4 Tested Habits That Will Keep Your Anxiety at BayFreepik
’ve been a prisoner of anxiety a little too long to suddenly do a 180 worth of Vin Diesel and nose-dive into the miracle cure business. Mostly because, A) I don’t believe such a thing exists, and B) anxiety disorders aren’t zits appearing each time you empty a Nutella jar with a ladle. The topic of mental health is a bit more complicated than that.
The purpose of this blog is to approach anxiety in a multi-faceted way, to emulate it’s complexity... That’s why I’m trying hard not to fall into the comfortable habit of pulling a couple of half-baked ideas out of my arse, package them into a blog post with a number in the title, and sell them off as a revolution that will change your life.
As an anxiety sufferer myself, I’ve had a pretty lousy experience with those. If you’re in a state of psychological distress and a tip you’ve been trying to pick up doesn’t work, you’ll likely end up feeling even worse than before.
Moreover, what these sorts of posts usually forget to mention is that when it comes to anxiety, sometimes the best course of action is inaction... and that giving yourself time is often better than manic sampling from the self-help buffett.
Nevertheless, I would be a bit of a tosser not to share those strategies that do work for me. The me here is important. Because the weapons that vaporize my dark cloud might not vaporize yours. It’s important to note that we’re different people with differently tuned psyches, and that you should never blame yourself if a particular method doesn’t bring (instant) relief...
The 4 suggestions below aren’t band-aids you simply throw on that one time before continuing to happily paddle towards the next precipice. I don’t want to go full Gordon Ramsay here (feels kinda good though) but this is stuff you should be doing consistently, and over a longer period of time, or not at all.
Okay, now that we’ve finally gotten these pesky disclaimers out of the way, let’s get down to business:
1. Yoga Nidra
I was introduced to this kickass stress relieving technique by my favey neuroscientist dr. Andrew Huberman (yeah, I have a favey neuroscientist).
Yoga Nidra is a “sleepy” state of consciousness induced by guided meditation, usually performed while lying down. It’s associated with a variety of health benefits and there’s a growing body of evidence showing it helps alleviate PTSD.
The movements are minimal, so don’t worry, if you’re a plank of wood (like I am) - all you have to do is relax, listen to the script… and let go.
Before throwing in my lot with Yoga Nidra, I was on a long journey through the supermarket aisle, tasting everything from Mindfulness to various Visualisation techniques.
But the very first time I did Yoga Nidra, I immediately realised that it calms my mind in a more profound way. I felt (and still do) like I woke up from an extremely refreshing nap, which, at least for the constantly fidgety mind of an anxious person, is absolutely invaluable.
I do a 30-minute session 3 times a week, but you can obviously go super saiyan and practice every day. The script that I use is available on Youtube, but if you don’t like the length there’s tons of different clips laying around the world wide web.
2. The Morning Pages
I wanted to write in some form or another for as long as I can remember. There was a time however, when my hypochondria completely decimated my desire to live, much less to write. I’ve picked up the pieces better than I thought I would, but one area that has plagued me ever since was my motivation to pick up the pen. Through a chance encounter with a local artist, an incredible soul who emanated nothing but merry devotion to his craft, I was introduced to the book The Artist's way.
I winced as if bitten by a snake when my buddy presented the title as his “self-help bible”, but could do nothing but politely accept the gift when he actually bought it for me. I opened the book out of sheer spite, but my plan backfired spectacularly after exactly 3 pages, which is how long it took to get me hooked. The writing is just that wholesome.
The central tenet of The Artist’s way is an exercise called the morning pages. The morning pages is a practice in associative writing that you’re supposed to do every day after you wake up. There are no rules when it comes to structure or themes - the only requirement is that you conjure up at least 3 pages (it seems like a lot, but once you’ve opened up the pipes you’re basically there in 20 minutes). The exercise aims to bring you closer to your inner voice, but I think it’s actually much more than that, especially for people who are struggling with mental health problems.
Most of my morning pages still gravitate towards the current state of my anxiety, but what happens under the hood is a process during which this constant articulation of fears blunts the monster’s teeth. The principal value of the pages is in them acting as a mechanism for acquiring distance between you and your anxiety.
Over time, the pages deepen your realisation that you’re stronger than your worries, which is a precious revelation, worth repeating every day.
All you need is a pen, a piece of paper, a cup of coffee and you’re good to go.
And who knows… maybe in a year’s time, your morning scribbles will grow into a shattering novel. Hopefully, a novel dedicated to me.
3. Cultivating a Sense of Purpose
Ok, I realise this one might sound a tiny bit pretentious, but bear with me.
We all know that anxiety’s main fuel is attention, and that the more focus it receives, the bigger bully it becomes. Trying to get to the bottom of such an irrational state is highly counter-productive, because anxiety isn’t a stubborn puzzle you have to solve, and it certainly isn’t something you can rationalise yourself out of... Conversely, rerouting that attention somewhere else drains the power out of the storm that’s raging in your mind. All the better if “somewhere else” is actually a cause you believe in.
I have to confess that since I became involved with an environmental group addressing climate change, my existence has become much more bearable (I also have less time to brood).
There’s a special kind of joy in the collective struggle, a type of fulfillment that can’t be replicated in “regular” individual pursuits. And as much of a cliché as it may be, being part of something bigger than yourself can have an immense impact on your perception of the world.
If you’re not the activist type, you can always offer your time to an organization that helps other people. My best friend, a person tormented by vicious bouts of crippling anxiety all her life, has butterflied into a real life Galadriel after she began volunteering at a local children’s shelter.
So, take that overactive death ray you call self-reflection, give it a couple of hearty slaps, and put it to better use. Chances are, you’ll find yourself faster than you ever did when focusing exclusively on yourself.
4. Going for Walks
I have a whole separate piece dedicated to the deceptively brilliant power of going for a walk, so allow me to be brief and blunt and sound like a fucking sports shoe slogan - just do it.
I know that going for a walk sounds insignificant and even stupid, but you’re gonna have to trust uncle Anxious on this one, put your shoes on, and just go. Go anywhere, it doesn’t really matter where, as long as you’re alone and you’ve left your devices behind.
Remember, this is a walk for walking’s sake. There’s no goals. Take your time, observe the world, refuse the urge to cut it short and I promise you my friend, you won’t regret it.
What regular walks do, is they kidnap you from the toxic stratosphere of your worries and bring you down to earth. They put you in touch with the environment and remind you how to be present and why that’s good for you.
Every time I come home after a long walk, I realise my day was salvaged already. A special type of protective coating gets created, a shield that makes it harder for my anxiety to penetrate and poison away.
So, what are you still waiting for?
at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside. If you were just a random person walking by, you would have seen two mates comfortably sharing a bottle, drinking out of paper cups, chatting away and laughing. It would all look like an uplifting scene from a European indie film.
The truth however, is different. Laurie is my friend, yes, and what’s coming out of my mouth is real laughter, but the unpleasant feeling bouncing around my skull is one of deep discomfort. The truth is I’d rather be anywhere else right now. It’s not that anything bad happened between the two of us, like a pissing contest’s gone sour just moments ago… I’ve known Laurie for almost 5 years and during that time we’ve never even had as much as a disagreement.
at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.
Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside.
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