If you’re awake and a human, you’ve probably noticed that the world is chaos. Not even taking current events into account, there is always something going on that makes life itself feel chaotic. Even when we’re not on the verge of a public health crisis, you have daily stressors that affect your life in ways that might seem catastrophic at the time.
Something I’ve noticed about myself, as a person with chronic anxiety, is that I always exist with some sort of baseline of fear and panic. Even when things are going well, there’s still a little voice in my mind reminding me of the one thing I should be worried about or telling me not to get too excited because eventually, things could all fall apart around me.
I’m not here to give advice. Or to tell you to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. But I’ve learned that existing in a state of chaos is not healthy. I’ve had to make some adjustments to how I approach the conflict that exists within my mind. I’ll admit, it’s so much easier to give in to the fear that you think you should feel, rather than trying to work through the emotions and triggers.
Confronting the reasons you thrive off of fear and worry can get deep and unearth a world of shit that you may not have been ready to face. I had to make an intentional effort to work through my triggers to be able to exist in a headspace that supported the type of person I want to be.
Do you know what’s worse than the constant 24-hour news cycle? Actively seeking out news every second of every day. And you can’t run out because it never ends. Journalists need to fill the time. What gets people’s attention? What gets them to click, read, and tune in? Capitalizing on their fear.
I’ve had to learn to read between the lines to differentiate what’s essential information, and what is clickbait. I’ve also had to learn when to just log off. I do my best to gather a baseline of the information I need, and that’s it. I don’t listen to people speculating or “experts” giving their takes on opinions. I absorb the necessary facts and use that information to inform myself so that I can be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible. And then I log off.
Focus on personal projects
As the economy starts to tank, it’s getting pretty scary out here for a freelancer who relies on other people’s businesses to pay me to make my living.
I’ve started full-on executing on projects that I’ve been too scared to launch. You might be thinking that now is not the right time to begin something new, but I disagree. I believe that it’s the perfect time to dive into a new project wholeheartedly. If it fails, it fails. Using a potential crisis as a reason not to do something is just another excuse piled on to the list of excuses I’ve made as to why it’s the wrong time to launch. Besides, diving into new things helps take my mind off of reality. And if you’re going to do something to numb reality, it might as well be productive. Actively working towards a new goal is giving me the smallest semblance of control over my life.
Find safety within your body
No matter what’s going on around me (except for situations of imminent physical danger), I can close my eyes and tell myself I am safe. My body houses me and does it’s best to protect me when my mind has other motivations. I needed to find this gratitude for my body because I found myself fear-mongering myself.
Sometimes I still have a hard time separating my thoughts from reality. Listening to guided meditations help get me out of my mind and focus on something else.
Spend time in nature
When you’re standing next to a 600-year-old tree, your problems don’t seem as big. When you’re staring at a mountain or watching an army of ants transport a crumb, it momentarily removes you from your current reality and into a place where your problems are not as catastrophic as you think.
Walking barefoot in the grass has actual scientific benefits, and helps reconnect your body to the electrons on the earth’s surface.
I used to be an avid “rage journaler.” Whenever I felt hot anger inside of me, I’d aggressively write it all down, then subsequently tear up the piece of paper. Sometimes, if I was in a well-ventilated area, I’d set it on fire in a glass and pretend it was symbolically (i.e., dramatically) burning away all of the anger inside of me.
Fear journaling works the same way. The important thing to remember is not to use this journaling as a way to rationalize your feelings. It’s just a way to get them out of your body. I wouldn’t recommend writing them and then re-reading them. Just get them out and destroy the evidence.
When there’s a lot in my mind, and I can’t put pencil to paper fast enough, I use an online tool called The Most Dangerous Writing App.
Pick a time limit or a word count and just start typing. The tool is bit anxiety-inducing at first because you have to keep typing or you lose everything you wrote. It’s meant to incentivize you to keep writing through the blocks, but it’s also a great way to get words out and then watch them disappear. It can be quite therapeutic.
Life will continue regardless of if you fear catastrophe or not.
It’s taken me years to realize that the fear of the unknown is an obsession with control. I feel like if I know what will happen, then I can control the outcomes. But most of reality is out of my control. Recognizing that has helped to prepare me for how to cope when things happen that are beyond my control.
Do something that helps you get used to relinquishing control. The reason why people fear buy things before storms are because it gives them the feeling that they are in control of what’s going to happen. It gives them peace of mind that they’re taking steps to be prepared for something, even if those steps are arbitrary and might not even make a huge difference anyway.
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