your anxiety? In the grand scheme of things — that life is all a one-shot ultimately temporary thing — what’s the use of worrying? Worst case scenario: you could totally walk into work tomorrow, shit your pants, and sure it’ll suck, but in 100 years who’s going to remember you shitting your pants? No one will. Whatever your anxious about is just as meaningless, probably more so (because shitting your pants is kind of a big deal), and in the grand scheme of things there really is no reason to give a shit about being terrified of anything.
Think of the Small Picture; Live in the Present
This is one of my sobriety protips (and it’s a good protip for life in general): live in the moment.
Anxiety occurs from thinking about the future. I don’t think it’s possible to have anxiety when you’re fully in the moment, at least the Big Anxiety that cripples plenty of us. Whenever I find myself worrying or overthinking, it’s usually because I’m thinking about how a choice will play out in the future, always in a ridiculously complex way. It’s me trying to think of every possible situation, action, and outcome and logically this doesn’t help the situation at all. Planning and feeling out future events is fine but it’s easy for us anxious people to get in the zone and be carried away by worry. Sadly, knowing this doesn’t help the anxiety one bit.
If that’s true of anxiety, then stop thinking about the future as much! It’s not that easy and takes deliberate effort, but it can be done with enough motivation and awareness. Shrink your awareness down to the present. The future is scary but the future doesn’t really exist and is only hypothetical if you view it from a certain angle. All you really have, your actual existence, is right here in the present and you’re fine! Take a look around and focus on objects, sounds, smells that are immediately around you. Nothing is threatening (unless you’re reading this in the middle of the woods with a momma bear stalking you or something) and there isn’t anything to be anxious about because anxiety is all about the future. Obviously this trends heavily towards meditation, and that’s a great thing to dabble in as well if you’re serious about ‘being in the present’ more often.
Think of the Positives, (Try to) Forget the Negatives
Anxiety is a negative emotion and one that focuses on all the things that can go wrong. Any and all courses of dramatic failure, social unacceptance, and embarrassment all play out anytime you take one tiny step outside your comfort zone. The future is all risk, danger, and sure there’s good things that can happen but what about everything that can go wrong?!
Ask yourself something like, “What can go right? What if everything works out perfectly? What if I actually do ‘got this’? What if I’m worrying about absolutely nothing or blowing the risks out of proportion? What if I’m only being my worst critic and shitting on myself because everyone is that way? What if all of the encouragement and positive things people say about me is true and they’re not just being nice? What if, and this is totally a hypothetical, I’m more capable than I’m aware of? And what if I just accepted that I’m a capable person and to allow myself a little bit of self-confidence?”
As with everything here, it’s a work in progress. It’s like you have to beat yourself with this positive mindset over and over for your dumb brain to even somewhat begin to accept it. It’s difficult — your brain is a stubborn bastard indeed — but with enough mental club-beatings things do start to stick.
Don’t Overplan Anything
This follows from the last tip. A good chunk of my anxiety is overthinking and overplanning any sort of future situation or course of action. “What will I say if someone does this one really specific thing? What if this rare and ridiculously impossible thing occurs; what will I do then?!”
It’s cool to plan, but overplanning and overworrying is where anxiety-crippled people take it to the max. Besides from trying to remind yourself of all the things that could go right, you can also acknowledge one other thing about life; nothing ever goes as planned.
Most times when I’m worrying or overplanning something I’m shocked to find the “threat” was something that didn’t even need to be planned for, not because things worked out for the best, but because nothing even happened! Worried about finding a perfect gift for a friend? Right after you stress out about it another friend will come up with a gift idea and suggest you go in on it with them and the whole thing was for nothing. Anxious about a speech for college? You might find that all the eager kids want to give their speeches first so you really have until Monday after the weekend to actually stress about it! Or the teacher is sick so the speech will be the next day, something like that. Stressing about when something happens totally misses the ‘if’ the thing will even happen. It might all be a big nothingburger. This seems to happen more often than people realize.
Even if the “threats” don’t magically disappear as they sometimes do, you’ll find all your anxious worrying and planning to be for absolutely nothing. Plans fall apart all the time and reality only seems to represent about 5% of the stuff you’re up awake at night spending all your time and energy worrying about. It’s toxic for you to do, but at the very least, it’s an inefficient waste of time as well!
This sounds like a procrastinaton protip, but aren’t procrastination and anxiety closely related? Me thinks they are, but only in some cases. Some anxiety is unrelated but if you’re having anxiety about something you’ve been putting off, something you should be working on, something you been postponing, the solution is pretty easy. Just work on the damn thing!
There’s always that famous tip about starting anything you don’t want to really do: work on it for five minutes and quit if you’re still not feeling it. This works wonders because starting on the first five minutes usually leads you to working longer on your project. It doesn’t have to be anything major or actually productive either. The key is to do something that let’s you feel like you’re making progress.
If you’re up at night with anxiety over the school paper you haven’t written yet, take a few minutes to write an outline. Jot some notes down on a paper. Get your bearings. Maybe even write a paragraph or two if you feel up to it, but the point is to do something and it doesn’t have to be big. This will help your anxiety because you’re actually being proactive. You’ll feel in control of your life and your anxiety should chill out somewhat.
Obviously this only works with stuff that is in your control. If you’re worrying about general life stuff or dealing with social anxiety this might not help, but maybe there are some proactive steps you could take?
Caution Using Crutches!
Wasn’t there a bunch of studies that say depressed/anxious people are more likely to be alcoholics? I want to say so, but I’m too lazy to actually cite anything. Oh well. If this is true (and I’m positive it is) it’s for one obvious reason: alcohol fucking works!*
If you’re dealing with Crippling Anxiety, alcohol (or whatever substance works for you, maybe Xannys) will be a tempting way to escape it. It’ll work, but it won’t remove the actual source of anxiety, only the feeling of the anxiety. You’ll feel fine for a few hours, maybe a day or more, but you’ll snap right back like an overextended rubber band right into anxiety, likely worse than before!
I’m not one to say to never drink (what works/doesn’t work for me doesn’t apply to everyone and giving rigid ‘advice’ like ‘don’t drink if you’re stressed!’ is insufferable) but just be aware of what you’re doing. Drinking from anxiety can be a dangerous road to go down if you’re wired a certain way, so be cautious!
Just Fucking Wing It
Ah, the good ole ‘brute force’ technique. Sometimes you’ll be terrified and anxious about something and then something fucking snaps in your head and you dive right into whatever thing you’re so scared and fearful of. When this happens to me I feel kind of crazy — what the hell is wrong with me, have I finally snapped? — but maybe to an outside observer it looks different. Maybe it looks something like courage?
I don’t have much to say about this ‘tip,’ just this image. It’s one of my all-time favorites and always have it somewhere in my phone’s download folder. Even if I get a new phone it has a way of making it’s way into my photos. As before, no citations or verification that Letterman actually said this, but I’m going with it anyways:
Instagram: where I post pointless
artistic pics and shitty poems daily whenever I get around to it.
My other blog where I
sometimes never post stories.