2019 has been a wild ride. So much has happened and every time I think back, I’m surprised that it’s still 2019. Of all the things I’ve done this year, I’m most satisfied with my progress in dealing with anxiety. It’s been a long uphill battle against the big A ever since its onset during middle school, and even though it has abated in recent years, it remains occasionally debilitating. This year, I’ve made significant inroads in quelling the beast. Here’s what I did.
Before diving in, I should describe what anxiety means for me since it manifests differently in different people. My anxiety can be succinctly described as an intense fear of loss. During bouts of anxiety, my brain focuses on one or two things I care about deeply and I get scared that I’d lose them. It’s just a little bit weird and awkward o.o These episodes are stressful and annoying to deal with. I can’t concentrate nor enjoy the things I normally would.
For me, tackling anxiety became an exercise of understanding emotions and controlling them by adjusting external factors. I focused on doing things that uplifted my mood and engaging my mind to keep it distracted from anxiety. The three most effective ways I did so were: (1) experimenting and controlling my diet, (2) following a regimented exercise routine, and (3) leaning into entrepreneurial inclinations.
Everyone’s physiology is slightly different and I experimented (and continue to experiment) with different diets to learn what works for my body. I focused on adjusting eating schedules, adjusting macronutrient ratios, and testing different supplements. When something works, it comes with notable benefits to my mood and physical health.
Mild intermittent fasting (i.e. skipping breakfast and lunch) is great. An empty digestive tract just feels cleaner and healthier, allowing me to stay focused throughout the day. It’s also great for controlling caloric intake since you only need to plan one meal. I still have a voracious appetite… it’s just easier to control when I’m used to intermittent fasting.
Supplements are helpful and cost effective. I identified nutrients I was probably deficient on and tried taking them as supplements. Only a few had noticeable effects, most had none. What’s important is finding the tiny subset that works.
Finally, I also experimented with macronutrient ratios. Reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake works wonders (it’s generally beneficial if the Internet is to be believed). I don’t take it to the extreme though; ketosis is not for me and carbs are too delicious.
Regimented exercise routine
It turns out, exercise is great. Who knew?
I put myself on a regimented daily exercise routine, alternating between weight training and cardio days. The routine was easy to follow since my apartment has a gym (unofficially 24/7) and my commute to work is short. Keeping up with this schedule has untold benefits for my mood. This is especially true for cardio. Long distance running is like a convenient dopamine tap when you find a distance and pace that’s strenous but also comfortable to do.
I have an entrepreneurial streak and leaning into it distracts my mind from anxiety. When I’m excited about building a product or growing a business, it’s very easy to channel my anxious energy to working on the idea. Over the past year, there was not a single moment when I was not actively building something.
It’s interesting to think about how things would be different without anxiety… but maybe it’s better to have lived with and overcomed it than not ¯\(ツ)/¯ Anxiety is probably never fully conquerable, but I can make it inconsequential.