Treat Yo Self: Why We Cope the Wrong Way with Anxiety

November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

These days, “Treat Yo Self” is copinga phrase we all know well whether we’re Parks and Rec fans or not. But I find myself shaking my head when I see posts on social media that talk about coping. All too often, we conflate ways of coping with the practices that actually perpetuate our anxiety.

Netflix marathons and chocolate cake are great, but if you’re only distracting yourself from your anxiety, then sooner or later it’s going to find you like an angry Internet troll.  By definition fangirls tend to be anxious creatures, but that doesn’t mean we have to hang up our headcanon to be a little less reactive to the world around us.

There are three basic ways that humans bind anxiety, and here they are.

DRUGS! Alcohol and illicit drugs are certainly one way we cope with chronic and acute anxiety. But anything can be a drug if you repeat the behavior enough.  Therefore many of our fangirl behaviors hijack the brain just like drugs. Not sure whether you’re using fangirling to manage your anxiety? Here are a few hints.

  • Checking social media obsessively.
  • Vigilant monitoring of celebrity’s activity (27 Google alerts, constant tweeting, going to extreme lengths to obtain video or photos).
  • Impairing relationships, work or school progress because of fangirling. If you can’t miss an episode of your favorite show from time to time or can’t get your work done because of your fanfic, then this is a problem.

fangirl dopamine

RELATIONSHIPS! People use their relationships as a way of managing their stress and anxiety. Love and friendship are beautiful things, but when you lose “self” in them (i.e. you’re unable to separate your identify from the other person’s), then it’s only a temporary fix to the anxiety. You’re likely to experience other physical and emotional symptoms in the long run. Here is what managing anxiety with relationships might look like.

  • Sacrificing values or principles to fit in with a group.
  • Acting out of fear of losing a relationship.
  • Seeking constant praise and approval from others.
  • Involving a third person to complain about other relationships.
  • Cutting off a family member because the anxiety of dealing with them is too high.

Drugs and relationships are about distracting ourselves from our anxiety. But there is a third way, and it’s called

SITTING WITH IT! At least in the short term, anxiety won’t kill you. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, but sometimes just sitting with it can provide us with valuable information about ourselves. Engaging our reactivity rather than pushing it aside is how we grow into mature, nonreactive adults. Sitting with your anxiety might look like this.

  • Practicing mindfulness and meditating.
  • Turning your computer off early before you go to bed.tumblr_ndrsmacG2a1qc1f8uo7_250
  • Not checking your phone when you’re stopped at a red light.
  • Standing up for yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
  • Exploring your unhealthy coping with a mental health professional.
  • Practicing communicating with difficult people in a nonreactive manner.

Not don’t get me wrong. It’s fine to treat yourself with a glass of wine at the end of a long day or call a friend when you need to talk to someone. The goal isn’t to stop distracting yourself–this is an evolutionary mechanism that helps us get through the trials of life.  The goal is to start engaging your anxiety in addition to those distractions. That way when you do dive into fictional worlds, it’s more about taking a vacation than escaping your mind like a refugee rushing for the border.

Not sure where to start? My ask is always open.

Also a reminder that you can still enter the BAMF necklace giveaway until Wednesday evening!

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