What to do when feeling anxious? Start with feeling anxious.

This is the second part of my interview with Dr Patricia Zurita Ona, host of the Playing It Safe podcast. The first part is here.

Do you know it’s actually alright to feel anxious? There are many situations where feeling anxious is actually a normal healthy response. Like the examples I give in this interview – auditioning for a place at acting school, or being onstage trying to make people laugh.

Our usual reaction to anxiety is to try to get rid of it or manage it.

How well does that work for you?

Here’s another approach: dive right into it. I don’t mean ruminate or obsess over it, but more like stop fighting it and just bring it along for the ride with you. Like Russ Harris did in the story I told in the first part of this interview.

Or if you’re someone who likes a fight, stand up to it and don’t let it bully you out of what you enjoy or what will be good for you. Like I did in the story I tell about auditioning for NIDA.

Listen to the podcast here:

Tips for how to deal with perfectionism

  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Done well enough is better than perfectly planned and unstarted. Get started before you feel ready and embrace the feelings that come with being daring.
  • Be kind to yourself and your imperfect attempts. Self-compassion has been shown to be more effective with productivity than self-criticism.
  • Be scientific. Experiment with doing tasks imperfectly and see what happens. Often, you’ll find that the consequences are not as dire as you imagined.
How do you measure up
  • Use the right measure. You’re going to evaluate yourself no matter what I say. But at least make sure you use the best scale for the job. That scale is found in the answers to questions such as “How faithful am I being to what is most important to me?” and “What would someone who wanted what’s best for me suggest I do right now?”

Tips for how to deal with social anxiety

  • Stop struggling. When you’re in a social situation that you’re worried you can’t cope with, it can feel like sinking in quicksand (but at least with actual quicksand the earth really does open up and make you disappear!). But you know the advice for being stuck in quicksand is “first stop trying to climb out”. Same here. Feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness in social situations are quite normal – maybe more for you than for other people, but others still have them too. But comparing yourself to others doesn’t help – you don’t get to have their feelings and they don’t have to cope with yours. So embrace those feelings as just a normal event that will happen in some social situations. When you drop the struggle, you have a bit more room to be you.
Getting Out Of Qucksand
  • Park your thoughts. Thoughts are like cars: they can help you get somewhere, but you don’t have to carry them around with you when they’re no longer needed. You don’t insist on bringing your car into the living room of the party do you? Likewise, you can leave thoughts like “I’m awkward” or “They’re all judging me” at the door, or even better at home. I know some of you will say, “But my mind has a mind of its own. Those thoughts follow me everywhere!” (Soon cars will do that too). So like an autonomous car, you need to…
  • Self-direct – out, not in. That is, tell yourself “I’m having the I’m awkward thought, but for now I’m going to focus on what is interesting about this person in front of me and what they’re saying. I can check back in on that thought at home.” Dismiss your thoughts like this and soon enough it will get the message. You’ll also meet interesting people – interesting because you became interested in them. Which also makes you interesting to them.