Tag Archives: anxiety tips

Crowded Stores And How To Handle It

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If you’re anything like me, when you’re in a crowded store there are one of three things that goes through your mind:

  1. What the fuck is wrong with you people, personal space!
  2. Okay, how many of you are telepathically communicating with each other to plan my demise? (You ask them all telepathically, of course).
  3. Too many, too many, too many, run, run, leave, leave, panic, panic–wait! There’s chocolate–okay, run, run, run.

Or maybe you think all three and have a hell of a time shopping. I can essentially go into two stores by myself: Walgreens and Rite Aid. When those two stores are crowded, I sit in my car for a good twenty minutes until I feel safe entering the establishment.

But when you can’t wait twenty or thirty minutes in your car with your kitten comforting you, and you have to take a deep breath and dive neck deep into the hell that is a sea of human nematodes, here are six things that help me.

  1. If you feel like people are planning your demise, or if the clerks are conspiring to get you kicked out, do as I do and put some ear phones in. If you hear the clerks conspiring to get you kicked out, I suggest even more you put some ear phones in. It’s a good distraction and you can blend in pretty well. If you start talking to yourself, it looks like you’re on the phone. What a wonderful age we live in, right? Conversely, if you are not someone who talks to yourself regularly and you walk around with those bluetooth things in your ears talking to the air, you look ridiculous, you really, really do.

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    Oh You’re Sooooooo Suave

  2. If people are crowding around you, remember you have the right to leave the aisle. I feel sometimes our anxiety can paralyze us and we’re stuck between two people on our right and two people on our left with thoughts circulating about how close they are, about if they’re watching us pick out an item, about how they’re judging the item we pick up, or maybe just that there is another person next to us and we’re trapped so we have to pick something before we can leave. These are all thoughts I experience as well. It’s a good idea to just squeeze on past and come back to the aisle later. It’s not going anywhere.
  3. If you then think those people are following you around the store just to crowd you, or to track you, as I often have felt, try and remember that everyone came in this store for something. Chances are, you will run across someone looking for the same thing you are. It may be that they are following you: just not on purpose.
  4. You do have the freedom to punch someone. I don’t suggest doing it, in fact I recommend you don’t. But remembering that may give you some security.
  5. Talk to yourself. In your head this time. Too often we let ourselves be victimized by this beast called anxiety and it starts running the show. It controls our thoughts, our actions, our emotions. It’s up to you to take back at least a sliver of control: remind yourself it’s okay. Sing along to lyrics in your head. Focus on a list you may have made. The point isn’t to dissociate from the situation like I pretty much always do, but to be able to maintain a level of composure while being present. Remind yourself what you’re feeling is anxiety, or paranoia, or panic, whichever it is you come across, and recognize it and know that it’s there. Try not to push it away. The harder you push, the stronger it gets, have you noticed?
  6.  Remember it will end. Remember that when you get out of that store and away from those people you will have a moment to breathe again and you can count it as a victory. Even if you don’t make it, even if you have to run out without buying anything, you went in and tried and that takes courage. There’s no failure here, only small victories, small accomplishments.

Too often we beat ourselves down for what we don’t do, what we feel we’ve failed at, and don’t nearly give ourselves enough credit for the things we do accomplish, even the small things–I’m guilty of this myself. One thing our minds are very talented at in the midst of something like anxiety is telling us how wrong we’ve managed to do everything. Not even the one thing we tried to do, but it becomes a generalization of everything.

Our brains are very good at hyperboles. And that’s okay, we just have to recognize them and have an action plan when they pop up.

 

 

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Surviving Anxiety And College

Anxiety and depression go hand in hand with college.

Hatred of all mankind, your life, and everything that exists in the known universe goes hand in hand with school in general, am I right, am I right?

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But seriously, whether you have an anxiety “disorder” or not, college somehow manages to evoke the worst out of you. Smart kids, dumb kids, average kids: we all experience it. You could do like the guy passed out in the public library in front of me who obviously shot heroin and decided to come sleep in the library because fuck it, no one cares in this town, or you can find some strategies to remedy the situation. Here are some things, as an avid anxiety sufferer for the entirety of my short life, I think can be helpful.

  1. For the love of whatever God you do (or don’t) believe in, DO NOT overwhelm yourself.What I mean by that is don’t take 18 units because you want to get your degree and get the hell out if you can’t handle it. If all you can handle is two classes per semester, take two classes per semester. It’s not a race. Even when it feels people are flying past you at lightening speed and getting perfect grades and starting their life as a theoretical physicist with a Ph.D at the age of twenty two, resist the urge to trip balls. Resist it. After all, you’re in college. You’re there to do things at your pace, how you want; how you perform relative to your neighbor has absolutely no reflection on your intelligence (Newtons 632nd law). The more you focus on others the worse your anxiety will get. physic
  2. Go easy on yourself. If your anxiety keeps you from a lecture one day, do all you can to remind yourself you’re taking this brief hiatus for yourself, so you can come back to the next class stronger and a little more mentally aware. That does not mean do what my (not) smart ass does, and take an anxiety day every other day. It means your health is important. It means keep in communication with your professors. If your anxiety isn’t entirely “social anxiety”, keep in communication with people you’ve befriended in class. You don’t need to tell them about your struggles, but they can be good resources if you need notes or homework for a day you’ve missed. I personally have no friends to depend on, so consider yourself at an advantage if you do.

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    The Thought Makes Me Gag

  3. Get your fucking ass to the student health/accommodations/”disability” center. Now. If you haven’t done that and instead you’re reading this post, I give you permission to mentally mark this number, save it for later, and run to your campus. The only thing about this is you will need some form of “proof” from a doctor, a psychologist, whoever, who has known you for a while. Most people provide documentation from a physician or psychiatrist. I convinced the one at my school to just go off a brief letter from my psychologist. They give you a separate study area, they give you a silent place where your tests are proctored, they give you longer times on your tests, and it literally forces you to communicate with your professors. If that idea makes you nervous, I know how you feel. I couldn’t even go into the financial aid office this week because they fucking moved the building and I’ve been going to same place for the past three years; I can’t just suddenly change my fucking routine damnit! So if new things like that scare you, don’t worry. The deadline, the thought of failure that may make you even more anxious, will eventually force you to do it. tumblr_m2wgjeiege1qa0uujo1_500
  4. Make yourself comfortable. If you don’t like small classrooms or crowded classrooms, sit at the end of the aisle near the door. I should learn to take my own advice. For example, yesterday at an Alpha Gamma Sigma meeting (oh yeah, join your honor society, looks good if you’re applying to other universities or grad school) my boyfriend and I had to sit in the middle of a row because there weren’t many seats left that fit us next to each other, and I’m anal like that; I need my support force with me at all times. My heart thumped like I was running a marathon. The tingling in my fingers came and my brain was screaming “get out, get out, get out.” I couldn’t leave though, not at the first meeting of the semester. So I sat there in pain shaking my leg and trying to keep from crying in front of fifty or so people. I took deep breaths silently and made myself focus on tiny details of each speaker: lines under their eyes, strands of hair sticking up, belly button rings, jean colors, ethnicity, names, and repeated each word they said over again in my head. It took my focus off my body and into the present. So, don’t do what I did. Do the opposite of what I did. Do the opposite of everything I do. 405739_510972168945453_857736176_n
  5. They woke up the heroin addict. I’m waiting for him to pass out again. His eye lids are fluttering. . . . . now they shut. Waiting for his body to topple over again. There’s a difference between being really tired and being on a downer, trust. Try not to do heroin, if you fall asleep during your math test you will definitely not pass. No students, the integral of e^-4x times sin(2x) is NOT your face print.

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    You Do This.

  6. Take classes you enjoy or always, always save time for something you enjoy. Music, art, creative writing, whatever. It will allow you an outlet during the day. creative-mind
  7. Don’t keep it a secret. If your anxiety gets so out of control that it’s affecting your school work and your daily life, tell someone. Get a free counselor on campus. Find a good friend. Join an “anxiety” club. Tell someone online. Just get it out of you before it cracks you in half. Because it has no reservations in making you miserable, it feeds off the fact that it knows you won’t do shit.
  8. Sleep! If you’re like me and you can’t sleep . . . well . . . try! Try sleepy-time tea. Try exercising or moving around a lot during the day, even if it’s just doing things around your house or dorm or room or whatever.
  9. He toppled over again.
  10. Last but not least. . . if you feel like you’re shutting down, don’t panic. You’ve been here before and you’ve made it out alive. You’re not alone in this struggle. It’s something I often fail to convince myself. So I end up listening to songs like this:

. . . and end up convincing myself I’m the demon spawn destined to murder everyone and bleed their bodies in a field.

Don’t be like me, remember?

Invest In Yourself Like You Should Have Invested In Google In The 90’s

Wednesdays are always the days I moan in bed. Five straight hours of chemistry can drive anyone’s motivation into the ground. Unless you’re a chemist, I suppose.

But I always try to look at the day with a positive light and today was no different.

In our chemistry lab we work in groups and if you’ve ever read any of this blog, you know that’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, nor is it an easy thing for me to do. However, I’ve learned that before I have to deal with any sort of interaction with people on this personal of a level (you know, having to . . . ugh, talk with them) that if I’m able to convince myself to “Go with the flow” that “whatever happens, happens,” I’m a little less nervous. It helps to remind myself not to over think.

Anxiety is a lot like energy. Energy is defined as “the capacity to do work” and anxiety should be defined as “the incapacity to not think”. Both are rather vague and people argue over their validity every day. If you’re a quantum physicist or whatever, you probably have a way better understanding of the complexity of energy and if you have anxiety you have a way better understanding of the complexity of over-thinking. The Law of Conservation of Energy states energy cannot be destroyed nor created. It just changes forms. It can come in two common categories: Potential and Kinetic. A Before and During, if you will.

I would argue there’s a Law of Conservation of Anxiety when you’re in the midst of battling an untreated anxiety disorder. It’s always there in the back of your head no matter where you go, what you do, or what you tell yourself. You can’t destroy it and you’re so confused because you also didn’t create it. Even on my best days I’m highly anxious. Even when you think you’ve conquered or destroyed it, it rams your head into the wall like a wrecking ball (#MileyCyrusShit) and you come to the disheartening realization that it’s only been in hiding. These are the hardest days of your life, but they’re also the most important. If you can’t learn to deal with the downswings, the discontent of having “failed” against this thing in your head, then you’ll never learn to live with yourself. When you get that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, that sensation of self-humiliation, of self-doubt, of depression, don’t fight it; analyze it. Understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and see if you can rationalize it. You won’t be able to, and that should be a cue you’re over-thinking.

It’s one thing to be aware your thinking isn’t rational, it’s another thing to pick it apart and understand it.

I would also argue there is Potential Anxiety and Kinetic Anxiety. I’ll take a much more literal interpretation than science. When you know there’s an event or class coming up that’s particularly worrisome to you and you spend hours, days, maybe even weeks wrestling for sleep in your bed, fighting off nausea, and ruminating on what could go wrong or what could happen (You ever notice you never think about what could go right?) then you’re experiencing Potential Anxiety; you’re registering a potential threat to your sanity in your future that could happen. When you’re participating in the situation and you get those cold sweats and stuttered speech and red face and scattered thinking, that’s your Kinetic Anxiety taking over.

I give them names because it helps me separate myself from my symptoms. That changes my train of thought; I’m no longer the problem, it’s my anxiety, and I’m allowed to distance myself from it because I am not my anxiety.

If energy can change form, than I would argue Anxiety can as well. It’s highly malleable; you can shape it how you want once you get a good grip on it. You’re not destroying it, just fitting it in the back of the closet in your mind with all the other old things you don’t give a shit about like that one creepy porcelain doll with the satanic eyes that speaks words backwards when you pull the drawstring on its back that your grandmother gave you for your sixteenth birthday because she thought the devil music you listened to meant you were in a cult and she wants to show you that she’s supportive of any of your life choices.

Whatever. The point is to be aware and in control, not obsessively searching for a way to get rid of it and then never learning how to cope. There are two things you can focus on. 1) The anxiety. 2) Coping with the anxiety.

That being said, I only have one partner in Chemistry (Score!) and she already has a bachelors degree for something I forgot (watch her stumble across this post, that’s something that would happen to me). We work well together. That’s something I don’t say often. We both are equally lost in chemistry and our confusion brings us together. When I speak to her or ask a question there’s always that little voice in my head telling me how stupid I’m sounding, how dumb of a question that was, how the group next to us is laughing at how stupid I am, but honestly I’m so wrapped up in Cations and Anions and their fucking non-metal/metal rules and electrons and man-made elements that I don’t have the time for those voices to fuck with me. Therefore, I won’t give them the time.

When we pack up and get ready to leave I’m never sure if I should say “see you” or “bye” or ” see you next week” or “see you next Wednesday”; most of the time I greet or say bye to anyone who doesn’t do so to me first. There’s always the voice in my head saying it’s awkward when you speak first, your voice sounds weird, they’re going to think you’re weird and intrusive, just walk away.

Today I took the initiative to speak first on many things, and I helped her with proper naming and she helped me with proper formulas. I cracked jokes because that’s all I know how to do in conversation. We were a team. And although my anxiety sat on my shoulders from the moment I woke up this morning, I succeeded in forcing it to the back seat of the bus. It’s okay to discriminate against your anxiety, it’s an asshole to you all the time.

A girl walked up to the professor to ask her a question and she got incredibly frustrated because she’d done the entire page of work wrong. He said “Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re learning, that’s what you’re here for.”

They were simple words, but they fueled a revelation in me. This time I could walk from the classroom and call that social situation, as awkward as I felt I was, a success. If we’re not supposed to beat ourselves up about learning new material in school, than why should I beat myself about learning how to interact with people? I’m learning, nothing more. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll get frustrated. I’ll have my bad days and by the time I’ve done a thousand of these types of interactions I should be 100 times better at squashing that anxiety.

Take it a day at a time. Give yourself a pat on the back when you have successes and give yourself a pat on the back when you don’t. Learning is a process.

Work = (Force) X (Distance) a.k.a, Social Anxiety Disorder Tips

If there’s one thing that haunted me most in my childhood, and still rears it’s ugly head often in my adulthood, is social anxiety disorder. It made it so I was mute in pre-school. It made it so I couldn’t go to a school bathroom until high school; I had several accidents in elementary because I couldn’t raise my hand and ask and was too nervous to go during breaks in general. When I got stung by a bee in class I sat there for an hour, unable to speak, until the pain urged tears down my cheeks and the teacher asked what was wrong. I couldn’t ask questions when I got confused in class, so I fell behind in Math especially. In middle school I did poorly in every subject besides literature, and in high school I failed chemistry, algebra three times, and skipped every other day to get high because I couldn’t stand being in a classroom where my normal level of anxiety, usually about the height of the clouds in the atmosphere, sky rocketed into space. In college old habits repeat themselves; I struggle, especially in math and science, because of my inability to ask for help as often as I should.

I was that weird kid in middle school who stands close to the larger groups of kids to pretend she has friends.The one friend I made in middle school went with me to high school and I sat with her group of friends. I have yet to make any new friends in college, partly because I don’t want to put in all the effort friendships take and partly because I wouldn’t know how if I tried.

Social anxiety disorder is bigger than being nervous. It dominates your life much like any other disordered thinking does. Social events to me are a lock and key situation where the key is an algorithm my brain can’t decipher. I’ve had this anxiety for so long there are cues and social developmental milestones I never reached. Speaking with me in person is like speaking to a nervous seven year old.

That being said, I’ve worked on my anxiety tremendously over the last few years and with maturity comes the ability to realize my thoughts aren’t rational and that people aren’t constantly laughing at me or chatting about me or calling me stupid.

But there’s a problem with just calling Social Anxiety Disorder “social anxiety” or “Shy”. That’s very vague. Shyness could mean anything: maybe you’re anxious speaking to a group of people or in front of a group of people, but do well regardless. Maybe you get a little nervous in class but you plow through it and it’s never impaired your life in any way, shape or form. You may have social anxiety, you may be shy, but you do not have Social Anxiety Disorder.

If you ruminate on every little thing every person has said to you today, last week, last month, maybe those few years ago and still get an overwhelming sensation of guilt and humiliation, as if those people are still laughing at you; and you avoid several social situations (including minor contact like having to walk through the doors at a grocery store) and instead stay in your house and argue with your brain over how stupid you’re being; and you feel overwhelmed in a large group of people because you have to focus on all their conversations to make sure they’re not making fun of you; and you feel inadequate in conversation because you’re not sure if what you said was stupid or that what you said is irrelevant all the time; and you constantly believe the expressions on people’s faces are contorted in disgust when you speak; and you have to mold your life around this monster in your head, live according to its needs, you may have Social Anxiety Disorder.

This could be Mild, Moderate, or Severe, but the key point is it impairs your life’s functionality in some way.

When I clicked on the this BuzzFeed Article about social anxiety in college, I was interested in whether or not they equated social anxiety as a mental disorder with shyness. I won’t go through all 25 tips, but I will talk about the most helpful and least helpful.

Least Helpful (assuming said person with social anxiety disorder has had little/no):

  1. Get Participation Points Through Asking Questions Rather That Answering Them: If I can’t answer a question because I feel like my answer is going to be judged, laughed at, and etched into stone in everyone’s fucking tombstone, how the hell am I going to rationalize asking them? This was my first hint that this article was most likely written for people suffering from some mild anxiety issues. If you can ask a question but not answer them, you’re probably not social anxious. We’re so wrapped up in other people’s opinions of us, asking or answering questions are equally as bad; either way you can be judged for being stupid.
  2. Practice Presentations during Office Hours Before You Have To Do Them In Front Of Classmates: I’m not denying this is an excellent tactic if you have trouble remembering what you’re going to say because you have trouble remembering things. From my experience, it doesn’t work. I practiced for two weeks memorizing a speech and recited it over and over again to people and still forget the entire thing in two seconds during the presentation. Instead, I stood stuttering until my embarrassment caused me to sit down. If you’ve had practice reducing your anxiety this doesn’t happen often (I don’t have this issue any longer with presentations) but it’s worth noting that anxiety causes some crazy fright in your brain and as a result, your memory is shot. But my opinion is biased.

Most Helpful (Also from my perspective):

  1. Write Down Talking Points Before Classes Where Participation Counts: Hell, I’d extend this to any class. When you have something to talk about it’s a lot easier, especially because you can look back at your paper and remind yourself why you were so passionate about whatever you wrote down. Seminars where participation is required is a pretty common thing in college, especially in graduate school, so it’s a good idea to start early if you’re a freshman. I do feel much more comfortable speaking in groups with people to this day and rarely have to write key points down anymore. I can almost fully count on my brain to store the thoughts and recall them when needed. I still struggle, but it’s remarkably less due to this tactic.
  2. Figure Out What Your Social Goals Are& Make some small ones to help you obtain your goals: This is a big one. Do you want a huge circle of friends or do you want one or two close ones? You don’t have to have either, and I think a lot of us with Social Anxiety Disorder (especially if you haven’t had much help overcoming it) think you have to be social because if you’re not, you’re weird. That’s our anxiety talking. You don’t have to do anything but die and pay damn taxes. I enjoy quick outings with groups every once in a while, but having a huge group of friends would kill me. That’s my preference, without my anxiety speaking for me. My only goals are to reduce my anxiety to the point where I can comfortably carry on daily life. Other than that, I’m content having only a few acquaintances.
  3. Understand that getting rid of your anxiety isn’t the goal: living with it is.
  4. Don’t avoid every single anxious situation: Slowly but surely I’ve been able to wake up in the morning with my heart pounding, my hands shaking, and my head telling me “stay home, stay home, stay home”, accept it, and do the exact opposite. As much as it pains you to think about leaving your comfort zone, it’s the only way you can learn. Don’t think about it as changing who you are and do not ever, ever, ever think it’s a way to fix you. There’s nothing wrong with you. If anything, these are just tactics to help you learn a new way of life. You don’t have to change into an extrovert to not be socially anxious (unless you want to); it’s entirely up to you. Either way takes work and Work is always equal to Force X Distance. In other words, Force yourself out of bed and Distance yourself from the house. #PhysicsIsLife.