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.
- 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