I have lived with varying degrees of anxiety for as long as I can remember. But don’t worry – this is not going to be one of those posts about racing hearts and hyperventilation taking over my life to the point that I can’t leave the house. There has been that, but that’s long gone now.
If we met, you probably wouldn’t have any idea this is going on in the background. I am boringly normal on the outside, for the most part. (If you want to know what goes on inside the head of an anxious person, check out this hilarious checklist on Buzzfeed – how many can you tick off?)
Instead, I have made friends with my anxiety. He is like an unwanted house guest that I know I won’t be able to get rid of, so I have made up the spare bedroom, but not with the good sheets. I know he’s here to stay. And yes, I know it’s a ‘he’ – he just is. I call him Clive.
Clive hangs around in the background and makes me painstakingly pick over every conversation I have had during the day to work out whether I talked about myself too much/interrupted others too much/didn’t ask enough questions about them. He means I let chaos in my house stress me out to the point I think I will lose my shit if anyone leaves another juice carton on the bench instead of putting it back in the fridge (although, to be fair, just put the fucking juice back in the fridge, seriously). And Clive loves me to keep my hands busy – nail biting, scratching at my skin or playing Wordchums on my phone because I cannot bear to be still for a second.
But Clive and I have an arrangement. Clive knows his place these days. I let him have those little pleasures and he agrees to leave the big stuff to me. The stuff that means I am confident in myself, that I can walk down the street and meet new people and work as a freelance writer – all without doubting who I am and what I am capable of. And that’s because I have reached a stage where I have established who is boss in this relationship. I wear the pants, Clive, not you.
Here are some simple Clive-controlling strategies. Maybe they can help you take charge of your Gerald, or Malcolm, or Persephone:
- Exercise – exercise releases endorphins, which make us feel fab. Clive doesn’t like exercise. He tries to tell me to stay in bed a bit longer and snooze instead. I tell Clive to shut up, and lace up my running shoes before he can convince me otherwise. (If I don’t go first thing in the morning, Clive generally wins.)
- Sugar-free diet – I mostly eat sugar-free, but I’m reasonable about it. I know sugar doesn’t cause anxiety, but I also know that eating sugar makes my anxiety worse. You can read more about it here if you like. Clive loves lollies. Bad Clive!
- Meditation – I have long been a fan of meditation for controlling anxiety. It creates a beautiful stillness that is hard to achieve any other way. If you have trouble taming your monkey mind, there are some great apps that can help. There is a wonderful hypnosis one (which, let’s face it, is just another way of meditating) specifically for anxiety called I Can – Anxiety Free. Clive very often tells me I don’t have time to do this, and sometimes I believe him. I am working on getting more consistent with this one. It’s gold – totally worth it.
- Yoga – breathe, stretch and relax. There are loads of websites with some great poses specifically for relaxation – here is one. But regular yoga classes create a beautiful space for you to get away from everything and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I go once a week and it makes a huge difference. Sucked in, downward facing Clive.
- Herbs – there are many that various people swear by but my favourite is tulsi. I drink it as tea and sometimes take it in tablet form. Tastes great to humans; bad to Clive. I really notice the difference if I’m feeling stressed out and take some tulsi.
- Listen to music – some of you lovely Cartellians helped me put together a great ‘happy’ playlist a while back. I listen to this when I am in need of a pick-me-up and it works every time. Find music that makes you happy and dance, sing loudly (and in my case, badly), bash pots and pans in time with the music. Whatever pisses Clive off.
- Acupuncture – I have only just started seeing an acupuncturist to try to get a handle on Clive and his cheeky shenanigans. But I like what I have experienced so far. How does shoving a whole lot of needles in my belly and my forehead stop Clive taking over my life? Like this.
- Minimise spare time – I may complain about how busy I am from time to time, but I know that being idle is my worst enemy. I work, I have three kids, I blog, I exercise, I visit friends, I pretty much do anything to ensure I am not sitting still. I hate sitting still. Clive digs it.
- Take the ‘will this matter in five years?’ test – whenever I find myself getting worked up over something, I try to take a birds’ eye view of my life. Like I’m looking down at it as an uninvolved observer. And I think, “Will this matter in five years?” The answer is inevitably no. And I feel able to separate myself from the emotion of a situation. Clive loves unreasonable emotion.
So that’s it. Clive lives here, but he’s not running the asylum, and that’s good enough for me.
What about you? Do you have any Clive-control strategies to share?