A little bit of anxiety is good. It is the motor that gets us off the couch and into motion. It is the energy that we need to burn to be satisfied with ourselves for having done something each day to reach our goal.

The problem arises when anxiety rules and we become frozen. We become paralyzed because behind that anxiety is the fear that we are deluding ourselves, that we’re not good enough to reach our goal, that we’re not worth it even as a person. That fear can spiral into depression and we can either become literally frozen, unable to move, lacking energy to do anything but breathe; or we can become a blurry of motion that runs circles in the same place, over and over again, misusing energy in fruitless worries and side quests that lead nowhere. I’m on that second group of people, who have what is called high-functioning anxiety.

What both anxiety states have in common is that we can’t think, our sight is clouded and we can’t think of solutions to anything, much less for those things that really matter to us.

And there is nothing worse than anxiety when we want to be creative. Those fears fill us up and leave no room for possibilities. Our minds are in the dark, dark basement of a depraved being, longing for something to set us free.

I can’t, and won’t, wait for the knight in shinning armor to come and set my mind and creativity free.

I say this for a variety of reasons:

  • I want to be my own person, without depending on someone else to fix me;
  • I simply don’t have the patience to wait–did I mention I’m an anxious person?–;
  • and, honestly, I don’t think the knight in shinning armor would know the first thing to do if I were to bundle my fears and shove them into his arms. He would probably stare at them, drop them, and run back from where he came from – Knights in shinning armors are a little overrated if you ask me!

So what to do to get out of the dungeon, then?

There are many answers, but my answer so far is prioritizing self-care.

I’ve started to eat better.

Several research articles have shown that missing nutrients can cause anxiety. Some examples here, here and here.

So I got myself a book with recipes that tell me what nutrients are in there and what foods have each nutrient so I know what to focus on when looking for things to eat.

Coupled to that, I’ve gotten myself a meal planner and for the first time in my life I’m planning my meals so that I can make sure I eat every single nutrient my body needs to be healthy.

I’ve also started to practice mindfulness.

There is also research that shows the benefits of mindfulness on depression and anxiety. Examples here, here and here.

Yes, yes, you might say, I’ve heard and read the evidence, but I can’t still stand mindfulness. It’s a waste of time and I can’t focus on my breathing. How can I be in the moment if there are hundreds of things pushing at me to hurry?

I would have said the same. I have in fact said so. I have tried mindfulness many times and I have failed. Many times. I have to be honest. I can’t even stand doing the 10 minute mindfulness meditation.

But as with any problem, there is no one solution that fits us all and we have to keep trying and trying, but in different ways, until we can find a way to transform tools so that we can use them. This happened to me the same way that I found out that I can actually have a nap and not feel like a zombie afterwards.

In both cases, I had to try different timings. The same way I can’t possibly sleep a full hour nap, I can’t do the 10-minute meditation, but I can do a 20 minute nap, and now I’ve discovered that I can in fact do 5 minutes of mindfulness with no problem.

And those 5 minutes are amazing. Just 5 simple minutes that I breathe in and out and relax my muscles.

Mindfulness may not cure my anxiety as fast as I would like it to, but it helps me cope. It brings 5 minutes of freedom in a world that seems under attack by hurricanes and martians at the same time. And in the lasting side effect of that peace and tranquility, I can think and I can start to find solutions to the problems my own fears won’t let me see.

The same I can say for eating better. I can’t say eating more fruits and more PUFA’s will make my anxiety run out of the building, but if I’m nourishing my body, then my chances are better, because I will have the physical energy I need for my brain to work better.

For me, the anxious one, it all comes with small steps in trying to figure out a way out of the dungeon, and as the proverb says, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ – Lao Tzu.

So here I am, taking my first step by starting to eat better and practice a little mindfulness. Let’s just say my first minuscule step, and we’ll see where it’ll take me, because, what’s the rush, right?