Don’t be a Jerk to Yourself
You need to take a damn break. Actually, you need to take several breaks. Actually, you should take several breaks EVERY DAY. I know. Crazy concept, right? One of the annoying things about anxiety is that it almost never occurs in isolation. If you are the type of person to carry a lot of worry, especially about unfinished business, you are also probably the type to feel really guilty when you do things other than those pieces of unfinished business. Guilt is such a shitty thing. As if things weren’t hard enough with the anxiety symptoms, guilt just creeps right up in there and makes things exponentially more difficult.
Well, what kind of breaks? That depends. What recharges your batteries? Some people love going out and getting a drink with their friends to relax and recover energy. For those of you that are introverted in nature, a night out with friends would leave you feeling drained and empty when you get home. Probably not the best choice for your breaks. You gotta do something that fits with you as a person.
Another way you can be nicer to yourself is by replacing some of that asshole language that you use toward yourself in your head.
Things like, “I’m bad at everything,” “I have terrible luck,” “that was my fault,” or “omg I look so stupid right now.” This negative self-talk is something you probably aren’t even aware of, but it eats away at you bit by bit and erodes that self-confidence you need to tackle your anxiety. It’s not much use fighting your thoughts.
Give yourself some mantras to repeat to yourself throughout the day or when you are actively experiencing symptoms. You can even write them on your bathroom mirror or put them as the wallpaper on your phone. Here’s a few you can use:
- I’m allowed to make mistakes
- I’m allowed to feel good sometimes
- Anxiety is my bitch
- I don’t like these feelings, but they won’t hurt me
- I’m going to be alright
Technology is your Frenemy
With the pervasiveness of technology and our lives becoming one with “the cloud” it is sometimes hard to understand where work ends and life begins. When part of your job is keeping up with blogs, does reading them count as a break anymore? Having emails delivered directly to your phone is great, but what about when it is interrupting dinner or stressing you out right before you go to sleep? You gotta get that shit under control before it controls you. Rage against the machine, my friend.
There is no one right answer to the “correct way” to interface with technology, but in general, you want to set yourself up for success. You want to do a little bit of lifestyle min-maxing. Minimize the ways technology can intrusively set you off course or influence your mood and maximize the ways it can facilitate your use of anxiety slaying tools.
Here’s one. Raise your hand if you use your phone as an alarm in the morning. Ok, now raise your hand if the first thing you do after turning the beeping on your phone off is to open your groggy sleep-filled eyes enough to check your email or social media. That’s what I thought.
One good way to understand how technology might be interfering with your life or disrupting your mood is to track your activities throughout the day. I don’t mean tracking the general things you do each hour. I mean hardcore, obsessive, annoying tracking of every single thing you do. You really only need to do it for a day, but every time you switch the tab to Facebook or go to that blog of that person you hate, every time you check your work email when you should be enjoying your lunch, you will start to see the effects laid out there for you. It’s pretty scary actually.
Just like you can’t make your stupid boss go away forever, you can’t make anxiety suddenly poof away in a cloud of smoke. What you are working towards in your recovery from anxiety issues is not only to help yourself avoid unnecessary anxiety when it’s possible, but also to learn how to better tolerate your anxiety symptoms.
One of the things that really maintains and worsens anxiety symptoms and panic symptoms is the phenomenon of getting worked up about the symptoms themselves. Don’t forget, your brain is a douche sometimes. It’s very easy to let it tell you that you should be angry, upset, or scared about the fact that you are experiencing anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, anxiety sucks. That’s why you got this book. Anxiety is just a thing though. It’s a storm that you can weather and come out on the other side. If you are in the ocean surfing and you occasionally get rocked by a wave, it’s probably not the best idea to freak out and get super upset.
You can help temper yourself to better withstand anxiety by allowing yourself to gain exposure to the things that cause you anxiety. For some people, the Kool-Aid man method works the best. This is where you just bust through that wall of anxiety and endure what happens on the other side full force (OHHH YEAHHHHH). For many people, this is a bit too much. That’s okay. You don’t have to get there all at once. You can break things up into smaller, more manageable increments, and work toward feeling more and more able to withstand the discomfort of anxiety.
What this might look like is first imagining yourself standing in front of your peers at work. That’s it. Just imagining. If the thought of that is enough to cause you anxiety, then you are starting in the right place. So here you are sitting in your yoga pants at home imagining this workplace situation and you start sweating your ass off and hyperventilating. Good. You’re at home, nothing bad is going to happen to you. Try some of those deep breathing exercises while you stay in that situation and then just wait it out. I promise you the discomfort won’t last forever. Move through, not away. Then you do it again and again until you got that scenario on lock. No problem.
Now it’s time to kick it up a notch. Keep imagining that situation and this time actually practicing giving the presentation. Probably a little more stressful? Weather the storm, work through it, then kick it up a notch again. Go to the actual room that you will be giving the presentation in and let that freak you out for a bit. No biggie, though. Weather it, work through it, kick it up a notch. When you get to the day of the presentation, you’re going to think, “Shit, shit, shit! That asshole Robert didn’t give me a way to practice the actual real thing!” Well you’re right and you’re wrong. You probably can’t practice the actual thing exactly how it will occur in real life, but what you have practiced now is the secret.
How to Talk to People Who Don’t Get It
“You just need to stop worrying so much!” “Dude, just breathe…” or even “What’s your problem?” I’m sure statements like these really help out, right? Of course not.
These are telltale signs that someone simply does not understand what you are going through. Be happy for them. That means that they have not felt the true shittiness of anxiety the way you have. I do understand that this can be incredibly frustrating though. If this person is family, it tends to amp up the frustration factor even more. I think that often times we try to communicate what it’s like to have anxiety and then give up when it doesn’t seem to sink in for the other person. The process of trying to communicate clearly and find the right words to say can be anxiety provoking in and of itself. Couple that with the fact that you are exhausted from fighting your own private battle with anxiety all day, and it can feel pretty pointless.
I think that people also tend to not understand the other component of anxiety, which is the thoughts. Since your thoughts are invisible and you may or may not be making them known verbally, people in your life are likely to not understand what it’s like to have a whirlwind inside of your brain of persistent worries about god knows what. A good way to help them understand might be to make the analogy of rumination and worry being like a song that gets stuck in your head. Most people have had a song stuck in their head at some point in time. It’s funny at first, then after a while it gets a bit annoying. If it goes on for too long it starts to be downright unpleasant. I’m not talking about your favorite song here. I’m talking about when you get some stupid commercial jingle stuck in your head and you only know one line from the whole song and no matter what you do you can’t get it out and you are thinking about getting a spoon and carving the goddamn song straight out of your brain!! Okay that was a bit dramatic, but I think most people will understand what I’m getting at. Now if you can get that person to imagine that intensity of thought and couple it with negative thoughts and worry, they might be able to comprehend just a little more how messed up the experience of anxiety can be.
Get Pumped. Do Work.
There are a zillion ways to get the work done. Maybe for you, you can conceptualize it as building yourself this swaggarific castle. Sometimes, you have to first build the foundation and some scaffolding; then you can hire more hands, upgrade your tools, and eventually build the crap out of that thing. From then on, it’s just occasional maintenance from stray catapult shots or dragon fire throughout the years.
Find something that works for you. This is your deal. You can go it alone or bring some friends along for the ride. You can pack it all in at once or take it slow and gradual. Whatever the case may be, you are ready to get started now
Get pumped, my friend. Do work.