There is a huge misconception about anxiety. For those of us who struggle with it, we have learned that it’s not all panic attacks and nerves. Most often my anxiety manifests itself as a crippling inability to get out of my own way. I often overthink every human interaction in my life, to the point that it keeps me up nights. And because I’m a writer, I script how I think things should go in my head.
That’s my anxiety. It probably sounds a little (or a lot) different than you expected. My goal in therapy isn’t to “cure” so much as it is to learn to manage it. If you have the same struggles, here’s how I deal with them:
HEADSPACE – LIMITED VACANCIES
Your brain is the Headspace Hotel. Most of the time, it’s filled almost to capacity with just normal stuff and everyday social interactions. Add to that a stressor, like an argument with your girlfriend or a bad experience with a co-worker and all of a sudden you don’t have to staff to deal with the guests in your hotel. So when anything comes up that wants to rent a room in your head, just remember you have limited vacancies. Ask yourself: is this worth renting a room to?
NO ONE THINKS ABOUT YOU AS MUCH AS YOU THINK THEY DO
I spend a lot of days and nights worrying about what the other people on my life are thinking about me. It’s a self-centered habit really because while it might sound like it’s about them, it’s actually about me. And contained within it is the reason why it’s silly: everyone is self-centered. So no one is thinking about you nearly as often as you’re thinking about you. So when you’re thinking “Why hasn’t she answered my text yet?! What is she doing? Is she ignoring me?!?” Just take a breath and remember she’s not thinking about you 24/7, she has a life to lead. And so do you!
DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT FEELING BAD
I often get upset or frustrated. Then I get upset or frustrated that I’m getting upset or frustrated. It’s a terrible cycle. If something makes you upset, just be upset. No one has to validate that feeling for you. But here’s the trick: don’t let that one thing ruin your whole day. Breathe it out and be done with it.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
In fact, in my experience very few things actually are all about you. So whatever is going on with your friend, significant other, or co-worker that’s giving you anxiety just remember that the etiology is probably something that’s NOT YOU. And on the outside chance that is, trust the people in your life enough to believe that they’d tell you.
ACUTE ONSET = PROXIMAL CAUSE
I often get depressed without a clear cause. For a long time I attributed it to my ex, which is stupendously unfair to her and me. There is a principal in diagnostic medicine: acute onset equals a proximal cause. So if the patient has a sudden and brand new complaint or symptom, a question we are trained to ask is: what’s changed in the last month? I apply the same principal to my depression and anxiety: what’s happened recently that’s likely causing me to feel this way? Identifying that helps me deal with it more appropriately.