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5 Things I Do to Fight Anxiety

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By the time you read this, I will have taken my first exam of the semester. It was supposed to be last week, but I was busy battling the flu, so this week it is. Here’s the funny thing. You know what I’m most anxious about? Not being anxious.

I feel adequately prepared. Comfortable with the material. Questions answered. I don’t feel anxious. And it’s terrifying.

I have dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Whether it was school, an extracurricular activity or simply hanging out with friends — it all brought me anxiety.

For a while I was pretty “high-functioning.” Anxiety didn’t stop me from doing the things I wanted to do. But somewhere along the way, I gave in. I let my anxiety rule the day. Somewhere along the way, I lost myself.

Anxiety is a form of fear. It makes every task a mountain and steals joy away from the little things in life. Here’s what anxiety looks like for me:

It looks like staying at home when I’m invited to a party. Because I might get lost on the way. I might not be able to find a parking spot. I might not know anybody. I might not know what to say. I might not like any of the food. You name it, I’m anxious about it. So I just stay home.

It looks like not going back to school even though I really want to. Because I might get overwhelmed. I might not know what the professor is talking about. I might not understand the material. I might fail a test. My research proposal might get denied. So I withdraw before I even get a chance to start.

It looks like not applying for a job or a promotion even though it might be a good fit. Because I might be rejected. I might make a fool of myself in the interview. I might get in over my head. So I let my resume collect dust on my desk.

Anxiety is composed of a long list of “mights.” Some would call them irrational “mights,” but to me they are completely rational. They are plausible possibilities that are likely to happen in any given situation. And the uncertainty of them makes me anxious.

Besides preventing me from doing things, anxiety causes me a lot of other issues. Issues like biting my nails, being late, not speaking up for myself, sleeping excessively… among other things.

But I have a job. I’m going to school. I’d say I have a few friends. I mean, I do still bite my nails. I’m late sometimes. I get more than my eight hours of sleep in. But I’m still doing things that give me anxiety. How?

1. I get my nails done. 

Some people think this is a waste of money, but for me it’s not. First of all, it’s a form of self-care. Second of all, it gives me confidence in the way I look. Third of all, it prevents me from biting them. Overall it’s a win win win. So to the salon I go.

2. I give myself some extra time.

I set a ridiculous amount of alarms. Some people might call it excessive, but it works for me. It reduces my anxiety about waking up on time or being late to an event. So beep beep beep goes my alarm every five minutes. Deal.

3. I surround myself with supportive people.

Everyone needs a few cheerleaders in their lives, especially when it comes to doing tough things. I have a few close people I share my challenges with and they support me in conquering them. Knowing I don’t have to face my demons alone makes things a little more manageable. I’ll take all the help I can get.

4. I meditate.

I try to get to work a few minutes early so I have time to sit in my car and do a short meditation before heading into the chaos of the day. It helps me calm down and focus my energy on the positive. I’m a chronic worrier. Meditation helps me let go of the past, stop predicting the future and focus on the present.

5. I face my fears.

Let’s get real. Some of this is just exposure therapy. You have to do it anyway. I equip myself with as many tools as I can and then I just go into the world. I have a job, I started school, I go to parties. I don’t necessarily like the process, but I like the results. So that’s what I have to focus on. Use my tools and think about the results. Then I can conquer my fears.

The “hows” are great, but what that last point is really saying is you have to find your “why.” Why do you want to do the things you’re anxious about? Is it to get more friends? Secure your dream job? Earn a degree? Build your confidence? Start a new hobby? Date again? Become a writer? A musician? An artist?

Why do you want to face your fears?

For me, it’s because I’m tired of being chained to the wall. Anxiety has placed me in a prison. All I get to do is watch the world happen around me. Terrified. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of watching other people have fun and be successful while I just watch from the sidelines. And if getting in the game means doing things that make me anxious, then that’s what I’ll do. I’ll do it with a manicure, a bunch of alarms and a short meditation, but I’ll do it.

Because I’m tired of being a slave to my fears.

Unsplash photo via Daniel Monteiro

Originally published: March 29, 2018
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