The A-Word: 7 Ways I Combat Anxiety

“Anxiety” … the word makes me think of a millenial cliche, an excuse to take Prozac, a fidgety middle-school geek at a party with a knee bouncing.

Before realizing that I had a whole heaping pile of my own anxiety, I dismissed the “a-word” as a hacky buzz-word for people who needed to chill or toughen up (or at least mask it – after all, anxiety doesn’t win you any friends).

WELP, I was dead wrong in my dismissal. Like around 18% of the U.S. population, that anxiety that I tried to ignore grew larger as I grew older.  The more I expected to move past he stigma and grow comfortable/anxiety-free, the more it would laugh in my face, mocking me.

Exhibit A:

  • Me: I’ll take a vacation day to myself, so I can de-stress
  • Anxiety: You’ve already wasted this entire morning…there’s nothing you can do in this city that you haven’t already seen/done….what about that work email that pissed you off yesterday? How are you going to respond tomorrow???…What about all the things you should have done instead of this stuff?
  • Me: That’s an interesting thought. I should Tweet that out.
  • Anxiety: Oh, you want to overthink a couple sentences for 10 minutes only to give up on the idea? Fun! Let’s go.

When I send out a text to a friend, the incoming text “…” fills me with a deep dread that I’ll have to think of a clever, appropriate, brilliant response.  The red flag of a notification on my phone? Makes me anxious. I overthink every word of almost every email, I second-guess choices by running through every possible negative outcome, and I avoid any plan that could product an ounce of nervousness. I am absurdly over-prepared in any presentation to avoid improvisation or an awkward, unforeseen moment. Like many with anxiety, it’s easy to get stuck in an obsessive, unhealthy cycle.

Anxiety doesn’t always win, though. I’ve been able to take control of it over the years – here are some methods I’ve used to calm my anxiety and shake out of that rut. In no means am I saying these will work for everyone, but these are the things that keep me chill (well, as chill as possible 🙂 ).

7 Ways I Overcome Anxiety

  1. Imagine the worst. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Usually, the answer isn’t as terrible as you think.
  2. Get through the day. This day is small. I can be OK with the next 24 hours, even if it’s not pleasant.
  3. Write a list. Lists or sets of questions help to organize my brain and structure the battleground that is my anxious brain.
  4. Start. Sometimes I just have to begin and take one step forward. Even if it’s an extremely easy, small step. Then the rest fills in and I realize that the task isn’t as insurmountable as it once seemed.
  5. Consider Younger Allison. What would “middle/high school me” think of me today? Examining myself through a different lens puts things in perspective and (usually) forces me to see that my problems are minute.
  6. Watch a comforting movie/show. Sounds obvious, but sometimes you just need to rely on something that is guaranteed to make you feel “at home” and at ease.
  7.  Stop caring what people think. Easier said than done…but if I’m doing what’s best for a project at work, I force myself to stop caring what individuals think and stop worrying about whether I’m doing things the “right” way or how someone else would do it.

Just by writing this post, I’m slooowwlly dismantling my anxiety bit by bit. Like anything, anxiety will flare up and back down. But I’ve learned to take it more seriously these days and, in doing so, found some ways to fight back.