Befriending Your Anxiety and Breaking Stressful Habits

Scott Leonardi

I’m trying to play nice with my anxiety.

If resistance only creates more feelings of unease and confusion, then making friends with the nervous fiend is the only way out. I’d like to be able to step back from anxious moments and see them before they see me. I want to be able to step out the bubble of nerves that was consuming me and see it floating in front of me with all of the other translucent emotional orbs that pop in and out of my waking life.

Most other feelings are like this. Different bubbles for different emotions. When you’re surrounded by loved ones and feel as contented and happy as you possibly can, it’s easy to step back from the moment and hold it in your hand and think, “Wow, this is amazing. I’m going to remember this moment.” You know the reasons for your joy and have a clear path to trace from the source of that happiness to yourself. If you think the source of happiness is within you, you’d be right, but in that particular example, it’s safe to say that there would be external factors involved as well.

On the other hand, it’s rarer to ever even want to remember moments of baseless fear. That’s all anxiety really is anyway, fear diluted with the mundane water of humdrum life. If true fear is home-brewed jet fuel Moonshine, anxiety is a light beer that’s been sitting out all night, yet we still insist on drinking.

We do this because a part of us, like any problem-denying alcoholic, is addicted to that blood cell surge that zaps our heart into action and keeps our minds on its toes. It’s like being an adrenaline junkie and not knowing it, so your mind makes up reasons to gear up for a fight or flight, but there is no enemy and you’re never quite in the mood for jumping out of a plane.

Don't believe me? This guy was addicted to stress, and maybe you are too.

Or here, where Dr. Joe Dispenza explains in detail how our brains will begin to crave the cortisol released when we feel heightened states of anxiety and stress if those sorts of occurances are a part of our daily lives. So, when we're no longer in the stressful environment, our brains will create the anxious and stressful feelings on its own becasue it's so used to getting the adrenaline.

In times where these winds of unfounded anxiety come blowing through your window and fill up the empty spaces of your mind where your stockpile of relaxing sighs were supposed to hanging out, talk to your anxiety as if it is separate from you. Imagine speaking to it and letting it answer for itself. The folks at Disney aren’t the only people who can anthropomorphize emotions, you can do it just as easily and all without spending a fortune on production.

Welcome it as it comes. Do it while your driving. Say, “Hello, anxiety.” And when you don’t get an answer because your anxiety is too busy bugging its eyes out of its skull and looking out of the window in spastic fits of paranoia, just be glad you only have to see that lunatic every so often…

Put your hand on its knee and calm its tortured heart. “It’s okay, it’s alright,” you say, “I understand. This world is completely batshit bonkers and there’s nothing we can do about it and then it all just sort of…stops. I totally get it.”

Ask it simple questions. Say, “Are you nervous because of [insert everyday occurrence here]? Are you scared that something bad will happen? What are you so afraid of? What would happen if the worst happened? Is it something you feel you can manage and get through? Why not?”

Usually, with enough questioning, you most likely will have worked your way back through your illogical reasons for your anxiety until you reach a point where you can accept that you can’t change things that are out of your control. Either that or you just won’t be anxious anymore out of sheer exhaustion from the amount of questions it took to get there.

You need to constantly question yourself and your reasons for sporadic anxious feelings or else your brain will start to see it as a natural response to normal everyday stimuli.

You more you get anxious over nothing, the more you’ll get anxious over nothing.

I understand that people that suffer from terrible anxiety are punching their screens right now for insinuating that anxiety is merely a controllable state of mind, but there’s a difference between unfounded everyday anxiousness and a diagnosable debilitating condition.

I’ve always been good at not worrying about things I have no control over, but that’s also why I have such a hard time dealing with the feeling when it does come up because there is seemingly no source to claim responsibility for the restlessness. At least, there doesn’t seem to be. In reality, the origins of your “baseless” anxiety have their tendrils so deep within your psyche that the surface of your mind has long ago covered up the holes left over from their entry with the sands of time and constantly changing experiences.

At the surface level, it seems as calm and serene as any secret beach you may come across while meandering around the coast of consciousness, but deep underground there stirs the heart-quaking electric eels of an anxiety, waiting for some unlucky soul (you) to make their way right into the middle of their feeding grounds.

It takes a special kind of introspection to try and understand the reasons behind the actions of an anxious mind. For people that can afford therapy, I’m sure that does wonders for equipping you with all sorts of helpful tools and necessary weaponry for that inward journey. For the rest of us who may not have the luxury, we have to take those first steps unarmed. Though, we may get lucky and find ourselves a nice pointy stick and makeshift shield when we start to enter the deeper clusters of brain bramble. Finding our way through the forest on our own is part of the reward itself, after all.

Maybe one day I will drop some coin on talking to a professional, and I hope that if or when that day comes I’ll be able to tell them what I’ve done for myself in regards to making my way through these cerebral trees on my own while managing my own bad habits and impulses, and if I’m lucky hopefully they’ll turn to me and say, “Wow, I can’t believe you made it this far on your own.”

And that's all any of us can hope for when we face our own fears about ourselves.



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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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