I saw someone asking on twitter how you deal with anxiety. I actually had this post in drafts for a while and now is the time to publish it.
There are four elements I think of whenever I feel anxious. I realized they are almost always present whenever I am advising myself or someone I know about how to get through the anxiety they are facing.
Distinguish between what you can vs can’t control
My bones got fractured tens of times. I was already born with two fractures and this continued every year till I hit university. Since university I only fractured twice, but I still have a high risk of fractures for multiple reasons and my case can only get worse.
When you are fractured, in a cast, and can’t move out of bed there is not much you can do. You have to wait for the fracture to heal which can be in weeks or months.
When you live in a chaotic land like Egypt there is not much in your control. From going to a place and finding it inaccessible which is 99.99999% of places, to having your mom’s car stolen and your 60+ years old father having to go to the thief, pay him the ransom, and get the car back.
Those things can break you, make you resentful, or they can make you let go and not bother with what you can’t control. If you can control it, change it, if not, don’t think of it, let time heals. Time heals everything. The good thing is that you always have options, even if they are limited at one point, but the key is to pick an option and keep going.
Most of our anxieties about the future are caused by events that – most of the time – have low probability of happening. When you understand probabilities and your own biases you realize that most of what you are fearing is just in your head.
Some ways to alleviate this are by asking: What’s the probability that X will happen? And what are the reasons to make me think of it like this?
When you answer the above questions honestly, even if you can’t remove the anxiety from your head, you will be cooler knowing those bad things are more in your head than they are likely to happen. Probabilities are powerful if you understand them.
Optimize for the long term
As humans we are bad at long term thinking. We only think of the moment and it is hard to think over longer horizons.
We get in relationships not thinking how they might look like in 5-10 years, or when we have kids or one of us is unable to work. We move to new places without asking why we are here and how this will turn out on the long run.
When you don’t optimize for the long term you make part of your brain anxious because it is uncertain about why you are doing such things. Optimizing for the long term especially when making decisions reduce anxiety because you understand the big picture.
Don’t belittle the little things. Things add up whether good or bad. The day to day doesn’t allow us to see the small incremental progress we made. One good way to visualize this is to compare yourself to where you were 5-10 years ago. You are probably better. But you didn’t realize it back in the days. Now it is the same, but it is about the future. Compounding is slow magic.
Those are my tactics to deal with anxiety. As with any considerably good life advice, it is easier said than done. The key is to keep trying, surround yourself with good people, and try to gain small wins to keep you going. Good luck.