• Anxious? Try This Anxiety Troubleshooting Guide to Quickly Start Feeling Normal Again

    A couple weeks ago, my Chromecast wasn’t working. My fiancé and I wanted to continue binge-watching The Office for the 3rd time in about as many years. But for whatever reason, the Chromecast overlords just weren’t having it.

    Luckily, Google created a bomb-ass troubleshooting page for dealing with such an issue.

    It had me go through all the basics, starting with the simplest, most obvious solution, to increasingly more advanced issues.

    On step 8 (or somewhere around there), the troubleshooting guide suggested I restart the router. So, I did, and the Chromecast finally showed up as a device on my phone, and I was able to connect and stream Netflix.

    Troubleshooting Guide for Anxiety

    By this point, you might be wondering, “What the hell does this have to do with anxiety?”

    Fair question.

    Well, the troubleshooting guide worked perfectly for solving my Chromecast problem, so I thought, what if there was something like this for my anxiety?

    I recently lost my job, as a part of the depressing, potentially dying nuclear expansion in the United States. Approximately 6,000 people and I found ourselves out of work. Anyone who’s ever had the unfortunate experience of job hunting in the corporate world knows how absolutely fucking miserable it is.

    Things actually aren’t going half bad, for me at least. I got a decent severance package, and I get to work on my website a bunch more. But still, I’d be lying if I told you my anxiety hadn’t kicked up a notch.

    Anxiety and I are no strangers to one another. We’ve got quite the history. For the most part, I’d like to think I’ve beaten the worst of it (minus a little morning anxiety here and there). In a time like this though, every little trick to coping helps.

    That’s why, after some personal experimentation, I came up with a troubleshooting guide for anxiety.

    I’ve noticed that, on average, making it all the way through this list makes things at least 50% better for me, and often times completely eradicates it.

    Try it out for yourself and see how it works for you.

    1. Stop and Take a Deep Breath

    The moment you notice yourself feeling more anxious than usual, stop whatever you’re doing and simply take a deep breath.

    In for 4 seconds…

    Hold for 2 seconds…

    Out for 4 seconds…

    The whole time thinking only of your breath and nothing else.

    More often than not, this first step will not get rid of your anxiety, but it will immediately help you feel at least 5-10% better. It will put you in an “OK, I got this” type of mindset, and you will feel ready to reassess your situation.

    Deep breathing is a great habit to get into and even just a quick dose can help center yourself in times of need.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    2. Brainstorm the Underlying Problem

    Assuming a deep breath doesn’t get the job all the way done, your next action is to brainstorm the underlying problem, i.e. what is the root cause of this anxiousness?

    For me, my anxiety spiked due to the loss of my job and the pressure of finding a new one. Interviews, even simple phone calls with recruiters, send me into an immediate state of nervousness.

    Knowing what’s causing my anxiety, for some reason, gives me a feeling of relief. At this stage, I don’t need to have the solution all figured out. I don’t even need anything to change. Trust me, I learned a long time ago that demanding anxiety to go away is a surefire way to make it even worse.

    I just find comfort in knowing what the problem is, and even though I may not be able to change it, I embrace the anxious feeling and don’t let it control me.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    3. Shake It Out

    Similar to step 1, step 2 is not intended to make your anxiety go away. However, it is another crucial step in mentally feeling better about your situation. If you wish, you can skip either steps 1 or 2, but I find I feel best when I go through the whole troubleshooting cycle.

    Step 3 is where the magic starts.

    Have you ever experienced shaking, commonly referred to as “tremors”, when feeling anxious or during a panic attack?

    Well, as it turns out, the shaking isn’t a bad thing. It’s a normal, innate response to the flooding of adrenaline upon a triggering of your body’s anxiety protocols.

    “Shaking from anxiety is mother nature’s way of de-stressing.” – Barry McDonagh

    Think about it. At some point in your life, you’ve likely come across a rabbit who appeared to be suffering from a panic attack. When I’ve seen it happen, the rabbit looks frozen-in-place, except its body is shaking violently.

    Moments later, the rabbit hops off and goes back to doing rabbit things, as if nothing ever happened.

    This shaking is nature’s way of releasing the build-up of stress chemicals that flood the body after a fearful event. Afterwards, everything is A-OK.

    As much as many people don’t like to believe it, humans are animals, too. You don’t see rabbits or squirrels visiting therapists to discuss their problems – they just shake it out and then go back to living life.

    The problem is that our society tremors as a sign of weakness. This is especially true with men. So, we do everything we can to suppress it, when in reality, we should be shaking it off like Taylor Swift.

    Shake It Off – Taylor Swift, Youtube

    As ridiculous as I might look, I’ll literally get up and start shaking out my anxiety (it works perfectly if you do it to the song).

    • I start with the arms and hands. Shaking them loose and moving them all around.
    • Then, I do the same with my head, shaking it left and right and moving it up and down.
    • While this is going on, I’m hopping up and down.
    • Then, I’ll stop hopping and start shaking out my feet and legs.

    This goes on for about a minute or two. And usually I feel a good bit better.

    If still feeling anxious, move onto the next step.

    4. Listen to Music

    If Taylor Swift doesn’t fix my anxiety, then I’ll give some other music a shot.

    Music and “sound therapy” have long been widespread and accepted ways to relax and de-stress. Except now, there’s science behind it.

    Neuroscientists in the United Kingdom researched and discovered the best songs for lowering your anxiety. Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, one of the scientists from Mindlab International who conducted the study, said that the song “Weightless” resulted in a 65 percent reduction in anxiety, blowing away previous studies.

    Weightless, YouTube

    Melanie Curtin, author of the article discussing the study, was kind enough to create an open Spotify playlist of all the top anxiety-reducing tracks.

    When I’m extremely stressed out, I’ll pop in that playlist, starting with “Weightless”, and either relax or continue doing my work with it in the background.

    Getting lost in the world of music does incredible things for my state of mind. Many times, this step solves my problem, and I’ll feel much better the rest of the day.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    5. Go for a Small Win

    A lot of the time, I find the root cause of my anxiety to be the seemingly overwhelming amount of work I have to do on any given day.

    If that’s the case, stepping back and starting small usually does the trick for me.

    Going for a small win, such as doing the dishes, completing a small task at work, making my bed, or cleaning a room of the house gives me a concrete success to build on. I feel more confident and less anxious about my ability to do everything else.

    Then, I’ll start working my way one-by-one through the rest of my tasks.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    6. Try Some Herbs

    Herbs have been widely known as a good, natural way for curbing anxiety symptoms.

    Tea is one of my favorite things in life, and it’s perfect for adding some extra relaxation into my daily life. At work and at home, I always keep a stocked supply of one of these three teas:

    Don’t worry, I’ve drunk enough Sleepytime tea at work to know that it probably won’t put you asleep. But, it may take your anxiety down at least a few notches.

    Often times, I find that the act of sipping hot tea comforts me the most, and the effect of the herbs is an added benefit. The next time you drink tea for anxiety, take a moment to stop and truly appreciate that beautiful cup of tea and the soothing feeling of it sliding down your throat into your belly.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    7. Meditate

    By this point in modern day history, most everyone knows that meditation is extremely powerful for reducing anxiety.

    The act of meditating involves deep breathing, focusing on your breath and nothing else.

    Perhaps the previous 6 steps have done a decent job at lowering your anxiety, but you’re still feeling anxious. Even just a short, mindfulness meditation session can act as a “reset” for your brain and blast away anxiousness.

    Headspace is an amazing app that offers several free guided meditation sessions. You can even do them right at your desk rather discretely.

    Use the Headspace app for a quick 10-minute meditation session, or follow this guide to get started.

    If I have the time, I’ll do a full 10-minute session to reset my mind. If pressed, I’ll bump it down to 5 minutes, which still helps immensely.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    8. Take a Cold Shower

    Cold showers are something I started doing after Tim Ferriss introduced me to Wim Hof, the Iceman. At first, it seemed a little ridiculous. After all, cold showers were right up there on my list of torture methods, next to waterboarding and sharp objects in the ear.

    But, I gave them a shot and holy smokes, they really work.

    The science is there to back it up, but you don’t even need to read about it if you just try for yourself. The last time I took a cold shower, I lasted about 5 minutes, which is long enough for me. Afterwards, I had no more symptoms of anxiety, and I felt strangely happy, like stupid, slap-happy (my fiancé can always tell when I’ve just taken one).

    This obviously may not be a viable option if you’re not at home, but if you are, it can be the end of the line for any anxiousness you may be feeling.

    If still feeling anxious, move on to the next step.

    9. Exhaust Yourself

    This is it. The last line of defense in my anxiety-busting routine. The big guns, folks.

    Sometimes, I make it several steps into this troubleshooting guide and don’t need to go any further. But other times, I make it all the way here, and my anxiety almost never survives afterward.

    When my anxiety is through the roof, I’ll find some way to physically exhaust myself, whether it’s through lifting weights, going for a run, sprinting, or even just doing as many pushups as possible beneath my desk.

    It turns out your body has a pretty hard time feeling anxious when it’s exhausted and there are all sorts of other feel-good chemicals being secreted into your system.

    After a grueling exercise session, my anxiety is usually subdued. This step in the troubleshooting process is so effective that occasionally, I’ll skip a few in-between steps and start right here if feasible.

    Putting It All Together

    And that’s it. Below is my summarized anxiety troubleshooting checklist:

    • Stop and take a deep breath
    • Brainstorm the underlying problem
    • Shake it out
    • Listen to Music
    • Go for a small win
    • Try some herbs
    • Meditate
    • Take a cold shower
    • Exhaust yourself

    More often than not, it gets the job done and tucks my anxiety away, leaving me free and feeling well enough to tackle the rest of my day. I hope it does the same for you. If nothing else, you’ve likely gained a few useful tools in your toolbox for dealing with anxiety in your own way.


    Initially published on The Monk Life

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