This isn’t to describe what anxiety is or is not, or to help those who do not have it understand what it means. This is for those who have suffered, from the paranoia, the self-deprecating thoughts, the panic, the worry, and the resulting lack of motivation. This is for those who still live with those things, those feelings, who clench their teeth when you address a sensitive flaw, who do breathing exercises to alleviate the tightness in their chest, who fall asleep on tear-stained bed sheets and don’t know why. This is for you.
The first thing to do is to maintain. No ups or downs here, the point is to stay level. The worst way to begin building yourself up is to weigh yourself down with more anxiety by worrying about how to get better or to succeed right away. Just feeling anxious and not knowing how to calm it down is enough to add more concern and fuel a vicious cycle of doubt and fear, so we need to just feel what we feel. No less, no more. Thus we maintain: we accept where we are, knowing, from prior experience, from the calming words of others, and from the sheer strength of the human spirit, that this feeling can go away.
Next, this step is more external, because visual reinforcement can often help counteract negative thoughts and negative people. Choose a day you have nothing, and if you can’t find one, make one. No commitments, no urgent emails to answer, just a clear mind and a clear space. If you don’t have a clear space, a great way to prep your mind for clarity and careful thought is to physically clear your space. Cleaning does wonders for decluttering the mind, and an organized area leaves room for your thoughts and dreams to fill the space you have opened up. Sit down with a favorite drink, preferably water or tea, a pen, and a notebook. Not a sheet of paper, but a brand spankin’ new notebook. This is a fresh start, and it needs to be represented visually. Date the first page, and write down everything you do well, ridiculous or not. We don’t want resume-grade professionalism, we need honesty and depth. We need introspection and a genuine search for the good and worthy within yourself. Cleaning the fridge out regularly, having an eye for minute décor details, being there for your depressed friend and knowing how to check your car’s oil are all valid. Get creative, get positive, get deep. This may seem too “dream journal” or childish for you, but everyone deserves this. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for someone close to you and send it to them. Spread and nurture love, and it’ll grow.
Fill up pages, do a face mask and come back to it, take all day, or take an hour. Just do it until you are done. Use the rest of the day for yourself. For meditation, for cleaning, for making a home-cooked meal, going to a café and relaxing, reading, writing, sleeping. Take this day for you and no one else. This is the day it begins, let it begin on a good note. I think it should go without saying: stay disconnected. We know the dangers of social media, the vulnerabilities and self-doubt it triggers. Let’s not ruin the day. Love this day, and if you need, let go of the stress or the worry of human interaction. You don’t have to see anyone if you don’t want to. Stay in. Make a fort in your living room with a sheet and string, put an acoustic playlist on shuffle, or play the music yourself. Do whatever you must to relieve yourself of the constant clenching you feel in your head, chest, soul. Drink chamomile and have a hot bath before bed. Tuck in early. Jot a quick list of things to remember the next morning, simple: wake up, oatmeal and blueberries, navy outfit, check traffic, leave by 9. Fall asleep with ease for once.
The next day you wake up, don’t let yourself be jolted back into the tedious routine. Stay focused on the goal all day: you. Prioritize yourself, this is the start of a lifetime doing so. Don’t apologize for useless things, book a doctor’s appointment, start visualizing your goals. Let the momentum of a busy new day carry you, not push you. Go with it and add to it, let your in-betweens be filled with positive future plans, ideas, inspirations. What are these goals? A perfect on the LSAT? A managerial position? Weight loss, published work, respect, love? Why do you deserve these things? It’s on the first page of your book. Use this book to interrupt your self-effacing thoughts, what your parents say, the negative things you’ve held onto and nurtured with your fear. Date the notebook again, and only write the positives of the day down. Writing the negative does not purge the body, it preserves the painful and gives it power to exist alongside you. Only the positive. Repeat, every day. Recycle the personal day as needed. And soon you will feel it: a shift. A gradual change in your perspective, an expanding room for growth. This isn’t a fix-all, these are the first steps to realization, when you begin to understand that there is more to you than what holds you down. You can expand beyond it.
This isn’t about fixing your anxiety, that’s a job for you and you alone. This is more about understanding, underneath all the fear, that you are worthy of greater things. Of top university acceptances, of promotions, of self-help, health, love, and consideration. Keep that in mind, at the very least, and bloom accordingly.