Oh, Anxiety

I’m fucking stressed. I’m starting this business on my own and it’s way harder than I anticipated. There are tidal waves of work and pressure. Endless decisions. Management and leadership of people. My ego needs to be constantly checked.

My resting heart rate hasn’t been calm for months. I feel gripped in my chest and my mind never, ever ceases. Everything I do and see is through a prism of work. I’m impatient, obsessive, I can’t let go of things. And I'm scared. Scared of putting myself out there, scared of failing, of not being liked.

I can’t unclench my racing mind. What I do know, neuro-biologically, about anxiety is that at the route anxiety is about fear.

Three facts of the human brain on anxiety: (1) First, the fear response says, "Act now, do not wait. You are being threatened." (2) Second, the fear response blocks out everything else in the mind. It occupies the entire screen. (3) Third, its warning is always exaggerated. Fear cannot tell the difference between a small threat and a large one - an imaginary danger or a real one.

We can overcome all three elements of anxiety when they occur: (1) First, when our fear tells us that immediate action is called for, do not believe it. We have time to pause and better assess what is truly going on. Our lower brain does not know the difference but after a few seconds our higher brain will step in with an accurate action plan.

"If I don't bid on this rug on ebay Right Now, I will Lose It!!" "No, actually the auction lasts another seven days, so there is zero need to do anything right now."

(2) Second, if an anxious response fills our mind so that we can think of nothing else, step away - preferably reset by going outside. After a few minutes, our mental screen won't be overwhelmed by the single panicky thought. "Is it still there? Is the rug still there? Is it???" "YESSSSS, where the fuck else would it be? Oh, look, there's a bird."

(3) Third, when we feel exaggerated fear while we're panicked, tell ourselves, "I'm doing that crazy brain thing. Chill, this is way out of proportion." "Even if I lose out on this rug, there are many others. Plus, it's a rug."

Photo by Johnny Keethon