Do you have anxiety about doing everyday things? Like returning a purchase at a store? Calling the bank to contest overdraft fees? Even calling a local fast food restaurant to place an order? Well you are not alone, but hopefully I can put some context around this and maybe even bring you some comfort.
A slight detour from my normal tech writing. I am not talking here about anxiety that you experience for things that are not in your control. Maybe due to the previous actions of yourself or others, like if your parents will find out about that boy you have had stay over. Or the continuous worry about whether your young teen will stay away from drugs or alcohol. Or if your Boss is going to give your the promotion you feel you deserve. What I am defining here is the anxiety about ‘Doing Stuff’. Remember that distinction for what you read here, because anxiety comes in many forms.
If you have followed my YouTube videos you will know that I like to simply get to the point. This is no exception, here it is.
Anxiety is your body’s way of telling your brain to pay careful attention to something.
Like crossing the street, it’s dangerous, so if you have anxiety about it well that’s OK. It is a good thing to feel anxious about because if you get it wrong then you will end up dead. What about if you are anxious about an upcoming exam or a job interview. Good! That’s the signal that these things are important to you and you need to pay them a good amount of attention.
You see, this is in built into us and has been since Humans first walked the Earth. While we were still evolving, anxiety was different but the same concept. Be careful when you step out of your cave to hunt for food because you may get eaten by a Tiger. Most likely not today, unless you are married to that Tiger Lady, but you get the point. Life can be dangerous and we were given a way to warn us, to protect us from harm.
Unfortunately, we have evolved to the point that we can be anxious about things that may not involve eaten by animals. But it is still a huge problem, because if you are constantly anxious then that just breeds more and more anxiety into more and more facets of your life. It is an ever decreasing circle and causes many people to sit inside their bubble and basically never leave.
What is this type of Anxiety?
Let’s jump back then to what anxiety is again. It’s your body telling you to pay careful attention to something because it is important. You feel ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, you get short of breath, even maybe a panic attack. All perfectly natural responses to the issue at hand.
I would like to present then an idea, for you to sit back and think about. Maybe put it into action for something that is causing you a small amount of anxiety before you head full on into the bigger things.
The question here is, “What am I really anxious about? Am I in mortal danger? Am I at risk of physical harm”? If that is yes, then get yourself out of there my friend. There is a reason that alarm is going off and you need to protect yourself. If the answer is No, then good. Give it some brain power, think about it, but not as a ‘worry point’ but as a positive thing. You’re being given the heads up from your subconscious that something is up and you need to concentrate.
Now there are many, many reasons that any one of us could have anxiety and I am certainly not belittling any of them at all. However because each of us have different trigger levels then there is no blanket fix that will be applied. That you will need to work out for yourself, but what I can do is give some insight into how to go about reducing the extended state of anxiety, to understand why you have it and therefore hopefully allow you to cope better.
When you feel anxious about something, pause for a minute and apply some brain power to the situation. Think of your body’s reaction, the anxiety, and use that as a trigger to pay careful attention to what is happening. Think carefully, envisaging the perfect outcome, of success and how you will feel after it is completed. Step outside of your environment and look back in at yourself at that moment in time and witness yourself experiencing that feeling. Seeing yourself in the future, living out the perfect success track for the event leads you down that same path in real life. Do it with something very small first, learn it and then start applying to bigger things.
Basically, having anxiety in some fashion, is a good thing? Really? Well because you need to be able to use it as a positive, as a control mechanism. Learn to understand it and put it to good use. These things that are causing you anxiety, ask yourself a few things? What will happen if I dive in and do these things that a causing me anxiety.
If you are never anxious about anything then you are not stretching yourself in life.
Let me tell you what will happen by way of a small story.
Bob suffers from Anxiety.
We will call this person Bob, because Bob is a decent name for a fictional story character. If your name is Bob, then please feel flattered that I would pick you. Anyway, Bob had anxiety about talking to people that he didn’t know. He would avoid them as he had done for months, even years. Hiding behind his cell phone, constantly checking social media feeds again and again whilst waiting in line for the self checkout. He always bought only a few items to he didn’t have to converse with a cashier and that meant the smaller self checkout areas were great. Off he would go, then head down out to the car. He sometimes couldn’t ask where to find something because that would mean talking to somebody. Bob didn’t really know why he did this now, it was just his way of living. He couldn’t recall any particular trauma attached to a specific incident but things in the past have a way of just becoming ‘how it always was’ so he just went with it. Something happened though, as he had purchased a relatively large ticket item from Target. Let’s call it a $200 bluetooth speaker system. It wasn’t turning on anymore and he contacted Target via his App, and also using the online chat service, but his only course of action was to physically return it to the store. Days went by and he stressed about it. He didn’t want to walk into Target carrying this big box because he knew that everybody would be looking at him as the Guy that was returning something. The thought of standing in the line at the return counter where everybody could see him, carrying his obvious return was overwhelming. Talking to the cashier and explaining that he needed to return this item just was beyond comprehension for him. So it sat there, for a whole week. Taunting him with a deafening silence every time he looked at it. Until he finally got up the courage to do it. He had too, he missed the sound of the working speaker. Even though he had contemplated just buying one on Amazon and throwing this one away. Why oh why had he not purchased from Amazon in the first place he thought? Because Target had that special on. Damn that special Target, why is this happening to me. He walked into Target, lined up and was greeted with a very pleasant smile from the young man behind the counter who simply said, “Are you returning this Sir”? “Well yes I am”. He was asked if it was faulty and his reply was a simple yes. “OK Sir, that amount is now credited back onto your card, you have a nice day and thank you for shopping at Target”. Bob walked away and dissolved into the Store. What had just happened. He wasn’t asked a thousand intimidating questions, nobody had looked at him weird in the line, he was practically anonymous. But he felt different. A massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he felt good, real good. He even found himself smiling. What had I been worried about, seriously, now I am off to check out a new speaker he thought.
Now, with Bob, some of us might think that it was just a simple return at Target. Easy right? Well not for everybody. The anxiety involved can be extremely overwhelming. Only by doing it once and overthinking all the outcomes, to find that the process was quick easy can we start to overcome this type of anxiety. What Bob did next was then to think about the next thing that caused him anxiety, the checkout line, and applied the same thing to it. Finding it was not so bad after all, in fact he started to enjoy the human interaction and enjoyed things in life more and more. OK, well Bob is fictional but you can see how this can happen. Importantly, baby steps people, baby steps. Don’t conquer this in one day, but build on it.
A meeting with your Boss.
Another thing then, you want to ask your Boss for that promotion or a pay raise. You sit and obsess about all the different outcomes but what if he says no. Well then my friend you are exactly where you are right now, except without the anxiety of having to ask. Your Boss now respects you for actually coming forward and asking and now you know that you should maybe start that job search! But either you did it, good on you for that. You had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Maybe he said yes to the pay rise, well then double win, no anxiety and you get more money.
Anxiety. Just don’t let it be the cause for ‘Non-Action’.
Just because you feel anxious about doing something doesn’t mean you should shut down and not do it.
Anxiety should not be a crippler, but your enhancer. Turn it on itself and start living your best life.
Speaking of best lives, here is Bronte, our gorgeous little well-mannered little puppy. She knows about Starbucks drive thru’s and always get’s a Pup-a-cino. They give them for free to dogs in cars. Don’t be afraid to ask, as they are so willing to make one for your little precious. And your puppy will love you for it.
Have a good 2021 everybody, live your best life and don’t be anxious, just go and get what you deserve.
Great article Mark. Have a happy New Year! You are missed!