I’m an anxious person.
I’m a happy person but I can also be an anxious person.
Those who know me, know that I have OCD as well as general worry about things.
My OCD is pretty standard as things go.
I have a routine upon leaving the house.
I check the balcony door is locked. I check the hob. I check the taps are shut off in the kitchen.
I turn off all power sockets.
I check that the shower is off. I check that the bathroom taps are shut off.
Then I get to the front door.
I check this is locked by pushing the door 30 times.
This must sound utterly insane to someone who has no OCD tendencies.
And it is.
I know it’s crazy but still I do it.
Why do I continue to do it?
Because it gives me reassurance that it’s done.
I’ve been down the street before and come back to the house to check that I’d turned the hob off.
In case it was on and the flat burned down.
How does this make me feel?
Like I have a mental problem.
I feel powerless and frustrated that I can’t control my thoughts.
That my irrational fears are in control of me.
The routine helps me get on with my day.
With the routine done properly, I’m able to trust that it’s done and everything is squared away.
I know that when I’ve done it, that my house isn’t going to burn down, get burgled, or get flooded.
Insane I know. But it helps me get on with living.
It isn’t at the point where it’s life debilitating.
I’m a functioning member of society.
I can work.
I have great friends and family.
I can work on projects like this blog.
I can have a great time doing things I love.
But I know that I’d love to go through life without this worry.
In practical terms, it wastes my time and my mental energy.
It disempowers me.
When people try to ‘cure’, I can rationalise it.
But it’s an irrational urge.
The thoughts keep pushing their way into my mind.
To the point where I can’t concentrate on anything else.
So I get to the point where I think that my routine is a small price to pay for being able to get on with my day.
A small price, but a price all the same.
I know it’s not ideal.
Why am I writing about this?
Because anxiety is an epidemic crippling people’s mental well-being
If I can help just a bit, then writing this will be more than worth it.
So many people I know have anxiety to the point where they recognise they have it and they believe that’s it’s affecting their happiness.
And often more.
I won’t go into names because that wouldn’t be right.
One thing they’ve all got in common is that from the outside, they’ve got it together.
They’re generally extroverts who are sociable, likeable and fun to be around.
People think they’re confident alpha-types.
And they are.
But they’re also battling with worry and anxiety.
Things like have they offended someone? Are they being judged?
I thought a lot about how to get rid or at least reduce anxiety particularly when five people I knew told me about their anxiety.
I recommended to one person to concentrate on pulling levers.
Stress and anxiety can be exacerbated by excess cortisol in the body.
Cortisol is the stress hormone.
It has an evolutionary purpose. It prepares the body for fight or flight.
It’s incredibly useful for life and death situations much like adrenaline.
However, it’s supposed to leave the body a short time after it’s produced.
When it doesn’t, that’s when we started seeing problems.
In today’s world, we see people suffering from long-term, low levels of constant cortisol.
This is the source of stress.
We’re not supposed to be stressed and anxious all the time.
Stress makes us depressed.
It makes us fat and unhappy.
Stress is literally killing us.
If cortisol is responsible for making us stressed, then it makes sense to reduce the levels of cortisol in our systems.
Pulling levers is a broad brush term I use for actions that reduce cortisol.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is huge. Think about it this way. If you slept 5 hours a night for a month, you would be more susceptible to stress and anxiety.
In men, the opposite of cortisol is testosterone.
Testosterone is only produced by the body at night time during sleep.
If you sleep less, then you produce less of cortisol’s nemesis and you’ll be a walking cortisol factory.
Dieting is stressful.
When you restrict calories, you become unhappier.
If you’re down and depressed, then dieting is the last thing you should do.
Pasta, noodles, rice, potatoes, bread.
These are nature’s comfort foods.
They may make you fatter in large amounts but you will be happier.
I started lifting heavy in January 2016.
It’s been the best change I’ve made ever.
One reason is it flushes out cortisol.
It releases endorphins and testosterone.
The deadlift and the squat feel incredible.
After a good session, I sleep like a baby.
Sex releases oxytocin, the kissing hormone.
You know that relaxing, soothing feeling when you’re hugging someone, kissing someone, having sex, that’s the oxytocin.
It makes you feel good. So do more of it.
Get out of your head
Too often we live too much in our own heads.
We forget about the body and how linked the mind and body are.
If you’re stressing about something at work or about whether you turned off the hob, then you’re in your head and not in your body.
You’re not grounded.
Your mind is running away from you.
How do we get out of our heads.
Do bodily things.
Do 100 pushups.
Run on the spot.
Be mindful. Feel your body. What are you touching? What are you looking at? What can you smell?
Concentrate on something you can see.
Keep doing these exercises and you’ll see a difference.
It might not rid you of all anxiety and stress but it will reduce it.
Let me know if these work for you or if you have any other suggestions.