How I Got Over My Anxiety, Part 4: Self-Help.

These, as Sally would say, are the dark days. I was at my weakest, both physically and emotionally, and to add to the fun, was expected to start flying to the States for business. Essentially, each flight was a deadline to get “better,” which put even more pressure on me. There’s no quicker way to spiral downward than to wake up every morning and see yourself as a problem that needs fixing. This is important to keep in mind on your journey. We all want to improve, and learn, and grow, but if you’re doing those things because you hate how you are right now, you’re just gonna end up focusing on the hate. And that’s what will grow.

I’ll also say again: I wouldn’t recommend taking on your biggest phobia while in your weakest state. But I didn’t have a choice, so I turned to the Self-Help department at Indigo. (I was still going to therapy at this point, and books stores still existed.)

The first book I picked up was specific to fear of flying. It explained all the sounds a plane makes before take off, so things like the lights going off when they switch from auxiliary power don’t cause you to freak out. That knowledge did help put me at ease. A bit.

The book also came with a breathing tube (to force deeper breaths), and an elastic band. The idea was to put the elastic on your wrist, then snap it when you start to panic, so your brain focuses on the pain versus the thoughts. Didn’t really work for me. In moments of need, I wouldn’t even remember it was there.

“I’m going to die I’m going to die I’m going to…oh wait, I have an elastic band on my wrist. All good.”

Next was Tony Robbins. Very hot at the time. Though, I had mostly heard bad things. Cult leader, super intense, brainwashing, blah blah. I was pretty open-minded, though. And by open-minded I mean desperate. So on a train ride to Philly for work (13 hours, versus the one-hour flight everyone else took) I listened to a Tony Robbins seminar and filled a Moleskin with notes:

“I’m sick of not having a talent. I feel so ordinary.” “I’m disappointed in myself for not doing anything.” “Tony has sold me on goals being important, and it turns out from writing these lists that I don’t have very good goals.”

I can hear the harsh tone of my old inner voice. Just being aware of how you talk to yourself can help start the change. I recently heard, “Treat yourself like a friend.” Yep. Do that. Best friend!

Though the goals weren’t “very good,” many of them have come true. And the ideas behind how to write a goal are helpful, though I didn’t know why at the time.

Say your goal is “I don’t want to be anxious.” He’d say write it in the positive, because your mind will only focus on the key words and your goal is essentially “want anxious.” So you switch it to “I want to be happy and healthy.” Then he’d say write it in the present like you already have it. So it becomes, “I am happy and healthy.” Good goal. Achieved.

Tony was very inspiring, and if you’re ready for him, motivational. But for an anxious person, he was a bit too much. Very success and achievement driven. I didn’t need to make a million dollars, I just wanted to walk down the street without puking. Tony and I just had different goals.

Since then I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about fears and anxiety. I’ll just hit some quick highlights:

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers So true. If you can push through the fear, it’s never as bad as the mind “what if’d” it to be.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle The title says it all. There are no problems in this moment. And the past and future don’t exist.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie A practical guide with most of the info you will ever need. If you start with this, all the other books will be building on ideas you’ve already contemplated.

The Way of the Wizard by Deepak Chopra Read a bunch of Deepak, but that was my fave. Makes me sleepy to read his stuff, but this was a fictionalized way of getting his message across, which made it more palatable for me.

When Things Fall ApartTaking the LeapComfortable with Uncertainty(anything really) by Pema Chodron She’s probably my favourite right now. Instead of spending your life avoiding pain and suffering, put your intention into becoming okay with those feelings.

The Gift of Fearby Gavin de Becker He explains that planning for the worst and being in a state of cat-like readiness isn’t helpful. If anything, it gets in the way of our natural fear instinct, which triggers our body into action when actual danger - not just in our heads - is present.

I guess what I’m saying is, reading helped me. If you read a whole book and only take away one little thing, it’s still worth it. A quick “Oh, I never thought about it that way” leads to big changes later on. The ideas all build off each other.

Say hello to my little friends.
Say hello to my little friends.

All right, enough delay. Drum roll please. The thing that helped me the most, bar none, was… The Sedona Method.

Now, I don’t want this next section to just be an ad for The Sedona Method™, but it is the greatest thing ever, hands down, everyone should be doing this all the time, and then we’d all live in a constant state of Utopian bliss.

The basic idea is to release. Allow your thoughts and feelings to flow through you. Let go of feeling lack and “wanting.” Love you how you are right now, and realize you’re enough, instead of focusing on your wants and what needs to change. I’m not gonna do it justice, so I’ll find something to link to at the bottom.

But I will say that I think the reason Sedona helped me so much, is that it was my first switch from a “tough love” approach to “gentle love.”

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Tony Robbins, wearing an elastic to snap myself, all fit into how I thought I had to help myself. I just need to push and push until I’m fixed. Hale Dwoskin, the guy who runs Sedona, is very relaxed and laughs his way through the exercises and keeps telling us to “go easy on ourselves.” That was huge for me.

The difference between Tony and Hale was, Tony got me to the goal of “I am happy and healthy” which is great, but Hale got me to notice the times when I already had the goal. Even at my worst, there were moments of feeling good. I started to notice those moments more and more.

Shout out: Sally got into Byron Katie around this time. It helped her feel courageous enough to drive to Seattle (she had a fear of cars after being hit by two) and then go up the Space Needle (which is high).

I remember Byron saying that when people bitch about other people, they’re actually talking about themselves. I noticed this soon after, when I told someone to “stop being a dick” then later realized how much of a dick I was being at the time.

This built to the bigger idea that people assume everyone else thinks the same way they do. So when you notice your flaws, you assume everyone else does too. It’s clearly powerful and it might’ve been my thing if I hadn’t become so obsessed with Sedona.

Knowledge is power. Take it all in. Find the thing that works for you. Reading the advice and tips and experiences of others helped me, as I hope reading this helps you.

Recap of Part 4/ Intro to Part 5: Just as I was beginning my self-help journey, I had a flight booked to LA for business. I’d barely eaten or slept for five weeks leading up to it. Every day I would ask myself if I was willing to die for work. To me, flying equaled death.

The night before the flight, I got up panicking and went to do some deep breathing on the couch. I got up to go back to bed and passed out. I fell six feet unabated to the hardwood floor. Looking back, the worst part is imagining Sally coming out into the hall to find me face down in a pool of blood.

After getting stitched up, I decided I couldn’t live like this. So if you ever wonder how I got the courage to sign up for my first improv class, it helps to be out of options.

Dark days over. On to Part 5!


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