Oh, you’re feeling anxious?
Like something isn’t quite right in your life?
Oh, you’re convinced you need to leave your job?
Or break up with your partner?
Or completely change some other aspect of your life?
Before you give you two weeks’ notice or throw out all the sugar in your house, may I suggest the following generally useful prescription?
This prescription is like Advil for a variety of life’s emotional and existential pains. It solves some issues completely, and for others, it reduces the pain temporarily — which is nonetheless extremely useful: if you’re in that panicky, anxious place, it’s likely that you’ll make decisions and take actions that are not the best possible choices for you. So instead, take this prescription, and consult with yourself (or me!) two days later.
A generally useful prescription:
Once a day, for two consecutive days (Did you catch that? One day is not enough! TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS.) :
Thirty minutes of gentle, pleasurable exercise.
A walk outside counts. So does yoga. Boot camp class doesn’t. The goal is to gently burn off some stress, while helping you be more aware of your body. Sometimes if an exercise is too hard, you’ll somewhat “leave” your body in order to “push through” to the end.
Thirty minutes of journaling.
You can journal about the things you’re worried about, the things you want to change or achieve, or about anything at all. The act of writing helps you stop ruminating and actually process how you’re feeling and what you actually want to do about it. More instructions here.
Shower and attend to your appearance.
“Attending to your appearance” means different things to different folks, but the idea is that you should do whatever makes you feel more juicy about your physical body. Wear some clothes you like, style your hair in a way that is appealing to you, wear some makeup or jewelry if those are things you enjoy. It sounds trivial, but it makes a difference.
Get 8 hours of sleep — minimum.
This is not a joke.
Feed yourself food that is nourishing and pleasurable. Even if you don’t have time to cook, now is the time to splurge a little bit on some lovely, tasty food that also makes you feel good. And yes, some amount of purely delicious food — like a perfect cookie — is nourishing, too.
Cut out all non-essential internet activities. You have to send emails at work? That’s fine. But no internet for pleasure. This might be the hardest thing to do of all of the things on this list, frankly — most of us in the modern world have a lot of compulsion around our internet usage. But you can use that time to do your journaling and walking and showering and sleeping, and probably still have some time left over to read that book that has been sitting on your nightstand for months.
It’s easy to skim over this list. It’s easy to think, oh, I do some of that already.
But are you feeling anxious or frustrated or stuck or not-right?
I dare you.
I dare you to try these, 100%, and see how you feel.
I will not discuss “do I need to make a major life change?” or “am I a failure?” until these actions have been completed, in full, for two consecutive days. (Reminder: One day is not enough. TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS).
As I said above, it may not fix everything, but it will significantly reduce stress and anxiety, and give you more clarity of mind — hopefully, enough clarity of mind to come up with a wise sense of the right next steps for you.