As I write this, I’m getting ready for one of the most important meetings of my life so far. It could be a milestone in my career. I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it for the last 3 days, and my anxiety is in full force.
I know I’m prepared for it. I’ve done my due diligence.
Anxiety doesn’t care about that, of course.
“What if it goes wrong?”
“What if I get turned down?”
“What if I get laughed out of the Zoom meeting?”
In a previous bite-sized essay, I wrote about long-term healing from anxiety. In the short term, the solution is continuous damage control.
Having dealt with anxiety for years, I know that it is not as simple as choosing to feel better. I must continuously take care of myself until the deed is done. Otherwise, I will wreck myself from nervousness and sabotage myself.
The two solutions to anxiety are to focus on the present, and control the future narrative. This is what I’ve done the last few days:
Focus on the present:
- When I’m unable to cope at all, I either go to sleep or I zone out watching YouTube. Neither is a great solution, but it is a holdover until the event comes closer.
- AIR: When I’m able to, I’m forcing myself to breathe deep, breathe out through my mouth, and go for a walk to get fresh air. These are basic meditation techniques.
- WATER: Stress has physical repercussions. Staying hydrated always helps keep the body feeling good. Non-milk teas are especially calming.
- I’m trying to avoid food, even if I feel hungry. I’ve been stress-eating, so trying to supplement with water instead helps me feel more present. Food is a bad combination with anxiety, because you’ll run into bloating and digestive issues.
Controlling the Future Narrative:
- EARTH: Tim Ferriss advocates fear-setting — the act of rationalizing the worst case scenario and realizing it’s not that bad. I find that it’s not enough to do it once. I’ve been repeating the exercise a few times a day to ground myself.
- FIRE: I’ve been jazzing myself up. I know I’m ready and I have a great case to make. Trying to turn anxiety into excitement helps.
- Something I haven’t been able to do, but I know that works is to simply sit with yourself and become dispassionate. Disconnecting from the result I want will solve the anxiety. Writing this essay is one way to do that (and it is working).
In the short term, taking care of yourself is the first and most important task in the fight against anxiety. Long-term healing comes afterwards. Until then, follow Air, Water, Earth, Fire. Breathe deep, drink water, rationalize your fears and process your excitement.