It’s the night before Monday, and all through the house…not a creature was stirring…except for you, because your eyes are swiveling in their sockets at all the wrongs you’ve committed since you were five years old, and your legs are twitching at all the awkward things you said to your girlfriend (otherwise known at the cute cashier at Stop N’ Shop). Though you’re trying as hard as you can to dispel monstrous worries, resentments, and fears of abandonment, it’s hard to pull it together when no one is there to tell you that everything is, resolutely, going to be okay.
That’s okay. We’ve all been through the trials and tribulations of anxiety, whether it be anxiety about your job, your future, a significant other, or your own self. Are you ever good enough? Will you ever finally get what you want, without having to imagine a future where you end up old and alone, pitchfork at the ready to stab holes in the world crumbling around you? Dramatic, yes. But unrealistic? …Probably. This doesn’t change the fact that we are creatures of habit, and habit includes nitpicking and overthinking to the point of obsession and excessive paranoia.
Oh, how ever will we cope? First, you can start by changing the way you view yourself, view the world, and view other people. Here are a few tidbits to help with that.
1. Be mindful.
We think about ourselves nonstop. 95% of the time would not be an exaggeration. To curb that, think about something else (obviously). But what?
How about the floor underneath you? How would you describe the feeling of wood paneling or marble slates to your best friend? Or the ceiling, the sky, the umbrella you’ve got in your hand, the rain splicing itself against the concrete, the stickiness of warm air as your lungs heave on morning runs? Being mindful is a virtue that is lost to many, as we are so focused on stimulation via technology that we have forgotten the art of finding stimulation in the present moment. By honing in on your environment and what it feels like to live—as a breathing, beating biological being— you have less room in your head for anxieties of the self, of the future, and of whatever else you could be freaking out about.
2. Focus on other people rather than yourself. Be genuinely interested to hear what they have to say.
This is Part Two of focusing away from the self. Watch your conversational partner, and truly listen to what he/she has to say. Think of what the words mean to that person, as opposed to what they mean to you. Prompt more conversation, and try not to interject too often. Aim to be a good listener, instead of pretending to listen. Remember, this must be genuine. And when you find success in having done this, your anxiety will almost always have lessened, due to the fact that you have just devoted your energies into fostering good conversation as opposed to caging yourself with personal concerns. It also feels great to find that the other person is better because of your efforts to truly listen: everyone needs a good confidant, and everyone loves a good listener.
3. Smile at one person an hour.
Making people feel good makes you feel good! And a smile could make someone’s entire day. Smiles are free, and they’re easy to give away.
4. The mind is powerful, and good and bad are all about how you look at things. But being sad can be good for you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flaws of life’s design. And sometimes pitfalls are pitfalls, and to get up, you gotta stay down for a while. To be comforted and optimistic is a wonderful thing, but face it. We all need time to unload our troubles and be sad or furious before we blow up at a much more inappropriate time. Do this carefully. Scream into a pillow. Write an angry letter and tear it up. Lie down and stare at a wall while listening to heart-shaking music. But do not be bold, do not be rash. Don’t hurt yourself, or anyone else. It’s terrible to lash out., because in the morning—eventually—you will regret it.
And pitfalls are only temporary, no matter how often they seem to come along. Remember one year ago, and how all those problems had torn you up and spit you out? Now, they’re bug bites at best. You’ll get out of this soon: don’t worry.
5. Don’t try to impress people.
This is huge. Part of anxiety is the incongruity between one’s self and one’s ideal self. Taking mental uppers in the form of validation through social media, and in exhibiting yourself as a specimen that is higher than anyone else, will ultimately come back to bite you in the butt. Impressing people is only manipulating your image to fit what appeals to other people! This isn’t any way to make true friends, or to discover your own identity, either. And this alone can provide for a huge source of anxiety, especially in your younger years, as it places so much of your self-worth on what other people think of you.
Most importantly….be thoughtful, and be genuine! None of this works if you fake it. Your perspective is one of optimism, love, and positivity—though step 4 is still appropriate in some situations. Perpetuate warmth and confidence, and drink a warm glass of milk before bed.