My therapist calls me a ‘high-anxiety individual’. My wife calls me a ‘ravishingly handsome Man-beast’.
Only one of those statements is true.
Since September, anxiety has been controlling my life. In reality, I’ve probably had anxiety for years. But since September, I have been going through life on auto-pilot, constantly worrying and feeling sorry for myself. It’s not good for anyone.
With my anxiety, comes a pretty-specific and unhealthy fear. Basically, it takes me straight to the worst-case scenario in most situations.
For the past few months I have been dealing with some headaches. I was convinced it was a Brain Tumor. Don’t worry, It’s not ah tumah (Schwarzennegger voice). Still, the fears controlled my life. It was deeper than just that problem though. My wife and I bought a new home. I was sure it had Carbon Monoxide. I heard a creak in the house at night, there was FOR SURE someone in the house. My anxiety gave me chest pains. Pretty positive I had a couple heart attacks. You know, the usual.
As you can gather from the opening line, I started counseling to tackle my issues. I have only had a few sessions but the impact has already been profound.
These are some of the things I have learned from my anxiety.
1. Walk and Be Present
Anxiety, in general, prevents you from being present and enjoying life
I stole the following quote from Maria Popova’s site, brainpickings.org (check it out, she is freaking awesome). She has a piece about Thoreau and his habit of taking walks and always being present.
“The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”
Basically, whatever you are doing and wherever you are, be there. Nowhere else. I have as much of a problem with this as anyone. Always on my phone, my mind is not where it should be. When I am sitting on the couch with my wife, I don’t need to be playing ‘Trivia Crack’ or scrolling through ‘Instagram’. There is a time and place for that.
It’s impossible to focus on living when you are always worried about stuff. In reality though, how can you worry about stuff when we are living on a massive rock that is orbiting around an even more massive star at 67,000 mph. And we don’t even feel it. Are you kidding me? We can fly. I need to stop getting mad at myself for not doing my laundry and missing a workout. It’s all good.
Now to the walking part. One of the ways I cope with my anxiety is to take my dog for a walk. I freaking love it. The fresh air purifies my system. Going for a nice walk has literally become one of my favorite things to do. I look forward to it all day. When it’s raining or -4* like it was this morning, I get bummed that I can’t go for a walk.
I can’t wait for spring to come so I can go for walks in the daylight and not freeze.
2. Everyone Has Their Issues
We all have our problems, issues and worries. Nobody is perfect. But it is extremely important to know that other people have gone through what you are going through, and are doing just fine.
What makes things worse is that you can always find something online that scares you. But it is important to remember that you can also find something that helps you. Whether it is a guided meditation, a song, or a funny video.
In fact, we can learn a lot from that little guy. That dog is happier than most adult humans have been in months.
At the beginning, I said my anxiety stemmed from a very particular fear. I fear death. It’s probably a pretty common fear. It’s a scary thing. I want to live wide like Seneca and live long like my Grandma.
I also learned that it’s okay to go to counseling. If it helped Tony Soprano and Howard Stern, it can help me. No shame here.
3. Writing and Reading
Writing has become my happy place. Whenever I am feeling anxious, I can pop open Evernote or an email directed to nobody, and just start typing. Sometimes I write an article like this one, sometimes I journal about my day, and sometimes I set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just write anything that pops into my head.
When my anxiety got really bad, I didn’t write. That scared me. I was afraid to admit, even to myself, that I was scared. Now I am telling the world. This shows me that I have come a long way. Writing is a way for me to ‘use my words’, since like most guys, I don’t always talk about my feelings.
I always wanted to be a reader but refused to make the time. I never understood how someone could want to read a good book, instead of watching a movie. Now I get it. Reading takes me somewhere. Not even in terms of the story or ‘theater of the mind’, it takes me to a place of relaxation. It makes me think and it makes me appreciate the work that went into the book that I am reading. Writing is an art. Good writing is profound.
4. Remember Your Victories
A friend told me this. It wasn’t too long ago. We were playing Beer Pong and I couldn’t remember who we beat to get to the championship. It was him that I beat. He said, “Remember your victories”. It was a significant statement to me. I am always very hard on myself. I call myself names when I do something that frustrates me. Now I have learned to be easier on myself. When I catch myself saying, “fucking dumbass”, I say, “I’m a good person and I am trying hard”. It helps me focus on my successes and the good things in my life.
Anxiety can be good thing too. I do my best work when I’m anxious about hitting my goals. I feel freaking great when I open a new account or put together a nice deal. Or when I hit a new PR in the gym. I feel happy when I make dinner for my wife or take my dog for a walk. And I feel relaxed and content when I just chill or take a nap.
Anything that make me relax, laugh or happy, is a huge win.
5. Less is more
I have found that the more things I feel like I need to do, the more unhappy I am. The Internet is filled with so-called ‘experts’ who tell us about all the things we NEED to do to live a healthy, happy life. It’s too much. Besides, they all contradict each other anyway. One person says you need to eat high-carb, low-fat. Another says low-carb, high-fat.
My name is Chris Perry and I have information overload.
Everyday I felt like I had to do a bunch of different things in order to be happy. In reality, it made me unhappy. So I deleted Twitter and the Facebook apps from my phone. I still use them sometimes but don’t check it constantly. I don’t read as many training articles and fitness blogs. If I miss my morning dog-walk or if I don’t write or read, it’s not the end of the world. My body isn’t going to break down if I don’t stretch, foam roll or do yoga. It’s just not. And I say no to shit I don’t want to do or don’t feel the need to do. Period.
All I need is to be present and enjoy life.
And If I am in the woods, I want to be in the woods.