What Not to Feel: Confront your anxiety in 10 simple steps

I wrote a precursor to this article (on social media, because that’s where we have all resided. Except you, and you, of course! I think you mentioned once or a thousand times that you’ve never been on social media, oh and of course Reddit/Twitch/X_social_gaming_platform/the comment section somewhere doesn’t count!)

That precursor generated interest that I hadn’t expected. I was hoping to craft something funny and relatable. Instead, it seems that I shared a window into a certain aspect of my broken and nauseating inner world. In my (perhaps flawed) remembrance, there were responses like:

“Get help”

“Is this real?”

That sounds horrible”

“Are you ok?”

“Omg oversharing”

I’m maybe incorrect. I think a couple of people defriended me, one sent a private message of concern, one made a shocked but kinder comment on the post, and one person avoided talking about it in a private chat when I tried to bring it up.

Nonetheless, the message was clear. Or the subtext was clear. Or my interpretation was clear.

Nothing is actually clear.

Let’s begin.

What Not to Feel: Confront your anxiety in 10 simple steps:

1. Don’t keep reading this. The title appears to offer assistance, but I clearly lured you into my web of dysfunction. I misled you, and now you are a transfixed bystander. Look away!

2. Stop reading articles about wellness and self-improvement. Instead, consider that anxiety is the logical result of a broken society that doesn’t serve us. Something something alienation something something seizing the means of production.

3. Don’t be me. Enjoy my recounting of a recent experience for a good example of How Not To Be Me. Gird your loins. What follows is an example of my inner dialogue.

— -

Right.* I need to get to Tesco Express. It might be too busy. I’m out of time, have to go. Maybe after the meeting. Less stressful, gets the meeting out of the way first. But then I have no distraction. Thinking about the meeting won’t make it better. But I can prepare for it. Prepare? I’ve been thinking about it a lot, is that preparation? Yeah I’ll play Candy Crush and go out after the meeting…

I’m sick of Zoom. Fine. Do I have everything I need for the shop? Bag, water bottle, carrier bags, masks, sun cream, phone, jacket, shoes. Shoes. Hiking boots? Vicki the urban rambler. Erm, no. It’s warm out. Sandals? Not warm enough. Work shoes? Ok, work shoes. I need to put socks on.

Do these socks match my dress? I don’t know how to match socks and a dress. It looks weird. Better to wear a bright colour. Now I look weird on purpose. Is my dress tucked in my leggings? Remember that time the Tesco cashier came running out and untucked it. Oh god. She was doing God’s work. Goddess. I wonder if I could recognise her again.

I hate this busy road. Are the drivers staring at me? Of course. I’m the only thing in their field of vision that’s moving. Focus on the ground or you’ll trip. What if a car comes barrelling through the red light… Like that police car yesterday! Check both ways again. Again. Is my dress tucked into my leggings? I’ll casually sweep my hand around the back. Ahhh the light is changing. Do that little skiphoprun. Don’t trip.

Do I go in the left, right, or middle of Tesco’s entryway? People coming out. More people. Come on people. Everyone looks irritated. But more people coming out means less people inside. Fewer people. Fewer. Lower number of people.

Ok. My turn. Oh the security guy. Am I being over friendly if I smile and wave? Why is that bad? Is it bad if I don’t? I’m staring too much. I look suspicious. Does he know that people in my demographic are more likely to be stealy sneaky thieves? Would it be cool if I told him? Stop it, dial down the weird, don’t talk.

I’m in everybody’s way. Maybe my deodorant died. I need to grab that but somebody is standing there. I said excuse me but too quiet. Say it again. Reach. Move. MOOOOOOOVE! I can’t socially distance in here. So many people. I’m sweating.

Forgot a basket. Always do. Baskets are by the door. The security guard will think I’m stealing. A loooooonnng sloooooooowww step towards the baskets so I don’t look like I’m running out the door.

Oops bumped someone. Apologies don’t seem to fix the frowny face. Whatever. Where is the security guard? Oh my god behind me right there. Did I accidentally steal something. Do I look suspicious? I look suspicious. Talk.

Why did I say that? What a dumb joke about the basket. Not even funny. Don’t talk next time.

The self checkouts are empty but there’s a queue. I don’t have room to get past. No good choices to get past or around. Everything looks weird. Has the shop been rearranged?

I like these checkouts. No weighing scale. But so loud. A cashier said once they are loud to alert them to thievery. He didn’t say thievery. Nobody says thievery. Stealery. Abscondery. Heeheehee. Do NOT smile to yourself come on! Oh I have a mask on never mind.

Security guard! Don’t look at me, security person. Forgot to get a receipt, hope he doesn’t ask me for it. I’ll wave and smile. Wait, I have a mask on. Nod. Smile with your eyes. Smize. Is my dress tucked into my leggings? Am I walking funny?

I probably forgot everything im the shop.

Why am I so tired?

*Yes, the grammar and punctuation in my inner voice is terrible. No, I don’t think in florid, well-constructed sentences. Neither do you.

— -

4. Don’t be me

5. Drink more water

6. Exercise

7. Sleep better

8. Meditate

9. Mindfulness mindfulitate

10. Don’t be me.

An unrelated ‘bandoned ‘brolly. Probably represents something important.
An unrelated ‘bandoned bolly. Probably represents something important.

Project your assumptions here. I can handle it; I am strong.