And so, without further ado, here is Part One of my new series. Parts Two to Until-I-Finish will follow shortly.
Let me tell you this one little secret - anxiety hates nothing more than company. Anxiety likes to live alone, dwelling in the fertile lush pastures of the empty mind. The very best weapon against anxiety is to keep busy. Anxiety needs to be driven out with force.
When I am anxious, my natural instinct is to fret. I become completely useless to myself and everyone else. I wander around in circles, I pace, I bite my nails. My heart races. My mind goes cloudy and I can't focus. If all I need to do is make the school lunches or write a blog post, I can't function. I can take an hour to put a sandwich together. I can sit at the computer and not make any sense.
Still, I've noticed something strange. If I am in this state and a producer from a radio station calls, and asks me to go on the air in five minutes, I will pull myself together. If an editor calls me and asks me to urgently write a piece, I will manage to do it. And for the entire time I am on task, I am focused and lucid and positive. I feel good. I feel strong. And when I finish the interview or column I feel better. It helps me to find my feet again.
Now, obviously I'm not advocating guest spots on the radio or calls from editors as the cure for all anxiety (but if radio producers or editors read this, please call me, I'm yours). What I am advocating, however, is that you find your own equivalent, something that works to get your mind off yourself and on the other. It is different for everyone, but we all have something, a task that will haul us out of our introspection and focus our attention elsewhere.
So what works for me? Well, my list is varied. It includes:
- Doing radio or TV;
- Doing any kind of public speaking;
- Meeting a close friend for a coffee;
- Writing to a deadline;
- Attending a meeting, whether about my children or work;
- Clearing out a cupboard or sorting through clothes;
- Going for a walk with hip hop music blaring through my headphones. (It has to be hip hop. No other music calms me);
- Organizing my handbag;
- Browsing through online stores to choose something I need. (It doesn't work when I'm window shopping in real life - I can spend hours walking around Westfield in a haze of anxiety. But put me on the net and I immediately concentrate. All hail the online world.)
Your list may be completely different. The key is to identify what works for you, write it down, and then turn to it when you're feeling anxious.
Maybe you feel focused when you're cooking, or attending a spin class, or painting your nails. Maybe you are able to concentrate when you're planting tomatoes or running a seminar or drawing up a spreadsheet. Maybe you're about to become immersed in The Bold And The Beautiful or in the works of Dostoyevsky or in the Fifty Shades Trilogy.
Whatever it is, use your strategies. When you are feeling anxious, pick one of your activities and do it. Keep busy and drive the anxiety out, even for a half hour or so. And the more respite you get, the stronger you will feel, and the easier it will be to drive it out in the long term.
Let me know how you go, and I'll see you for Part Two.