8 Antidotes to Your Anxiety

The ancient stoics believed that we suffer more from imagination than from reality. But these days, even our imagination could not have conceived of all that has happened in recent years: A pandemic, a devastated economy, a climate crisis, your in-laws, and more. There is plenty to be anxious about. 

Anxiety disorders are common, can be serious, but are ultimately treatable. Anxiety is not a choice. It is our body’s natural response to stress and it does not matter whether that stress is real or perceived. Stress is stress. 

Here are eight simple antidotes to help you deal with your anxiety. 

1 – Do not romanticize your anxiety

Identify the causes of your stress and anxiety, don’t mythologize or politicize it.

If you are dealing with financial problems or an abusive relationship, do not make it about the Israeli occupation or global warming or some other existential crisis because you need an apocalyptic cause to explain the terrible anguish and pain you are experiencing.

While it is understandable to do this, it’s not honest and it is potentially dangerous.  

Intense emotional stress that feels disconnected from an honest narrative can lead to delusional thinking. Do not overly romanticize hardship.

Do not allow it to define you as a victim or a hero. Remember that whatever narratives you craft about your pain should be an exercise in creativity not courage. We are trying to cope not conquer.  

2 – Perfectionism is a problem

Be human and blow off some steam. Complain, vent, cry and make mistakes. Making mistakes is preferable to falling into the pit of perfectionism. 

People who have difficulties often regulate their unpredictable lives by trying to be perfect. It gives them a sense of control.

“Perfect people,” don’t allow themselves to feel because feelings get in the way of productivity and perfection. And so, they often suppress their emotions. It’s the only way they can pummel through life like sociopaths obliterating obstacles and people who get in their way. 

Recognize that there is no sin in coping, unless sinning is how you cope, in which case- forgive yourself. Remember that God is more forgiving than you, your family, or society. He will always forgive you as long as you remain connected to him, even superficially. 

3 – Shrink your ‘Circle of Concern

Temporarily block out the things that are not part of your immediate life, like the news, your distant relatives, next month’s bills, etc. Deal with the immediate concrete reality or crisis. Action can diminish anxiety, sometimes instantly. 

If you have no immediate crisis or major strains in life but are still suffering, then look to your past.

The things we bury often come up during the most peaceful times in our lives demanding to be addressed and acknowledged, preferably while under the care of a licensed professional. If seeing a therapist is not an option for you right now, then try number four. 

4 – Don’t deny your emotions, just freeze them

Not all stress and pain, past or present can be dealt with all at once or dealt with at all. Sometimes our lives are so hectic and demanding that we cannot afford to address, let alone acknowledge our emotions.

When this happens, put your pain in a box and store it in the refrigerator section of your mind. You are already doing this unconsciously. I suggest you start doing this consciously from this day forward. Simply imagine a room in your mind with limited shelf space to hold all your boxed emotions. 

This mental exercise will allow you to process your pain in small doses. When you have the energy, or a little breathing room, or if you feel out of control and start acting in irrational and inexplicable ways, then you know it’s time to start clearing the freezer.

Take out one box at a time and allow it to defrost, until you can see what is really inside. 

One way to do this is to keep a journal. Journaling is an extremely effective way to process your emotions, provided that you remain uncensored and don’t hold back. Write it all down. Don’t be afraid of memorializing the worst parts of your life. No one needs to read it, not even you. 

5 – Some virtues can ruin your life

It is not always about how hard you work if what you are doing is hardly working. Sometimes we have to let go of people and circumstances that refuse to yield to our efforts.

You do not need to orchestrate a dramatic ending. Certain things have to die a natural death by default: bad jobs, relationships, your cooking career.

Just stop investing energy into something because of some virtue you think you ought to have like perseverance or duty.  Some virtues can ruin your life. Know the difference between giving up and growing up. 

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