At this time of global hysteria, strange new anti-touching rules and vigorous hand washing I wanted to tap out a short post that might be helpful to some.
For years I suffered with episodes of depression and didn’t understand anxiety, it was the antithesis of my personal experience. But times change and as I got to grips with depression I noticed anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. My experience with it was odd, I couldn’t go to busy places without feeling extremely agitated and defensive. Whilst that was only a weekly experience it would come up at random times when I was at home, forcing me to busy myself with cleaning in order to distract my brain and relax my heart rate. Now I am fortunate that it only appears when woken in the night by noisy neighbours, feeling like my heart will burst from my chest, that I want to scream blue murder at somebody. Thank fuck for reading and writing in these moments.
This is a long winded way of saying that in some small way I understand anybody’s anxiety at this time. Boomers and the older generations amongst many others won’t get it and that’s fine, they just need to have a little patience, shut their mouth and listen. They were born into a different world, one without many of the social pressures that exist today. I’m not saying it was easier, just different and to label the younger generations as “delicate flowers” or some such bullshit is demonstrating how little they understand or care. However I am not here to wax lyrical about our troubles, this is not an anxiety orgy.
What I wanted to say is that you can take some control of your thoughts and feelings at this time with some simple tools. Firstly these aren’t a silver bullet. I’ve probably said that before in posts and it may seem a cop out, but it’s just the truth. There is no wonder tool, but many that can be used to help your mental health. Some things won’t work for you and others will, it’s up to you to work that out through trial and error. The key is that you have control.
1. First off take a breath. In fact take three.
Whilst you were worrying about all that is and allowing your mind to postulate about what could be, you forgot to breathe. Or rather you tensed up and weren’t breathing as deeply. So take this moment for yourself, just to take a deep breath in and slowly let it go. It doesn’t matter in this moment how you do it, just breathe deep in and relax out. For the last one take a deep breath in and then as you exhale open your mouth wide and either roar, sigh or make an exotic bird sound. Did you laugh or smile? Good, humour can still reach you my friend.
2. Secondly stop reading all the bullshit online.
Look I get it. You want to stay informed, you want to avoid picking up a virus etc. But how much do you need to know? Seriously. By this point everybody has read the same stuff and regurgitated it so many times. Let’s be rational for a moment. What good will it do to read the news every other hour, or look at your social media every ten minutes? If you want to stay informed on what to do then check the World Health Organisation website and your country’s information site once a day. Beyond that you won’t help your anxiety levels by reading what your high school educated friend, that failed science, but is good looking thinks you should do when washing your hands. (I say this as someone with only a high school education). Listen to the experts, but don’t bombard yourself throughout the day.
3. Third. Remove and replace.
Replace the bullshit above with something that you’ve been meaning to learn, read or watch but haven’t had the time or space. If you have to self isolate or just do less wherever you are in the world, then now is the time to slow down. Don’t go and binge watch friends, or a new tv series on Netflix (not right away), just take a couple of days to do something creative. Give yourself permission to learn how to draw, or just do some doodling. Perhaps you were learning guitar years ago, but gave up because you were “too busy”, pick it up again. Whatever you choose, make it something you enjoy, something interesting to you. Having worked with technology for a few years now I can be aggressively anti-tech at times. It is only because I believe we are abandoning so many things that brought us joy and intellectual stimulation before it arrived. We may not be able to hang with friends, but there are a lot of things we can do if we take a day and let our imagination kick back in. Give it time, it might be a little dusty.
4. Fourth and final. You have control.
Remind yourself that you are in control of you. You are probably washing your hands 458% more now than before this, whilst dabbing every sneeze and looking about sheepishly afterward. You may be aggressively socially distancing from people and finding interesting new ways to greet them (foot taps?) Perhaps you have just gone into full hermit lockdown (shout out to my intro friends). Whatever approved WHO tactics you are using know that you are in control of your life, doing what is needed and that is enough. Let that sink in, repeat it if it helps your anxiety. You can’t control things outside of yourself, at least not without some serious power. So just remind yourself that you are doing all you can to help yourself. That doesn’t mean go and buy too much toilet paper and a years supply of pasta, don’t be a dick. You can help others by reaching out (figuratively speaking of course) and being a friendly hermit. For my introvert friends remember that although we will love this quiet time; holed up inside with our writing, music and creativity, our extrovert friends will not. This may feel like a desert island to them (again a dream of mine), where they can’t recharge their batteries by being around others. So share a coffee over a video call and reach out to those peeps when you can.
Crumbs I could go on all day, but this was meant to be a short post, so I’ll leave it there. If you need a chat then feel free to reach out. I probably won’t respond straight away because I am distancing myself from tech and enjoying some quiet creative time working on my book. But I will get back to you and share a coffee over a video call in good time.
Stay creative and keep smiling friends,