Tips for coping with anxiety from a Psychiatrist, part two.

In working with a Psychiatrist to help cope with the massive amounts of anxiety I’ve been dealing with this year, I’ve been learning a lot about myself. I’ve also been learning a lot of how deal with the anxiety that I have. It’s an invaluable lesson and I’m passing along the things that my psychiatrist is teaching me in hopes that it may resonate with others.

One of the things that she’s teaching me is that, when you’re anxious, it’s really easy to believe things that aren’t necessarily true.

When I get anxious, everything pisses me off. Things that would normally roll-off-my-back seem like insurmountable feats and, it really doesn’t matter what people do, it’s just going to make me angry. As a result, I tend to alienate myself from people. And, when I alienate myself from people, my head is filled with even more anxious thoughts and beliefs that I don’t belong around people and that the people in my life don’t like me. It’s a vicious cycle that I’ve been spinning in for months now. Spending some time sitting down with my psychiatrist and talking about this cycle, she’s provided me some tips to help keep myself calm when I get anxious.

So here are the tips:

  1. When you’re anxious and your spinning, thinking negative thoughts that you cannot control,ask yourself “Is this really true?” Really stop and think about it. Don’t just allow yourself to say ‘Yes it’s true’. How do you know it’s true? Are you thinking inside of said person’s brain? Do you know their thoughts? Do you have hard and fast evidence of what said person is thinking? Because if you cannot prove with 100% certainty that the thoughts/feelings that are making you anxious are, in fact, 100% truth, you need to reflect that on yourself, not on them. Learning to take those situations and put it on yourself, saying “Why am I thinking this? Why is my brain doing this?” will allow you to be more cognizant of your negative thoughts and how to see past them when you do get annoyed/anxious/frustrated.
  2. Self-care is so integral. Looking after yourself on the outside will help you to feel better on the inside. Exercise. Wash your face. Put your feet up when you get the opportunity. Take the little moments that you get during the day to treat yourself, or enjoy yourself. Go to a yoga class, if you can. Or, if you can’t go to Yoga, practice some at-home meditation. When your body is at peace, it will help your mind to be at peace, so don’t just do these things when you feel anxious, do them always.
  3. Don’t own anyone’s bullshit but your own. This one is a big problem for me, and it’s something that I bet a lot of people who struggle with mental illness struggle with. I think that, largely, when you’re anxious and struggling, it can be very easy for you to take on the burden of someone’s lies, bullshit or nonsense without even thinking twice about it. This is something that you need to recognize when it’s happening and put a stop to. If someone lies to you, don’t just accept the lie, call them out on it. Say ‘Thank you, but I do not deserve your lies’. If someone treats you unfairly, remind them that it’s a reflection of them and not yourself. Actually say it out loud… not just inside of your head. Speaking our truth, saying the words in a manner which they can hear will do more for your psyche than anything else in that moment. Feel free to leave the burden of their bullshit with them.
  4. Don’t let negativity people rent space in your head. This one ties back to my previous post (Tips for coping with anxiety from a Psychiatrist). When people in your life are being particularly negative, it’s really easy to let them eat away at you. What my psychiatrist recommends doing is keeping a happy memory, one happy memory, in your mind and regurgitating that memory in your head or out loud when someone’s negativity is tearing you down. Forcing yourself to think of happy thoughts in the moments when someone is being particularly shitty, it will force much needed serotonin into your brain and provide you the extra ‘umph’ you need in order to end the situation. Whether that be walking away from it, telling them to shut up, asking them kindly to move on, or however you end up doing it, when you’re thinking happy thoughts in your mind, it’ll be easier for you to kick their negativity to the curb.
  5. Find your strength. One of the things that my Psychiatrist tells me is that I’m really good at standing up for other people and for coming to the rescue of someone I love or someone that I care about, but when it comes to myself, I tend to lay down and die (so to speak). I have a feeling I am not the only one. One of the best ways to cope with your anxiety is to find your strength, she says. Knowing that you have the power to stand up for yourself is so integral to switching off the negative parts to your brain.
  6. Clean your space. This one should go without saying, but it can also often be a struggle for people. If you’re living in a space that is dirty, cluttered or dusty, it can contribute vastly to your mental health. Much like how SAD(Seasonal Affected Disorder) is a real thing, (Space Affected Disorder) is also very much a real thing. If your indoor space is the equivalent of dark, grey, rainy and gross days, it’s going to to affect the way in which you view the world. Pick up where you can. Dust when you have a few spare moments. Throw away or recycle clutter that you don’t need. It will help you long term.

Most of all, she says, is to go easy on yourself. Your issues are valid and you need time to properly grieve in order to move past them. This is a life-long commitment that you need to make to yourself in order to feel better. You owe it to yourself.

Stop wasting time, start getting things done.

It can be exceptionally easy to plop yourself down on the couch and kiss a few hours of a day goodbye, if you allow yourself.

I have an exceptionally easy time putting off tasks. I can waste the day away, I can waste a week away without even thinking twice about it. And lately I am realizing that I can’t be like that anymore.

For a lot of people, wasting time is not even about laziness. There isn’t so much a desire to just lay on the couch and waste the day away. For a lot of people, deep down, there’s an anxious mind propagating fears. The fears of messing up that keep us from even starting a task in the process, this is what contributes greatly to wasting time. I have a lot of those fears, and I have them often.

Note to self: stop wasting time, start getting things done.

  • Ask yourself ‘why?’ Why am I procrastinating? Do I know how to start? Do I know where to start? D I have the courage to do this, to get things done and to not stop until it’s complete? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions.

Too many people live with the notion that if it can’t be done perfectly then it shouldn’t be done at all. This is wrong.

  • Don’t aim for perfection. Aim to get things done. Once progress has already begun, or a task has already been completed, it is much easier to edit or reorganize your work after the fact.
  • Clear distractions from your life. If having the tv on is going to cause you to lose focus, put the remote away. If having your laptop on is going to distract you, put your laptop under your bed. Don’t allow yourself the opportunity to get distracted.
  • Write shit down. Write it all down. Write down what you need to get done, and hey, if you can, write down some things you’ve already done. There’s a certain catharsis that comes from being able to cross something off your to do list. Just seeing something crossed off will provide you added motivation to cross more off.
  • Give yourself a window of time. Be it ten minutes, be it an hour, be it a day or a week or whatever time frame you give yourself, set a time limit. If you have a limit of time in which you can get things done, you will be more inclined to finish things before your deadline.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. It’s important to note that when you get something done you need to celebrate the accomplishment. Celebrating finishing a task will help you with motivation for future tasks, and, if you are one of those people who gets anxious about things, or has fear of the future, celebrating the small victories can be really helpful for your confidence level.

Tips & tricks for smooth transitions through the airport.

As someone who’s been on a few thousand flights over the past 10 years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the most annoying place on earth (aka the airport) as easy as possible when you need to get somewhere.

First and foremost – a very important thing to note – where at all possible, DO NOT BUY BLACK LUGGAGE. Everyone buys black luggage. If you want to identify yours when it’s coming down the conveyor belt, avoid the chance that random strangers will pull it off the belt thinking it’s their’s, or your luggage getting lost in general, don’t buy black luggage! Not to mention if your luggage does get lost the first thing they will ask you is “What does it look like?” If you say “Well it’s a black suitcase,” you’ll see the eyes roll. Everyone has black luggage.

As for the airport, here goes:

  1. Always check-in online. In this day and age where it costs for EVERYTHING, spending $50 for seat selection just seems like something I don’t want. But, here in Canada, you can check into your flights a full 24 hours early. And, if you’re one of the first people to check in, you’re assigned an aisle or window seat ahead of them assigning you a middle seat. So ALWAYS check-in online.
  2. Skip the jewelry when you’re getting dressed. (And belts) If it’s important to bring it, put it in a little baggy and slip it into your carry-on or suitcase. Then bring it out when the timing is right. By avoiding putting it on, you’ll avoid needing to take extra time in the security line taking it all off.
  3. Dress up to dress down. Combat boots are cute and all, but taking those bad-boys off to go through security to put back on immediately afterwards takes a considerable amount of time. Things like slip on shoes can, and will be, your best friend.
  4. Take a screenshot of your booking information/boarding pass. The screenshot on your phone will be a lot easier to access than trying to fumble through paperwork amidst everything else in your backpack/carry-on.
  5. Separate your electronics. This will make your time in the security line go much more smoothly and much faster.
  6. Figure out your liquids game before you get to the security line. Where at all possible, if you don’t have to bring liquids then don’t. But, if you must bring liquids, know the rules before you go. Don’t be that doh-head who needs their bag to get searched and have full-sized perfume and hand creams pulled out of it. I’ve seen a lot of times the TSA Agents be nice about this, but you can also get into a lot of trouble.
  7. Wear an item of clothing with a sports logo on it. This isn’t a certified fact, and I only do this in North American airports, but I have noticed on days when I am wearing certain jackets with sporting logos on them, the TSA agents will move me to the quicker line. Perhaps they like sports? Perhaps, they just think I’m some sort of coach and want to help me on my way. I’m not sure. But, when wearing the logo makes the security line shorter, I’m going to wear the logo.
  8. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up inside of security. Buying water at the airport is no-bueno. I’ve paid upwards of $6.00 Canadian for a single bottle of water. Having a reusable water bottle with you can avoid a lot of unnecessary costs.
  9. Save your Starbucks rewards for the airport. It’s a well known fact of life that Starbucks costs 2-3 dollars more per drink when you’re at the airport. If you collect Starbucks rewards, save the free drinks for when you travel, for when you’re in the airport. And if you don’t collect Starbucks rewards, start collecting them. Seriously.
  10. When you’re travelling internationally add international data and roaming minutes to your cell phone plan. In the airport alone you can’t always rely on wi-fi in other parts of the world. If you’ve got the international data, you can still use your phone to help you get to where you need to be.
  11. Bring a phone charger. Always bring a phone charger. And, if you’re travelling internationally, bring a plug converter. You don’t want to find yourself in the Amsterdam airport, unable to speak the language, with a dead cell phone.
  12. Keep your money in your front pocket. Especially in busy airports, pickpocketing is a real issue. For guys that keep their wallets in their back pocket, put it in your front pocket while walking through the airport to avoid pickpocketing.
  13. Always arrive at your gate early. Why? Planes can leave early. I’s not a frequent occurrence, but they do leave early. You don’t want to be the doh-head that missed the flight because you were looking at overpriced magazines down the hall.
  14. Be kind. Don’t yell. Even when it’s frustrating. Even when someone pisses you off. You don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country where you cannot speak the language, with people unwilling to help you because you’ve been a tired, pissed off asshole. There was one instance in Frankfurt when the security guard was telling me to take off my shoe. I could not understand her because she was speaking German. Naturally, being Canadian, my response was “I’m sorry”. And then I said “English, English?” She called over the German police (at the time I was worried I was in trouble, but it turns out she was doing it because she knew they could speak English). The police officers were actually very kind to me. One of them told me I was very soft-spoken and told me thank you. Moral of the story – always be nice. Even when it’s annoying.
  15. Fly the flag. This is a big one, especially if you’re Canadian. Put a Canadian flag on your luggage, on your carry-on, on your backpack, etc… It’s a good conversation starter with strangers. There’s nothing cooler than striking up conversation with a badass human being half-way around the world and making your wait at the airport a little-less boring. And who knows, in this day of social media, perhaps you can stay in touch.