How to Deal with Anxiety (Trust Me, I'm a Professional)

Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite authors ever. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, stop what you’re doing and go get one of his books. The reason why I bring this up is because Augusten just released a new book called This is How. This book is a self-help book, but it’s very different from most you might find in that section at Barnes and Noble because it has Augusten’s sense of sarcasm (and his funny stories) that made me love all of his other books. I read the first chapter last night in a little preview I found online. It was awesome. I’m going to go out and get this tonight. I know I could just download it to my Kindle, but I still feel like regular books that you can hold in your hand are superior.

In the chapter I read online, Augusten offers a really good tip about dealing with nerves and anxiety. For some reason I get crazy nervous when I’m doing presentations at work. I have no idea why. I went to performing arts camp. I acted in shows all throughout high school. For some reason big groups don’t shake me. But put me in a room of 20 co-workers and I freak the eff out. It makes no sense, but that’s how it is. In his book, Augusten talks about lack of confidence and how to get past it. He says you have to put yourself in whatever moment you’re dealing with, and not allow yourself to slip out and lose focus. He also points out that you have to just care less what people think. True. Something I struggle with, but true. The focus point is a good one, though. When I’m just presenting and going through my ideas, I’m fine. It’s when I start looking at the faces around me and wondering what they’re thinking and if I’m sounding dumb that I start to freak out and sweat and blush. So next time you’re in an high-pressure situation, don’t get all caught up in the various elements of the situation. Just stay focused on exactly what you’re doing. You’re answering questions in a job interview. You’re talking about why you’d be a good candidate. You’re not worried about what the interview thinks of your outfit or what you’re going to do for dinner. You’re solely focused on answering the questions well.

The other piece of advice I stumbled across yesterday (thanks to Pinterest) that really stuck with me is this:



It’s simple, but so true. Look, if you could make a career out of worrying I’d be able to retire by the age 30. I’m the Zuckerberg of unnecessary panic. But after weeks of not sleeping due to stress, I’ve been trying to change my ways. Instead of just fretting (great word) and being tense, I’m trying to find other ways to deal with that nervous energy. I’ve realized that I feel a lot less stressed when I’m prepared for a situation, even if it’s a high-pressure situation. I can’t make a big presentation any less scary, but when I practice what I’m going to say then I feel more prepared (and therefore less nervous) than I do when I just try to get up and wing it.

Sleep is also huge. I’ve been known to sacrifice sleep to watch Chelsea Lately or just one more episode of South Park. Now I’m putting a stop to that. I’ve realized when I’m not well-rested, everything is more stressful. I don’t think as quickly on my feet. I get more anxious. Tasks seem more difficult. When you’re well-rested, at least you can think clearly and give yourself a better shot at success.

There’s one more strategy that I’ve been using to reduce stress. I forget where I read this, but props to whoever offered this tip because it’s a good one. When I’m freaking out about something, I force myself to stop and think, “Self, in a year from now will this thing I’m worrying about still matter?” If the answer is an honest no, then I can’t let myself get so worked up about it. If the answer is yes, then I have to prepare for the situation at hand as best I can so I feel better equipped to handle it. This strategy has helped me sort out moderately important meetings from huge life decisions. These are on different levels of worry, and shouldn’t equal attention. Know what I’m saying?

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?





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