What’s your defcon five strategy for stepping out of the anxiety loop?

Twisted infinite regression of the human condition

Managing anxiety is a frustrating process.

All the work you do to get less stressed becomes the very thing that gives you more of it. What an absurd, twisted infinite regression of the human condition.

Just ask anyone who has ever suffered from mania or panic attacks. They might tell you that it’s like an ouroboros of suffering, aka, the snake eating its own tail.

Their anxiety, mania or panic is triggered by feeling short of breath, which leads to more shallow breathing, which makes the attack worse, which makes it incredibly difficult to break the cycle and get themselves down to baseline.

Kind of makes you want to take a deep breath just reading about it.

Have you ever found yourself writhing in one of those epileptic dances of panic? Disoriented and helpless walking down the same aisle in the bodega for twelve straight minutes? Fighting a demon of your own creation that you can’t touch or name, exhausting yourself with nothing to show for your labor?

It’s the worst. And you can’t just snap out of it, either. It’s a loop. You’re trapped until the storm passes.

Which it will. All feelings are weather patterns with a beginning, middle and end.

But it’s hard to see the way out when you’re in the thick of it.

If you’ve ever tried to argue with your anxiety in an attempt to logically reduce it to rubble, you know that strategy doesn’t work.

Watts, the great zen teacher, once said that the only way to escape the heat is to go right into the middle of the fire. He was right. The best way out is through. Sometimes you just have to outlive the damn thing.

Another option comes from a different zen parable.

Miyagi tells his student that the best way to block a punch is to not be there. Meaning, find a way to nip the anxiety in the bud by stepping out of the loop before it starts. ‘

Because the good news is, you’re not sick, you’re not insane, your body is simply doing exactly what millions of years of evolution have programmed it to do.

But you do have to stop the flood of adrenaline before it takes over your system. Otherwise the path of fear will continue to double back on itself.

One way to break the cycle is to physically displace yourself. Leave the office, the house, the block, the hood or the city.

You don’t even have to know where you’re going, you just need to move your body and change your state. As quickly as you can, surround yourself with unfamiliar terrain that isn’t littered with the same old triggers of your familiar surroundings.

And by fighting the urge to panic and instead focusing only on what you can change, like your geography, your prehistoric brain will start to calm down.

Yay anxiety!

What’s your defcon five strategy for stepping out of the anxiety loop?

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