15 Things I’ve Learned About Anxiety In The Last 15 Years

Some of these will piss you off...but most will set you free

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This post was published in April of last year, but for some reason I chose not to publish it in this newsletter. I re-read it last night and it struck a chord with me. So I pivoted last minute from a different post I had planned to this one because I think you’ll find it useful in whatever you do. Enjoy!

Anxiety is universal.

Where there are humans, you can bet anxiety is there too. Sometimes it’s small, unnoticeable. Other times, anxiety is medium and annoying. Then there are times when it is big and overwhelming. Crippling, even.

Fifteen years ago, ‘big anxiety’ busted down my front door and we’ve had one hell of a relationship ever since.

At first, I hated him. Then, I accepted him. And now, I might actually like the guy. It took a long time to get things under control, but I’ve been at peace with my anxiety for almost a decade.

This list contains the most important things I’ve learned about anxiety. I have no doubt that these can help you in any facet of life, whether that’s work, relationships, finances, or daily living.

Be warned — some of these will piss you off…but most of them will set you free.

1. Anxiety is not a disease. It’s hardwired into us as a part of the human experience.

2. Anxiety disorders ARE a disease. Sometimes it gets away from us and becomes a real, diagnosable problem.

3. Most people suck at managing their anxiety, and then it gets out of control. This might be a problem with the education system or how our parents raised us, but I think it’s just human nature. A little bit of anxiety is unnoticeable, so everyone assumes management techniques like exercise, mindfulness, or therapy aren’t needed.

But anxiety is a sneaky son of a biscuit. Like a snug-fitting rubber band on your wrist, you get used to it quickly. Over time, it squeezes a little tighter, but again your body adapts. Then one day, you lose circulation and your hand turns blue. Now you’ve got a real problem on your hands (literally).

Manage your anxiety while it’s still manageable…before it turns into something more.

4. Anxiety is discomfort. It’s natural for you to fight it. But that’s what anxiety wants. It wants the fight because it feeds on resistance and then grows bigger. The way to beat it? Stop resisting it. Accept it. Become best friends.

5. Anxiety cannot be “cured”. It never goes away. It’s always there. You just learn how to live with it and manage it.

6. Most times the solution to anxiety is not a hardware fix, but a software upgrade — one that’s needed to, once again, learn how to manage it.

7. The best thing I do every day to manage my anxiety is to live an honest life. Doing things that are bad, immoral, or in conflict with your wants/needs/beliefs manifests in bad ways. My anxiety was at its worst when I was in a relationship I had no business being in but was too afraid to leave. I wasn’t living in line with my values. The internal conflict bred anxiety.

8. The second big thing that I do is to avoid actions that weigh heavily on the soul. A lot of anxiety comes from doing things that you know are going to eat at you for a long time. Don’t do those things.

9. The third big thing I do to manage anxiety is to confront my problems, preferably as fast as possible. I don’t like letting things fester. The longer I wait to do something, the more it torments me. A good example might be a difficult conversation you need to have with a colleague. But sometimes even little things like laundry become big things if you wait long enough. Save yourself the torment and do it asap. Loose ends and unfinished business will push your anxiety beyond your limits.

“One of the simplest ways to improve your quality of life is to reduce how long it takes to have a difficult conversation once you know you need to have it.” — David Perell

10. I strongly believe doing items 7, 8, and 9 (“the big three”) will ease 99% of your anxiety. Other tools to manage anxiety like diet, exercise, therapy, and medicine are effective, but not like the big three.

11. Medicine is not bad. It has its place in anxiety management. Use it if you need it.

12. Therapy is awesome. I was incredibly resistant to it the first time I went, but the more I did it, the more I opened up and the better it got. Now, I recommend therapy to everyone, even if there’s no reason for it. (There’s always a reason for therapy.)

13. If you don’t want to do therapy, talk to someone. Anyone. Or anything, really (including a journal or a rock). Taking your thoughts out of your head and putting them into the world, regardless of medium, is progress.

14. Even the prettiest of gardens are ruined by just a few bad weeds. Stop hanging out with bad weeds. Bad weeds are people.

15. I’m not a doctor and none of this is professional advice. I’m just a guy who’s dealt with a lot of anxiety and figured out what’s worked for me and many others. DYOR.