My struggle with anxiety.
I immigrated to the greatest nation on earth a little bit over 20 years ago. Since day one, I have worked very hard for everything that I have had in my life. I subscribe to Rory Vaden belief that success is never owned, it is rented, and the rent is due every day. I'm very driven, focused, and determined. I wake up every morning before anyone else in my circle because I’m motivated by an insatiable desire to be the best. Some nights, I wake up in the middle of the night for hours, and sometimes I won't go back to sleep, because there is a monster in my head that needs to be entertained called anxiety.
For the last 20 years, I have asked myself one question every morning, "Why cannot anxiety leave me alone?" At this point, I do not want anxiety to leave me anymore. I have known anxiety longer than I have known most of my friends. In a sense, anxiety became my best friend. I introduce myself by saying "My name is Luay Rahil, and I have accomplished a lot in my life, including befriending my anxiety.”
The first time I experienced an anxiety attack I was working at Baskin-Robbins. A customer called to order an ice cream cake for his daughter. My English was not very good, and he was using some difficult terms to describe a perfect cake for his daughter. The pressure of the moment was bigger than my ability to write his order down. I stood there knowing I messed up.
There I was, 19 years old kid, standing in the middle of a kitchen one foot away from an empty note pad. Holding a phone in one hand, a pen in the other hand, and struggling to breathe. I was trying to look brave, but my tears gave me away. I was a brave kid who immigrated to this great country looking for a better life, and there I was standing in a kitchen looking hopeless and broken. I was facing a problem I could not man up my way out of it.
I did not have the time or money to figure out what happened to me, so I kept myself busy ignoring the beehive in my head. I call my anxiety a beehive. I always thought if I avoid stressful situations that trigger the hive, the bees would behave. If I trigger the bees, they will attack my sanity. So, I worried and lived in fear for a long time because I did not have the tools to deal with them. The bees became my friend. They would push me to work harder. They alert me to avoid certain situations and keep me doubting myself. Their doubts were enough to inspire me to get out of bed to be first behind my desk.
In the last twenty years, I read every personal development book, and neuroscience research to aid me to deal with anxiety. I formed my own framework that allowed me to perform at a high level. In a sense, I built a relationship with the beehive, and now we work well together. I know of its existence, and they know about my tools. What follows are the five practices that I do that allows me to run my business and live my life without any anxiety.
These are the exact five practices that I practice daily. They prevent me from following the dark path to an irreversible place.
Anxiety can be cured and can be managed. Whitney Johnson wrote in Harvard Business Review that anxious thoughts love to operate in a void. She advises her readers to make a list, and structure their day as much as possible. She thinks people's biggest issue is not that they have a lot to do, but too little to do.
This is my list that explains how I kept myself busy and kept my anxiety at bay.
My morning routine consists of reading, reflecting, writing and meditating. Every one of us has a different morning routine. There is no one perfect morning routine that fits all. Yet, there is one habit that if you adopt will change your life: journaling. James Clear defines journaling as an "act of thinking about your life and writing it down."
Journaling clears your mind and transforms your heart. Start the day with your journal instead of your smartphone. Nothing has more power to distract you and poison your mind in the morning than your phone. Block time on your calendar each day for journaling. This habit will force you to be present at the moment.
Write about people you appreciate, things that you love, and places you like to visit. Write grateful noes to current self, letter to your future self. Journaling or writing your thoughts and ideas is a powerful way to start the day. If you start your day by reminding yourself of all the good things you enjoy, you will be a healthier person. Even if you write about stressful events, you will come to terms with them. Writing will become your anxiety management tool.
Anxiety can be worst in the morning, so it is important to start your day by journaling. To begin this exercise, get out a notebook. Start by answering this question: what are you grateful for today?
Fear is an immediate response to danger; anxiety is a response to anticipated danger. It is less intense than fear, but it has the same impact on our bodies. In the middle of the brain, there is an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala. It serves as the hub of fear and anxiety. People with anxiety disorder have a hyperactive amygdala. Their amygdala overreacts to any danger or anticipated danger. The hyperactive amygdala is very emotional. It overpowers the cognitive part of the brain anytime it encounters danger.
When anxiety strikes, your brain floods your body with hormones and chemicals. These chemicals increase your heart rate and breathing. Breathing is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that you can control. The next time your anxiety gets the best of you, focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply, hold it for 6 seconds, and exhale slowly through your month. Repeat this breathing exercise at least for 5 minutes and notice how you feel at the end of the exercise. If you do this exercise for 5 minutes, it will calm you down for a few hours. Many scientific studies that prove that deep breathing has big benefits for our physical and mental health.
When anxiety stops you from working, inhale slowly and deeply, hold it for 6 seconds, and exhale slowly through your month. Repeat this breathing exercise at least for 5 minutes.
If you know someone who always drains your energy every time you talk to them, avoid him. The people you surround yourself with have a huge impact on your mental health. Negative people can cause you to be pessimistic and infect your attitude. They tend to complain, whine and blame others a lot. Avoid them.
Miserable people like to surround themselves with positive people and infect their attitude. Laura Gassner Otting stated in her book Limitless " Misery is contagious. It's slippery, it's insidious, and it's sneaky. You don't even realize it's shaded your sunshine until it's too late."Do not allow negative people to steal your joy.
They are like human black holes who come out of nowhere and suck the life out of you. Even if you try to stay positive, they have a special way to drain your energy. The best way to deal with them is to avoid them.
Say no to them: Negative people have one goal; they want you to feel as bad as they do. Say no to negative people and be intentional about whom you spend your time with. It is hard to avoid all negative people in your life, but you need to be careful how much time you give them. The more time you give them, the more influence they have. Their negative thoughts will start to creep into your mind and control the way you feel.
Establish boundaries: Learn how to establish boundaries. Eliminate all toxic relationships out of your life. Unfollow them on social media and limit your interactions with them in real life. Some people cannot stop poisoning other people's lives with their negativity. If you have to meet them, meet them in groups. Negative people tend to be the best versions of themselves when surrounded by a lot of people.
Do not argue with them: Most negative people share one quality, they are stubborn. They are unable to have a civil argument, and they want to win every discussion. Their goal is to infect your brain with negativity, or have you lost your temper. Avoid discussing any sensitive subject: sports, politics, religions, diets, gossip.
Do not let people get the best out of you, say no to at least one person every day.
Declutter your space and your life: Clutter leads to stress and anxiety. Get rid of anything that you have not used in 18 months. Do not let physical objects occupy an emotional space in your life. Let it go. To get yourself started, start by recycling three items from your wardrobe today.
Decluttering your physical space can lead to better mental space. These visual distractions pull on you and distract you in more ways than we often realize. A 2009 study in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who described their homes as cluttered were more likely to struggle with their mental health than people who described their homes as restorative. When you buy one new item, try to get rid of one item that does not serve you anymore.
Marie Kondo is an organizational guru who achieved worldwide fame in 2014 when her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. She claims that decluttering is good for our anxiety, sleep and ability to focus. Libby Sander is an organizational Behavior college professor who agrees with Kondo. Sander coauthored powerful research that shows that our physical environments influence our cognition and emotions. If you want to tame your anxiety focus on getting rid of any visual distraction around your house. Decluttering increases your cognitive ability and increases your working memory.
Anxiety and clutter can be exhausting. Let it go. To get yourself started, start by recycling three items from your wardrobe today.
Benjamin Franklin used to ask himself one question every evening, "What good have I done today?" This is a powerful and challenging question to ask yourself. It provides you with the opportunity to evaluate your performance daily. Franklin used this question to measure his progress towards his ultimate goals.
Franklin was one of the most accomplished men of his time. He was an author, printer, entrepreneur, postmaster, politician, inventor, scientist, diplomat, and more. If this question helped him to be more productive and healthier, I can assure you it will help all us to be better. He used this question as his moral compass to ensure that his accomplishment had a deeper meaning than accumulating money.
The purpose of this question is to check whether you used your time effectively or not. It used to ensure that you are creating products/services worth sharing with others. This question is one of the most critical questions you can ask yourself if you are serious about creating a healthier life. Whether you are an entrepreneur, podcaster, or blogger, you must be able to evaluate your performance daily.
Most people focus on creating a morning routine, but an evening routine is as critical. I believe that a productive day does not start in the morning, it starts in the evening. The evening should be used to review your day and prepare yourself for the next day. In your journal, you talked about your dreams, doubts, fears, obstacles, and opportunities. In your evening routine, reflect on your day.
This habit will help you increase your self-awareness. It will also help you remain grateful for the great things that are happening in your life. Lily Herman states that "Evening rituals help you reflect on your day, sleep more easily, and prepare you for the morning." Leo Babauta writes about the importance of reflection, and he points out five benefits of reflection: it helps you learn from your mistakes, it gives you great ideas, it helps you help others, it makes you happier, and it gives your perspective.
My evening routine is simple, I sit quietly and mentally reflect on the past 12-24 hours. As I review my day, I face my shortcomings and celebrate my small victories. I look back at my actions and examine what I could have done better and savor these small moments that brought joy into my life.
To control anxiety before bed, ask yourself this question: What good have I done today?
Follow these five practices and you will start noticing huge results in your life and business.
Adopt these strategies, and your life and business will be transformed.
You can download this free e-book 12 Tips to Become a Winner in Life to create a better life at work and home.
Luay Rahil is a business consultant and a speaker at Lead with Integrity. If you enjoyed this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it.