Controlling Anxiety in a Complex World
I was talking with a friend today about the strategies I’ve developed to help control my anxiety when the world feels too large and scary. Here, I’ve boiled down what I was trying to describe to him in a few bullet points that might prove useful if you too find life in this era anxiety-inducing at times.
- Limit information input. I do this by unfollowing and muting sources on social media that are key to increasing my anxiety. I may love you personally, but if your tweets are constantly gloomy and scary, I’ve probably had to mute you in my daily reads. It’s not personal.
- Focus on what I can do. Anxiety is my brain’s way of feeling like it is contributing to a problem, real or not, and sometimes I can dispell it by doing something concrete, or acknowledging that there’s literally nothing I can do about the problem. So if I’m worried about something political, it helps to recognize maybe all I can do is send a letter to my congresspeople and make a donation to an organization. I can then put that anxiety to bed, sometimes.
- Limit my time on websites that drive anxiety. Because so much of my day is spent at a keyboard working, I find myself drifting toward news sites and social media even when I know they’re bad for my heightened state of anxiety. I use Stay Focusd, a Chrome extension, to limit my ability to do this, especially during work hours.
- Give my brain some work. I have in the past found myself worrying about things simply because my brain was bored. Even something as simple as doing powers of two or counting in my head can be effective in reducing extreme anxiety.
- Take my meds. I’m a proud user of Prozac these days. My brain malfunctions and produces the wrong chemicals. There’s nothing wrong with my mind. It’s a problem with my meat brain.
Taking my medicine helps me a lot, and possibly even the most, but it’s not a 100% solution. The above tricks are also helpful in giving me some control over how my body produces stress chemicals and will hopefully help me live a longer life. The general approach that has worked for me makes my world smaller and more concrete. Anxiety brain wants to deal in what-ifs and outlandish scenarios. Forcing myself to focus on the concrete is good for soothing it.
How about you? Got any tips? Let’s hear them.