i’m not an overly anxious person, but i do have low-level anxiety, and now is not a great time for people with low-level anxiety because it’s turned into what i imagine really anxious peeps’ daily lives are like.
the tightening of my solar plexus, on a normal day, usually starts later in the day, if it happens. i wake up great and anxiety sort of builds up through the day. some days i get no anxiety. other days i get a lot. i get anxiety when i think about anxiety (oh cruel world). it’s never-ending circle once the anxiety roller coaster starts. (this is going to be a fun post to write, huh.)
what’s especially annoying is that anxiety’s symptoms pretty closely mirror symptoms of covid (minus the fever). so thanks, evolution, for making humans an anxious bunch!
so what do i do to keep my anxiety at bay? well, there are a few things!
working from home
i have to say, working from home is pretty relaxing. being in the most familiar environment you have and being able to just get up and leave and do housework or sit in the living room or head outside is helpful when weird situations arise. extroverts among us, of course, are like WHAT IS THIS I’M DYING HERE, but as an introvert, this is a pretty slick deal.
running (or exercise)
running while anxious is GREAT. not only do you release a bunch of endorphins after you’re done and move that anxiety needle down, but the anxiety creates some sort of super-runner vortex while you’re out there. you can run through all the stupid scenarios and get stuck in your head, of course, or you can turn up the music and try to push the bad stuff out of your head. some of my best runs have been while anxious or annoyed. and like i said, after you’re done, the hormone release sort of relaxes everything.
you’ve all heard me wax eloquent about yoga! i’ve been doing yoga regularly for about 7 years now, and it’s probably the most useful mindfulness tool i have in my life toolbox. while i’m running, like i said, i can get lost in my head and thoughts run wild because running is a repetitive, mindless activity.
yoga, on the other hand, requires 100% brain focus. you need to focus on keeping your back straight but tailbone tucked; you need to think about how you’re going to move into a pose; you need to keep your middle toe in line with your knee when it’s bent; you need to focus your eyes on something to balance; and all along you need to keep your breathing in time with the movements. there is no more room for your other thoughts to crowd in. then when you’re in savasana and your brain can release its focus on the asanas (which means pose! i just looked that up because i wondered why every pose ended in asana – makes sense now!), and you can release your breath into normal breathing, your brain and body are so relaxed that any anxiety can just suck it.
who knew?? puzzles, like yoga, take a lot of focus, and as such, you think about nothing else while you’re doing a puzzle. i don’t know about you, but if i decide to throw a puzzle on the table and sit down to work on it, i can think that 20 minutes have passed, and it’s actually been 3 hours. puzzles are ENGROSSING.
if you want a way to banish all else from your brain and don’t want to do any physical exertion, try a puzzle. anxiety knocks on your brain’s door, and brain’s like, go away. trying to find a piece with a little bit of black on the tip of the round edge and the rest is orangey-red with weird stripes and it’s got an odd hooked foot thing on one side on the -OOH I THINK I FOUND IT. nope. no worries – the search continues!!! it’s GOT to be here.
your brain on puzzles is probably similar to your brain on drugs. actually, i just looked it up, and puzzles are one of the ways they break addictions at rehab. brain power > heroin.
reading (oldie but goodie)
ah yes, the old standby to dive into a world not your own completely and immersively. as much as i could say that audiobooks are as good for this, i am going to say that you really need to READ a book to get this. in personal experience, audiobooks are not as attention holding as words on a page. i get distracted while listening to audiobooks, so i know if i need to get away, it’s time to read.
and now is not the time to try to be fancy or hoity toity – read genres that GRAB you. sure, we all like to learn about stuff and like to say “yeah i read that! it was great.” when you really did not think it was that great. because a great book will call to you while you’re doing other things. it will sing to you across miles while you’re working or taking your cat to the vet or getting eggs, carrots, and cream cheese from the grocery store (to make carrot cake, of course): “get in, loser. we’re going reading.”
(now if non-fiction calls to you like this, then you do you! i know that in general, non-fiction does not yell at me across miles to pick up its pages to absorb its words into my brain. and not all fiction does this for me.)
find your favorite genre when you want your anxiety to dissipate and just dive right in. for me, that means i read a lot of YA/adult thriller or post-apocalyptical novels (how apropos) or fiction (chick-lit, stephen king, john scalzi, pat rothfuss) or even really stellar memoirs (michael perry, bill bryson, running memoirs). for you that could be mystery, romance, crime, who knows! but your favorite genre that excites you is what you need.
there’s what i’ve found useful for me. finding hobbies or activities that can distract you from what’s going on is what’s most important, and i think it’s what we all need right now. making sure you’re not just moping around the house and watching netflix (unless it’s tiger king – what a weird show) is paramount. now is a great time to find out what you really enjoy with no distractions and learn more about yourself, especially for all you extroverts and social butterflies. for introverts with anxiety, we know what helps during times like these. take a page out of our book. (heh.) (also, introverts with anxiety, sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch. i generally don’t have this problem, but like i said, my anxiety is pretty low key. i hope the longer days are helping you out.)