I have been living with anxiety for about 4 years now, but once the worldwide pandemic started, it reached levels in my life that I had never experienced before.
I started working for home and was promoted practically at the time we confined due to COVID-19. Something that had everything to be bright and promising like a promotion in a prestigious IT company, became probably the most challenging time of my life and brought me the biggest obstacle of all until then: severe anxiety.
Looking back, I realized what an autopilot my life had become, having worked up to 13 to 14 hours a day, confined to a small apartment with only one bedroom. Beneficial things like exercise, which used to be regular in my life, became occasional, as well as all the other activities that were normal in my life. After all I was working 13/14 hours a day! What could I do? I felt like I entered an impossible game. I could only lose to the amount of work, responsibility and duties I had and my mental health for sure paid its price. So, I found myself in the irony of being in a situation where a supposed moment of glorification and satisfaction became the time in my life when I felt most trapped.
I started having panic attacks with some recurrence. If in a week I had 4 panic attacks, it was a “good week”. Anyone who has been through this experience knows how horrible it is.
Eventually things got better, in my case I realized that my mind was being a terrible boss to me, and the time had come for me to be the master of my own mind. What was the click? My anxiety interfering with my life as a whole: work, social and family life. I knew in a certain day of reflection that drastic changes would have to be applied to my life. It was a rainy Sunday, but that Sunday eventually changed my life.
Here is what I ended up changing about myself that you can, if you see any value, apply to your own life:
1) Do more exercise. Just do it… It really has the power to give us a different perspective on the challenges we face daily, and here we have the endorphins playing in our favor. It can be an excellent stimulus also for achieving personal goals, such as getting fit. Besides, science proves how beneficial it can be to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Another positive “side effect” for me was the with increased productivity in all the other tasks of the day. Remember: Your body was made just for that, move!
2) Wake up early. I won’t say “ridiculously” early but waking up with the feeling that the rest of the people are still asleep has always given me a sense of satisfaction about my day. An extra: Have a morning ritual that allows for an energetic, calm, and serene start to the day, whether it’s exercising, catching up on reading, or even writing. You’ll see the results.
3) Meditate! I was one of those who had serious difficulties meditating. I thought I was not capable and at the same time I thought it was useless. Here, like all things of value in life, it takes time for us to see results. Give it a chance in the long run and don’t fall short on this one. How did it affect my life? It increased my concentration, ability to focus and gave a serenity that I haven’t felt for a long time. Also It doesn’t cost you much time, I did and still do about 10 minutes daily.
4) Stop to think: What is my purpose in life? We all have 24 hours but what is the purpose of it all and how are we spending those 24h? Not all of us have an immediate answer to “what is my purpose in life” but spending even 15–20 minutes of our day thinking about where we are and where we want to go was one of the essential things I did to make the turmoil in my life give way to more clarity and tranquility. I am part of the group of people who have not yet discovered their purpose, but I am still on a journey of discovery and certainly taking steps in that direction. Above all, stop living on autopilot, life is flying by while we live mechanically.
5) Plan your next day the night before. It can work miracles for you. When I didn’t do it, I felt like I was waking up a bit lost with the number of tasks I had on my hands and found it really difficult to focus sometimes. Waking up with a plan gives you a greater sense of control. And believe me, for an anxious person, being in control is halfway to feeling better.
6) Care more about those around you. Something so simple helped immensely in the treatment of my anxiety. Not everything revolves around us, and while it’s easy to understand this rationally, in practice we often get lost in thoughts about ourselves that are often negative. Besides allowing us to get out of our bubble that can sometimes consume us inside, sometimes those around us may need to light their own candle with the fire that ours has. Imagine the chain effect that something so simple can have on the lives of others.
7) Train your mind. As you train your muscles in the gym, training our mind is essential. And this training is connected, for example, by the way we deal with our thoughts and react to them. Remember: “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.” — Viktor Frankl. I learned to accept the thoughts that came to me, interpret those thoughts, and even learn from them. Be curious about your thoughts. They can be both random and a source of learning. Instead of putting them in your pocket and almost berating yourself for having negative thoughts, accept them, learn from them, and firmly put them to the side and move on to the next “ppt. slide”. A slide that makes you laugh.
Anxiety is not something we can just overcome once and for all. It still exists in me too, today, fortunately, in more controlled doses. Anxiety up to certain levels has proven to have positive effects. I believe that the first step to live with this sometimes-undesirable visitor can be as simple as saying “Hi, let’s talk a bit?”