Anxiety Survival Tips: Step by Step

Anxiety is word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and tell you what “real” anxiety is because I can’t do that.  I know what my anxiety is but I don’t know your life, and I’m not going to stand here and tell you what it is vs. what it isn’t.  Instead, I’m here to tell you how I deal with it with the hope that my survival tips can help you too.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or your feel stress from time to time, we can all agree that anxiety is annoying and something that go from inconvenient to crippling very quickly.  Recently, my anxiety has been through the roof.  Starting a new job, trying to finish up my yoga certification, planning a wedding, and just existing in New York City have my nerves all sorts of screwed up.  It’s so out of control that I get anxious just trying to decide what to each for lunch, which can lead to me hiding in the bathroom contemplating if I can scale down my building to run down the street screaming.  

Needless to say, it sucks and I’m not about it.

I have a plethora of coping skills thanks you years of therapy, but when my anxiety reaches new levels it can become impossible to implement them into my life.  My beloved yoga mat goes unused, my essential oils never seem to make into my work bag, and crying in the bathroom gets really old really fast.  So what have I been doing to maintain any semblance of sanity?

I write down or think about every single step I’m going to take.

That might sound excruciatingly tedious and annoying by I swear to Mama Rupaul that it works.  So here’s what I do:

When I’m sitting at my desk, walking through my office, or even sitting on my couch I think about all the steps I need to take.  Not all the things I need to do – the physical steps I’m going to take.  For example, here’s what I’ve been writing down today:

  • At 5pm I’m going to close my laptop and put it in my purse.  Then I’ll put my headphones on and turn my music on.  
  • I’ll walk out of the office and go to stairwell because I don’t want to be near other people in an elevator or god forbid get stuck one.  I’ll walk down six flights of stairs and admire the old architecture of the building.  
  • Once I get to the bottom I’ll go through the door, not the revolving door because they make me anxious, and turn right.
  • Once I get to 6th Ave I’ll turn right and then right again at 19th St.  SoulCycle is half way down the block.

Today I needed more of a distraction from my thoughts so I got pretty specific.  Other days, it looks more like this:

  • I’ll leave my office at 5pm and walk towards 6th Ave.  I’ll turn right at 19th St. and walk to SoulCycle.
  • Once I get to SoulCycle I’ll get changed and go to my bike. After class I’ll walk to 23rd St. and take the subway from there.
  • After I get home, I’ll shower and order sushi as a reward for making it through the day.

Different approaches, similar results.  Sometimes I do a combination of these tactics and get really specific and include things I’ll see on the way to know I’m getting closer to my destination.  I vary it based on the way I feel because there is no right or wrong way to do it.

 

When even this is too much and feel too stressful, I’ll repeat a mantra over and over.  A mantra is a word, sound, or phrases repeated to aid concentration in meditation, but you can use them all the time.  Most of the times I use mantras in sanskrit that I learned through my yoga practice.  Other times I repeat simple phrases like “you’re ok”, “you’re safe”, or “I can”.  There’s something soothing and meditative about the repetition, even if you’re walking down 5th Avenue during rush hour.

 

Give it a try and post your favorite mantras in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Note to Self: Proofread

Today was hard.  Not just because I may somehow still be hungover after my bachelorette weekend and my body has forgotten how to sleep, but because of something I never ever thought would happen to me.

The short story is: I used a text generator at work that posted controversial text on a company site.  It’s a generator I’ve used many times without a problem, but this time it was filled with offensive language I thought I had removed.  In no way, shape, or form did I intend to upset anyone. Buuuuuuttttt that’s not what happened.

After it was brought to my attention that the text (a quote from an actor in Pulp Fiction) was offensive, I immediately took it down.  Once I was told that I had REALLY pissed someone off, I sent out an apology email.  I felt kind of like a celebrity who has to apologize on twitter when their boob pops out because it was an honest mistake.  But then I learned that it wasn’t clear that I had used a movie quote; I was accused of being culturally insensitive.

That’s a really serious accusation to throw at someone in such sensitive times, especially someone who bleeds rainbow and dreams of running a yoga studio/home for guinea pigs.  Does that sound like someone who uses offensive slurs in a technical document?  I certainly don’t think so.

It was one thing to have to send out an embarrassing apology email to an entire department, but to think that people considered that I could actually write something like that?  It was an honest mistake and it’s a known fact that I’m a terrible proofreader.  I was both bewildered and devastated.  I try to spread love, not hate.  I’m a freaking yoga teacher for pete’s sake!

It seemed like such a simple accident that blew up like an accidental fat-shaming Instagram comment.  I felt sad, humiliated, and misunderstood, like that time I didn’t realize the shirt I had worn to work was completely see-through.  Fortunately, I had plans to have lunch with my dad so I was able to remove myself from the situation (and pout in the stairwell).  I had packed my laptop in my bag, fully prepared to message my boss and tell him I needed to work from home the rest of the day, but after talking to my dad (a seasoned tech vet) I started to feel better.

I realized that just because someone accuses you of being something you’re not, doesn’t make it true.  I know in my heart that the offense I caused was an honest mistake, and hiding from it wouldn’t make me feel any better.  In these situations, the best thing we can do is admit we made a mistake and keep our head held high.  Sitting at home stewing in my shame would only make the situation bigger and worse than it ever needed to be.

After lunch, I walked back into my office with my head held high and smiled (as I always do) at the people I passed on my way to my desk.  When I open my laptop I found a message from my boss telling me not to worry and that everyone understood that it was an honest mistake.

When life throws you into awkward situations or you make mistakes – don’t hide from them, face them.  I often want to hide from my troubles but it never makes them go away.  Today I feel proud of myself for not running away from this because it showed my coworkers, and myself, that I’m human and I can handle making mistakes.

Self high-five!

Live Without Pretending

A lovely friend posted a quote on Facebook today that said “Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending.”

After I read it it, I sat with it for a few moments to let the words digest and sink in.  The line that keeps replaying in my mind over and over like a broken record is ‘live without pretending’.

We all pretend, well at least most of us do, in various aspects of our lives.  Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we pretend we like where we live or that we actually enjoy eating healthy.  We pretend we like getting up early to go to the gym or that we enjoy the conversation we have with our coworkers as we prepare our third cup of crappy coffee.  We pretend and pretend and pretend to the point where we forget we’re pretending.  We start accepting our boss who never listens to our suggestions or our partner who never listens to anything.  We accept these things that are less than ideal because that’s part of being an adult; accepting.

Or is it?

Every time I read an article about someone who opened their own yoga studio in Aruba, or is backpacking through Greece as they write their second novel, or eloped to escape the pressures and expectations of family, I always think to myself “how the f*ck did they do that and why haven’t I figured out how to?”

From what I’ve read, combined with my perception of human behavior and just a hint of my BA in sociology, I believe that there are certain people on this planet who have the ability to look at what everyone is doing and say “nah, not for me.”  I wish I could tell you what it is within them that gives them this ability to escape the monotony of all the crap the rest of us are able to accept and pretend is what we want, but I’m still trying to figure that out too.

A lot of people are ok with pretending.  They don’t have a bad life and they don’t have a great life, they just have a life.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s pretty damn good to have a life.  Not everyone is so luck to be able to complain that the worst parts of their days are commuting, annoying coworkers, and humidity.  But what about those other people, the ones who broke the mold by not accepting or pretending?

I want to be one of those people.  I believe I am one of those people.

But I’m stuck because I keep pretending.

I’m very luck to work for the company that I do.  I know that.  But I also know that this, what I sit here day in and day out doing, is not what I want to spend my life doing.  I’ve changed jobs more often than most people change their water filters, and it’s because I can pretend that I’m content, but only for so long.  I’ve gotten quite good at pretending I want things that deep down I know I don’t.  I do this because it’s what I’ve taught myself to do.  Accept what people tell you to do.  Accept their definitions of “success” as your own.  Accept that maybe you’re not good enough to get what you really want.

That last one is the one I’m struggling with.  Because you see, as I sit here in a situation I’m sure others dream about, I’ve realized that the reason I change jobs and the reason I can’t accept my situation is because I’m pretending I’m pursuing my passion.  I left similar jobs because I kept thinking that I would find a different experience and feeling from another company.  I was doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting to get different results, and that my friends is the definition of insanity.

So, now that I’ve figured out the problem it’s time to figure out the solution.  Unfortunately I can’t share that with you now because I don’t know what it is.  But stay tuned, because I intend to figure it out and when I do I’ll be sure to share it with you.  Until then, expect a lot more writing coming from this blog because I’m sure as hell going to share everything I learn along the way.

xoxo TBC

Embracing Change

It’s 6:15pm and tomorrow is my last day at my job. I finished all the work I needed to get done. I tied up every loose end. I could have left 15 minutes ago but I feel tied to my desk.

It’s not because I have to get work done. It’s not because I feel pressured to stay late. It’s because I don’t want to leave.

Every time I think about getting up and going home the reality that I’m leaving my job sinks in. Everyone assures me that I made the right move. I was offered a great job at a growing company with a very high salary and the ability to work remotely. I even get to travel to the UK. I couldn’t ask for anything more. But when I think about leaving my current company, the only one I’ve ever loved, I can’t help but be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a twinge of regret.

I’ve never worked at a company I loved before this job. I’ve never had coworkers that felt like family. People tell me that that won’t change and that my new job could be just as great if not better, but I find it hard to believe.

I took the new job because, in the long term, it was the best decision. I know that deep in my heart but right now it hurts like hell. And I know it’s because of one reason: change is fucking terrifying.

I’m giving up the known for the unknown. I’ll go from knowing everyone’s name to knowing no ones and it’s scary. It’s scary to change your environment, embark on new journeys, and start new chapters. It’s hard to walk away from people you care about and join a community of strangers. It’s hard not to know if it’s ok to curse in meetings, drink at your desk, or show up at 10am. It’s even harder to know that you’re leaving all that behind.

Change is difficult because it’s uncertain. What if the new job sucks? What if I made a huge mistake? But…what if it’s not? What if the new job is even better? Changing jobs isn’t the only change that’s scary. Moving, graduating, breaking up, getting married are all changes that scare us. But they’re all things that are part of life.

Most of us will not live in the same town, stay at the same job, or even stay with the same person for our entire lives. Change is inevitable. Change is necessary. Change helps us grow. As scary and uncomfortable as it is, change is part of life. We can stay in the same comfortable situation or we can pursue new opportunities that make our lives better. Sometimes we choose change and other times it’s thrust upon us, like when we lose our jobs, our homes, or our loved ones.

Maybe if we embrace change instead of run from it, it would be easier to accept. Maybe if we stopped focusing on all the things we’re losing and focused on what we’re gaining, we could enjoy it. It’s not easy, but change happens whether we want it to or not.

If we have faith in our abilities, ourselves, and the universe, change doesn’t seem so bad. We need to remember that even though things can seem rocky and uncertain, there will always be a way for them to work out. We need to trust ourselves to make decisions for change and embrace the changes we don’t ask for.

Even though it feels safe, if you stay in the same place physically or metaphorically, you never grow. Maybe change isn’t bad after all.

Do Me a Favor – Never Say That Again

It’s human nature (or at least it certainly appears to be) to say something stupid from time to time.  We’ve all had the moment(s).  You know that moment where words come out of your mouth and the expression on people’s faces immediately tells you that you have made a horrific error?  Yeah, that moment.  Commonly known as “foot in mouth” or as I like to refer to it “stop talking immediately”.  Profusely apologizing and saying that you’re really tired and distracted because your cat is sick and you just got fired and you had no idea what you said was offensive can sometimes alleviate your faux pas.  Other times, you just need to never EVER say it again.

For your reading pleasure, here are some of the hilariously stupid and ignorant things people have said to me over the years:

“Women don’t drink whiskey.”

Someone legit said this to me at a bar.  Pretty sure “I will cut you” was my response.

“Your job sounds really boring.”

It often is, thanks for bringing that up.  It’s also how I pay my rent, buy whiskey, and feed myself.  What do you do?  Oh you’re an accountant?  Your work must be riveting.

“But you seem so normal.” [In reference to my bipolar disorder]

That’s because I’m medicated – if I wasn’t, you certainly wouldn’t be thinking that! You’d be preoccupied trying to figure out an escape route.  Also, educate yourself.

“You’re so lucky you’re thin.”

I get up at 6:20 in the morning to go to CrossFit i.e., expensive self-inflicted torture that gives you a nice butt.  And when I don’t do that, I spend my lunch break at a spin class.  I also eat pretty damn clean (minus my occasional jelly bean indulgences), drink almost a gallon of water a day, and cut way back on beer.  This isn’t luck, it’s dedication – I earned this body.  End of rant.

“You’re successful for a woman.”

Also something someone legit said to me at a bar.  That was the end of that conversation.  And that man’s self-esteem after I ripped into him.

“Where do you see yourself in five years.”

Ideally?  On a private island writing my second best-selling novel and eating truffle fries.  Realistically? Writing fucking user guides.

“That’s what you wear to work?”

I sit on the non-client-facing floor of my office surrounded by engineers wearing tee-shirts and sneakers.  So yeah, I’m wearing jeans and a hoodie.  You don’t know my life.

“I’m voting for trump.”

Get away from me. I can’t.

Life Happiness = Work Happiness (Not the Other Way Around)

Today, a very cherished employee left my company.  Not only was she phenomenal at her job (god help her replacement), she was a genuinely great person to have around.  No matter what was going on, she always did her best and kept everyone motivated with a smile on her face.

As she made her rounds saying her good-byes, I thought about how strange it will feel without her warm, positive presence around the office.  Whenever I felt down or self-conscious at work, anytime I had a meeting with her or even saw her in the hallway, her smile always made me feel better.  I’ve worked in eight offices, each with a completely different vibe and energy, and I’ve realized it’s VERY rare to find people who make you smile.

It’s very easy, almost too easy, to let life’s bullshit bring you down, especially at work.  At one of the offices I worked in, it seemed like there were only two people (out of sixty) who didn’t look completely miserable.  For over a year, I was one of them.  I didn’t have the most exciting job, but it caused me zero stress, I made friends in the office, and my paycheck (barely) allowed me to live in my own (tiny) apartment and have fun with my friends.  But somewhere along the way that stopped being enough.  I got this idea in my head that my job defined who I was.  I mean “what do you do?” is usually one of the first things you ask someone when you meet them for the first time.  Suddenly I wasn’t fulfilled by my job and before I knew it, I was miserable at work.  I decided I needed to make a change, so I found a new job in a new city and set out to start a new life.  You know what happened?  I was still miserable.  Even more than I was before.  Thus began, the year of job hopping.  In one year, I had five different jobs at five different jobs.  To my credit, only two of them were full-time, but three of them had the potential to become full-time (the other was freelance because I needed the money).  Every time I switched jobs it was a huge blow to my self-esteem.  If my self-esteem had been a log at that first job, it had been whittled down to a toothpick by the time I got to my current job.

It’s been almost two years since I made the decision to leave that first job, and I finally learned what my problem was – as corny as it sounds, I was putting all my eggs in one basket.  I was looking at my job as not only my identity, but as an indicator of my self-worth.  As I mentioned, my jobs didn’t work out which I internalized as me not working out.  I believed everything that went wrong must have been some reflection of myself.  When you feel that way inside, it’s almost impossible not to show it on the outside.  Even if you don’t realize you’re doing it; if you feel miserable, you probably look miserable.

You know what else I learned?  Happy people avoid miserable people.  Not in the sense that they don’t want to help someone who’s upset.  Think of it this way – if you’re walking down the street and you see someone stomping down the sidewalk looking pissed or upset, you’re probably not going to smile at them and say “good morning!”  I know this is New York so saying “good morning” would be weird even if the person looked happy, but you get what I’m saying.  Frowns and scowls are not inviting.

But what if your job is making you miserable?  Then what do you do?  I never advocate pretending to be happy or forcing a smile.  Forced smiles usually make people look insane.  If you’re stuck at your job until you find a new one or get through a rough patch, do this instead – put it in perspective.  Easier said than I done, I know.  I have to actively do this a lot because I take every single thing WAY too personally, but I swear it helps.

Think about this:

  • Does your job allow you to pay for rent and/or groceries?
  • Does your job give you health insurance or other benefits?
  • Does your job allow you to do fun things with your friends (like going out to dinner) or for yourself (like buying a new shirt)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then that’s a reason to be happy; you have something that gives you something you want.  Try to look at the things in your life that make you happy and feel good about yourself.  Like I feel really good when I’m out with my friends.  My job allows me the time, since I don’t work 90 hours a week, and the salary to be able to go out for dinner or drinks.  I don’t make enough to do it every night, but then again I wouldn’t want to go out every night.  My job also allows me to pay rent for my apartment which is where I get to spend time doing other things that make me feel happy and important, like writing or cooking dinner for my boyfriend.

It’s taken me two years to realize this and is still something I have to remind myself, but there are lots of things in life to be happy and grateful for, even if one big thing makes you unhappy.  When work makes me feel inadequate and useful, I try to remember that my job title is not my whole identity.  I may be a technical writer, but I’m also a blogger, a whiskey enthusiast, a dancer, a CrossFitter, an animal lover, a cook, and a lot of other things.  I’m lucky to have a job, even when it makes me stressed or upset, because it lets me be some of those things (especially a whiskey enthusiast) and have the freedom and ability to become other things.

If your job is bringing you down, try to focus on what it allows you to do, no matter how small.  That way you’ll feel better about yourself and create a positive environment around you.  Who knows, maybe you’ll be the smiling person that helps other people who are feeling down feel better.

A Bro Chick PSA – Ladies, Be Nice

The nickname “the bro chick” comes from a dear friend of mine.  He gave me the name because of three defining factors:

  • I love whiskey
  • I love football
  • I don’t understand (most) women

“Bro chick” also reflects the fact that I am not a “girly-girl”.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a girly-girl, it’s just not me.  My friends having lovingly teased me for not knowing how to use a curling iron, for cutting my own hair with kitchen scissors (don’t worry, I washed them before and after), for only owning purses that come from Target, and for always choosing a playoff game over “The Bachelor” (or some other reality dating show).  However, I do wear makeup (sometimes) and I like to wear dresses (mainly because I find shorts horribly uncomfortable and wearing pants is the worst).

While I agree these things separate me and other bro chicks from the girly-girls, they are not what makes one a bro chick; it’s that third bullet point that separates us.

You know what sounds like a nightmare?  A bachelorette party, a bridal shower, or a baby shower.  Why?  Because it’s a group of women talking about things I could give less of a shit about.  I don’t care that your baby learned to walk at nine months (unless you’re related to me – then please send videos).  I don’t care that your fiance got you a ring without inclusions or whatever makes a diamond expensive.  And I’m actually not impressed that you got that dress at Marshalls, I just feign interest to avoid you telling every other woman to ignore me.  Because that’s a thing – it has happened to me before and to this day I don’t know why someone would do that.  It was a dick move.

For whatever reason, most women seem to hate other women.  Perhaps it’s jealousy or insecurity or whatever, but whatever it is it sucks.  I have worked with 99% women and 99% men and guess what?  Working with 99% men was LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than working with that many women.  No one talked my ear off about their expensive handbag or how many calories they had consumed that morning while I was trying to work.  Most importantly – no one threw each other under the bus.

Ladies, this is my main issue and why I actively avoid women I don’t know in social situations – you are mean.  You are mean for no legitimate reason and it sucks.  Just because I’m friends with your boyfriend does not mean that I want to sleep with him.  Just because I wore Uggs out in public does not mean I’m some sort of leper that should be pointed at and given dirty looks.  And just because I have a job that sounds really technical does not mean you should feel threatened by me or instantly label me a “nerd”.

Why is it so hard for women to be nice to each other?  Men don’t seem to have this problem.  Does society pin us against each other?  Can there be only one supreme woman?  Because if there can, it’s Oprah.  We all lost so it’s time we got over it.

So please don’t give me a nasty look when I talk to your boyfriend about the Giants.  It’s not some vindictive way to seduce him.  I’m making conversation because your death stare does not make me want to ask about your shoes. I have wonderful female friends so I know it’s possible for us to get along.  If we took the energy we spent judging, backstabbing, and criticizing each other, we probably would have had a female president 20 years ago.

Take a lesson from the guys and just f*cking relax and be nice.  Not everything is a competition and your friend’s promotion, baby, husband, or 10lb loss does not make you dumber, less likely to get married/pregnant, or fatter.  
Now let’s have a beer and move on.