I have anxiety. And not the kind you get when employee reviews come around either. I’m talking about clinically-diagnosed, heart-palpitating, mind-numbing anxiety. It sucks. But I’ve learned to live with it.
The reason I’m sharing this is because the transition into adulthood is hard enough without having to deal with a mental defect. And considering that one out of every ten Americans suffer from some sort of depression, there are bound to be a few readers out there snagged by the mental funk I’ve dealt with for awhile now.
When I first started working on Brazen Careerist, I had a serious relapse of anxiety attacks. One thing that’s really difficult about startup culture is that it lacks the structure that most corporate jobs embrace and many people who deal with anxiety need. So to get a grip, I had to make some changes in my life.
But it really doesn’t matter what type of work environment you’re in. It’s easy to become paralyzed in any setting. And there’s nothing we can do to prevent it reflecting on us. Anxiety and depression are not visible handicaps, so we don’t get a reprieve.
The simple truth is I never wanted a reprieve. So I tailored my life to my condition and became a better man for it. Think you’re like me? Then check out what I do to keep myself level. Maybe it’ll change your life.
Easier said than done when you’re sitting in a cubicle, but when I was in a corporate setting, I took every opportunity I could to get up and walk around. If I didn’t, I started to get nervous.
Today, I take a break from the office at midday and walk my dog. If you have an opportunity to get outside during the day, it’s the best medicine for an anxiety-inflicted brain. Between the fresh air, the openness, and the change of focus, it’s a great way to put your head back on straight.
If you choose to stay at your desk and fight the urge to get up, you’re just fighting your anxiety. And you don’t fight anxiety, you suppress it.
Like I mentioned, depressed people sometimes need structure to make things work, especially the anxious ones.
We’re a lot like dogs (seriously). Regularity keeps us happy. Variability means we’re probably going to annoy you. And we’re generally really fun to be around as long as you deal with us in the right way.
So create a life for yourself that’s organized. It won’t always work, but people who make the effort do much better than those who don’t.
While you’re searching for structure, make sure you give yourself little gifts here and there. It doesn’t have to be an everyday thing, and it probably shouldn’t. There’s such a thing as too much structure in everyone’s life, so to compensate you have to throw in some random fun to keep yourself sane.
I personally like doing a Tuesday-night happy hour. And who doesn’t? But alcohol isn’t always the answer, especially for mental conditions. So find some other activities you can turn into a gift and plant them randomly throughout your weeks.
I like to play darts with my neighbors and unwind. I don’t do it every day. But when I do, it’s like free therapy. Even when I lose.
If you’ve never experienced anxiety, depression, or any other form of mental illness, you might not think it’s even legit. And that’s okay. I’ve run into a lot of people like this. I used to be one of them.
The problem is that such thinking makes it really difficult for those who do suffer from anxiety to cope with it. Because nobody really gets what the hell is going on.
What I do is rely on someone like me – a friend who deals with the same crap I do – to talk me through any temporary lapses I may have. Because having an anxiety disorder is a lot like being an alcoholic. Unless you suffer from the disease yourself, it’s really going to be hard to talk someone down from an attack when you don’t know what terrible feelings they’re stuck with.
This person could be family, a friend, or anyone, but whoever it is, make sure they’re reliable. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting your faith in someone who can’t deliver.