How To Win With Anxiety


I’m not going to tell you how to beat your anxiety. But I can tell you how to curve it.

As always with my advice, take what works, leave what doesn’t, and always think twice before listening to Lev Novak, internet personality, especially when it comes to face tattoos.

With that said, these work for me and they might help you.


1. Identify Lose/Lose Situations

A key facet of anxiety is obsessing about small choices. What are you going to do? Where? Watch? Small, meaningless choices can carry with them symbolic importance that can unspool into a full on anxious spiral. Pros and cons are weighed and there’s no clear answer.

You don’t want to walk to the party, but getting an uber would make you feel lazy!

That’s not a real problem for most people. But anxiety often dabbles in obsessive perfectionism, and a question without the right answer can be so frustrating. And, that frustration will leak in. Time can- and will- stretch to add its own weight to the equation.

Whichever you pick will leave you anxious, so you pick neither. But not picking has it’s own issues. You’ve been obsessing for twenty-three minutes. If you just walked, you idiot, you’d have been there already! Okay, fuck, Uber- oh fuck. It’s surge pricing! FUCKKKK.

You will get worked up. The tiny has expanded. Anxiety has filled you like a balloon and you hate yourself for it.

The last indignity of being neurotic is being aware of how stupid you sound, and your own anxiety mingles with frustration, rage, and yes, anxiety, over how anxious you’re getting

So let it go.

If you identify a lose-lose situation from the start you can predict how it will play out. So, in those situations, make a snap decision. Identify that this situation sucks, is inevitable, and that the most productive thing to do is to head it off at the pass.

You win some, you lose some. In that binary, you can exhale and smile with the simple relief of a tiny loss.

Accept the lose/lose and you can embrace it with good humor. And you’ll have the productive success of beating anxiety by opting to go around it.

2. Accept Your Damnations.

Like the above, this sounds negative. But, in practice, this has been nothing but a relief to me.

Anxiety is strongest when it’s expecting, waiting, lingering for the inevitable exploitation of your fears. Anxiety lives and thrives in the area between the concrete and the implied, and therein lies its strength.

See, anxiety is about a worry the way a mosquito bite is about an itch. It’s there but it’s true strength is in its durability. You can’t get rid of a bite, the same way you can’t get rid of a nagging anxiety.

But you can accept it.

“Yup,” you should say, twenty minutes late in traffic. “I’m going to be super late.”

Don’t calculate how late, don’t tempt yourself with false hopes, don’t wail and gnash your teeth. Recalibrate to the reality of your situation and watch as your anxiety reduces. Without something to bounce again, anxiety quiets.

Saying, “Yeah, duh,” to a bad situation robs it of its power to burrow in your head and writhe. You’ve taken it for your own- how can anxiety fight that?

It can’t. And now you have the luxury of a zen acceptance.

3. Find Floating Anxiety And Deny It A Body

Anxious people often have anxiety that lingers inside them, just waiting for an excuse to latch on.

Like Voldemort, anxiety can be hard to vanquish. Without a body, it can survive less than the weakest ghost, looking for a vessel to posses.

Don’t let it.

A body for anxiety can be any simple thing- dinner choices, clothe choices, timing issues, a text message that hasn’t been responded to- that anxiety settles upon it.

Recognize the act and shake yourself from possession.

Identify the problem before it grows. Uproot it at the source and dismiss it the moment the symptoms of excessive worry fall upon you.

4. Use Time

Force relativity upon yourself.

Will this problem matter in three weeks? Did it matter three weeks before? Or where you worried about something else two days ago that faded, and one three days before that

Let them dissolve. Accept that they shall dissolve. As best as you can, count on relativity to protect your sanity.

5. Savor Your Successes.

One of the more nefarious parts of anxiety is that you take it for granted.

We live in a culture that doesn’t talk about anxiety but that runs on it. Businesses market to create anxieties that they can fix, news networks create anxieties that they can talk about, and, less conspiratorially, everyone has some anxiety. It’s just there.

Because it comes standard, it can be hard to think about improving upon it. You learn to take it for granted.

Changing yourself is hard for a lot of reasons, but a real part of it is philosophical. You’re always biased to the current you that exists because it’s you. Improvements or aspirations threaten upheaval, work, taking personal inventory and coming face to face with what you want, what you lack, and what work you need to do.

That sounds hard. And it is.

I encourage you to get to that, but that’s the thing about hard things- we postpone them. We do! I do, especially. So, in the mean time- because I know all too well the distance between theory and practice- let’s do the easy and the good.

Let’s savor success.

Without acknowledgement, appreciation, joy and pride, your self improvement will fade, like all chores do, to the back of your priority list, shuffled between mental notes. So make it as fun as it should be. Feel the improvement, the productivity, the pride and joy of being better and the acceptance of the inevitable gaffes.

It’s a process, and taking positive stock of that makes you hold fast to your improvements.

Fuck yeah you didn’t get anxious about coming to work seven minutes late. Fuck yeah you didn’t worry too much about that missed call, or that party you have to bail on, or that brunch you know is going to suck.

Take stock, take pride, and take notice of your improvements. If you do, your improvements will come eager to meet you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Lev Novak

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