I never thought I was very anxious. But getting married has a tendancy to make you reconsider your long held beliefs. My belief that I am chill and generally unperturbed was rocked aside by my wife.
And yet, in spite of all her evidence, I didn’t want to believe her.
Then one day, I saw a book The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes in my BookBub recommendations. I don’t know why I bought it, but I did and boy am I anxious. I guess my deep fear of failure, my fear of flying and my hypochondria should have set it off and convinced me, but it was reading about anxiety and understanding anxiety is more than stress that made me realize just how anxious I am.
Of course, I am lucky, I found out about my anxiety before I came to have debilitating panic attacks and depression, which is what happens when you let your anxiety get out of control. So I am glad I read this book and as I read it, I decided that working on anxiety would be my 30 day challenge.
The start of this challenge was a lot like the others where I was not sure what to do. I simply read the book. A few days in, I began to keep an anxiety journal. I’m sorry to say that some journal entries disappeared with my defunct hard drive (back up your data ladies and gentlemen) but in essence in those journals, I analyzed if I was anxious, what I was anxious about and what I was doing about it. Having little quizes in each chapter of the book really helped to know how anxious I was and helped me write as well.
Now that I was writing and looking at my anxiety in midst of graduate school, I could finally take stock of what was happening, I could finally relax and take proactive steps not at symptoms but at causes. I could finally start on strategies of dealing with causes instead of my usual: grit teeth, be angry and irritable with others and get through it. The various suggestions for tactics and strategies in the books helped as well.
There are some 30 day challenges that are fun, some are tough and some that are only the beginning. This one was not much fun and actually, not tough. However, it is the one that creates a knowledge of oneself, gives you tool for the rest of the life that you must hone and work on for the rest of your life. A tendency towards being anxious comes with the tendency of ambition. If you are ambitious, you will have stress, you will have self doubt, you will have critics and your mind will try to self sabotage you. It is important to know the difference between taking on a project that is not feasible and a project that is difficult and has risk of failure if not tackled without self doubt and with pure focus. Anxiety is a distraction that must be managed just like Facebook, in fact Facebook can often be a signal of Anxiety. As I completed this anxiety challenge, it is one that I am especially happy about completing. I became more aware of what I am thinking and what I am doing and more in control of myself at the end of it.
So don’t just look for things to correct that you know of, sometimes, try to fix the things you don’t. None of us come as a blank slate, all of us create our own neuroses and habits. It is up to us to find them and fix them instead of blaming them.
Other books I found helpful:
Productivity for Creative People by Marc McGuinness (Quick and easy to read guide on how to be creative and organized)
Time Management in 20 Minutes a Day by Holly Hanna (This one is really great with a lot of suggestions and specific things to do)
Deep Work by Cal Newport (How to do work that requires thought and concentration)
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey (a must read classic)
There are many others but I found these very beneficial.