Who among us has not experienced their fair share of anxiety? Whether it be from finances, school assignments, career troubles or relationship issues, we all – at least occasionally – get caught in the rainstorm that is anxiety. Some prefer to outrun this brewing downpour. I say, save your energy, and just bring an umbrella.
An anxiety umbrella can take many forms: medicine, therapy, self-reflection or alterations in one’s daily tasks that reduce the burden of anxiety and allow you to focus on more important matters. Here are a few examples that you can use when that cloud of stress turns threatens to turn into a perfect storm:
- Music vs. rumination
Think of all those times you jammed out to your favorite James Taylor, Billy Joel, or maybe even Taylor Swift songs during your sadder moments. For me, these memories are always healing. Recently, the BBC published an article citing numerous different critically acclaimed research studies.Two words come to mind for alleviating anxiety symptoms via music: safe and cheap. Music does not need to be taken with copious amounts of water or checked weekly by your psychiatrist; instead, it can be incorporated whenever those fluttering feelings of anxiousness enter your head.On your way to a big exam, a work presentation, or something as inane as going to a public restroom (believe me, I can relate), plug in your favorite Taylor Swift song, or whatever is your preference. You should notice an uncanny change in your demeanor toward any given task.
Ultimately, this methodology of reducing anxiety symptoms falls underneath the umbrella of comfortability. Do what makes you feel comfortable. (There is a fine line between comfortable actions and detrimental behaviors.)
- I want candy
I’ve always had an affinity for one specific vice, candy. If you had asked my 8-year-old self why I had indulged so unhealthily in an abundance of sugar-related substances, he would’ve said, “Because I like candy.” Profound, right?
Well, over ten years later, I will offer you a more scientific reasoning. The National Institute of Health published a study explaining how dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with the reward system in the brain) is released upon the consumption of your candy of choice. While this study focused on daily bingeing of candy which resulted in a drug-like release of dopamine, we can deduce that in moderation, eating your candy of choice once a week, can be a reasonably effective way to cruise past that tough exam or other challenge that you’ve been stressing over the past few weeks.I do understand that some experts would say that it can result in an unhealthy reward system, eating whenever one is mildly stressed. Obviously, this comfort food system can only be available for those who will not abuse it.
When dealing with the aches and pains of an occasional anxiety storm, it’s important to feel comfortable. Often, people experiencing anxiety have feelings of hopelessness in their “task of anxious origin” and avoid it, or try to outrun the raincloud, but this rarely ever is effective. The professor rarely calls in sick on the day of the exam; your interviewer rarely cancels; the presentation you’re giving will only get delayed. There is no outrunning a storm.
So, the first step is not to run. It will result in physical and mental discomfort. Find something enjoyable that will help you push through this storm. It can be in the form of an umbrella, or music, a raincoat, or candy, or various other rain-related analogies.
To finish, I will leave you with words my father told me when I used to get anxious about my performances as a flautist. I used to tell him I was worried that people noticed I messed up a few notes here and there, to which he responded something along the lines of, “The song you played sounds so good that the mistakes sound like a part of your music.” Play whatever song you want, and be comfortable with the mistakes.
Candy photo available from Shutterstock