Is it even possible to suffer from anxiety if you do these things?

If you’ve ever suffered from acute or persistent anxiety, you will know that it’s no small matter to shake off.

Is it possible to cure anxiety 100%?

I was discussing this with someone smart recently. We had different perspectives on whether it’s possible to fully recover and come back from crippling anxiety.

His take (based on his lived experience) was that it’s not possible to fully heal yourself.

The analogy he used was that once you break a bamboo cane, you can patch it up but structurally it’s never as strong again. He thought of it like a sports injury that’s always there lurking in the back of your mind.

My take (based on my lived experience) is that it’s absolutely possible to recover 100% from anxiety and recapture the feeling of being unstoppable. Anti-fragility is a thing. What doesn’t kill you can often make you stronger and more resilient.

This is independent of age…there is no reason why we can’t feel as energetic and confident at age 32, 42, 52 or 62+ as we did at 22. My belief that there is no problem that can’t be solved and that includes anxiety. This is what I call a helpful belief: even if it’s not 100% accurate it’s roughly right and it’s useful.

So we have his N = 1 versus my N = 1.

My experience – for what it’s worth – is that it’s impossible to feel anxiety when you do all of the following:

1. Sort out your finances

Sometimes anxiety is justified. If you have not yet got your shit together, then why wouldn’t you experience anxiety?

Anxiety can be a prompt, a reminder and a wake up call. In this sense, anxiety can be a useful signal that something is wrong.

There is a life changing magic to tidying up your desk or work area. There is a similar kind of magic to sorting out your finances. You need some sort of plan, however short and sweet.

Sorting out your finances means different things for different people. For me this meant being 100% debt free with a paid-off house plus a redundancy & re-training fund.

Okay maybe I took things a bit far in my quest to avoid being homeless and having to Eat The Bugs. I’m not saying everyone should (or could) do what I did.

Your definition will almost certainly be different.  But it should probably start with zero credit card debt plus a cash emergency fund. That’s just the start…the journey does not end there there.

There is always more you can do in your career, your investing and your personal finances. If your way forward is not clear, then maybe you should talk to someone who has walked The Path? This is what I do in financial coaching.

It’s paradoxical but often you can’t cure money worries with money alone. So what else should you be doing to conquer anxiety?

A lot of people get stuck taking pills or in therapy which can be slow, painful and expensive. Maybe we don’t even need to rake up painful earlier experiences? What if you just want to move on and feel better within days and weeks rather than months and years?

Well, here I think lifestyle interventions offer the fastest results and the best bang per buck. 

2. Turn off The News

Let’s be honest, it’s depressing AF.

The Cost of Living Crisis (upper case) is The Current Thing right now as journalists and their pet talking heads play Pin The Blame On The Donkey. Or The Government. Or The Energy Companies.

It’s not fair they wail like toddlers. Okay, but why would you imagine that life was fair? Did you think that, in a world of 8 billion people, there would be no suffering?

The first Buddhist truth is that all life entails suffering. Sometimes we have no choice other than to prepare for Monk Mode.

But have you already done everything in your power to reduce your energy usage and your bills? Now is a good time to be running the numbers on return on investment in cavity wall insulation, energy efficient boilers, heat pumps, solar panels etc etc.

In the long run, the cavalry (in the form of new technology and market forces) are coming to save us with cheaper energy. But we first have to get through the short term.

Imagine you have one unit of time (or life energy) to spend. You can spend that unit on watching The News & complaining or you can use it doing something to improve your own life. How helpful is it really to keep being told that WE ARE ALL DOOMED? 

The howls of protest on the news could be right or wrong (discuss elsewhere please)…but is this circus actually helping you?

3. Do intense exercise

I defy anyone to feel anxious when you’re muscles are burning, your lungs are screaming and you’re operating at the limits of your physical abilities.

Exercise is the gift that keeps on giving you a natural endorphin high followed by sense of wellbeing that can last for hours.

A lot of people with anxiety walk in nature, do yoga, pilates etc. These are wonderful but not what I’m talking about here.  Suggestion: try adding some sprints and / or a Body Combat class as well.

4. Cut out alcohol for >1 month

I’m not The Pleasure Police so if you want to drink alcohol, knock yourself out.

But if you do suffer from anxiety, then drinking alcohol is outright self-sabotage. 

The short term relief is temporary. It’s like borrowing happiness from the future…like buying stuff you can’t really afford on a high interest credit card. The hangover (like the bill) always falls due and you start the next day 1-0 down.

I wish it were otherwise but we keep coming back to reality.

Even small amounts of alcohol disrupt your sleep (and hence your hormonal balance). And it takes at least one month off alcohol for the dopamine pathway to reset properly.

5.  Get outside and get some sunshine

It’s bizarre but I still meet people who think that sunshine is dangerous and haven’t yet figured out that sun cream is a scam.

Obviously it’s not a good idea to burn your skin.  But once you escape the indoor fluorescent lights of Cubicle World, you can spend more time outdoors and build a natural base tan (if you’re dark skinned, you probably need more sun & more Vitamin D). 

At this point your sunscreen days should be behind you.  With judicious use of trees, shade and clothing, anyone could live very happily without sun cream.  Apparently, this is what happened over most of the past 100,000 years. Who knew?

Did you know that happiness surveys indicate that the unhappiest professions tend to be the well paid but stressful indoors ones (lawyers and investment bankers) and the happiest occupations tend to be lower paid but outdoorsy ones (e.g. farmers and horticultural workers)?

If you want to be happy for 2 hours, have some drinks, if you want to be happy for 2 months get into a new relationship, but if you want to be happy for life, take up gardening.

These are the inestimable advantages of living a more natural life.

Start growing!

6. Cold Water Exposure

Challenge: I defy anyone to get outside in the morning sunlight and get cold water exposure each day for a few weeks (i.e. when it starts to become a good habit) and then feel anxiety.

A good gateway drug into this habit is to turn a warm shower cold at the end for 30 seconds.

Recently I have graduated to using an outdoor bath or plunge pool (ideally with some ice added for good measure and dramatic effect). [For those that want proof: you can see a photo here.]

I think of cold water exposure as being a bit like drinking in reverse. You take the pain (the shock of getting into the cold water) upfront. The shock fades quickly and now the good stuff (a hangover in reverse) is coming. You get an afterglow for several hours afterwards.

7. Sleep

The quickest way to break a prisoner during interrogation is to sleep deprive them.

Sleep is where the body heals itself.  Sleep is promoted by all the other things on this list. Ever struggled to get to sleep after a day outdoors doing hard physical exercise or manual labour?

Sleep is the foundation of mental health. Sleep (especially dream sleep) is when hormones are made in the body.  I think of testosterone as a key anti-anxiety hormone (obviously does other stuff as well).

How do you get better sleep? Well for a start, you turn off your phone and get the hell off your screens between 10pm and 6am (blue light messes with your circadian rhythm). And you get outside for some early morning sunlight (15-30m within the first hour of waking) every day if possible.

What do you think?

So here is my question for you? Does anyone do all this stuff on the regular and still suffer from chronic anxiety or panic attacks?  Is that even possible?

My hypothesis is that anxiety can be caused (or at least exacerbated) by poor lifestyle factors.

The flipside of this is that most anxiety can be greatly improved – maybe even cured 100% – by positive lifestyle changes.

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  1. Great points. There’s even a line of medical thought on lifestyle interventions:

    I cannot say I do all of the ones you have listed all the time, but when I have done one or a few it definitely has made a difference.

    I would add that it also helps those who don’t have anxiety. Sounds obvious. To be specific: making one’s able self more able.

    Just an unexpected “side effect” health warning / challenge I have had to overcome is sometimes the positive high results in me feeling so good that I end up doing something that cancels it out: e.g staying up late with my new found energy, or eating rubbish after an energised workout.

  2. […] Is It Possible To Suffer From Anxiety If You Do These Things? – The Escape Artist […]

  3. Yes, you can still have anxiety. If we think of it as a medical condition caused by a naturally occurring overstimulation of some parts of the brain. What you and I are talking about when we write on anxiety is not natural but induced by ourselves. my feeling is that induced anxiety sells better. It can be used to sell drugs, cars, news, toothpaste , etc. If you can bypass that then you’ll be as cool as Keanu:

  4. […] Is It Possible To Suffer From Anxiety If You Do These Things?  – The Escape Artist […]

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