Dear How-To Penguin,
I just don’t know what to do–my anxiety dragon is riding me so hard! All I want is to crawl beneath my blankets and hide from the world…but work, and obligations, and general penguin-ing!
How do you manage?! Please, guide me!
Cowering and Confused
Dear Contain the Chaos:
I SO hear you! Right now, I recommend taking a breath. Another. One more, for good measure.
The first thing I have to say is: everyone’s anxiety dragon comes equipped with different scales and different talons. Not every tail is barbed; not every dragon has teeth. What works for ME will not necessarily work for you, and that’s okay! It just means you need to keep searching for your right answer.
That said, let me introduce you to my guest. His name is Cymbil. He loves lurking on dark rafters and beneath piles of old, dusty memories. Usually, Cymbil doesn’t bother me–he prefers being left alone.
But there are days Cymbil throws a tantrum.
Maybe a bird has found its way into his favorite perching place. Maybe a song or a word triggered him. Maybe he woke up on the wrong side of the hearth and is feeling overwhelmed. Whatever the cause, he suddenly goes on the rampage…and my brain is the war zone.
Usually, this ends in massive sensory overload–every noise, every sense, every emotion is heightened. I become the dragon raging through my veins: grumpy, caustic, and easy to set off.
So how do I get my dragon–and myself–back under control? Let me list out the ways that work best for ME…
1.) I step away.
Most often, my anxiety dragon strikes when I’m at work. As most of you know, I currently work in retail as a cashier. A grumpy, fire-breathing me is NOT conducive to awesome customer service (in most cases–there is at least one customer who, I think, might appreciate seeing fire come out my nose)… so I step away, if I can.
This means I busy myself with other, more monotonous tasks. I clean counters. I dust shelves. I check product dates. I stock the pop cooler. I sweep and mop. I get down on the floor and clean the baseboards. Basically, I distract myself from how sharp my dragon’s barbs are or how shiny his scales…and calm my mind with the mundane instead.
2.) I cool off.
And by cool off, I mean rock out. At work, I sing along to every song that plays on my iPod–or at least every song I need to until my dragon loosens his grasp on my feelers. At home, I put on Spotify.
Depending on how tightly my dragon is clinging, my needs change. Sometimes, the angstiest, most depressing music I have words miracles. Other times, chillstep mixes on youtube work just as well.
Basically, I let the beat of the music overtake the beat of my anxiety.
3.) I escape.
No, no, no–I don’t mean I run away from the problem!
Sometimes, though, the anxiety dragon stretches his wings too far and digs his talons too deep. Sometimes, shaking him isn’t as easy as distraction and pounding beats.
Days like these, I just can’t shake him by myself…which is where books and netflix, for me, come into play!
Usually, I can force myself to push the dragon out by focusing on a book. If I JUST. CAN’T. FOCUS, I choose a movie or a tv show to lose myself in and tune out to. If I’m still struggling to pull myself back from the ledge–and this doesn’t happen often, especially these days–I grab my pencils and color.
Also–food helps! Because sometimes Cymbil comes out just to remind me I need to feed him to keep him happy. Who’da thunk?!
And that, Contain the Chaos, is how I beat down my anxiety dragon. Again–these techniques won’t work for everybody! Some dragons are, after all, much scarier than mine.
I hope you find the tool that works for you.
Until next time, keep breathing!