I wish I could tell you about the magical cure I’ve found for anxiety. I wish I could tell you that therapy or deep breathing or retraining my brain to think positive have taken away my fears completely — but that would be a lie.
The ugly truth is that I deal with anxiety by creating an escape plan for myself. Whenever I walk into a room, I glance around in search of the exit. Where is the bathroom? Where is the front door? How far away is my car parked? The less trapped I feel, the more comfortable I become.
If I know that there is always a way out of the situation, it’s a little easier for me to relax. I can tell myself, “It doesn’t matter if no one laughs at my next joke or if I spill water on myself or if I make a complete fool out of myself, because I can hide away in the bathroom or drive away in my car to escape the situation.” Sometimes, for me, running away is the answer.
I deal with anxiety by having lies lined up in the back of my mind. My mother just texted me and she needs me to come home immediately. I have a test early tomorrow morning. My neighbor needs me to babysit for her.
I come up with excuses and leave them in the back of my mind so I have a reason to leave anyplace at anytime. That way, I don’t have to admit to my friends or to my boss or to whomever is around that I’m leaving because my anxiety is acting up again. I can be sneaky about it. I can feel less awkward about it.
I deal with my anxiety by bringing trusted friends with me to restaurants and to movie theaters. I will try my best to bust out from my comfort zone, to walk up to cashiers and speak for myself, but if I’m having extra trouble that day I know my friends will speak for me. They will take control so I can take a breather. They will be my voice when I cannot find my own.
I deal with my anxiety by pumping myself up before barreling into social situations. I have a playlist of songs that make me feel more active, more alert, more alive. I will blast them in the car on my way to a party to get myself in a better mood. I will lose myself in the lyrics so that by the time I reach my destination, I feel less stressed.
I deal with my anxiety by practicing what I’m going to say ahead of time. I will talk to myself in the car. I will write scripts for myself before making phone calls. I will daydream about social interactions in the shower. I will try my hardest to prepare for what is ahead so I am mentally ready.
I deal with my anxiety by dressing nice when I know I’m going to be surrounded by strangers in an uncomfortable situation. When I feel confident about the way I look on the outside, it’s a little easier for me to stand up straighter and feel like I belong. It sounds shallow, but it’s what works for me.
I deal with my anxiety in the boring ways too. I will attend therapy each week, even when I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone. I will focus on my breathing, even when I feel like it isn’t helping me at all. I will keep moving forward, even when I feel like I am eternally stuck in the same place.