14 Anxiety Hacks You’ll Learn In AA

Earlier this year I was listening to a woman speak about her eating disorder. She said that now that her ED was under control, if a stressful life event happened like getting a flat tire she had the wherewithal to call a towing company rather than the suicide hotline. I was like, lady, how do you know my life? I once ran into my house crying because I couldn’t figure out how to start the lawnmower. I approached every event in my life with this kind of “if something goes wrong it must be because I’m a dumb person—NOW PANIC” mindset. That’s the internal monologue of a person with out of control anxiety.

The speaker told me she lifted the story from a popular saying in AA “call 411, not 911.” I researched more of the sayings. They were amazing. Like zen koans your hard-ass grandfather would say. Reading through them helped my anxiety because I realized that my biggest fear was untrue, I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t special in my stupidity and inability to figure out adult things, everyone feels that way at some point. It was real life wisdom from people who’s anxiety was a whole lot worse than mine.

I’ve shunned folk wisdom like this, because it’s often unexamined harmful thinking and I analyze shit to death. We don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, however. Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s not helpful. It’s nice to have a simple truth to repeat to yourself when you’re on edge.

Here are 14 of the most wise ideas I found in my research:

Forgiveness is for the person who’s doing the forgiving.
There’s nothing more depressing than thinking about yourself.
I’m not a loser if I don’t have enough money sometimes, I’m just a person who doesn’t have money sometimes.
You can’t be angry without being fearful.
My need to solve the problem is the problem.
You don’t have a problem—you have a solution you don’t like.
Move the body and the mind follows.
What other people think of you is none of your business.
Try something new, if it doesn’t work your misery is refundable.
Anger only hurts the person who feels it.
Take what you can use and leave the rest.
If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.
Progress, not perfection.
You either let go or get dragged.

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