Derek Tillotson

Nerves and Anxiety

When changes come, it's easy to get nervous. It's easy to worry about things outside of your control. It's easy to panic about the future.

"What if I can't pay the bills?"

"What if I lose my job? Or my home?"

"What if something bad happens to someone I love and I can do nothing to help?"

Fear and worry are natural. Our mind tries to protect us from discomfort, and when you have to face it head-on, the mind doesn't know what to do. The result are these negative emotions.

But dwelling on these emotions provides no value. In fact, they only cause more negative feelings and ultimately make you feel worse. It's a dangerous cycle. But learning how to break away is one of the greatest skills someone can learn. It's difficult. What works for one person may not work for someone else, but there's a healthy solution for everyone.

In my case, when I'm swamped by negativity, I...

Write. I mention it a lot. Writing is important to me. Even when I don't share what I write, I have to write. It helps me organize my thoughts and it makes me feel good. Most of the time, writing about what bothers me makes me realize how unnecessary worrying can be.

Disconnect. I make a point to stay away from anything that can add negativity to my life. It's not always possible (that negative source may be a coworker or family member), but keeping a distance is one of the biggest things we can do. Avoiding things like news and social media is a must.

Study. I tend to practice an instrument or read a biography. The important thing is to keep my mind active and focused on something that interests me. Doing so helps me avoid whatever is making me anxious. Sometimes, I forget what was bothering me in the first place.

Be grateful. Not just a simple "I'm grateful I have food and family," but focus on tougher sources of gratitude. Think of something that annoys, bothers, or worries you. Find something to be grateful for about that. For example, over the past week, I've had a few customers yell at me at work for various reasons (the most common one is that I asked them to put on a face cover, as it's required in stores right now). That bothers me, but I'm grateful that most people are being considerate of others and not avoiding the mask rule as often as they could.

Worry, fear, and anxiety is tough to deal with, but all three are almost always avoidable. And learning to minimize those feelings is a fast-track to a happier life.

Written May 6, 2020


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