5 Step Guide to Managing Anxiety

Virtually every person I know deals with anxiety to some degree. I certainly do. For some their maybe specific triggers—social events, work responsibilities, relationship trials—, and for others it may be a constant presence with no clear point of origin. Whatever the cause of your anxiety, there are a number of strategies you can employ to help manage it and get it under control. Mind you, I am no clinical psychologist. The list of tactics below is simply what has worked to mitigate the effects of my own anxiety, and my hope is that it will do the same for you.

1. Turn On Airplane Mode

Modern technology great. New innovations like email and text allow us to communicate with each other instantaneously. Sometimes this is a life saver. And sometimes it’s not. In fact, sometimes it’s downright awful, and ironically debilitating. Why? Because it means everyone in the world—everyone who has a demand for our time, our attention, our affection—is perpetually within reach. That’s why it’s important to disconnect every now and then. First, it prevents any additional stressors from occurring. If you are already feeling anxious, being bombarded with a new email requesting your immediate attention is not going to help. (And trust me, it does not require your immediate attention.) Second, if you’re someone (like myself) whose brain tunes in intently, awaiting the Ding! of a response, and then becomes increasingly concerned when that Ding! does not arrive, airplane mode lets you let go. Personally, I’ve gotten into the habit of airplane mode every night after dinner and on through my morning routine. And if you’re curious, this is what occasionally happens when someone doesn’t text me back immediately:

Brain: “Holy shit. Jess hasn’t texted you back. It’s over.”
Me: “Brain, it’s been three minutes. Chill.”
Brain: “Three minutes and 47 seconds!”
Me: “Dude!”
Brain: “Look, I’m just looking out for you. What if she didn’t think the joke was funny? What if she was offended? What if—
Me: “You’re really not helping, you know that?”
Brain: “What if she found someone else, got married, had two kids, and retired to Florida?”
Me: “It’s been four minutes.”
Brain: “And 23 seconds!”
Me: “Look, she’s typing, okay? Everything’s fine.”
Brain: “…Okay.”
Me: “Oh shit, she stopped typing…”
Brain: “I told you!”
Me: “It’s fine, she’s probably just proof reading…”
Brain: “Nope. We’re done. Delete the contact. Download Tinder. Mission ABORT.”

2. Exercise

There is nothing I have found to be more effective at immediately combatting the effects of anxiety than exercise. Hard, thoroughly challenging exercise is best. You must push yourself. It is much harder to be anxious when your lungs are heaving and your muscles are begging for oxygen. Your brain will prioritize overcoming the immediate challenge over zeroing in on whatever is the cause of your anxiety. Personally, I find a long run through Central Park or a short (2 mile) sprint around the neighborhood is enough to hit that reset button, so to speak. The rush of endorphins and dopamine exercise produces doesn’t hurt either. We’re all drug addicts in some form or another.

3. Listen To Music

Music is great for helping to modify your mood (and it can be paired with exercise, or meditation). I have a number of playlists curated for a specific mood state. One of those playlists—10 Songs to Make You Feel Like Genghis Khan—I’ve shared here on Steemit. One thing that’s important is that if you are going to pair music with a specific task (for example, I’m listening to Vitamin String Quartet while writing this), don’t use that music for any other activity. Over time, your brain will associate that music with whatever task you use it for, thus reinforcing your focus on said task. But specifically as it relates to managing anxiety, it might prove useful the curate a few playlists that offer you a sense of calm.

4. Meditate

Meditation is all the rage these days. Perhaps it’s a consequence of our dangerously fast-paced lives, but people seem to be increasingly in need of some silence and zen. There are variety of ways one can practice meditation. Some involve mantras, others involve zeroing in on your pulse and trying to smooth out your heart rate. The simplest, most straight forward method is to sit for 20 minutes and focus on your breathing. Let thoughts come and go as they please. View them detachedly, and then return your focus to your breathing. If you’re anything like me, silencing the chaotic thoughts that continually fire out of my subconscious will be a near impossibility. But even one minute of peace should be considered a successful meditation. Two useful apps for this are Headspace and Calm, both of which are great if you’ve never meditated before.

5. Learn Something New

Anxiety the result of an obsessive focus on some anticipated negative outcome. Sometimes I can’t even pinpoint what it is my subconscious is fretting over, but yet I still feel a massive void in my gut. Just the other day I fell into one of these pits. It was so bad that focusing on anything else seemed an impossibility. And then I found Jordan Peterson. Who is Jordan Peterson? Well, he’s one of the most brilliant folks I’ve ever witnessed. You can find an endless supply of his lectures on YouTube discussing everything from Jungian archetypes to the meaning of Pinocchio. Two hours and ten pages of notes later, my anxiety was gone. Why did this work? Because I was able to successfully give my brain something new to obsess over. Something productive. After that, I was free to return to other tasks. Note: In my case binge watching Jordan Peterson helped. In yours it may be a video game or a book. Whatever it is that successfully consumes all of your brain power, do it.

Any one of these may help you, but I recommend doing ALL of them, in that order. Put your phone in airplane mode avoid any additional stressors. Go for a run to expel any excess energy and receive a nice hit of endorphins. Listen to some music that calms you, or that is happily light hearted. Meditate, try and clear your mind for a solid 20 minutes, make it a vacuum, an empty space ready to be filled. And then fill it with some new knowledge—something just beyond your level of understanding that will require dedicated brain power to understand. Do all of this and your anxiety doesn’t stand a chance.

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