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It’s something that can debilitate everyone of us. There are a thousand reasons as to why it starts but the result always seems to be the same.
A fear of crowds can be understood.
For me, there is something a little sillier. It’s phone calls. If I have to make a phone call, I would have to leave the room and go to the furthest part of the house- away from everyone else.
Even now, I still get anxious about it. Not long ago I had to call in sick for work. I was in no condition to go to work, and yet, it took me over an hour to pick up my phone and make the call. The call that I have to add, lasted less than 10 seconds.
I had imagined myself talking to everyone that could answer the phone at the other end. I tried to think of everything that they could say.
I’ve never been overly confident on the phone. I don’t like to make an order to a fast food restaurant or call for a taxi because of it. The craziest thing of all, is that for my work I’ve had to make over a thousand phone calls. I’ve called doctors and set up appointments for others so many times and it has never been an issue.
I tell this story to illiterate that anxiety isn’t reliable, but it can cripple people with such ease.
It’s hard to understand if you have never experienced it for yourself.
One day you can head to the middle of a city with no issues, and the next, you struggle to make a phone call.
So what can we do?
Like many options I recommend with mental health issues, goals are important. They are more than just little achievements for people to take lightly, they are accomplishments, and something to always strive for. If you are agoraphobia, your goal is to stand outside for one minute. When you do this, the next goal is to do it again. Maybe for two or even push yourself to go to a coffee shop. It all depends on the person, but here are the goals I suggest and what work for me.
The first thing is to realize that anxiety is not something that can be cured. There will be good days and bad days, but no quick fixes.
A reason to get out.
When it’s warm—or at least sunny—this is a lot easier to do. The cold weather makes us want to comfy up on the sofa with a hot drink and, at most, just look at the snow.
However, try something a little more artistic. Most of us have a phone that can take pictures, so maybe start a hobby with photography. The chances are there are multiple groups in your area that focus on just that. That encouragement of these groups can be incredibly helpful for those who need it. Or going solo and uploading these photos to the group, getting into the routine of doing that is, in itself, an impressive goal to reach.
Can you go one step further? Could you get a sketch book and a pencil? This is much longer than taking a photo and experimenting with different filters- and that’s the point.
While sketching you are focused on the work you are doing. Each line needs your attention. Each short stroke takes you out of where you are so you can simple be where you are. I realize how that sounds- but it stops you from thinking about the issues that normally make you so anxious.
When I’ve suggested this to people I am usually met with, "but I can’t draw."
It’s a fair point—but the worse you are at art, the better the goal. You start with stick men and end up drawing trees and faces. Every line is a victory. Because every line is one that you wouldn’t have drawn otherwise.
There are many calming techniques out there. Tia Chi is my personal favorite. Simple and gentle movements- of course I get anxious that people will see and judge so I make sure the curtains are closed and no one can see me doing it. It’s more of a form of meditation than anything else.
Being able to get out of our own heads for a while can do us the world of good. Any form of meditation can help. You don’t have to go to extremes of hours a day. But if you can set aside five to eight minutes a day. Simple moves or just sitting there in quiet can help to calm these nerves. To hush that little voice that gets us worked up.
Another is exercise. There is no substitute for sun light. There is nothing better for someone than to simply get out and go for a walk.
We can start by having short goals. Short trips to easy places to get to. When possible, always try to out in nature. I know for a number of us this is much harder than it sounds, but if you can, aim to walk through parks, by the sea, woodlands, and so on.
The goal is to live without anxiety impacting our lives in such a debilitating way. Some days we will win, some days we will lose.
More than anything, we should remember that a bad day is not a failure.