How to Deal with Anxiety
I have dealt with anxiety since my freshman year of high school. When I initially entered high school after being home schooled for the first thirteen years of my life, I was terrified. I tended to masque all of my insecurities with a false confidence that ended up isolating me even further from my peers. I was viewed as “cocky” and tended to exaggerate a lot of things thinking that it would help me fit it.
In reality, all of these feeling were rooted in anxiety, and everything I did to cope just made things worse.
Anxiety has many different shapes. Different forms that lurk in the shadows and depths of our minds. Many voices that can escalate from a whisper to a scream in an instant. These feelings and voices may be powerful, but in my experience they all have one thing in common.
As I continue to grow and learn in life, I have realized that all of the anxious feelings I have tried to cover up over the years were (and still are) rooted in fear.
Fear of not being accepted
Fear of failure
Fear of “Never being good enough”
Fear of never amounting to anything
Fear of never being worthy of love
Regardless of the type of fear your anxiety is rooted in, they all can be completely debilitating at times. On a nightly basis I have to consciously work on quieting down my mind in order to feel at peace enough to sleep. I have a little voice in my head that constantly barrages me with hateful words attempting to convince me that despite all I’ve done in my life to this point, I’m still just that scared thirteen year old kid.
Today I want to share with you some ways that I personally have learned to get that voice to go away. Even if only for a short time.
1. Working Out
This is a big one for me. When I am engaged in a physical activity, regardless of lifting, running, swimming, etc… My mind is able for a short period to go completely blank. Nothing else matters except for the workout I am involved in. Another positive to this is that after a workout, I generally feel better about myself because I am able to check something off of my “To-Do” list and I physically feel more awake.
Meditation has helped me in ways I could never imagine. It’s as easy and finding a youtube video of some chanting monks, or a thunderstorm… sitting in a quiet place… and taking 10-15min out of your busy day to quiet your mind. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to rest. You will come out of the other side amazed at how much more clear you think.
Now this one may take a little more explaining. What I mean by exposure is allowing yourself to be in situations that make you anxious in SMALL DOSES. For me, something that honestly made me EXTREMELY anxious at first was talking behind a microphone (I know, kind of awkward for a podcast host). I would start sweating and feel my hands get clammy at the thought of my voice being recorded.
What if I messed up an hour into an episode? EVERYONE WOULD HEAR IT!
To conquer this I started small… I had a cheap microphone and I would record clips of me speaking, then I would listen to them.
Then I started recording things and sending them to close friends to listen to and get feedback.
Once I got comfortable with that I sent them to more people, and finally I got comfortable enough to record a full episode and release it to the public.
I still get nervous every time I sit behind that microphone with a guest, but at this point I try to just have fun with it. It’s virtually impossible to not mess up when you have a Co-Host as ADHD as RJ Holliday (cough cough Squirrel Girl on the “Wrestle The Gap w/ Vanessa Oswalt” episode cough cough).
So start out small in an environment that you can control, then work your way up. Even if it all starts with you having a conversation with yourself in the mirror, the only place to go from there is up.
The final piece of advice I have to offer regarding dealing with anxiety is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Too many times we pull away from situations and people, thinking that we are protecting ourselves, and then wonder why we get anxious and paranoid anytime anything in our lives starts to go good. It’s like we have pre-programmed our brains to wait on “the other shoe to drop” so to speak.
I was like this for a long time. I refused to let people past the barrage of walls that I had built up around myself. I hated my flaws and despised anyone having access to them. Daily I struggle with allowing myself to be vulnerable, but it has been the biggest key in me starting to deal with my anxiety.
Fear is rooted in a lack of vulnerability. It’s like the further you isolate yourself from others (thinking you’re protecting yourself) the more anxious and fearful you become. You become more and more fearful of people’s intentions…
“This is too good to be true..”
“What is he/she up to?”
“No-one is this nice..”
“What do they say when I’m not around?”
Sound familiar? These same thoughts have crossed my mind a thousand times. The only way I have been able to start the journey in battling these voices is allowing myself to be vulnerable. I make an effort to talk about what makes me anxious, and in return I listen when other people trust me with their problems. There is a lot that can be said in just having a simple conversation with someone and GENUINELY caring about their well-being.
Start by just having genuine conversations with friends. Thank someone for what they do for you, and don’t expect anything in return. Trust someone with your flaws, and listen to them if they choose to talk to you about theirs.
If you don’t feel like you have the ability to be vulnerable with anyone else yet, try being vulnerable with yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, stand in the mirror and talk to yourself about your flaws or insecurities. I know this may sound insane, but it’s something I do. I look at myself and ask “Why are you feeling like this”.. I really try to close my mouth and just listen to what my mind and heart are telling me.
Sometimes I can figure it out, and other times I can’t. The important thing is I allowed myself to put my insecurities out in the open.
Even if you just start by being honest with yourself, little by little the walls will come down and realizing the benefit in having deep relationships with other human beings will manifest itself. Eventually, you will gain the courage to trust other people.
It will be scary. I know.
But you can do this.
I believe in you.