6 Strategies For Managing Anxiety (Reviewed)
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So you're stressed out. The reason doesn't matter: Maybe you're moving, maybe you lost your job, or maybe you've been paying attention to the news for the past year. The important thing is that you find a way to manage that anxiety, because if you let it take over it can eat your entire life and you'll become a Satanist.
But how? There are a lot of differing opinions, and it can be hard to know who to trust. But luckily, I've spent the last 30-ish years experimenting with every form of anxiety management known to man, and I've learned some things. The first is that it's me: I'm the one you can trust. I'm the only one you can trust. Also, I learned all this:
Becoming A Stoner
I smoked pot constantly from 2006-2012, and infrequently for the past five years.
Ah, Jeez. It depends, man. It seemed like a pretty nifty solution in college. I take no pride in saying I spent my university years stoned off my ass -- I know that doesn't make me edgy or alternative. I'm pretty sure they give scholarships for that now. But I was never smoking pot because it made me cool, I was smoking because it was the only way to turn my brain off at the end of the night. If I didn't take a few tokes I'd lay awake for hours, staring at my ceiling, panicking about the paper I had due or whether That Girl From Con Law was making eyes at me or not.
For all those years, it worked great. I got the paper due in on time, made my move on that girl from Con Law (did it work? A gentleman never tells. Also, no), and even graduated from a respectable institution in a reasonable number of years with a grade-point average I'm not remotely ashamed of. So I sang the praises of smoking-up every day for years -- until 2012 hit, and out of goddamn nowhere my brain mutated. Okay, maybe nothing "mutated," but for some reason Obama's second term completely killed my ability to relax while stoned. Pot stopped treating my anxiety and started exacerbating it overnight. Suddenly those once-soothing hits kicked my brain into paranoia overdrive, and instead of falling asleep I started panicking about all my life choices. And not in a productive way, in a self-hating, paralyzed-with-guilt way. It was weird. And it took me forever to quit, not because I was addicted but because I had invested in so many cool bongs. And I was super addicted.
So, with few exceptions, I haven't smoked pot in like five years. I miss how it used to feel but I guess that part of my life is over. Which sucks because it's super legal now and that seems fun to me.
Smoking pot is a great way to avoid your problems until it abruptly stops working and all of a sudden you have to deal with your problems. If this happens to you, hopefully it won't be in the middle of a move or a break-up something? Sorry, pot smokers, for giving you something new to be paranoid about.
Score: 5 out of 10
I smoked from 2005-2010, on and off since then to be perfectly honest.
I've talked about smoking before but it's worth noting that the reason I originally got into it was because it was stress relief. Of course, this was college again, when I didn't know what real stress even felt like, so maybe it was because I wanted to look like the kind of guy who needed stress relief because that would make me legit. This is definitely true of at least one of my friends, who always wrote tank tops and grew a thick beard and glared at everything and tried to convince us that, at 21, he was already heavily grizzled by the world's terrible ways. The only reason that sentence doesn't describe me is because I couldn't grow a beard until probably about five years from now, maybe?
I'm convinced that smoking's effectiveness as a stress reliever has less to do with the nicotine (you don't even realize you're "on" anything after about a week of regular puffing) but from the ritual. You open a box, pull out a thing, light it on fire, inhale through it slowly, and then stare up at the sky through a dramatic haze of misty human exhaust fumes. Ah, yes. You're on a (smoke) break. You just need a few seconds of peace to think about what a grizzled, overworked son of a bitch you are. Then you can go back to whatever it is you're doing.
The obvious downside is that it makes you feel like shit and is way more expensive than it should be. Cigarettes are like fast food -- they always sound like a good idea until ten minutes after you indulge and you start feeling your organs dying inside you. Did I not mention that part? It's surprisingly uncommon for smokers to bring up the fact that after every single cigarette you can literally feel yourself dying and I can't imagine why.
I can't endorse this, even though I have half a pack of Pall Malls in my closet. Like once every two months or so I'll get really stressed about something and feel like a cigarette will help, so I'll smoke like five and be like "Nope, didn't help" and go back inside and have to figure something else out. Also if I'm drunk and you offer me a cigarette I'll totally smoke it, because I'm one of those fucking people. So here's to me one day learning my lesson, or maybe you learning from it right now.
Relaxation Score: 3 out of 10
Playing Violent Video Games
I started playing video games when I was eight and stopped in 2016.
Games are fun! That's why we call them "games" (Latin for "A fun thing to do with friends," maybe, I dunno I just made that up). But they're fun because they're challenging. The problem is the fun part of a game. Sure, I once spent an hour walking along the beach in Grand Theft Auto V, staring into the sea and marveling at its majesty, but I was truly high at the time. Every second I've spent on video games that hasn't involved me being inebriated has involved intensity and concentration, which are both the opposite of being "relaxed."
That said, I've found them effective when I can dabble. A game of Call Of Duty here, some "My Colony" over coffee. But the second I started getting drawn into some competitive aspect, or really caring about my score or whatever, it stopped being relaxing and started making me more stressed out. After all, I was getting really excited and amped while sitting perfectly still. That can't possibly be healthy for the same reason shaking up a soda can and setting it on a table is a bad idea: Things are only going to be fine as long as no one disturbs it.
I hear a lot of people find video games relaxing, including Frank Underwood on House Of Cards. I just never did. I found them fun and distracting, but that's different. If someone else tells me that they help them relax and feel peaceful and centered and less frazzled, what am I gonna say, "No"? "You're lying"? Probably, because I can be a confrontational, condescending jerk, but that doesn't make me right.
I really liked the Far Harbor expansion in Fallout 4. And recently I've found a game or two of Overwatch to be a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I guess I lied about having stopped. Also I'm terrified of pissing off gamers because they're mean on the internet so...
Score: 8 out of 10
I've done this a bunch but only when I'm really desperate to relax and no one is around to see me.
Even though I have tattoos and piercings and am pretty much a far-leftist politically, I still can't help but turn my nose up at anything that strikes me as "hippie shit" and that includes drinking tea to relax. I don't know why. It's a line I won't cross, and I have no good reason aside from the fact that every single time I try I burn the crap out of the top of my mouth and someone wearing a hemp shirt tries to convince me to give Phish another chance.
So no, of course it has never worked for me. Probably because relaxation is a state of mind, and a ritual that helps you achieve that state of mind only works if you believe in it. And if you claim it works for you, I'm going to call you a witch. And if you're not a witch, prove it by not eating this baby.
"But no one could resist eating a baby!"
Funny. That's exactly what a witch would say (Check and mate).
Fuck tea and everyone who drinks it. But I'm terrified of pissing off witches, so...
Score: 8 out of 10
I've tried this a few dozen times and succeeded, like, three times? Maybe four?
I'm going to completely blow up the impression of myself I create in that last entry and admit that not only have I tried to meditate tons of times, but that it's basically the best thing ever. When you actually manage to reach a meditation "zone" where you've pushed out all your thoughts and are hyper aware of your self and place in the universe, it's like all the best parts of dropping acid minus the energy and urge to work your jaw.
The downside? I've managed to do it less than five times. Every other time I've tried to meditate, I've ended up sitting on the floor with my eyes closed and my back straight for four agonizingly long minutes before I give up and just go for a walk or take a nap. One time I just fell asleep, which was also nice because sleep is fantastic, but it's not exactly what I was going for.
So the result is that this is hard. Like, really hard -- so hard I've actually given up on ever doing it again. But man is it great.
Verdict: 11 out of 10*
*(but it's also fucking impossible)
Therapy, Exercising, and Eating Healthy
Sporadically four to ten years, and then consistently for one and a half or so.
It works! But the catch -- and it's a big one -- is that it's an investment. You can't just go once or twice when things are bad and enjoy the brief relief that comes with confessing your secrets to a stranger. You gotta keep going, and doing the work. And that can eat up time, energy, and money. It can also be really boring and, occasionally, feel like a waste of time. Rick And Morty nailed it:
The Susan Sarandon part, anyway. Everything Pickle Rick says is exactly the kind of thing he should be saying in therapy.
Here's the rub, though: It's all about commitment. Most people ignore anxiety and suppress it with cigarettes, pot, beer, and hippie bullshit. But the important part of anxiety isn't just finding a way to mask it, it's about changing habits and your day-to-day life. And there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Reading reviews of coping mechanisms is a waste of time unless it helps you realize that you have to try them all for yourself and see what works. Because we all gotta take care of ourselves. Especially now. Otherwise the terrorists win.
Note: I didn't include anti-anxiety medication because I don't have enough experience with them to write jokes that I could be sure wouldn't be really destructive advice. If you have something to add on that subject, that's what comment sections are for. Also calling me a libtard cuck.
JF Sargent is a senior editor for Cracked and the only one you can trust. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
For more check out 6 New Kinds of Anxiety the Internet Gave Us and 6 Scientific Solutions To Your Crippling Social Anxiety.
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