Anxiety sucks, I know it, you know it, I think even deep-down anxiety knows it’s a deplorable piece of poop as well. No breath is deep enough, sleep is difficult to come by and you just feel burdened by, well, everything; society’s expectations, the ones you set on yourself, and most importantly – your cat. It literally feels like the world is weighing on your shoulders and you feel alone, like the only person in the world who has ever felt this way. Yeah, it feels insurmountable and sure, you probably feel embarrassed that you let it get this far. But don’t worry, the Lion is here to help you.
Now before you go ahead and take everything I say as gospel, just remember I don’t have a doctorate in psychology or therapy. I do however think……like a lot, so you are in safe hands.
Why so anxious?
Look, even Batman had Alfred to talk to, with that in mind find yourself someone to confide in, namely a therapist, they can pick your brain and find out the root of the anxiety. If you just happen to be a world-renowned psychotherapist maybe you can pick your own brain, but outside of that, it can be difficult to nail it down. Once you know what’s causing it, it will be easier to come to a resolution.
I personally had general anxiety for many months, culminating in rampant panic attacks, I had no idea what was causing them. Was it the massive expectations that I and my parent had set upon me? (Different blog different day) Was it because I didn’t know what I was doing with my life after university? Or was it because my best friend was struggling with pulmonary heart failure at the age of 21 and I was in serious denial? Honestly, I’m sure it was a bit of everything combined. But by the time I got to the therapist I had fallen deep into a rabbit hole of negative thoughts and feelings; I think only Morpheus could have raked me out, luckily, he flew in on his Nebuchadnezzar and did just that.
Stop checking in so often:
“How do I feel right now?” “Am I ok?” “Why does my chest feel this way?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “Am I dying?” If you have asked yourself any questions like this, it’s time to stop, it’s time to walk outside and do something that takes your mind away from it all. (I personally loved going for walks.)
What I’m about to say is a very difficult premise, so stick with me here. Stop living inside of your head, exist outside of your body and project yourself into something else. Right now, you feel trapped inside of your body and all the queries and confusion that it aches you with. So, put your time and energy into something all-encompassing. Anything that requires a heightened amount of effort where all your energy is focused onto that very object or task.
Anything from playing an instrument or even intense exercise will make you focus on that and take you out of your head space for a moment. Take movies for example, you can become so involved with a character that you literally project yourself into the screen. A great example of this was Inception. A movie so layered, so intricate that it was difficult for me to think about how I was feeling, because I was busy trying to conceptualize the sheer brilliance on-screen. I was Leonardo DiCaprio spinning his spindle. I became the spindle! And yes! I was outside of myself for the first time in months and it felt amazing. I remembered what it was like to breathe, it was like the world had color again. I felt so light, and I appreciated being alive. If it’s one positive about having anxiety is that when you’re on the other end of it, you appreciate life that much more. (Don’t stop believing!)
You just need to win once, and when you do remember it and you will win again, and again and again until you can’t lose. (Hang on to that feeling!) It’s a journey. See what I did there?
Have bad thoughts you will:
Fear and anger lead to the dark side of the force, battle those negative thoughts with positive ones. So instead of “I’m just not good enough.” Flip that to a “I am good enough.” In fact, why stop there? How about a “I am king of the universe!” It’s a trickling effect, each thought takes you deeper and deeper downward. You must have the mental fortitude to pull yourself out of it. Imagine your mind is like a garden and each negative thought is a weed that must be tended to and pulled from the root. Annihilate those thoughts, and fill yourself with positivity.
You can do this through meditation, exercise, writing, painting anything that puts you in a happy place. Don’t be afraid to get creative because anxiety is a manifestation of your mind so you have full reign over it.
You cannot die from a panic attack
Maybe I’m the only numskull that thought my panic attack was a cleverly disguised heart attack waiting in the wings. I then invented an intricate theory that I had heart disease like my best friend did. So, every time my chest felt tight, I thought I was dying and that the end was coming for me. As with most people who believe they are dying from a heart attack, I was rushed to the hospital more times that I would like to admit. After a few EKG’s, rye smirks from various doctors, I knew that I was as healthy as an ox, but a bit crazier. Once I internalized that a panic attack doesn’t kill you—whilst I kept having them, they became less and less frequent, until finally they faded away.
I know it feels like the world is ending and that your chest is pounding but remember it is all in your mind!! Breathe slowly. Take one deep breath in hold it for 5 seconds and release it all. (Rinse and repeat) Slow yourself down. You can stop yourself from having a panic attack. I know it seems impossible, but once you seize control of yourself and your mind you can do anything!
Touching other people (hugs for thugs)
I am not a scientist, nor will I pretend to be. However, when you hug another person it makes you feel better, and it’s not just limited to hugging if you get what I mean. (wink, wink.) Any form of contact helps alleviate not only stress but anxiety as well. Sometimes even holding hands, a hug, a kiss or for those extremely single people, get a massage. I do not advocate other forms of paying people for touching you. I think the massage is enough.
This inadvertently shines a new light on free hug days. So, if you are so emboldened give a hug to a thug today.
“Let someone else shoulder the load” – Sam
Mr. Frodo, there’s no need for that sour face, stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. This goes for you as well. This idea can be taken literally and figuratively. Anxiety manifests itself in your mind so whatever makes you feel burdened, simply leave those things at the door and unburden yourself.
Whether that means leaning on someone else’s ear and letting other people in to your situation it helps to talk about it with other people because you are not alone. Remember, its ok to not be ok. A lot of people deal with anxiety and depression. I know you feel embarrassed, but trust me anxiety does not discriminate from person to person. Everyone has had a bout of it at least once in their life.
This is the figurative side of it. The literal side is taking a cab instead of walking, having someone else help you with your bags and homework, being cleaner and organizing your room and your life. Doing these small but impactful things will leave you feeling better.
Do not Medicate
Let me preface this by saying this is my opinion. I know medication has a place when it comes to certain disorders but with regard “general anxiety” I think you owe it to yourself to go without meds.
Anxiety is a feeling predicated on thoughts that circle your mind, when you put medication in your body to numb yourself to anxiety and pain, you then forget what it is like to feel anxiety and when the drugs wear off it is quite possible to become reliant on that source of anodyne and perpetuating the anxiety without any resolution. Juxtaposed to that, a person without meds feels it all, but with that feeling of having anxiety and panic attacks you also receive the pride of overcoming it and the sense that you can conquer it alone. I think we need this because it is intrinsic to feel anything whether that be anxiety or not. Embrace that feeling, embrace your challenges with anxiety because you are alive and that pain that you feel is fleeting, happiness is on the way.
Don’t let it steal your life away. Claim it back!
Anxiety tends to sink into your life like a virus, things that you once loved now make you anxious, hell everything does, right? Well, it’s time to claim it back! Do the things you love, and be unapologetic about it.
Going to the gym was the worst for me, I love exercising, I feed off the release it gives me, but with my anxiety running amuck I began to focus on my heartbeat and the tightness in my chest every time I entered the iron temple. I just couldn’t let this stand. After a few days of feeling trapped inside my dorm room, I entered the gym with my finest gym shark apparel and struggled my way through a workout. I had a rough panic attack, but after a few days I stopped getting them and then a few weeks went by and I was able to work out without getting anxiety. This was my first stand on the war against anxiety.
The movies used to do it to me as well. I just love sitting back eating the ol’ corn and snacking back some sugary treats and especially drinking some cold carbonated beverage. But somehow being in the darkness warped my mind into thinking I was trapped and alone in that room. So, a few times I had to leave the theatre as if I had claustrophobia or something.
So, I tried again and again, until one day in the words of the epic movie announcer dude said. “From the mind of Christopher Nolan, the number one movie in America—Inception.” You could say that Chris “inceptioned” my brain! Ok, ok all terrible jokes aside, it helps a lot.
Go to war on your anxiety
Utilize everything at your disposal. By knowing what is causing the anxiety and by claiming back who you were before anxiety strapped you down. It’s important to remember that there are things that will always make you anxious, but that doesn’t mean that it should stay with you once the situation changes. Notably, turbulence, every time a roach flies past my face, seeing a large snake on my computer, when my wife asks me a bait question, and when she is hungry. Or even worse, when she is hungry and she asks me a bait question simultaneously. Oh, the horror.
Due to the immensely positive response this received, I have written another piece on“Going to war on anxiety.” Check it out it will help you stomp out your demons. Please read my other posts on anxiety and positivity, they are sure to help as well.