What I Do When My Anxiety Gets Really Bad
There's more to it than breathing exercises.
Here’s an article about anxiety. Ironically, sharing these types of articles always gives me a bit of anxiety, but hopefully, it can help you out a bit.
I know writing it really helped me clear my head the other day. Thanks for reading. 😊
Sometimes, I still feel like a scared kid in a grown man’s body.
It’s not a particularly nice feeling.
Even after all the years of mental training and mindset work I’ve done, my anxiety still comes back every now and again to make me feel like my head is splitting apart.
My mental health has been really good for the last few months, but over the last few weeks, I’ve been anxious again. When I’m traveling a lot, dealing with stress from life, and not sleeping and eating as I normally do, anxiety always seems to enter the picture.
Inevitably, if this happens, you have to address it.
Anxiety is like wildfire. The longer you ignore it, the worse it gets.
Anxiety takes your worries and makes them into monsters.
Most of the anxiety that I personally deal with is social anxiety.
Most of the anxiety I’ve dealt with throughout my entire life is social anxiety.
When it comes to general worries — work, family stuff, friends, etc. — I’m usually pretty level-headed. I don’t get anxious about that stuff.
Then, when someone I don’t know enters the picture, everything changes. I’d usually rather hide in a hole than have to deal with someone forming an opinion of me.
It’s ironic that I write about my whole life on the internet where pretty much anyone can see it.
My last episode of anxiety started when I started a move, got a crush on a girl, and was getting ready for some big Jiu-Jitsu competitions. It was just too much stress at once, and I got anxious. It wasn’t rational, but my mind started inventing all these scenarios of why my life stress was a sign that I was a terrible person who was going to die broke and alone.
Anxiety used this situation as a trigger to amplify all of the things about my character that I might be even mildly insecure about. All the anxious mind needs to ruin your day is a moderately negative storyline.
It was silly, but it definitely made me feel anxious. It was in my head, but the discomfort was very real.
Anxiety is a slow killer.
Living with anxiety is war sometimes, and it can feel like there’s no end in sight.
Every single day, no matter if things are going good, bad, or mediocre, anxiety finds a way to butt in and add some “hot take” that is usually pretty bad for you.
I’ve never had an anxious thought that actually made my life better, but that hasn’t stopped me from having a metric fuck-ton of anxious thoughts.
But the anxiety alone isn’t what upsets me. There’s more to it than that.
What really pushes me over the edge with anxiety is when I get tired. I get to a point where I don’t want to engage with problems that normally give me trouble. I don’t want to fight anymore.
All I really want is to not be anxious anymore. I don’t care about anything else.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all, but when you’re already dealing with chronic anxiety on a daily basis for weeks and months on end, fatigue does something else.
It makes you stop giving a shit.
In this, there is clarity, beauty, and terror.
The no-BS approach to anxiety.
For most people, when they hit that point where all they want is to “not be anxious anymore”, they start to look for quick fixes.
They drink. They smoke. They play video games. They watch porn. They yell at their wife. They scream at their kids. They act like an asshole to people they care about.
They look for immediate relief from their anxiety.
“I’ll deal with it later,” they think, but they don’t deal with it later. They just look for a way out of the situation.
While you can’t really blame people that much for looking for quick fixes to anxiety (anxiety sucks, and being pushed to your limit with anxiety is even worse), I believe that I’ve found the best frameworks to ease my anxiety within the chaos of some of my darkest moments.
When you’re miserably anxious, your brain is trying to tell you something. Don’t drown that feeling out.
Process it. Talk about it. Write about it.
Now, when I get anxious, I deliberately don’t look for a quick fix. I don’t grab the bottle. I don’t hit the gym. I don’t even try to solve the problem.
I don’t really do anything. I just listen.
When I am at my breaking point with my anxiety, I think about the things that are making me anxious, without a filter. I find that I solve my problems quickly and easily because I’m tired of dealing with them.
When you’re tired, you look for the most efficient way to get something done.
This is not the first or last time I’ll deal with anxiety.
I deal with periodic episodes of severe anxiety every few months.
This is probably in part due to my genetics and my life experiences, but it’s also due to my life that’s pretty chaotic and stressful.
I mean, I’m a traveling-writing-prizefighter. Everything about what I do is unpredictable.
When my anxiety gets bad, it’s usually because I’m allowing too much extra stress into my life that isn’t related to the things that really matter to me. Because I’m kind of sensitive to life stress, I have to make sure to balance that. I have to not add stress to an already stressful life.
My career has a strong social component (competitive sports and writing online are very social activities), and as a result, if I find myself dealing with people who are stressful to me in addition to these things, I’ll be quick to send myself over the edge in terms of stress and anxiety.
To get better at dealing with your anxiety, you don’t need to do anything really special. What you need to do is to cultivate self-awareness to identify the true source of your anxiety (for me, social rejection is probably the closest thing to the true source) and also cultivate the compassion to forgive yourself for berating yourself with anxious thoughts.
Together, these 2 habits will help you deal with any episode of severe anxiety.
I’ve learned that from a lifetime of episodes of severe anxiety.
Writing helps me verbalize the emotions I feel when I’m dealing with anxiety, but sometimes, I honestly wish I could just be done writing.
I wish I could be normal, and not have to get all my thoughts down onto a paper so that they won’t hurt me anymore.
But the truth is that I can’t sit here and just feel sorry for myself because I have to deal with anxiety from time to time. There are worse problems in the world than your anxiety, but anxiety does not like to hear that. I have to dust myself off, refocus, and get back on the horse of practicing good mental health habits.
My anxiety gets bad either when the daily anxiety-prevention systems I have in place fail, or when my life becomes too stressful for me to navigate using my current anxiety-prevention systems. By identifying the cause of my anxiety and actively addressing it, I’m able to nip the anxiety in the bud before the fire really takes off.
This takes practice. It’s hard to learn to be your own therapist.
However, through writing, journaling, and other habits, I’ve been able to become a master at managing my mind, even through my worst anxiety episodes.
This is one of the highest ROI skills I’ve developed in my life.
This week’s premium article:
The I Suck at Jiu-Jitsu Show
Last week I was a guest on Josh McKinney’s podcast, the I Suck at Jiu-Jitsu Show. Check it out here!