The number one advice I follow against anxiety (on days where I’m fine)

I like to believe that I’m a perfectly healthy and balanced individual. Of course, we will never know. I mean, what is ‘normal’? What is ‘balanced’? In a world with people having different personalities, quirks and character traits, how are we to measure that?

Anyway, I have a confession. For those of you who met me and know me personally, you would know that I have a history of anxiety disorder, depression and it’s chronic. Unfortunately every now and then, I relapse. To use the psychological term. 

How do I cope? I don’t. At the worst of times, all I can do is wait it out. Nothing can lift me up and I can’t simply “snap out of it”. It’s an illness, like any other illness (bronchitis, flu, measles, diarrhea, you get it…). There are tricks I use though. Techniques, therapy, natural remedies, you name it, I’ve tried them. While some work sometimes, the majority of the time prevention is better than trying to get out of an anxiety attack or drag my bum off the bed. 

The best advice I ever got in life is from a clinical psychiatrist. She’s absolutely awesome and her specialty lies with people who have suffered severe trauma (rape, abuse, torture, domestic violence). She told me one phrase I’ll never forget. 

Always remember rule no. 6.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

While the lesson in this is to focus on not taking oneself too seriously, there I was, rattling my brain to figure out why and when I would hear of the other rules. What’s rule number one, two, three?! Why are we at six?! She laughed. I didn’t understand. Is there a joke? What’s funny? And more importantly, WHAT is rule number one????

It took a few years for that to sink in. 

Ah. She was trying to tell me not to take myself too seriously, be playful. Therefore, the playfulness was about mentioning a rule, starting with number six and not bother to mention the previous ones. Because there aren’t! It’s playfulness. 

Stiff. Miss goody-two-shoes. Prim and proper. Highly compliant. Always first or second in class. Not laughing out loud. No sense of humour and when people would tease me (in an affectionate way), I’d cry or feel deeply hurt. That’s me. 

Or more accurately, that was me. Until I started being more playful. For that, it required that I change a little. For starters, I had to stop pondering for days on end about all the wars and crises going on around the world. Now, there isn’t anything wrong in having empathy for those who suffer. But if I am not going to do anything about it to save these people or to alleviate their distress, getting myself depressed sick over them isn’t helpful at all. 

I stopped watching the news. I stopped reading newspapers. I only focused on headlines or morsels of news I could read on my Twitter feed. 

I stopped being so deep. It’s OK to have some depth, but analyzing every single letter of every single word of what that person’s sister’s mother-in-law said to me ten months ago is NOT doing me any good. If anything, it’s causing my stress levels to soar and creating unnecessary worry. 

Worrying. I can’t stop worrying but I can stop myself after a while. I worry a lot. About everything that could happen. Because I’m a writer and we, writers can come up with a thousand different scenarios in a flash. I have to nip my thoughts in the bud when I start to spiral into negative thought process. Not always easy to do, but I try. 

I play. A lot. Many times, I twirl around. For no reason. In between writing. After my shower. Twirling and singing like I’m auditioning for the next play on Broadway. It takes the edge off. And there’s a bunch of things I do to be goofy. Just because I can. 

I never knew I would be doing this. In fact, those very things I do now are the kind of behaviour that I would absolutely abhor, and roll my eyes at. And yet, playfulness helps in preventing anxiety and depression if and when done often. (Disclaimer: I’m not a professional when it comes to mental illness, so please consult your doctor if you need medical assistance).

It really helps. Headaches, tension migraine, stiff neck, stiff shoulders, cramps, IBS, GERD, GAD, PTSD, all these can be slightly more manageable when you incorporate more PLAY into your life. 

Find what makes your inner child burst forth. Here are some ideas (and again, not to be taken too seriously):

  • Watch Disney movies (one evil witch, one super hero, you can’t go wrong with that. And maybe add a thousand minions)
  • Sing out loud, specially when you don’t know the lyrics.
  • Pretend you’re a ballerina dancer and twirl, sway, pirouette away in your living room or your bedroom or kitchen
  • Try all the snapchat filters and have a laugh 
  • Impersonate celebrities you find hilarious or even if they aren’t funny, pretend you’re them and talk like they do, for no reason. Just because.
  • Attend themed parties and go all out. 
  • Host a themed party and go all out.
  • Add humour to your problem (if you pay attention, comedians do that. They talk about politics, and other unfortunate realities of life with a good dose of humour)
  • Break out in dance in an impromptu session (one it’s good cardio, and two it’s fun!)
  • When something is funny, let your laugh come out loud and deep, deep from the belly. 
  • Don’t walk. Hop along like a little girl or boy when the oppportunity allows. Best when you’re holding hands with someone as you can really ‘dangle’ then. It truly takes the stress off your shoulders.
  • Get your hands dirty. Bake bread from scratch. Colour. Paint. Draw. Even if you don’t know how.
  • Watch cute and funny animal videos. 
  • Listen to comedians and memorize some of their jokes to replay them in your head during a commute, while waiting at your doctor’s cabinet, or whenever you catch yourself worrying 
  • Have a cup of tea with cookies 
  • Have a warm glass of milk and dunk Oreos in before bedtime
  • Have a nap and set no alarm. You wake up when you wake up. 
  • Curate a Pinterest board with funny quotes or things, images that make you laugh

2 Discussions on
“The number one advice I follow against anxiety (on days where I’m fine)”
  • Thank you for this post Bea! I’ve also been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks recently, I feel like you wrote this blog post for me. THANK YOU!!!

  • “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

    Too many people seem to take life so very seriously. This quote advises us against that path, urging us to loosen up a little bit and have some fun.

    Why, you ask? The quote says because no one gets out alive. And that is true, all who are born will eventually die. So what is to be gained by being overly serious?

    The quote implies that nothing is to be gained by taking life too seriously. It’s not a game you will win, after all. There is no special prize for the most serious player.

    Instead, the quote implies that we should relax and have some fun while living. Be serious when it is required, but not all the time. Enjoy yourself.

    Why is not taking life too seriously important?
    How much fun would you have if everyone around you was busy being serious? Never taking a risk or a chance, never taking a dare or tying something new? Always playing it save and never doing anything exciting? Would you want to have that person as a friend? Would they be a blast at a party or on a camping trip?

    Why would someone be like that? If they were very focused on being the absolute best possible at something, then they would be busy working diligently on perfecting that aspect of their life. But if they’re taking all of life too seriously, then they might decide to do it for every part of their life.

    While it is possible to take life with too little seriousness, that isn’t usually a problem for most people, with the possible exception of their late teens and early twenties. After that, most of us settle down and get busy with having a life. And that’s a good thing, so long as we remember to do it in moderation.

    Yes, we’re talking about being serious, but only in moderation. But who likes to be too serious all of the time, in all the different aspects of their lives? That almost sounds like a personal problem, one which this quote warns us against. But are we willing to listen?

    Where can I apply this in my life?
    We’ve all seen it, even if only in movies or TV shows. The young ladder-climber, focused on working their way up the corporate ladder at any cost. Everything has to be exactly perfect, nothing is too small, no hour too late, and always ready to do more. But what kind of a life do they really have?

    Some call it the quality of their life, or work/life balance. Those who take life too seriously usually have a poor quality of life or an out of balance life. That isn’t terribly fun, is it? By taking the parts seriously which should be taken seriously, and having fun in the other times, we become more balanced.

    But when should we be serious? Should we be serious at work? Not if you are a professional comedian or a clown, right? The point I am trying to make is that when to be serious is a very personal decision. Who you are, and how you live your life are key parts of determining when to be serious and when to be something else.

    There will also be times when our normal pattern is disrupted. If the boss says business isn’t good, and there may be some belt tightening or layoffs, it might be a good idea to get at least a little more serious at work, right? And when family members start taking issue with your frivolity, it might be time to get a little more serious at home.

    I’ve had times when I’ve been too serious, and plenty of times when I haven’t been serious enough. We all go through cycles, ups and downs. But if we keep an eye on how things are going and make adjustments when needed, we should be good. Because life is all about change, and we need to be able to adapt, right?

    Where in your life might you be taking things a little too seriously? Please take a moment and come up with a couple of things. How did you come to those conclusions? What was your clue? Did other people hint that you were taking things too seriously? Or did you notice your life wasn’t balancing the way you hoped it would?

    What about the areas in your life where you might not be taking things seriously enough? Please take a moment and come up with a couple of possibilities. Did other people hint that you were being too silly? Were you not getting the results you desired due to you not being sufficiently serious or focused on the goal?

    For me, life is about balance. I try to adjust what I take seriously and what don’t changes whenever I notice I;m out of balance. What is your balance point? What do you need to become more serious about? What do you need to take less seriously? Life is full of choices, opportunities to change things. What will you choose to change in your life?

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