Hardcore self Help [10 min full ebook]
Anxiety is a natural response that can be helpful, but it becomes an issue when it happens for no reason
Let’s go back, way back, to prehistoric times. To caves and clubs. If you’re like me, you’re imagining captain caveman. Good. We’re back where anxiety was very essential for survival — fending off rivals and fleeing giant predators. That extra boost of adrenaline you got when you had to protect your mate or avoid becoming a bear’s snack, that’s all thanks to anxiety. Flash-forward to elevators, final exams, and press conferences. Anxiety has now become the enemy, when before it helped you perform better in moments of great threat, now it cripples you and goes to sit in the corner biting its fingernails off — leaving you to face your problems alone.
Let’s be fair, anxiety has its pros, it is prompt to hurry up and beat that deadline, fight or just get out of there quick! But, when it jumps at you unprovoked, that’s where it poses a problem. Although, certain situations bring out anxiety and it’s total normal, but if you choke, have great physical distress and withdraw from an activity because of anxiety then you should get help — real professional help. The author goes a step further to speak on mental health care further down this bite-sized self-help book.
The author believes that the fact that you’ve gotten a copy of this bite-sized self-help book is proof that you are on the right path to change and ultimately feel better, stay on it!
In the following chapters, you’ll find helpful tips to help you become better and learn just how your brain controls just how much anxiety you feel.
Your thoughts, feelings and behavior form The Triforce — the main keys in anxiety
The foremost therapy for anxiety is CBT — cognitive behavioral therapy. It centers on three aspects; thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Known as the cognitive triangle.
The theory is, these three affect each other. Your thoughts can influence a lot. Take, for example, your fiancé is involved in an accident, you will feel very bad. But if you found a huge sum of money in your trunk, you’ll definitely feel awesome.
But what if the money was drug money stashed in your trunk unbeknownst to you? Will you still be excited? Or will you start checking out the window for the cops or the mob? I bet you’d switch from panic to jumping up and down in excitement if you see a note saying it was from dad. See? Just like that, your thoughts caused a feeling and the feeling led to a behavior.
We form thoughts on what is real but oftentimes, they find footing in unrealistic conclusions. These conclusions are known as unhelpful thinking, or as the experts call it — cognitive distortions or maladaptive cognitions. They literally are your mind’s way of ruining your life. But relax, this is actually normal, what’s wrong is when you spend too much time on the act.
There are a few thought patterns that we engage in that are harmful to us — filtering, overgeneralization, polarized thinking, catastrophizing, should, mind reading, fortune telling, personalizing.
Do not fret if you’ve found yourself indulging in either of these, the author has a fix. Here’s what you can do to fix the negativity.
First, take a piece of paper and make three subheadings of A, B, and C and write down an event that caused you distress under A. Could be anything from a text from your friend saying we need to talk, to a call from your mom.
Secondly, write down how it made you feel without laboring words in the description under C. Simply write stressed, anxious or scared.
Thirdly, write down the initial reason you thought they were calling or texting under B. Like the first thing that came to mind — they are dying, they’re going to ask me for money, etc.
the author calls this the ABC method and it’s a form of the cognitive triangle — A = Activating event, B = Beliefs, and C = emotional Consequence. The reason C comes before B is to see just which of the negative thought patterns anxiety will make you engage in. now, make a new list, same as the first — A, B and C start with the event under A, the feeling it caused under C and then for B, instead of fortune-telling or mind reading, think of the most logical, neutral reason they might be calling you.
For example, Lucy is calling because she needs advice.
Breaking these negative thought patterns can be difficult. The author urges people to challenge their minds to mute the negative thoughts and choose positive or less negative ones instead. After all, you can’t tell the future until it has already happened, so it can either be bad or good, you have a choice to believe either outcome.
This technique is very effective and only so if you keep at it. It sounds simple enough and easy to execute. The real work though is in your head — your brain. It’s taking a record of these alternate thinking style and as such when a negative thought pops up, it simply switches to the least unpleasant possibility.
For those of you whose anxiety isn’t triggered by thoughts — physically induced, the following tidbits are for you.
Your body can react to anxiety in ways that makes it feel much worse
Anxiety can also be caused by the body too. Here are a few ways to approach the fix if you have physical anxiety.
Physical anxiety symptoms include; rapid heartbeat, dizziness, tightening of the chest, chills or hot flashes, shortness of breath.
If you have had any of these symptoms or a collection of them — a panic attack, it can rightly feel like you’re going to die. But you aren’t. see, as unbearable as these symptoms are, they can’t actually hurt you physically. It’s all in your head, hesé.
Okay, now we know that these symptoms can’t actually kill you. Problem solved, yes? No. the author urges people with these symptoms to engage in deep breathing whenever they’re faced with them. When you focus on your breathing, you find that your brain will slowly stop creating these maybe-almost-near-death reactions. It’s literally as easy as taking a breath, you can’t get it wrong. Or can you?
The author believes people lack the proper breathing techniques to assuage a panic attack and can still practice breathing. Strange, yes, but just like any other activity that requires mastery, you must learn how to properly breathe. No, not you Mr. Curry.
You can start slow, by practicing breathing in situations of less panic. Like maybe at the dinner table. Since breathing is a go-to tool for panic attacks, it is best to always have it oiled and ready. This although doesn’t assure you of a cure, it only relaxes you and helps you think clearly.
There are a lot of breathing techniques but all of them have a twofold approach system. First, they help you take slower, longer and deeper breaths and secondly they trick you into focusing instead on a totally unrelated and non-provoking target. Here’s one the author recommends (you probably wouldn’t find it anywhere else).
It’s called 4-7-8 breathing. Here, you inhale 4 times and then hold the breath for 7 counts and exhale for 8. Once you’ve gotten to two tries, you should feel very relaxed.
This technique is unlike the others, which have complicated setups. You simply breathe, count and breathe and count and no one need know what’s going on, kinda like Kegel.
As easy as this sounds, it also takes practice — regular, committed practice. Once you master it, you can simply access it in times of need. No pressure, you don’t want to end up triggering anxiety, that would be counterproductive. The author recommends that you try out the 4-4-4 system before you jump to the big 4-7-8s. this is so that you don’t rush your brain into submission and cause a negative physical reaction. Start slow, so your brain can slowly create neural pathways for this new habit and in time it’ll be like you were born to breathe. You get what I’m trying to say.
Breathing isn’t only for calming yourself during a panic attack but also just to help you relax.
This concept is called guided relaxation, and it can be in the form of a text, an audio or a video you can read, listen to or watch and bring yourself to a state of calm. The author has added a sample text for guided relaxation also and hopes you imagine him sounding like Morgan Freeman when you do.
Be nice and considerate to yourself, don’t be your own bully
Your lives might be stressful and a lot might be happening all at once and you just want it all to stop. The strategies that have been suggested in the previous chapters can work but you must want it to work too. How? Take a break, a lot of breaks.
Anxiety is usually a result of accumulating unfinished tasks either at work or at home. But this is actually when you need to take time off and just chill, crazy? I know.
When you take time off to relax and do nice things for yourself, you improve yourself and invest in your future self. When you ignore breaks and take on more and more work, the quality of the work will suffer greatly as a result. But these seemingly meaningless breaks help to give you clarity and peace to tackle the next task.
The kind of breaks you can take are solely dependent on what recharges your battery. Could be a nap or going to see a movie.
Asides from breaks, another way to refresh yourself is to be nice to yourself and stop negative self-condemning statements. These small statements go a long way to erode your self-confidence and worsen your anxiety. You should not try to fight your thoughts, instead, you should have a replacement for each negative thoughts.
Here are a few more positive mantras you can try:
• I’m allowed to make mistakes
• I’m allowed to feel good sometimes
• Anxiety has no power over me
• I don’t like these feelings, but they won’t hurt me
• I’m going to be alright
All these strategies are great but will be irrelevant if you don’t treat yourself well. Don’t drink too much alcohol and of course drink more water, get more rest; literally loads of sleep.
It would interest you to know that sleep is very important to learn new skills. As you sleep, your brain forms and establishes new memories and habits for future use. So, these helpful anxiety-go-away skills can be better ingrained in your time off.
Technology is great, but sometimes it can also be bad for your anxiety
Technology has done a great deal of good in advancement in mental health treatment. Anxiety isn’t left out, there are a host of new-fangled ways to help manage it. But with every good side, there’s always an equal and opposite bad and the author explains how technology can be bad for anxiety in this section.
This section is for those of you whose jobs or lifestyle has made it such that you spend the majority of your time on the internet or interacting with tech.
Technology indeed makes life much easier, it literally puts the world at your fingertips. But sometimes, the all-encompassing power of technology can be all too much and you need to get some control back for yourself. Try to min-max — minimize the ways technology can influence your mood and maximize the ways it can combat your anxiety.
One way to do this is to hold off on checking emails when you wake up until you’re done with your morning rituals and you’re sure it’s about work. Even at work, take mini breaks, not so much that you get into trouble but enough that you aren’t engrossed on the internet all day at work/school and at home too. Set a schedule to respond to emails, texts, and calls. Because if you decided to attend to each and every bit of information as it comes, you will give terrible and distant replies.
The author also hopes to highlight the good sides to technology and to show you that it’s not all bad. The goal, he explains, is to find a balance that suits you and your all round well-being. Make the tech work for you and not the other way around.
The tech-verse presents you with a host of helpful apps that can assist you in taking back some measure of control. Apps for meditation, exercising and so on and so forth.
The internet and technology have a greater hold on you than you think. A simple Facebook post or a blog ad of someone you hate can ruin a good mood you were previously in. take stock of these sites, posts and their effects so you can find ways to avoid or control the exposure to them.
Anxiety isn’t going to just go away like magic, but you will get better
You’re probably curious what this is about, some huge secret maybe for eternal happiness and rainbows. Sadly. No. the secret is that the techniques from the past chapters aren’t going to eradicate anxiety from your life. If you apply them and you still have episodes, it’s normal, they’re only meant to manage the condition.
If you keep getting worked up about the symptoms persisting, the anxiety will only worsen.
Think of anxiety as a wave, it can either splash against you and set you off balance or you can learn to weather it until you get to the other side. Because essentially, anxiety-like waves, is a temporary situation, never give in to it but don’t go at it head-on, it can backfire.
Some of you suffer from social anxiety, which is a form of anxiety that is triggered when you imagine being in a tight crowd, noisy mob or a crowded elevator. You will find breathing exercises won’t help, what will then? Simply walking towards or exposing yourself to that situation that causes you the stress. it sounded crazy too until the author tried it, and now he recommends it.
You can either approach it all at once, head-on or take small steps in exposing yourself to situations that cause you social anxiety.
Imagine it like a marathon, you can’t start off immediately and run 10,000kms on your first day. You start slow, with short distances a day or a week. Exactly, do the same thing with your mind. Keep exercising your mind, building a defense against anxiety.
This exercise goes something like this; imagine a situation that triggers anxiety. Once you do and you feel the familiar somatic reaction, breathe. Breathe again and again until you relax. Repeat this many times until you no longer feel anxious when you imagine the situations.
Say the situation was giving a presentation in front of your colleagues, now you must do more than just breathe. Relax, nothing too dire. Well, maybe. Try giving the presentation with no audience, then move a step further and go to the room you’d give the original presentation, don’t be scared, feel the anxiety and push past it — it’s just an empty room, nobody there to judge you. After you’ve taken these bold steps, the day of the actual presentation you’d find that there’s little or no anxiety about the presentation. Why? You’ve been practicing to deal with anxiety this entire time.
Anxiety comes in many forms
Anxiety has several symptoms, and the author wishes to intimate people with them and warns against self-diagnosis just because they see something that’s similar to their situations. See a professional, friend.
Let’s start with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), this is a non-specific type and has no particular stress triggers — literally anything can send you into an anxious panic and it can manifest in a host of uncomfortable symptoms similar to a panic attack but for a prolonged period.
Next up is Panic Disorder (PD), which is much like its name and will cause really intense panic attacks and is followed by the looming strong fear you might have another attack. You find yourself having symptoms of PD even when you aren’t having an attack because you’re afraid of another happening.
Then we have phobias which are commonly mistaken to mean “things to dislike”. They actually go deeper than that, it is the intense fear and apprehension you experience when you are confronted by the thing you have a phobia for. Like full on freak out. There are a lot of phobias and the entirety of them are largely unfounded fears and an exaggeration by your mind.
Next, we have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People often confuse this with its more diluted, televised cousin obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). While this mild version refers to varying idiosyncrasies, OCD refers to a situation where you have obsessions — disturbing repetitive thoughts that can loop and linger for days causing great distress and compulsions — a little like habits except you can’t avoid doing them and if you don’t your mind creates an obsession as a consequence or punishment. You guessed it, compulsions and obsessions are linked. Pretty darn convenient right? Although there are forms of this condition where patients experience just one — either obsessions or compulsions this aren’t so common.
And lastly, we have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which describes a situation where your brain replays a very messed up memory in a very vivid way over and over again. This is commonplace with ex-military individuals but it isn’t limited to them, it can be caused by a very traumatic experience— rape, loss of a family member, a ghastly accident, etc. These memories that people which they could forget because of the massive mental or physical effect it had the time when they’re forced to relive them, the symptoms can vary from anger or violent fits to a total detachment from everyone. There is also the occasional super vigilance and hyper-alertness — they often feel something similar is going to happen, and soon.
These are the main players in the anxiety game, you can’t let them win. Thankfully, they don’t always win, there are plenty of ways to manage it and live a healthier life. If you have any of these symptoms, fret not, it’s not a lost battle, you can start winning now.
Not everyone will understand how you feel, but patience is the key
If you know or are friends with one of those people who don’t understand anxiety, this chapter is for you.
They probably see anxiety and the people suffering from it as irrational, they can’t seem to get what the big deal about anxiety is.
You can communicate your condition to them by patiently describing your feelings, detailing them in normal examples a normal person can understand. These people are actually trying to help you and will get frustrated when the fixes they suggest don’t work for you but would normally work. They do this because they care, so it should be enough incentive to help their task easier. Because indeed, you will have to juggle explaining your feelings and an absolute meltdown, which can be very inconvenient.
Make sure they understand that you aren’t creating these symptoms and that you aren’t crazy. Let them put themselves in your shoes, take a walk in your anxiety filled shoes so they can better understand your situation.
Once they do, you would have gotten yourself a helping hand in your fight against anxiety.
Therapy is not something to be ashamed of, everyone needs some type of therapy
People often associate therapy with crazy people. Wrong, everyone needs therapy. Yes, you. There are different kinds of therapy for different kinds of people.
And as such, there exist a different kind of therapist with different approaches. There is the behavioral oriented therapist who investigates the physical responses to your anxiety and helps you unlearn them. And then we have the cognitive oriented therapist who approaches anxiety from the thoughts you generate and lastly the insight-oriented therapist who digs a little deeper into the history behind your anxiety.
These aren’t the only kinds of therapists, like literally way more. But beyond that, not all therapists are good at their jobs. And as such, you should always feel free to explore until you find the one that best suits you. And don’t let one bad experience stop you from trying therapy again.
Depending on the nature of the condition, the duration and of course the nature of the treatment you’d require. You can try group therapy or the regular private session.
If you are in need of therapy but you’re a student don’t have insurance, you can try your resident guidance counselor or campus training clinics. But if you do have insurance, you definitely should check your insurance provider’s website for their therapy options.
Now, what happens when you’re no longer a student but you still don’t have insurance or income? Have no fear, you can find therapists who do it for much cheaper or for nothing at all. You’re probably wondering, will free therapy to be any good? Well yes, there are actually still good people who just want to help you, no hidden costs. Still, don’t trust it? Then you can use non-profit organizations that offer free therapy to less privileged people.
Always remember that nobody is above help, you can’t do everything on your own. Seek professional help.
Another resource apart from therapy is medication. You’re probably thinking why it took so long to mention it, the author apologizes. The hesitation stems from the misconceptions about medication and its effects.
The author aims to disabuse readers’ minds of any wrong ideas they might have. Medications aren’t going to shrink your brain, turn you to a zombie or fix your problems immediately. They are although essential to help the work of the therapist move along smoother and kick in quicker. The constituent chemicals are slowly adjusting your brain to cope with the anxiety, and in combination with therapy, you can slowly move towards a point where you need neither a pill or a shrink to slay at life.
Even though a lot of people brush off anxiety and attribute their quirks as just quirks, anxiety is real and makes life very stressful for people suffering from it. There are a lot of ways to manage with anxiety and if these self-help methods don’t work for you, you can always try professional help. We all need someone to help us through life’s hurdles.
Make a schedule for relaxation exercises, and as you incorporate it into your schedule, carve out more time to avoid situations that cause you stress for a week. Add as many weeks as you feel is enough for you to find your balance.