1. Anxiety Cardio. Admittedly, I copied the term from Caroline Calloway who I’m skeptical of but I really like her apartment and feel some empathy for her because I got 3 DMs from strangers this week and it felt intrusive so I can’t even fathom what it must be like to have 800,000 eyes on you which is to say I’m not totally in any particular camp about her. But it, it being anxiety cardio, is something I’ve done for a long time.
My mom used to send me outside when I’d be pacing and yelling about things (fun fact: anxiety in kids often will look like tantrums! check in with your child’s mental health! don’t just assume they’re being a little shit on purpose!!) and would tell me to run around the block until my brain slowed down. I would always do this playing the Les Mis soundtrack on my walkman and only listening to “On My Own” on repeat. And then I’d come home slightly sweaty with my Gap sweatshirt sticking to my back and I’d be better. Less explosive. More coherent. I’d have fought every fight out already in my brain and I’d be able to better articulate what was sending me spinning.
I wish moving didn’t work. I wish exercise was a scam. I wish moving your body and just getting fresh air didn’t help at all so I could tell anyone who ever suggested yoga for my anxiety that they were SO! FUCKING! WRONG! ALLISON! But it does. Even moving for 20 minutes while I walk my dog around the building helps me think a little slower, breathe a little easier. The walls stop closing in and I can process the inevitable outcomes of whatever is making me anxious and realize that no matter which one occurs, I will be okay. I can always go for a walk. I can always move and shake. It will be okay.
2. Watch Makeup Tutorials On YouTube. I’ve never been good at meditating. In acting class during college they would always tell us to empty our minds to try and make space for characters or openness or whatever and I would always be secretly thinking about how that was bullshit. Hoq it’s literally impossible to think nothing and if you are thinking about nothing, that must be nice because wow you obviously have a low enough IQ to not recognize your problems or you have no problems.
But the feeling I get when I watch a 20-something girl who lives in Venice Beach apply Glossier for 22 minutes I can only describe as meditative. I’m not worried about what a decision was made at work without including me. I’m not worried about what such-and-such means in my relationship. I’m not worried about why my mom never calls me anymore. I’m not worried about the impending doom of it all and the call of the void I feel whenever I get behind the wheel of a car. All I’m focused on is whether or not Arden will like the highlighters from the Play collection. All I’m worried about is what Beam will look like on her skin. All I’m zoning in on is the (presumably) royalty-free, ambient music in the background. There’s nothing heavy, nothing pressing, nothing high-stakes about a makeup tutorial on YouTube. Nothing about it will alter my day in any way other than if I decide to buy something mentioned in the video. And that’s oddly calming.
3. Rewatch The Episode of Grey’s Where Denny Dies. I’m not a crier. I’m just not. I usually only cry because it’s either been months and I’m due and I’ve spent the previous months bottling oh-so-much up and it all eXpLoDeS out of me, or I’m angry. I’m a big angry crier which is very frustrating because it feels embarrassing and then I get mad at myself for being embarrassed and then I keep crying. A fun cycle!
But every now and then, I can just feel it in my bones that I need to cry. And just like, a lovely single tear down the cheek, fan my eyes kind of cry. I’m talking the heaving, ugly sob, snot runneth over, eyes swell up kind of cry. And when that happens I do one of two things to bring it on. I either listen to the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack or, I rewatch the episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Denny dies and Izzie misses it because she was trying to pick out the perfect prom dress. That episode has single-handedly ruined that Snow Patrol song for me. It’s like, pavlovian at this point. I hear those opening notes in A Major, the little “dun dun dun dun dun dun” of the piano hitting A and E, and I almost immediately well up. There’s something that’s very cleanse-like about a heavy cry. And goddamn watching Denny Duqette leave this Earth (sort of? idk. grey’s is weird.) absolutely brings that out for me.
4. Chug, Not Drink But *Chug*, Water. I’m definitely one of *thoooooose* people who is constantly dehydrated. It’s always in the back of my mind. This little voice who takes one look at my Venti Cold Brew (light ice, one splenda) and says, “You need to drink water.” There’s likely no method to this madness of deciding, “Oh okay, pounding two pint glasses will fix it!” but alas, it’s what I do. Maybe giving my cells something besides La Croix and coffee will make everything stop feeling like it’s all about to collapse in on me.
5. Do The 15-Minute Shakedown. The 15-Minute Shakedown is something that I initially stole from a mommy blogger who uses it to clean her kitchen so that her Instagram followers won’t judge her, but also became something that my therapist suggested. Essentially what you do is after staring at a task for far too long and putting it off, you commit to tackling it for just 15 minutes. You set a timer, and you just do it. Usually, you’ll find that you’re able to complete it in that little bit of time or you’ll find that just starting it gives you the motivation to finish it. The 15-minute shakedown isn’t going to change your life. It’s just not. But it may help alleviate the mountain of laundry that’s haunting you in the corner, and that’s a start.
6. Eat Something “Real.” I can exist longer than I’m proud of on nothing but Hot Cheetos, string cheese, iced coffee, and popcorn. I do not say this to glorify being a human garbage disposal, it’s just the truth. But obviously existing like that is a one-way ticket to feeling like shit for most of the day. When it all gets to be too much, I remind myself to put down the processed carbs and to eat something that came out of the ground. It’s stupid (and I say this because like I wish exercise was a scam, it’s not) how much a difference eating some spinach or arugula or a soup with filled with veggies will make me feel. When it’s all too much even just doing one little thing that’s good for me can make a big difference. And if it’s still too much after I’ve eaten the salad, the Hot Cheetos will still be there.
7. Let It All Be A Bit Too Much. And sometimes, there’s literally nothing you can do. Everything is going to feel heavy and like A Lot™ and it’s going to suck. Your heart rate will not be slow-able and your anxiety will not be thwartable. Sometimes when it’s all a bit too much, you kind of just have to lean in and let it be a bit too much. You give yourself permission to feel like shit, to not be firing at 100%, to wonder if it’s possible to explode from dealing with everything all at once. And then you go to bed. You wake up. And you hope that tomorrow isn’t a bit too much.
Sometimes, surrendering to the “too much” is all I can do. It’s not motivational and there isn’t a silver lining to it. There’s nothing inspiring about laying on a couch for 4 hours thinking about what would happen if I just quit my job and didn’t go outside and just absorbed into the furniture. But sometimes that’s part of dealing with too much—not having a solution. But not being able to find a solution or having a trick to making everything easier isn’t a failure. It’s just part of navigating the mess that is being a person, and accepting that not every day can be perfect. As much as eating green things, running, staying hydrated, and going to therapy will make you hope that perfection is attainable, it’s just not.
And maybe, just maybe, that acceptance is the trick that you need to keep in your back pocket when you run into times when it’s all just a bit too much.
Maybe. I’ll keep you posted.