Those who know me well are aware of my anxiety issues. I fret over social situations more than is reasonable, and always begin them looking for an exit. This can, I believe, be an impediment to writing for many who practice the craft. For me it can throw me out of my zone for several days at a time, particularly if large groups are involved.
This past weekend I went to an event put on by CHOA (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) for children with congenital heart defects at the Georgia Aquarium. My youngest has a heart defect so we get to go as a family which we couldn't do otherwise (not at $8.95 for a sandwich). The down side is the massive crowd. Beyond the 400+ kids and family members there are the weekend visitors. My heart is racing even now simply thinking of it.
My nerves started their rattling around 10 P. M. on Friday and didn't quit until Monday morning. This got me thinking about how I deal with my anxiety and sit down at the keys. I've found that there are a few things that allow me to set down the unwanted stone of anxiety and punch at the keys.
I have a mass of hobbies (knitting/crochet, electronics, drawing, painting, etc.) which I enjoy. Crochet, my unlikely hero, provides me with an excellent distraction when my heart is racing and my armpits sting from the stress of the crowd. It may be the numerous focal points, but I think that the counting of stitches and the rhythm of the hook does more to separate my mind from the multitude.
Put simply, counting things and focusing on a beat can distract, so I pick up a craft that has both.
If you don't have a hobby, pick anything that sounds good and head over to YouTube. There are a million crafts and hobbies on display there and many excellent enthusiastic hobbyists ready to teach you. (Just a tip: you can crochet with your fingers and an old sweater has lots of free yarn :D )
2. Temperature Change
This could just as easily be "environment change" (GET OUT!! AAAAAH!), but it is often enough for me to change the temperature. I can touch something cold or hot and think about that spot instead of the chaos around me. I usually have something cold to drink for just such emergencies. In a pinch (like at the aquarium) tiles and glass are often cooler than their surroundings.
I write primarily at our kitchen table, behind which is a bay window. I like to touch the glass when I'm overthinking every single thing. It grounds me and gives me something simple to focus on. When I'm at my desk I can't do that without knocking over a thousand stacks of paper and piles of yarn, which leads me to the next trick.
3. Embrace Your Inner Lunatic
I pace. A lot. I pace and talk to myself. I act out my dialogue, argue with my "inner editor", have the conversations I shouldn't with people I'm arguing with, and generally let loose the bonds of sanity. It is an impossible task to tell a proper story if you have all that clutter in your head, so find a good spot and let it out.
This may sound like a Bad Idea (™) but it is quite cathartic. After a few minutes I find it much easier to sit down at the keyboard and shovel words onto the page. And if this doesn't work, there's always the nuclear (and best) option...
4. Hug Something
Hugs are underrated. It is a Scientific Fact (™ ) that one hug can permanently banish every demon currently haunting your living room. Not really, but it can't hurt to try. I am fortunate in having a wonderful human I can hug almost anytime I want. I also have a dog who probably doesn't mind and several claw marks from the cat. Failing those options, I have a rather depressing stuffed hedgehog that farts when you squeeze it. It reminds me of my dog Shakes, who hopped a westbound a few years back. I miss her, and feeling that pain makes me feel human again when I just can't do it on my own.
All of these tricks serve one purpose: they make you feel human. Anxiety and stress steal your humanity. They convince you to objectify yourself, to look at yourself as less, broken, bad. You're not.
You are human, and if it takes yammering to yourself on the front stoop while hugging an ice cube wearing a sweater you crocheted? Do it. You're worth it, I'm worth it.
(Weekly Contest Winner) Nobody!!
A hearty round of applause for Nobody, because that's how many saw the contest post this week. I am a dummy and posted it in the wrong place. Yay!! I'll try again next week, sorry all! Have an awesome week and do something you love.
[ DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional. Above are listed tactics which I utilize to overcome my own experience with anxiety. Personal experience is not medical advice. If you experience severe anxiety issues, please consider professional help if available. ]