How to Cure Anxiety — One Workaholic's Story, Six Techniques That Work

Charlie Hoehn was a full-time employee of mine during the making and launch of The 4-Hour Body. It was an intense period.

In this post, Charlie will share his M.E.D. (Minimum Effective Dose) for overcoming anxiety and managing workaholism. There are six techniques in total.

If you haven’t already, be sure to read his previous post on preventing burnout.

Enter Charlie

Do you feel a constant sense of dread? Do you have trouble breathing, relaxing, and sleeping? Do you worry that you’re losing control, or that you’re going to die?

In other words: are you trapped in your own personal hell?

I’ve been there (here’s the backstory), and I know what it’s like. Shallow breathing, tension in the gut, chest pains, rapid heartbeat… Every moment is exhausting, crushing, and painful. Anxiety destroys your confidence, your productivity, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy life.

For a long time, I thought I was going crazy. I was convinced that something horribly wrong was about to happen. I tired and afraid all the time, and I didn’t know how to shake it. One half of me pretended to be normal while the other half tried to keep it together.

I tried everything: meditation, yoga, high-intensity workouts, long runs, therapy, therapy books, keeping a journal, super clean diets, extended fasting, drugs, deep breathing exercises, prayer, etc. I even took a six-week course, made specifically for men who wanted to overcome anxiety.

What I discovered is that the most effective “cures” for anxiety are often free, painless, and fun. When I was doing the six techniques I cover in this post on a daily basis, I was able to get back to my normal self in less than one month

It’s my sincerest hope that this post helps you eliminate your anxiety, once and for all. Surprisingly, it’s not as hard as you think…

 

1. Enjoy Guilt-Free Play with Friends

“A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition: it’s a health risk to your body and mind.”

— Stuart Brown

When I asked Tim for his advice on overcoming anxiety, he said, “Remember to EXERCISE daily. That is 80% of the battle.”

I completely agree. Exercise is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. But what’s the best type of exercise? Running on the treadmill for an hour? Doing hundreds of sit-ups? Self-inflicted torture via P90X? 

How about ‘None of the Above.’ All of those activities are miserable. People only do them because they think getting in shape has to be a punishment.

Exercise does not have to feel like work; it can be play. In other words, physical movement that gets your heart racing, causes you to sweat, and is legitimately FUN for you and your friends. You don’t have to track your time, measure your heart rate, or count your calories. Forget all that noise. Just focus on having fun while moving around with your friends.

In my experience, the best forms of anxiety-reducing play are outdoor sports. They are social (more than one person is required), mildly competitive, and cause everyone to break a sweat in the fresh air and sunshine. However, any fun play activity that you can do on a regular basis with your friends should work.

Almost every weekend, my friends and I play home run derby or go to the driving range. For me, taking batting practice or hitting golf balls is the most rewarding form of play. Plus it gives me an excuse to move around outside for an hour or two.

I also take frequent trips to the park with an Aerobie Flying Ring (a flat rubber Frisbee that flies really fast). The Aerobie is perfect for playing because I have to call up a friend to join me, and we both end up running around chasing it.

Playing with an Aerobie at the House of Air trampoline house in San Francisco.

Incorporating play into my weekly routine helped my anxiety and workaholism more than anything else. It was such a massive relief to hang out with my friends and have guilt-free fun again. Playing helped me decompress and unplug from work, which actually made me more productive.

After each round of catch or home run derby, I would return to my laptop feeling light and happy. And to my surprise, I was able to produce better work at a faster pace. My brain was operating at a higher level because it was happy, playful, and recharged. And I wasn’t the only one who attested to a boost in productivity and creativity because of play.

[Note from Tim: Exercise also elicits measurable biochemical effects (like increased BDNF production) that improve cognitive performance.]

My friend Ann (a book editor) texted me one afternoon to say that she was trying to work, but was so bored that she’d spent the last hour staring at a turtle swimming in a pond. I told her to come pick me up so we could play catch. We drove over to a park and played with the Aerobie for two hours in the sun. The next day, she sent me this message:

All work and no play makes Jack an anxious boy — literally. Isolating yourself erodes your health, and sitting in a chair all day is a recipe for neuroses. Get off the Internet, turn off your screens, and go have guilt-free fun playing with your friends! You’ll be less anxious, less lonely, more relaxed, and a whole lot happier.

DO IT NOW

Schedule a daily reminder to Play. Ask a friend, co-worker, or neighbor to play catch. Search Yelp.com for “co-ed sports” or “improv comedy,” then sign up. For a negligible fee, you get to be surrounded by fun people who like to play. Totally worth it.

You can take baby steps toward playing more, of course. You could invite a friend on a long walk, or play catch instead of drinking coffee, or take a date to the driving range. The important thing is to schedule guilt-free fun with good people.

FREQUENCY

Aim for 30 minutes per day (or more, if possible). Reducing your anxiety through play only takes 2% of your total time each week, but it’s up to you to decide that your happiness is worth the effort.

[Note from Tim: Schedule this recreation in advance or it won’t happen.  If you’re a type-A personality, work will swell to fill your unfilled calendar.]

COST

Free, or very cheap. Try not to think of play in terms of costs. This is an investment in your health and happiness, with a guaranteed return.

RESOURCES

Aerobie Flying Ring. This is the best toy for playing catch. It’s light, durable, portable, and extremely fun.

Charlie’s Play Picks. Check out my list of fun activities and toys.

Play by Dr. Stuart Brown. If you want to read more about the science behind play and its essential role in fueling happiness, pick up a copy of this book. It’s fantastic. Also worth reading: The Play Deficit (article) by Peter Gray.

 

2. Unplug from All Sources of News

“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.”

— Robert J. Sawyer

It took me a long time to see it, but the news was my single biggest source of anxiety.

The websites I was reading each day talked non-stop about crime, corruption, economic breakdown, and the end of the world. As a result, my fear of being attacked spun out of control. I became obsessed with protecting myself from every possible threat. I researched what to do if I was arrested and thrown in jail. I spent hundreds of dollars on food and equipment that I hoped would save me in the event of a disaster.

There was nothing inherently wrong with preparing for an emergency, but obsessing over apocalyptic scenarios, every day, for months on end?

One day, it finally dawned on me: my fear of an imaginary future was destroying my ability to enjoy the present.

And what planted those seeds of fear? The news.

When I made the commitment to cut the news out of my life completely — no TV, no conspiracy sites or “truth deliverer” blogs, ignoring / blocking every sensationalist link I came across on social media, etc. — my anxiety plummeted in less than two weeks. The negative information I removed from my conscious awareness freed me from the confines of other people’s frightening narratives.

I replaced the scary news with positive, joyful, and fun information. For instance, I listened to uplifting songs and standup comedy. I watched improv, and classic funny & happy movies. I read fun books that sparked my imagination and touched my soul. It really helped.

Of course, I didn’t bury my head in the sand. I still talked with my friends, who would inevitably bring up the noteworthy events that took place that week. And I was always surprised to discover that… I didn’t really miss anything. I was alive, and the world kept turning. That was about it.

The information you allow into your conscious awareness determines the quality of your life. In other words, you are what you think. If you are subsisting on content that’s unsettling, anxious, and soulless (see: the news, reality shows, horror movies, books written by hateful authors, porn), your mind will become stressed, scared, and cynical.

But if you are consuming content that’s joyous and playful, your mind will become happy and loving. Simple as that.

DO IT NOW

Cut anxiety-inducing information – especially the news – out of your daily routine completely! If your friends are watching the news in the same room, either change the channel or go do something else. If a scary headline appears in your Facebook feed, don’t click it – block it.

There’s no need to subject yourself to unhealthy unrealities. Replace those unsettling thoughts with positive content that will uplift you.

COST

Free.

RESOURCES

The “Anti-News” List. My favorite anxiety-fighting content. Just remember: Sad people tend to focus on the lyrics, while happy people just listen to the music. Don’t over-analyze the deeper implications of the art; just enjoy how it makes you feel.

BONUS POINTS: Flip the Shut-Off Switch

Whenever I’m feeling burned out, I have to force myself to unplug.

I relocate to a scenic environment where the skyline isn’t cluttered with buildings or human activity, then I disconnect from every device with a screen for a minimum of 24 hours. That means no texting, no calling, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram, and no Seinfeld. Only nature, face-to-face interactions, and books are allowed.

Unplugged nature vacations are incredibly refreshing. My mind always feels like a stuffy room that gets a sudden rush of fresh air. Instead of feeling tired all day long from a steady diet of internet content, I’m rejuvenated by real life again.

Give yourself permission to stop working and unplug. Don’t feel guilty for taking time off. This isn’t an escape from the real world – it’s a chance to reconnect with it.

3. Consistent Bedtime & Afternoon Naps

“My girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’  I said ‘No, I made a few mistakes.’”

— Steven Wright

I really can’t overemphasize the importance of consistent quality sleep. Every anxious person I’ve met has either been in denial about how little sleep they get, or they’re overlooking the fact that they’re going to bed at random hours every night.

One of my readers wrote this message to me after reading an early draft of my book:

“When I began forcing myself to sleep eight hours a night, my physical health problems cleared up, my emotions balanced out, and my anxiety disappeared. My mind could function and that tight feeling around my eyes vanished. Eight hours of sleep is a miracle pill.”

I was chronically in a severe sleep deficit, which took a major toll on my mental health. 

The endless stream of digital information I was taking in every waking hour only compounded the problem. And because I kept going to bed at random hours, my mind never had enough time to shut down, relax, and digest everything that poured in during the day.

During the month I cured my anxiety, I made consistent sleep one of my highest priorities. The first thing I did was optimize my bedroom for ideal sleeping conditions. Here are the steps I took:

  1. Plugged my iPhone charger in an outlet far away from my bed so I couldn’t grab my phone while I was laying down. This little obstacle prevented me from checking Facebook or watching Youtube before trying to fall asleep. [Note from Tim: I always put my iPhone on Airplane Mode or turn it off while sleeping. Even on silent, the illumination of arriving text messages is enough to wake or aggravate me.]
  2. Cranked up the air conditioning so the temperature in my bedroom was around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Kept the curtains drawn and wore a sleep mask so that my room was as dark as I could possibly make it.

Once my room was optimized, I committed to a consistent bedtime. I set a daily reminder on my iPhone called “Get Ready for Bed,” which went off at 10:00PM every night (i.e. nine hours before I wanted to wake up). As soon as it went off, I’d stop whatever I was doing, hit the bathroom, brush my teeth, and change out of my day clothes. I was dead serious about obeying my phone’s command. Even if I was in the middle of a conversation, I’d abruptly end it so I could get ready for bed.

After I finished getting ready, I’d switch my phone to silent mode, plug it into the charger that was far away from my bed, and lay down to read fiction for 15 minutes (No business or “thinking” books allowed). Then I’d turn off the lights and focus on the rhythm of my breathing until I fell asleep.

It took several nights to adjust to this change, but within a week, I was sleeping like a champion. The key was getting ready at the same time every nightIt set me in motion toward getting in bed, and ultimately re-trained my body to crave sleep at a reasonable hour.

There was another aspect of my sleep routine that was critical for healing my anxiety: I took a 20-minute nap every afternoon.

Each day, immediately after I finished lunch, I would find a spot to nap – a couch, a bench, a reclined car seat, a carpeted floor, a friend’s wedding…

I’d set an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes, lie on my back, and close my eyes. I never tried to fall asleep; I just relaxed and focused on breathing in and out. Even if I didn’t fall asleep (10-20% of the time), I always felt refreshed and calm when my alarm went off.

Naps are awesome. I wish I could be a salesman for naps. We all took them every day when we were kids, so… why should we stop taking them just because we’re older? Take a quick nap in the afternoon, even if you have to cut your lunch break short. Then force yourself to get ready for bed at the same time every night. You’ll be more relaxed, more productive, and far less anxious.

DO IT NOW

Set a daily reminder on your phone to “Get Ready for Bed,” nine hours prior to your target wake time. Set another reminder to take a nap after lunch. Plug your cell phone charger in an outlet that’s far away from your bed. Cover your windows so your bedroom is as dark as possible. Drop the temperature in your bedroom to 68 degrees.

COST

Free.

FREQUENCY

Aim for 8 hours of consistent quality sleep each night, and one 20-minute nap every afternoon.

RESOURCES

Relax like a Pro and 11 Tricks for Perfect Sleep. Check out Tim’s articles for more tips on taking your sleep to the next level.

Sweet Dreams Sleep Mask. The light! It buuurns! Use this mask to block it out.

Flux. The bright white light that you refer to as your “computer” might be disrupting your internal rhythm. Download the free Flux application to have your screen’s lighting automatically switch to a sunset hue in the evening.

Philips Wake-up Light. If you despise alarms as much as I do, then check out the Wake-up Light. It makes waking up gradual and pleasant.

4. Eliminate Stimulants

The physical sensations that preceded my panic attacks were the jitters (shaking hands, quivering voice) and a rapid resting heart rate. Guess what gave me both of those sensations? Coffee. And wouldn’t you know it, I was drinking 3-4 cups each day, running around like Tweek on South Park.

I decided to cut coffee out of my diet for a week. Shortly after I removed the caffeine from my bloodstream, I stopped having the jitters. My resting heart rate remained steady. The physical sensations that came with having a panic attack were no longer there, and I started calming down. [After some experimentation, I found that I could only have a half serving of coffee before I started feeling jittery. I also found that I couldn’t have caffeine past 5:00PM without disrupting my sleep routine.]

A friend of mine experienced similar results after removing aspartame. She had horrible anxiety for months but couldn’t figure out what was causing it. One day at work, she noticed that she’d finished three diet sodas in just a few hours. Her body was overloaded with caffeine and aspartame (a toxic sugar subsitute in diet drinks). As soon as she stopped drinking diet soda, her anxiety disappeared.

Sometimes, we tend to overlook the simple answers that are right in front of us.  Let’s fix that.

DO IT NOW

Cut out any substance you regularly consume that’s correlated with increased feelings of anxiety. Common culprits include: caffeineaspartamegluten, refined sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Keep it out of your body for one week.

If you have that substance in your house, throw it away. If the people you spend the most time with are encouraging you to consume it, politely turn them down and do something else. If you have strong cravings for that substance, find a healthy substitute you can consume instead (e.g. water, tea, sugar-free gum).

After the substance has been out of your system for seven days, you can reassess its toxicity by consuming a typical dose you’re used to taking. If your anxiety symptoms return within one hour of ingestion, you’ve found the culprit. Try to eliminate that substance for good.

COST

Free.

 

5. Trauma Releasing Exercises

[Note from Charlie: This technique is going to sound bizarre. I don’t blame you if you’re skeptical, but it worked really well for me and there’s a good amount of research to back up the benefits of T.R.E.]

One of the weirdest effects of anxiety is how much tension builds up in your body. I couldn’t even take a deep breath because my stomach always trembled, like it was being stretched to its limits. Relaxing felt physically impossible.

My body was so tense because I was constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Every day, I was producing the energy needed to survive a life-threatening event. The problem was that this event was in my mind; it was imaginary and it never took place. I had all this excess energy that wasn’t being released, so I became extremely high-strung.

A friend recommended that I check out T.R.E. — Trauma Releasing Exercises, which helped him conquer his anxiety. I watched a few videos of T.R.E. on YouTube and immediately thought it was fake. The clips showed people lying on the ground as their bodies went into spastic tremors. Their movements looked comical and freaky, like they were in the middle of an exorcism.

T.R.E. was originally designed as a safe and easy way to induce tremors. Anyone who has gone through extreme trauma, from the emotionally abused to war veterans, can use these exercises to their benefit. The exercises take about 20 minutes to complete, and they’re intended to induce tremors by exhausting your leg muscles.

I learned that tremors are a natural means for mammals to discharge excess energy after a traumatic event. The tremors release our body’s surplus of adrenaline after it’s no longer needed for survival. I watched footage of antelopes, bears, and other animals that had narrowly escaped an attack. Their bodies instinctively trembled for a few minutes, and then they’d act calm and normal again. It was fascinating.

Unlike most species, adult humans typically prevent themselves from having tremors. Why? Because we avoid behavior that makes us look weak or vulnerable. In other words, we are so self-conscious that we unknowingly block our body’s natural (yet embarrassing) function during times of great stress. As a result, we make it very difficult to overcome trauma because we’re constantly holding in so much excess energy. Thankfully, T.R.E. can help.

I bought the T.R.E. book on my Kindle and went through all the exercises. After I completed the full circuit, I lied on the ground and was STUNNED as my back, hips, and legs shook rapidly in sporadic bursts for 20 minutes. The tremors weren’t painful at all; the sensation actually felt relaxing and natural. I was just astounded by how vigorously my body shook. I looked like a vibrating cell phone. After my body’s tremors finally subsided, I went to lie down on my bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep.

I performed these exercises three nights per week, for three weeks. They were hugely effective for releasing the physical tension my body was holding in. I can’t show or describe all of the exercises here, as I don’t want to take credit for a routine I didn’t create. But if you’re interested in giving T.R.E. a shot, you can check out the book (or win a free copy by leaving a comment below — see instructions at the bottom of this post).

I know T.R.E. might sound kooky, or even a little scary. But it’s really not bad at all. It’s basically just a series of stretches that help your body thaw itself out by alleviating your chronic tension. Your tremors will definitely make your body move in strange ways though, so be sure to do these exercises in a relaxed environment where you won’t feel self-conscious.

DO IT NOW

Watch the 8-minute Tremors video on T.R.E.’s official website to see how it works.

FREQUENCY

Do the exercises every other day for three weeks. Then as needed.

COST

$10 for the book.

RESOURCES

Trauma Releasing ExercisesThis short book explains the trauma recovery process in uncomplicated language. The last chapter includes photos and descriptions of the exercises, which elicit tremors that release deep chronic tension in the body.

6. Fix Micronutrient Deficiencies

Everyone should get tested for micronutrient deficiencies at some point. There are plenty of reasons why this is a smart move, but the most obvious is because of our changing soil. 

The vegetables we eat absorb their nutrients from the soil they grow in, and the purity (and depth) of our topsoil has been severely compromised through hyper-aggressive/monoculture agriculture and mining. So even if you are eating a seemingly natural and well-balanced diet, you could still be deficient in key nutrients your brain and body need in order to function properly.  Broccoli in one place doesn’t necessarily equal broccoli in another, for instance.  Where you get your produce matters; they could be chock-full or devoid of the vitamins, etc. depending on where you source.

Below are two of the most common nutrient deficiencies that tend to amplify anxiety:

  1. The Vitamin B club. A lot of people are deficient in B-12 (methylcobalamin — found in meat), but others might be deficient in B-2 (riboflavin — found in yogurt, spinach, almonds, and eggs), or B-5 (pantothenic acid — found in avocados, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes), or B-6 (pyridoxal phosphate — found in tuna, chicken, turkey, and cod). Fortunately, it’s possible to get the recommended dose of all the B vitamins by taking a B-complex pill once per day.
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. You can find omega-3 in salmon, fish oil, hemp seeds, and flax seeds. I take 2-4 servings of Nordic Natural’s cod liver oil pills each day, which contains a solid dose of the three fatty acids: EPA, DHA, and ALA.

For a few months, I was feeling unusually fatigued. I had no idea what was causing it. I was getting good sleep, I was eating healthy, and I was exercising regularly. I did some research, and found that I had a ton of symptoms for Vitamin B-12 deficiency: I felt mildly depressed, I had very little motivation, I was short of breath, my brain was foggy, and my fingers occasionally went numb.

Vitamin B-12 is in meat, fish, and certain dairy products (if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re likely deficient in B-12). The normal range for B-12 is between 500 and 1,000 pg/ml (picograms per milliliter), and if your levels fall below 500 pg/ml, your brain ages twice as fast. In other words, if your body isn’t absorbing enough B-12, your mind rapidly deteriorates and stops functioning properly. Holy Guacamole!

When I got tested for B-12 deficiency, the results showed that my levels were 200 pg/ml — less than half of the minimum amount my body required. Even though I was eating meat almost every single day, I was still massively deficient.

I immediately began supplementing with Vitamin B-12 pills — 1,000 mcg every day, sublingually (under the tongue). Within one week, I could already feel a difference. I was less foggy and more energetic. When I got tested again for B-12 a month later, my levels had shot up to 529 pg/ml. I was back in the normal range.

A few of my friends took micronutrient deficiency tests, as well. None of them had B-12 levels as low as mine, but they were all deficient in something. One found he was deficient in magnesium. Another was deficient in selenium, while another was deficient in potassium. All of them took measures to correct their deficiencies, brought their levels back up to the normal ranges, and felt like new people. Their minds were clear and sharp, and their energy went through the roof.

One final note on deficiencies: It’s possible that your gut isn’t absorbing nutrients properly. If you suspect that’s the case, you might consider taking a probiotic supplement to introduce more healthy bacteria into your GI tract. You can also get more healthy bacteria by eating fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi.

DO IT NOW

Research the nutrients mentioned above to see if you might be deficient.

FREQUENCY

Once you’ve been tested for deficiencies, ingest an ample amount of the desired nutrients (via food or supplements) for 30 days. Get tested again and re-assess.

COST

Varies, depending on whether you’re ingesting food or supplements (pills average less than $1.50 per day). $80 for the B-12 deficiency test at Any Lab Test Now. $400 for the micronutrient test. I know, I know – it’s expensive.

RESOURCES

[None of these resources are affiliate links. Neither Tim nor I will earn money if you decide to make a purchase through them.]

Any Lab Test Now. You can get tested for deficiencies in just a few minutes at Any Lab Test Now and have the results emailed to you within 48 hours. You can also get micronutrient tests at your doctor’s office, but (depending on which state you’re in) they will probably make you jump through a few hoops first.

Spectracell. This is the micronutrient testing lab Tim used to uncover his selenium deficiency (he used Brazil nuts to correct it).

Vitamin B-Complex Caps. This covers all of your bases for the B vitamins. These pills are free from common allergens, like soy, yeast, barley, wheat, and lactose.

Cod Liver Oil. I take 2-4 servings per day to get omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t like taking so many pills, try squeeze packets.

 

Final Thoughts

Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question, “Is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and they say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.”

– Bill Hicks

I couldn’t see it for a long time, but I was the creator of my own anxious reality.

I didn’t allow myself to have fun. I never slept. I drank coffee all day while staring at screens. I consumed fear-mongering news that convinced me the end was near. People absorbed and reflected my nervousness back at me, and my anxiety perpetuated itself.

I’m not crippled with anxiety anymore, and I’m not burned out. Now, my state of mind is different.

I allow myself to have guilt-free fun in everything I do. The world is a playground, my work is a game, and life is a ride. And you know what? I feel 100 times better than I ever thought I would. I’m back to my normal self.

And I have no fear that those awful feelings will ever return, because I know the antidote — play.

# # #

Want a free copy of Charlie’s book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety?

Leave a comment below with your favorite technique for managing or overcoming anxiety.

The top 20 comments, as selected by Charlie, will receive:

  • (1) free digital copy of Play It AwayKindle .mobi or PDF ($10 value)
  • (1) free digital copy of the Trauma Releasing Exercises workbook ($10 value)
  • Bonus: Charlie’s weekly routine during the month he healed his anxiety

 

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with over 400 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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508 Replies to “How to Cure Anxiety — One Workaholic's Story, Six Techniques That Work”

  1. Most of my anxiety comes from self-deprecating thought patterns: I do everything wrong and everything that goes wrong is my fault. So lately it’s been helpful (and my new year’s resolution) to tell myself to be kinder on myself. Simply asking “are you sure this is your fault? Were you the only factor?” helps to reassess the situation in a less damaging way.

    1. Good advice.

      Also realize even if it is your fault, you are human and are going to make mistakes. Learn from it, forgive yourself, and move on.

  2. Hi Everyone,

    The key to dealing with Anxiety is making the habit of doing what gets ride of stress for you.

    Do everything you can to remind yourself to do the action you need to reduce stress: put a note on your mirror in the bathroom, in the car, on your computer screen…in your diary…etc.

    Then if you do the action for a month (check it off on your calendar each day) and it is the right one for you you will crave to continue its healing feeling.

    I will say after hosting over a hundred workshops the simplest solutions are the best and just getting outside in the fresh air away from traffic, noise and into the silence can really help many people.. there is always more time to work…..it is so simple most people refuse to go outside But if there was a pill with built in fresh air some people would buy it!

    Go for it add up how much time you spend outside each day in fresh air and increase it to feel better.

    As a instructor of mine once said when you find the fun outside you find the flow in life.

    Keep Smiling,

    David

  3. First, I do some fun exercise, like take a bike ride, swim & play in the ocean, run on the beach, or bushwalk to a waterfall. Surround myself in nature.

    Second, I try to spend time calmly focusing on what I want, rather than mentally muddling my way through the ‘how and when’ I am going to get it.

    These two simple things help me take off the hand-break and just allows things to flow more easily.

  4. Similar to play time, walking/hiking/biking in the woods does it for me. Something about being in nature resolves anxiety very quickly. Being outdoors in general helps, but not as much as being on a trail surrounded by trees.

    May seem a bit granola hippie crunchy, but it works!

  5. It’s always been weird to me how little time people leave for play. My solution is to put lots of play sessions INTO my working day.

    i.e. a run outside time, a stretch time, a handstands time, a dance to a really loud song time.

    This means DURING the day I’m continually refreshed, and don’t allow the slumps of focusing on one thing too long to get me down. Your mind craves variety, and needs that wide variety of activity to keep fresh when doing difficult work.

  6. Good Stuff Charlie!

    Your candidness and openness is refreshing as well as inspiring–thank you.

    The photo of you taking a nap on a couch with a cross on the wall above is priceless and a good reminder of a higher power. Interestingly enough, many say the greatest self help book is The Bible and more than likely most of your techniques are touched on in The Old & New Testaments but probably not as concisely.

    Once again, great article and thanks again for sharing your personal 6 best practices to overcome anxiety.

    Jerry

  7. Struggled with anxiety on and off for a couple years now. The thing that worked best for me when in a panic state was to do something that takes up my whole concentration so that I don’t have any left for being anxious. This allows my body to relax and start coming out of the fight or flight mode. Only then will exercise, reading a relaxing book, etc really help as I’ve already broken out of the anxious thinking thought loop and they don’t take enough concentration.

  8. When your at work and can’t catch a break (aka tax season), I go to the bathroom and splash warm water on my face repeatedly and day dream that it is a hot towel at a day spa! I also make sure I take my 1 hour lunch break daily (when weather permits) to go to the local forest preserve close to the office. I enjoy seeing the beauty of nature and relish in the silence and peace of it all.

  9. Hey Charlie,

    I think you are providing great tips. I am already doing a lot of them, so that might be the reason I am always laid back. 😉

    One tip I can give is to stop the “mental movies”. You know, when you go back or forth in time and live or relive certain moments? Like when you have a job interview coming up, you start imagining what the interviewer is going to say and how you are going to respond?

    Those “movies” make you essentially unconscious in the present moment, and are a big source of anxiety.

    Closely related to this is also “thinking ahead”, like when you have a busy week coming and you start thinking about ALL the things you need to do and it freaks you out.

    Take away is, stay present in the moment and knock things off one by one. 🙂

  10. Thank you for this reminder!

    And I say reminder because I don’t think there’s anything here I didn’t already know about, and yet there are at least four things out of the six that I’m consistently forgetting or ignoring!

    Too much coffee, too much screen time, too little fun and play and not enough sleep – yep, guilty. And the thing about Trauma Releasing Exercises, I’ve heard of it and not done anything about it. Must try harder – or do some of this stuff and then not need to try harder as it will all just flow!

    Hmmm – it’s sunny outside – I think I might just go for a walk…

  11. Thanks!

    I have a few useful techniques (most borrowed from people such as yourself).

    This technique is, likewise, not entirely original, but always works.

    When faced with work-stress, unrealistic deadlines, undue pressure etc I ask, What would my world be like, if I failed to achieve this goal, in 10 minutes, 100 minutes, 1 day, 10 days, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years etc. I put work pressure in perspective especially in relation to my life outside of work and I can then go ahead and do my best anyway, though stress free and knowing that if things don’t pan out, life goes on and is no less enjoyable. The key is striving to do my best with the resources available, but not stressing about the outcome. I spend my weekends Skydiving and Wingsuiting. I assure you, it’s impossible to be unhappy when falling through the air from 14,000 feet.

  12. Great article. I’m going to incorporate more play in my life!

    Things that help me deal with anxiety:

    The most important thing for me is being thankful for what I’ve got. A mind full of thanks and gratefulness can’t also be full of dread.

    Another thing that helps is: I eat real, clean food – not processed and laden with sugars, stimulants, additives, etc. I experience much less anxiety when I’m mindful of what I’m putting into my body.

    Charlie mentioned the importance of his afternoon nap. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful. Afternoon naps allow your adrenals to recharge.

    I also see to it that my salt intake is adequate. Salt and naps are like manna for folks with anxiety/adrenal issues. But definitely follow Charlie’s advice about having your nutrient levels tested before adding extra salt to your diet. Everyone’s individual nutrient needs are different.

  13. I am 50, fit, balanced and joyful, mainly because I have lived out all the principles you described since my mid twenties, when I felt life turn dark and dreary. Through trial , error and sheer determination to NOT let life be a chore but rather a playful game ( remember the game LIFE? ) I read, researched and discovered many of the suggestions you made . I rarely if ever comment online but your prescription for well being is solid, sound and imperative if you want to live well and feel well.

    I was always anxious growing up and can trip into it ever so quickly. A management technique that really has helped me and reduces my anxiety is to do everything else you described AND to speak words and hold thoughts of gratitude regularly throughout the day BUT especially when I am fearful or anxious. Somehow , for reasons science is starting to confirm, the gratefulness and the curve of a smile reset the energy field I am standing in and instead of being anxious I have a deep sense of well being. The anxiety fades and the more pleasant sensation of peace and calm take over. I do it every day, many times a time and anytime I feel anxiety step forward in my body or my thoughts. Thank you for your contribution , you have great wisdom to share and much needed in these new times ! Life can get better or it can get worse. Starting while you are young will insure that when you are my age you will still feel like a kid and play like a happy child!

  14. There’s a book by Dale Carnegie called “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. A friend of mine sent me the audiobook because I’m always strung out. Honestly, I haven’t read, or heard, all of it yet, but one of the best takeaways I’ve had from it is to live in “day-tight compartments”. This means remembering that the only time truly available for you to live in is from now until bedtime. As long as you do your best in that window of time, you’re doing the best that you can in life in general.

  15. Never do I fish as attentively as when I’m on the North Umpqua. I feel I owe the river the very best I have to offer, after all, the river has given its very best to me. The North Umpqua makes me want to be a better fly fisherman

  16. I think anxieties are 99% of the time totally unreal.

    It’s our voice in the head that thinks of scenarios in the future, which are just one way of how a situation “could” develop. Most of the time the most pessimistic way.

    The emphasize is on the word FUTURE. It’s not real now.

    So what to do?

    Start learning to be in the present moment. Yes it’s something you can “learn” by daily practice. Do everything you do with full commitment. It needs a heck of concentration, but when you are with what you are doing, then you can’t think about everything that’s gonna be tomorrow.

    Children playing –> the best example.

    “The mind is a great servant, but a terrible master”

    So I do meditations. Preferred in Nature and I make sure that I see, hear, smell and feel everything I can. So I am in the now and I can’t feel any anxieties.

    I also try to be super aware of my thoughts. Often they are running where they want. Then I have to say: Who is the master here? You or Me?

    Of course “I” am the master. So I can change my thoughts, willingly. Nobody is his own thoughts slave if he doesn’t allow it.

    If we say our thinking runs us, we give all our power away. Regain your own power by starting to “form” your thinking.

    Sil

  17. My only way to truly relax and escape is reading. I have multiple health and breathing problems that crop up and railroad my exercise program so reading is my mainstay. Swimming is next.

  18. Thank you for sharing Charlie, and so glad things are better for you now. I’ve suffered clinical depression most of my life with bouts of anxiety thrown in for good measure. A great workout session always helps me, especially if I can get a good run in. I’ve also eliminated the news (many thanks to Tim’s advice in the 4HWW) and when things get really bad, I unplug for at least a day and do absolutely nothing but read or watch movies (preferably comedies).

    Best of luck on your future endeavors!

  19. Great article! About twelve years ago I started having panic attacks and had no idea what was going on. Years later I finally figured out that I was pushing myself too hard, and not giving myself time to rest, relax, and play. Based on what I did to overcome anxiety and panic attacks, I believe that Charlie’s tips and advice here are spot on.

    That being said, when you’re having severe anxiety you might need a stop-gap measure until you can get your brain and body back in whack. I tried medication, and hated it, so instead I went the natural route. I’ve found that passion flower and valerian root work okay for mild anxiety, and that 200mg of l-theanine works great for more serious bouts (thanks Tim for that tip). In addition, getting your cortisol levels down can be a critical piece many people miss. Taking phosphatidylserine daily in the am or post-exercise can help with that as well.

    Also, I agree that daily exercise does help. I get a lot more benefit from doing intense cardio than from doing strength training, even though I prefer the strength training from a pure function perspective. But once I get on the road and have been breathing hard for a while, the stress just melts away. It’s liberating.

    Run-away mind syndrome is a huge contributor to anxiety and depression. Staying in the moment, and recognizing faulty thought patterns so you can stop them and adopt healthy thought patterns is critical. The resources that helped me most with this are “You Are Not Your Brain” by Schwartz and Gladding and anything by the late Dr. Claire Weeks.

    Finally, I’ve found that remembering to breathe deep belly breaths throughout the day is VERY helpful. I’ve noticed that when I’m most anxious, my abdomen is tense and I am breathing from my chest. When I feel like that, I put on some Mozart or classical guitar music and just sit and breathe. Typically within a few minutes I start feeling more relaxed and calm.

    Charlie, again – great article. Thanks for sharing this.

  20. Hi Charlie. Thank you for sharing your story, it hit close to home. I LOVE naps! I had a work position that allowed me to work from home and I would always take a 30 minute nap after lunch. But when things changed and I NEEDED to be in the office from 8-5, I noticed my attitude complete change. I think it’s time to start enacting “nap time” again. Also, I am fascinated by the TRE information. That is quite amazing in of itself and I plan to do more research on it. I can’t wait to read your book. Again, thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing your story.

  21. The Calm App on iPhone works wonders, you can set a time and it walks you through how to relax yourself. Try to do it once a day for 2-10 minute intervals.

  22. Great techniques! Here is my all-time best cure for the heebie-jeebies:

    Help someone else and then when they say “thank you” tell them to pass it on.

    Whether it’s formal volunteering for a cause you believe in or just giving service to help a friend with a knotty project or listening when someone needs a friendly ear, helping is the best way I know to get out of your own “stuff” and into life.

    Help is empowering to the giver and, if given in the spirit that we are all in this human condition together, it is empowering to the receiver as well.

    Take note that Charlie and Tim are GREAT at helping with all their cool ideas and workable techniques!

  23. Bicycle commute.

    It’s about six miles each way and I take my time, so it’s 30 to 40 minutes (each way) of relaxing outdoors meditative in my head with my headphones in on the way to and from work. I ride five days a week in addition to my normal running/lifting routine, and this is the time of year that I REALLY start to miss it/consider moving to a more forgiving climate.

  24. I learned this from Aubrey Marcus (Warrior Poet). He´s the CEO of the human optimization company called ONNIT:

    Sit down in a relaxed and comfortable position, and inhale deep through your nose. While exhaling, tell yourself “I am..”. Repeat for a desired amount of times. And that´s it!

    You´ll be surprised how much this helps with mindfulness. It´s relaxing and it can help you connect with your inner self. And then you´re ready to go! (and possibly kick ass)

  25. I have found that the best way for me to release anxiety is stop, breath, and really ask myself what’s going on and explore what’s causing the stress. When I start to feel out of control, or like things are just getting too overwhelming, I will go somewhere quiet and sit. I calm myself down, remove myself from the situation and take a step back. Then, I sort of unpack the situation with a series of questions.

    I ask myself, “what’s got you so worked up?,” and then continue from there, going deeper until I find the problem.

    “Why does this issue stress you out?”

    “Is this really what’s causing your anxiety?”

    I often have to divorce emotion from the equation and look at my state logically. Emotion can cloud my judgment when I’m trying to solve problems or resolve issues. Anger, stress, resentment can all obscure or even magnify what could be a small issue. It’s best to acknowledge it, realize that your emotional response is just a reaction to a situation, and set it to the side. Once I’ve been able to address the problem, the emotional burden takes a back seat to wanting to fix the problem.

    I sit in silence, focus on my breathing, and keep asking logic based questions to dig deeper into what is causing the distress. I’ve found that if I keep digging and keep unpacking, just keep asking more questions, I can get to the root cause. It’s often something very small that has an actionable resolution, but things can just get so blown out of proportion and snowball, making them seem bigger or insurmountable.

    Exercise and play are very important to me, though I realize that I don’t play as much as I used to. I view exercise as training, regardless of what it’s for. I find that I can’t wait to go “train” after work even when I’ve had an emotionally and physically exhausting day, where I probably would have bailed on just exercising. I feel like the way you frame and focus on things, even as simple as just going for a jog, have big emotional impacts. When I wanted to start training for a half marathon, the first few weeks were brutal. However, I was able to quickly convince myself that running each day would be a way to burn away my stress. Now, it’s something I look forward to everyday.

  26. Thanks Charlie for the great advice in this article especially T.R.E exercises. I have a colleague, a war veteran, who suffers from PTSD. It really affects him still many years on but I know he finds doing exercise like boxing and paint balling a very good stress reliever which is exactly the type of ‘play’ you recommend as he does thins with other PTSD sufferers.

    He often listens to certain music which helps clear his mind from negative thoughts and anxiety. In particular the song “In the arms of an angel” by Sarah McLachlan helps. T.R.E. sounds like a great tool to help him, so thanks again for writing so openly about a topic rarely discussed.

  27. Wow. Relieved a lot of anxiety just to read about some new and concrete steps I could take towards anxiety relief! Really interested in T.R.E. and had never heard of it before. Thank you.

  28. I think a lot of anxiety-curing can be labeled as “common sense but not common practice”. That isn’t to discount Charlie’s amazing work, but just the opposite. He isn’t flashing highly technical jargon at anyone. That scares people away. He tells us things that make sense in a simple, direct, digestible and actionable manner. That’s what makes this book so special…!

  29. I found that I go in and out of anxiety. Each time, the best solution was doing was what causing it (if social, force yourself to be in rooms with a lot of strangers; if hot air balloon, go for a trip and remember to breathe a lot!). It’ll work out. The problem was that as I conquered anxiety triggers, my mind would look for more severe ones (death , life crippling disease, etc). Basically my mind produced untestable events, ones that I could not force myself to do. These were usually triggered by a life event of something large (new baby, trip around the world, etc). Oddly enough, when coupled with winter months, the anxiety was further compounded.

    Proactive breathing helps a lot, but was limiting. Sleep does work (anyone with kids knows this is sometimes difficult). Once you brain selects a path , it stays the course. You have to force it to get on a new path. This takes a lot of work. The best technique it found best was to say (out loud) “stop it brain.” Say it a few times if needed. Then immediately have a substitute positive thought to force in place of the anxious thought. Record positive thoughts (a great vacation, words to a favorite song, beautiful artwork, etc). In a weeks time I was able to cut out 75% of my anxiety. It’s not all gone, but this works. Tell your brain to stop and give it an alternative.

    Great article! The advice you give is spot on. Medication and other remedies are available (perhaps too much) but like a broken bone, time and dedication can fix things. Treat your brain like any other part of your body and tell I that path to take.

    In definitely going to try the release methods you mentioned.

    Thanks for the article. There is some solace knowing other healthy, productive, and normal people suffer the same weird thoughts.

  30. I feel slightly more relaxed just from reading this post. I’m motivated to put a concrete plan in place to ease my anxiety.

    I have developed a lot of negative coping skills for my anxiety. Growing up (especially during high school) I coped mainly by sleeping. I could get myself to sleep 19 hours a day, waking up only to binge eat, have a panic attack, cry, and then fall back asleep exhausted.

    Around age 20, I realized I had to stop coping this way. Unfortunately this resulted in only allowing myself 6 hours of sleep a night or less. I was tired all the time and still anxious, and I would hate myself if I slept over 6 hours.

    Now, at 23, I’ve calmed down enough to realize that I feel my best with 8 to 9 hours of sleep. I do my best to not day dream before bed (I can get so wrapped in planning or fantasizing about a different life that I prevent myself from sleeping just so I can think) and I sleep in quiet, dark room.

    Better sleep and relaxing about this aspect of my life has reduced my anxiety quite a bit. Hopefully after I implement the tips Charlie’s provided in this post, I can reduce my anxiety even more.

    Thanks Charlie and Tim.

  31. Simplicity.

    This is what drew me to 4-Hour Workweek, and why I still keep up with what you are doing.

    As King Solomon said “There is nothing new under the sun”

    MOST of your suggestions are simple, and even changing one of them at a time, slowly trying to get to them all, should drastically improve our ability to handle stress, and be more productive.

    I’m trying to finish grad school right now, in the middle of dealing with some pretty serious financial issues. I’ve been telling myself I need to play, exercise, enjoy my kids, eat better, get 8 hours, but haven’t done it.

    That changes today.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Forgot to mention what helps me.

      Asking myself “What’s the worst that can happen?” and then going through the scenarios.

      Fail a class … wasted money, but I learned from it. Maybe I’m studying the wrong thing or don’t even need the degree.

      Lose my job … deliver pizzas, move in with a friend/relative, do what it takes to put food on the table.

      Lose the house … same answer to losing my job.

      All devastating for sure, but my family and me are all in good health, we love each other, and I have 0 control over it anyway, so worrying changes nothing.

      That may not work for everyone, but letting go of my urge to control everything is really helpful to me.

  32. I find that a series of neck and shoulder stretches help to reduce anxiety-caused tension. Sometimes I position a tennis ball underneath my back in key areas and lay on it- put as much pressure as I can handle. I am sure I can cut down on my daily caffeine intake (I do love coffee). Thank you for the post, very good information!

  33. My personal favorite, and has been amazing for me, is once a month I spend an hour and a half in a sensory deprivation chamber AKA a float tank. Its like an oil change for the mind and body, ultimately relaxing. You can feel the effects for several days, and if I’m feeling extra stressed or anxious, I try to sneak another float in if possible.

  34. Really good stuff, Thanks. I really really need to get my wife on this program…she could write “How to stress like a Pro”. Another problem is people get addicted to stress..actually enjoying the buzz, the weight loss, the feeling of being important enough to stress that hard. I’ve gone through periods of my career with that disease. It’s obviously not healthy and not anywhere near as “effective” as folks think when they are on that “productivity” train.

    I love play but do have a hard time not feeling guilty about it. I sneak it in. I’m going to resolve to come out of the closet on play thanks to you!

    As far as quick fixes, I’m lucky enough to have a six year old boy who is very, very good at his job. If you have one of these professionals in your life or even in your neighborhood, go play with them (with appropriate approvals from primary care givers). “Work” hard with them…Really see through their eyes..with practice, this activity blows away stress in minutes.

    Question: Maybe you or Tim cover this elsewhere but recently, lots of flack being given to supplements as not effective, etc. I have always questioned whether the body can get/absorb what you are trying to give it through a pill. Help!

  35. I spend the 15 minute commute home refocusing my mind on my family not my job.When I get home, it’s hugs – and then playtime for 1/2 an hour.

    We fix dinner while they do homework and then we talk about anything but work at dinner. After that it’s finish homework or work on a project with the kids. If there is time before their bedtime we relax together or play a game.

    Focusing and spending quality time with my family has been the quickest and usually most effective way to reduce my anxiety. Unfortunately, the hardest habit for me to learn is the ability to stop thinking before I go to sleep. When work is highly stressful I can’t seem to turn my brain off at night. I just rerun through my problems trying to find solutions.

    I’ve enjoyed these two columns about/by Charlie. I’ve noticed some similarities between my life at times and what he’s gone through.

  36. Hey Tim and Charlie,

    Really great post. I enjoy the followup after the burnout article originally posted. I’ve recently got my girlfriend into the idea of lifestyle design and hacking our lives to work on areas that need improvement, and we are coming up with M.E.D. for a slew of issues.

    The one ultimate cause of a lot of our problems stem from is stress. Neither of us know how to effectively deal with our stress. We decided to wake up an hour earlier in the morning to allow a peaceful transition into our day, but the stress of falling asleep the night before is still present.

    I have never heard of Trauma Releasing Exercises, but am incredibly interested in researching further. I can’t wait to get home from work to show my girlfriend this article and start researching the concepts provided within.

    Best,

    Jared

  37. My top tip: Sit down and take whatever time you need to identify what is causing the anxiety. Then answer that specific fear.

    You’d be surprised how much that anxiety or fear shrinks when you shine a light on it.

    For example, I’ve been having a lot of anxiety around money over the past few months. Finally, I sat down and actually mapped out what I needed to live, how much I was making with my new business, how much I was dipping into savings, how long I could live if I continued at this pace, etc. This exercise, this kind reality check, changed my perspective. Instead of “OhMyGod, I must do all the things now or else I’ll fail!” I started thinking “Oh, I could give this business a year to get off the ground with very little consequence to myself.”

    That changed everything.

    1. Nice point, Gigi. I once read a wonderful book called A Life Of One’s Own in which the psychologist Marion Milner (writing under the pseudonym Joanna Field) monitored her emotions and the thoughts that arose when she stopped to look at them. She said that often a feeling of vague dread that had been hanging over her all day would, when examined, turn out to come from a thought like “I need to sew a button on my coat.”

  38. Coming out of College I shot straight to the 98% Travel, 100hrs/week consulting image. After about 2 yrs it caught up to me and I immediately went to trying to further control everything and seek to justify my anxiety. Trying to fight it was the wrong answer for me.

    After trying multiple forms of exercise, therapy and meditation, what I found works best for me today is to focus on how to add more positive experiences to my plate instead of intentionally trying to decrease work/stress. Starting off, I took 30 min/day first thing in the morning to be intentional and get out of my mind. Over the years this time has grown to 1 hour and is filled with experiences/activities that require me to be intentional and present. Everything from singing, praying, reading for fun, painting and cooking has worked as long as you discipline yourself to put 100% of your mind and body into it. After a while the negative stuff, that I didn’t realize was superfluous, naturally disappeared and my weekly focus looked to positive events.

  39. Mine to is use techniques from 4HWW. I take anything that is causing me anxiety, and imagine what would happen if the worst happened.

    I imagine what it would be like to lose my job, and come up with solutions to any problems I would face. I imagine loosing my best friend, or a girl I like that likes me instead starting to hate me. Figuring out how I would deal with those things happening. With anything, you have to know that it might not work out.

    Just having a plan B, makes it easier to not worry so much about plan A. If you don’t feel like what you currently have is the entire world to you, then you worry less about loosing it, and you know everything would be fine if you did.

    Managing anxiety to me, is never feeling completely stuck with my current position, knowing that I could walk away at any time that I choose.

    So that and ping pong, I effing love ping pong. And reading Nicholas Sparks books, its impossible to to be unhappy reading him.

  40. Tuning out of the news was key for me; I stopped watching it on TV, and turned off all negativity on social media – which required blocking some friends and un-liking lots of pages. If a friend or family member posted complaints or negativity twice in a row, they got blocked. I only let happy in.

    I unsubscribed from the 100s of newsletters I somehow let into my inbox and kept a handful. Tim’s is one of them. If I don’t read a newsletter 2 weeks in a row, I unsubscribe.

    Eliminating the notion of “having to exercise”, and avoiding so called “bad” foods. I treat myself to some red wine and super dark chocolate and soy lattes when I want it – and savor every ounce.

  41. It might seem a little too simple, but I think of anxiety as unfocused, excess energy. So I find a way to focus that energy with purpose and hopefully movement. Something as basic as going for a hike or run with the focus on a time or distance goal gives my mind a target to direct my body to achieve. If I can’t do something in that vein because of time or positioning, I try to work on something like cleaning my office, which is always a mess, so there are always things that need to be moved to a proper place or to the garbage.

  42. I really look forward to trying these out as I’ve always been extremely high strung since I was a child and in general always have a hard time “taking it easy.” The reminder to enjoy some guilt-free play time is something I have had a hard time doing, just because I feel like I have to be running at high productivity all the time, and you don’t accomplish anything if you are playing. I am going to integrate these suggestions into day to day life and see if I stop feeling like I’m constantly waiting for a head on collision. Thanks for this!

  43. Thank you Charlie and Tim Ferriss for these two posts. You shared the previous one on Burnouts exactly when I needed the most. Until then I didn’t care about it and kept working. But this is sort of a reminder and once again added meditation before I begin my routine.

    I would meditate regularly before six months but don’t know how burnouts took over. I remember practicing breathing and relaxation technique before switching on to meditation which is highly essential. With apps you can learn meditation but you will never enjoy it from within as its natural. Actually it is within you already, it is your gift, you just need to awaken it.

    Once I heard a Buddhist monk say that when your mind is full of opinions and speculations, you can’t see the light of wisdom and for that you need to empty your mind, only after that there can be awakening which I practiced and got amazing results.

  44. Thanks again Charlie. This is just what I needed. You released this literally the day I had a doctors appointment for anxiety.

    I find myself wondering, with all of the time you invest in anxiety relief and prevention, are you as productive as you were when you were a drugged up 20 hour a day workaholic? PS: That is sometimes me.

  45. There are lots great tools for managing and avoiding anxiety, but in terms of big picture, embracing a life philosophy that is largely anxiety free, I’ve found the best thing has been to learn to listen for the quiet whispers of my intuition. In so doing I’m more able to act in accordance with my deepest truth. And when one works with oneself, rather than against oneself, in a spirit of collaboration and creativity, the effect is magical and anxiety becomes a non issue.

  46. Truth be told- this is a wonderful article Charlie & Tim. Thank you for writing it.

    I quit my 9-5 job nearly 5 years ago now after reading the 4HWW. Have traveled and lived in over 14 Countries, experienced some really awesome things, and have even made a few shots at generating a disruptive muse to hopefully share with the world soon.

    Despite all of this- a supportive family, a beautiful girlfriend- I still haven’t been happy. I haven’t actually really been TRULY happy for as long as I can remember.

    All of the above aforementioned ideas you presented are well noted- and am eager to get started. Perhaps its just me- but one of the things I often think about that often feels like a hindrance to ‘success’ is discipline. Come to realization that I have a severe lack of it. Tend to have great ideas (or so I think) that I’d like to see implemented in some form- but find that I often lack the focus and the resolve to see them all the way. As such I began to delegate (outsource) as I thought this could be an effective strategy for overcoming these challenges. I am still mixed as to whether that helps- or hurts me.

    Not sure if any of what I just wrote above really makes any sense to anyone else- but I just kept writing here as I thought it could be a good exercise in expressing some thoughts- and gaining some clarity at this moment. Anyways- cheers again to you for sharing your work and experience. Your a stand-up guy for doing so. Kudos to you and Tim.

    Cheers

    Ryan

  47. Thank you, Charlie, for sharing. I’m 46 years old. Both my personal life and work life have been filled with severe stressors, and the incremental and acute accumulation of anxiety has become something I must deal with constantly.

    In my early 40’s, my wife developed breast cancer. Over the course of that time, I began to see how the body could adapt to higher and higher levels of stress while still functioning, or appearing to function, in the world. The true result of this anxiety can remain hidden for some time, so you have my empathy.

    I still can’t imagine what my wife was going through. She took the guilt of the family’s pain onto herself, as well–something common among those with a terminal illness.

    Language was a method we used to deal with our anxieties. We learned to name and categorize as many of our feelings and states as we could. We created a consistent vocabulary that allowed us to communicate, in shorthand, how we were feeling in the moment. It kept us rational and allowed us to step outside the pain, but still remain intimate with each other. It wasn’t keeping us safe–that wasn’t the goal–but it strengthened us as a couple.

    For example, with cancer, especially in a family, every major decision requires you to consider at least two paths. The path if the cancer is contained, and the path if it isn’t. The path of bad news became “Plan B,” and that’s what we used when we discussed our options. It became a private joke, and those simple words lessened the pain of what those words really meant.

    My wife didn’t survive the cancer, but I am exceedingly proud of who she was during that time, and the lessons that we were able to learn together will last me for the rest of my life.

    Thanks again, Charlie, and best of luck to you.

  48. Charlie great article and I have been hearing about ‘play’ on your guest posts and I am very interested in this idea.

    I have suffered from anxiety for 15 years off and on but I have seemed to cure myself about 2 years ago and this is what worked for me. Not saying it will work for everyone but it did for me.

    1) I stopped drinking alcohol completely, to the point where I even avoid beer battered fish or alcoholic infused sweets etc. I was a binge drinker in my early years and drank socially in the last ten years of my ‘anxiety life’ but I found that once I stopped completely all alcohol it made a HUGE difference to my nerves and how I think.

    2) started taking magnesium supplements daily. I did a lot of research magnesium deficiency and how to affects the nervous system and brings about anxiety and negative thoughts which was my biggest symptom. Again I think this had a huge impact.

    3) cut back coffee to 3 times a week, never more then 1 a day.

    4) while at work I am always drinking water which can be annoying having to go to the bathroom every 30 mins but now I actually get cravings for water if I haven’t had any for more then 20-30 mins

    5) like yourself I stopped listening or reading about the news. Every time I would read or listen to the news depending on the story but it did a couple of times trigger an anxiety attack that would last weeks. As you said I haven’t missed anything and all I do now is I might check the weather and tech news.

    6) this one might be a little odd but I cut down from eating too much chilli got food especially on pizza. I found having too much chilli, which I love, caused me to increase my nerves and anxiety

    7) excercise has also helped where I at least walk 3-4 times a day and try to play some tennis or bike ride. Again what I found weird is if I do too much excercise my anxiety levels get high. I think it might not be the excercise but more me forcing myself a strict routine which as you said defeats the purpose of it being fun.

    So that’s about it and since mid Nov 2013 when I had my last beer ( the social impact of being a non drinker is another topic which we can discuss another day ) I haven’t had a bad anxiety episode yet where I used to get them every few months. I still get little mini ones but they never blow out to what they used to be.

    Keep up the great work and look forward to following journey.

    @SamirMadiBA

  49. I found Charlie after searching Google for “how to cure anxiety”

    Thing is, I’m not sure if I’m anxious, burned out or just slightly overloaded.

    I don’t fear the “what if’s” or have a sense of impending doom or anything but sometimes my heart will race or I’ll just get crazy jacked up like I could lift a Volkswagon.

    Play definitely sounds awesome and I remember it fondly. Being switched on or in business or learning mode constantly certainly seems to add to the unpleasant feelings.

    The main hurdles seems to be the feeling that there are 27,976 things to get done and stopping to play will put me one step further away from getting done what needs to.

    Next step…burn the to do list or at least cut it down to only what actually MUST be done.

    Great post and excellent feedback here.

  50. Hey Charlie,

    Thanks for the post! It is that “Finding the Caveman/woman” thing again – that we are a species evolved for exercise and play from our lifestyles of 250,000 years ago. In grad school, I found it astonishing that no one really knows what play and sleep really mean for us. I’m intrigued by the Trauma Releasing Excersizes and will look into them.

    I’m in the religion biz now, but sitting meditation has never done much but make me antsy. Instead, I find that riding my recumbent trike, fast, downhill and whooping along brings a smile to my face. The two wheeled wanna be racers think it’s weird, but the 10 year olds love it. That’s a recommendation I cherish. Good luck with your endeavors. Katie C.

  51. At the end of last year I hired a personal trainer, which has made a huge difference in my clarity of mind, my energy and enthusiasm. I love being outdoors cycling and wasn’t even doing that and knew I needed help. Committing to a trainer I see my body changing, it renews my spirit every time even meeting at 6a – 2x/wk soon to be 3 and shows me that I can do things I would not have tried before and routinely helps me to go ‘through’ mentally and physically the act of strengthening and shows me that I can reach the other side and do all things I set my mind too.

    Juicing has also been a great way to include key vitamins and nutrients that I would not otherwise receive and a nice boost of energy after drinking.

    To health and happiness ~ may we be working to live not living to work,

    Kimberly

  52. My favourite technique for overcoming anxiety is going to the mountains for a hike and unplugging from all electronics for the day. Being surrounded by nature with no electronic distractions is where I feel the most peaceful.

    Great article! As a Nutritionist, I completely agree with Charlie’s point about getting tested for micronutrient deficiencies. 3 years ago I was magnesium deficient and adding a magnesium powder to my nightly snack routine made a HUGE difference in my quality of sleep and ability to feel relaxed throughout the day.

  53. We found a great way to actually test nutrient deficiencies and toxin problems. We work with Dr. Van Merkle as an affiliated clinic in Wisconsin. We have found many problems with digestion, liver, and many other REASONS why people are not as healthy as they should be. WE DO NOT HAVE TO GUESS ANYMORE at what vitamins are needed & what toxins have to be reduced. The system we use is Science Based Nutrition. The testing is also progressive to tell if you are improving and how much you have yet to correct.

  54. Hi (from Belgium) !

    I would say “pleasing sobriety” in every day life and of course.. quality time with family and friends (social links).

    Chris

  55. I make sure to give and receive lots of hugs. Not those weird sideways hugs either. Full contact, pat the back, genuine hug! I do it for myself and for those around me, especially if I’m feeling stressed and anxious or I can see someone is having a rough day.

    I’ve seen a lot of research come out the last decade that supports the idea that regular positive touch increases happiness. Specifically, Berkley has some neat studies on their “Greater Good” website.

  56. For a better sleep, try listening to “brown noise”. Like white noise except a little deeper.

    I have a long history of difficulty falling and staying asleep, and brown noise has had amazing, immediate results.

    The app I use is called SimplyNoise.

    Sweet dreams!

  57. love this! for years my favorite technique has been to do something fun with people I love. usually that translates as playing tag at the park with my kids or going dancing with grown up friends.

    the last two years have been very tough (caring for parents, financial worries, child with special educational needs struggling in mainstream education) & I’ve forgotten how much looking after my own levels if anxiety can help. thanks for the reminder.

  58. My favorite is using the Pomodoro technique (25-30 minute work intervals) and then using the 5 minute breaks for bursts of meditation. Especially since 25 minutes is just not long enough to be satisfied, so you’re rearing to get back into it after the meditation.

  59. MIndfulness meditation, even 10-15 minutes shows palpable reduction in anxiety and stress.

    My advisors and I also ran laboratory experiments which found that 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help people cut their losses sooner, and thus help them make better decisions in sunk cost situations.

    Businessweek article about our paper: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-02-12/meditation-makes-people-feel-better-dot-can-it-help-you-work-smarter-too

    Our actual paper: http://phd.insead.edu/students/profiles/0768888/Psychological%20Science-2013-Hafenbrack%20Kinias%20Barsade.pdf

    Amazing free guided meditation recordings to get started: http://www.freemindfulness.org/download

    1. Thanks for the comment, Andrew, and nice work. I’m doing some related work with UCSF here in San Francisco.

      What protocol or approach do you currently use for your own mindfulness meditation?

      Cheers,

      Tim

      1. Thanks Tim, I look forward to hearing about the work you are doing at UCSF. What are you investigating?

        I haven’t taken regular courses but I read a few books (favorites: Hanh’s Peace is Every Step and Miracle of Mindfulness; Tan, Goleman and Kabat-Zinn’s Search Inside Yourself) and a lot of academic journal articles, and have listened to many recorded meditations which are free on the internet. I like the 14:36 body scan on the free mindfulness website (http://www.freemindfulness.org/download). I sometimes just try to do the things I have repeatedly heard on the recordings without listening to them though.

        I mostly keep it simple with a few minutes of focused breathing or body scan in the morning, before falling asleep, or when I notice that I am in a particularly anxious or stressed emotional state. Sometimes I just try to focus on the physical sensations of walking either in the park or in the normal course of the day. Also, slowing down a little and focusing on the taste of food and feeling of chewing can really deepen the joy of eating. I think the goal is to give my mind a break from wandering, both because it feels good (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy5A8dVYU3k) and because it seems to help me focus/perform better afterwards.

        While a different form of meditation, if I am in a particularly bad mood, I have found that loving kindness meditation can work wonders.

        I also think that people tend to underestimate how much non-religious scientific evidence there is demonstrating the benefits of meditation, and that even people who aren’t interested in having a full on, hour-or-more every day meditation practice can use it as a tool when they are feeling excessive/nonfunctional negative emotions or stress. I also think listening to guided meditation recordings is much easier, especially at the beginning, than just reading instructions and then trying to do it by yourself. Cultivating the ability to mindwander less has been compared to building a muscle at the gym.

        Cheers,

        Andy

        P.S. It’s hard to overstate how big of an impact 4HWW has had on my life, particularly the idea that living outside the US is a reasonable thing to do, so thanks also for that!

  60. The T.R.E. stuff is fascinating. I also never thought about micro-nutrient deficiencies. I will look into both. Thanks Charlie. Great article!

    I had to travel to Philadelpha for a funeral and was really dreading it. How would I feel? How would I act? Would I be overly-emotional? Would I be fake? All these questions were running through my mind. It was obvious my anxious imagination was preparing me for a terrible trip. I didn’t want to go.

    But I did go. Even though my brain said, “Philadelphia is hours away. No one will blame you for not attending the funeral”, I entered the fray.

    And you know what happened? Something my anxiety and imagination never accounted for.

    I was able to spend some amazing quality time with my niece and nephew.

    Through their eyes I was able to share laughter, and connection, and love – even in the midst of the funeral, the event I was most dreading.

    So yes, human connection. With loved ones. That helps me.

    And if you can’t be there in person, a phone call, text, or card to let them know you’re thinking about them, makes you feel better about your own life, and can very often break you out of those internally-focused feelings of anxiety.

  61. I reallybliked the article. I am an LCSW and I recommend many of the techniques mentioned with patients who may be depressed or have a history of trauma also. I have been to a TRE training by David Bercelli and find his technique helpful. I also encourage acupuncture and massage as complementary methods for self care.

  62. Dancing, any exercise “toys” (trampolines, jump ropes) or the getting outdoors. Most office workers suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. You don’t have to be a wilderness man/woman – taking in some green (or blue or brown) scenery relaxes and centers the mind.

    An important note about dancing: it create a lot of anxiety in people. They think they’ll spend most of their time worried about how they look and that’s why most people self-medicate with booze before dancing.

    It’s true that at first, you’ll feel self-conscious. Even after I took classes for awhile, I was still slow to grasp steps. But, I firmly believe that dancing is deeply ingrained in the human DNA – it’s a T.R.E. of sorts – you can release pent up energy, celebrate or be goofy. If you’re not up for taking classes or dancing in public, have a dance party in the privacy of your home – turn on some music and flail with abandon.

  63. Thanks so much for this helpful article. I am a woman of 30 years old and I have been struggling with anxiety since I was a Teenager. I have tried almost evrything you tried meditation, listen to relax music, read motivational books, etc etc etc and nothings seems to work yet.

    My anxiety has caused me a lot of health issues including overweight astma and vitiligo..a cruelty sickness that according to studies is very related to anxiet

    I will try your tips and hope they will help me to end or at least decreased my anxiety issues.

    Thanks,

    Warmest regards from Honduras.

    Melania

    Will really appreciate a copy of that book if possible.

  64. I would add ‘not reading social media everyday’ to this list.

    I reckon a lot of my close friends suffer from anxiety etc because they judge themselves against everyone else’s Facebook and Instagram posts- believing they should be doing or looking a certain way and then feel inadequate.

    Just a thought anyway, great post.

  65. Have you thought about simply not working so hard? How much $$ do you really need in order to do the things you want and have a happy life?

    Reset the bar. Redefine “success”: spend less, need less, work less. Devote more time to loved ones and (especially) leisure.

    Because as someone once said…

    “Most men…through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.” (HDT)

  66. One of the techniques that are effective for me (and to anyone who is interested) is the afternoon nap. During my time working and going to college full-time I had to cut my sleep to five-hours a day in order to keep up with my responsiblities for my job, and for my schoolwork.

    This method didn’t work well. When I left my job I was still stuck in the same pattern. It took a while to get used to sleeping enough while trying to get a twenty-minute nap in the afternoon. Some people might be saying, “Oh, you’re oversleeping! You’re lazy!” I usually reply, “Well, I’m getting more done in less time. The napping also helped me overcome the ‘afternoon blues’ where we reach for the second cup of coffee in order to get a boost.”

    I still have trouble falling asleep, but the napping helps me to relax and recharge my batteries. Thank you Tim Ferriss, and Charlie Hoehn for sharing the article.

  67. Loved this post, Charlie! Your writing style is quite captivating and your advice spot-on.

    I think in managing anxiety, the power of touch get overlooked. A lot of anxious people tend to isolate themselves when they’re stressed. More and more studies have been coming out about the healing effects that the human touch on other humans (like http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201302/the-power-touch). Getting a massage, hugging, physical intimacy, or even just hand-holding are effective ways of melting some of my anxiety.

  68. I just had a full blood work up and EKG to rule out heart problems, after having chest pains that came on small at first and now I cannot get rid of. (I’m too young to have heart problems at 30!!) I have been battling anxiety from being type A small-biz owner and bit of the “CEO’s Disease”. I have tried it all to calm down. It’s crazy how once the body is in stress to a certain level it cannot trick it self out of it. Thank you for the post. I’d love to win, but either way I need to find time to research the TRE method and finding play time for me.

  69. Stopped drinking coffee about 3 weeks ago. Started drinking green juice and doing coffee enemas. I can be in bed for 10 hours and only get 6 hours of choppy sleep (according to my fitbit). I need tips for restful sleep.

  70. My go-to is getting outside and going for a mountain bike ride (preferably with my awesome trail dog). There really is nothing like single track – and sunshine, fresh air, adrenaline, and the complete absence of screens, cars, and city noise – that melts away all the anxiety that I feel pretty much on an otherwise daily basis. Bringing friends doubles the fun, too!

    The only problem is working in the city makes this somewhat difficult to do every day – I’ve gotten to the point where I want (crave?) a nature escape all the time, but mostly only manage to do it on the weekends. Enter: my first-world problem; and consequent first-world catch-22 anxiety loop) 🙂

  71. Such a fantastic article! Thanks Charlie and Tim! To reduce anxiety I like to stretch and dance (ballet, hip hop, anything). I grew up a dancer and it always brings me back to center and gets me out of my head. Taking my dog for a long walk is a good one too. It’s amazing what fresh air and fun exercise can do for your well-being and focus.

  72. I enjoy getting up early and sitting in the quiet. I’m a divorced mom, so quiet time is at a premium. Lately, I’ve picked pleasure reading back up as well, and I love to read in the mornings.

    I’ve enjoyed both of your posts, Charlie. I have dealt with massive amounts of anxiety, partially caused by PTSD, for a long time. I also have ulcerative colitis, and while no one really knows the cause and there is no cure, there is a lot of research being done on the mind-body connection. I’m convinced my anxiety ties into my illness, so I’ve been focusing on reducing it. I’m hopeful that T.R.E. might help me.

    Of course, I would love to win, but I am planning to get the books either way. Best to you, and thanks for sharing your experience!

  73. Since I WFH (work from home) in Sales it is easy to get into the “always on and thinking about work or actively working” mentality. To step back and get some perspective I volunteer to help friends and family on their projects (boat, house…whatever). Admittedly, I do not “step back” often enough but when I do there is a definite “recharge” that occurred.

  74. Hi Charlie!….you do not sound like a Charlie-Brown anymore, with your discoveries!!! I just got a Kindle for my 38th anniversary from my dear hubby & hope your book will be my first entry!

    I have suffered for nearly 40 yrs w/anxiety + panic attacks. SO.NOT.FUN. Debilitating. It has been a journey of self-discovery, and w/the exception of coffee (which I like but makes me wildly wired), I am guilty as charged of allll the things you mentioned… I am on a detox/cleanse right now, fighting gallantly through it. I have found hormonal chg’s to be very challenging (I’m 60 & finally menopausal -late bloomer – TMI, LOL!!), plus sleep has eluded me. Insomnia and SUGAR seem to be my worst triggers for anxiety, as both disrupt blood sugar + adrenal function, which I am convinced is at the root of anxiety issues (adrenals). I’m doing much of what you said now in my “older & wiser years”, once being a total adrenaline junkie and workaholic. I am a dancer and dance teacher, and am blessed to continue that, but need to look at the frequency and time of day I do it.

    Tips/suggestions: ABsolutely tune out the bad news!…I zone out to: good music and I esp love music w/nature sounds dubbed in — very, very calming to the anxious soul. I love Charlie Brown, the little poster-boy for anxiety, so I read Peanuts all the time! I watch favorite feel-good movies or shows, even if I’ve now memorized most of the lines…”Forrest Gump”; “Fried Green Tomatoes”; “Steel Magnolias”, to name a few….dvds of quirky/funny shows like “Northern Exposure”; “Everybody Loves Raymond”, etc. All this to say that getting “into the Zone” — and I do not mean the Twilight Zone of an anxious BODY/MIND — is a crucial way for me to unplug, get the gerbil off the treadmill in my brain, and just.stop.the.insanity. LAUGHTER IS good for the soul!!!

    So….FEED the body, the mind, and the soul, for we are all of those. I love your article and will post on FB. Regardless of whether I win your book or not, thanks, and keep up the good work! “I’ll be watching you!”– famous line out of another funny movie, “Meet the Fockers”!

    All the best, Melanie….Goshen, Indiana

  75. My favourite technique for managing or overcoming anxiety is to spend time with close friends doing something fun and enjoyable like beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee or badminton. I find these activities are light, fun and still give you good exercise. I also love to laugh with friends watching funny movies, or wholesome stand up comics like Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan!

  76. It all starts with the braaaaaains (zombies love brains)

    Here are the essentials I take (you can grab most of this stuff at any health food store):

    multivitamins, calcium/magnesium, vitamin d3, all the B’s, omega-3, probiotics (these are the absolute essentials).

    followed by,

    5-htp, melatonin (for happiness)

    and,

    L-Tyrosine, DL-Phenylalanine (to help you feel engaged in life)

    I read a book about how important all this is in a world where we barely have the time or patience for a broccoli.

    Just thought i’d save everyone 10 hours of reading and give you the above which is what it all boils down to. 😀

    1. You forgot chocolate – the happiness food. I eat a bar of 85% dark chocolate (Green & Black’s is best) every day and it keeps me smiling (and a bit fat, but that’s another story). If you find it too bitter, persevere – it’s an acquired taste:)

  77. God bless you again and again for this post – I’ve been waiting for it ever since I read your backstory.

    The questions you asked at the end of the last post have been haunting me – I answered every one of them in the affirmative, and I didn’t know why.

    For over a year now, I’ve been arguing with my husband back and forth because I decided to take a Tae Kwon Do class – I’m almost at red belt now, at age 43. I didn’t really have the time or the resources to do this – I have four teenagers, a couple of them with special needs of their own, and I work full-time as well.

    I couldn’t figure out what was the point of my doing this – why I felt this primal need to go sweat things out in this class. I only knew that it felt terrific, I loved my teacher and everything I was learning, and it also felt like my life would turn completely gray without it.

    Your post finally put the pieces together for me – I do it because it’s FUN! And I haven’t done something purely for FUN, purely for my benefit, in…a period of time far too long to admit online.

    Thanks for the other tips as well. I feel like I need all of this. I’m going to print out your post and absorb it like a sponge into my life. I’m sorry for the pain you had to go through to learn these lessons, but please know your pain has definitely helped to ease mine. Thanks again, Charlie…and thank you too, Tim. Love your stuff – keep it comin’. 😀

  78. Sorry if this has been posted before, (or if Tim has in one of his books) lots of comments!

    A really good way to wind down before bed, even when you’re still staring at a screen, is to make it produce yellow light, not the blue light that we get during the day.

    I use the program f.lux, it automatically starts the process when the sun sets in your local time, I’m yawning after 5 minutes!

    http://justgetflux.com/

  79. Regarding sleep I’ve been using a Marsona sound conditioner for years, listening to the sound of rain or a waterfall as I drift off, and then at the time I set the alarm waking up to the sound of silence! Perfect, especially if your sleep is disturbed by background noises.

    Also recently bought a Twilight Pure wake up light which gradually brightens until I wake up to sunlight and the sounds of forest birds (more options and colours than the Phillips)

    Memorising inspirational words (bible, poetry etc) before bed and then reciting them in your mind as you wait to fall asleep stops your mind racing and allows your subconscious to chew over the good stuff all night long.

    For calm and focussed energy either first thing or after dark, a SAD light (10,000 lux) works wonders.

  80. The 5 Breath Rule:

    Throughout the day when I am feeling stressed, anxious or just want to relax, every 2-3 hours I will simply stop what I am doing, close my eyes and take 5 deep breaths through my nose. This ‘resets’ my body and allows me to take a step back.

    A very simple but effective exercise!

  81. Charles. There are many useful strategies, I was laughing out loud while reading your book during the meditation ramble and the cuddling section… “Wait for it…Lay it away” … haha Thank you so much or inspiring me to follow my passion. I traveled around the world for 6+ months, 6 continents to shoot a documentary (“One Couch at a Time”) …. but found myself often stuck inside at the computer “editing” and just taking myself WAY to seriously… Thank you for helping me and countless others stay conscious of our inner dialogue with ourselves… I’m totally curious to try this TREMBLE therapy too! … Cold showers too…. nah. ha Sounds like fun. I seriously want to try this TRE exercise workbook – I already bought your book & read it cover to cover — but I will try to TRE and tape it, lol, if you want to hook up that workbook.

  82. Great article, with lots of terrific tips. I read your other blog and found your story fascinating (elements of it reminded me of me in previous jobs). I was proud to discover that your antidote to anxiety is play – because I came to that conclusion on my own a few months ago, and wholeheartedly agree! About 3 months ago I started making a conscious effort to incorporate play into my marriage, my friendships, with my pets, etc. I also implemented the sleep habits that you recommend here, and from my months of experience, I can attest that they work (also of note – studies show that sleeping by your smart phone can cause ADHD & depressive symptoms – another good reason to keep it on the other side of the room). I had not heard of TRE anymore and while it does sound awkward, it also makes sense and sounds helpful, so I’m going to give it a try!

    The only part of this blog I took issue with is the statement that if you’re vegan or vegetarian you must be B12 deficient. As you admitted, you ate meat often and still showed a deficiency. In fact, the only people I know with anemia are omnivores! People of ALL diets need to be aware of their nutrition. It always strikes me as odd that people become very concerned about people’s plant-based diets while nearly all of America is suffering from very preventable (and sometimes reversible!) diet-induced heart disease, diabetes type II, and cancer – products of the overconsumption of unhealthy (not to mention unsustainable and inhumane) animal products (ForksOverKnives.com explains this better than I can in this short comment). Responsible vegans and vegetarians take a B12 supplement (I recommend the brand Deva which I buy on Amazon). And I’m always careful to advise on a B12 supplement to anyone I help transition to eating more vegetarian foods. Bottom line: EVERYBODY needs to be careful about consuming foods that are healthy for their bodies – and in my opinion, foods that are healthy for the planet and animals as well.

    Thanks for the tips – and glad you’re enjoying life more! I’ll add just one of my own: start each day telling a loved one (a partner, pet, friend, colleague – or at least speak aloud to yourself or write in a journal) 10 things about which you are grateful. Could be as big as “I am grateful that I have legs so I can run” or small “I am grateful that my Netflix movie arrived in the mail yesterday.” Studies this daily practice lowers blood pressure, and it’s actually lots of fun what you start to notice and appreciate about life. I do this everyday with my husband on our morning dog walk. We get outside (get vitamin D ;)), get light exercise, bond with our family, show gratitude, and kick off each day with a great attitude. It’s the best.

  83. I really like the concept of playing outside in nature with a friend. On the one hand there are the physical benefits to it like getting exercise, be reconnected to nature and get away from the permanent ringing phones…

    But I think the even more powerful thing is that it offers you a opportunity to get in a “state of flow” easily; where you lose any sense of ego/self awareness, irrational thoughts and the feeling for time. You’re able to totally immerse in the activity and share that with a person you like, a profound way to reduce anxiety, I think!

    best regards from Austria…

  84. Charlie, this was a very cool post and I had been hanging out for the sequel after reading the first part. It was a very timely read for me as I have been going through some family induced turmoil these last few weeks and have been experiencing some of the unpleasant symptoms you described. Your post really picked me up this week, not only because you gave a wealth of alternatives to the self-medication I have been unsuccessfully applying, but because it eased the burden somewhat to read about someone else’s experiences and not feel quite so isolated. In lieu of a sympathetic ear, your story made a big difference and has made me question whether I could be doing more to help myself. Thanks so much for sharing. Some great content in the comments too.

  85. Solid tactics for steadying the mind. I’m a believer in each of them.

    For me, reading Seneca has been invaluable for developing a mental shield against anything the world can throw at me (IBS and chronic back issues, to name two). Tim – I was actually a devoted reader of your work and Seneca’s before I realized…hey, Tim likes Seneca too…cool

    Here are a couple of tactics I derived from Seneca’s letters:

    – Mentally rehearse the worst consequences of any anxiety … you will always be pleasantly surprised

    – Trivialize pain and suffering. The mind has the power to say ‘hey, no big deal..this will be over soon’. Huge impact.

    – Remember that we always look back fondly on instances that we overcome adversity. Keep this in mind during times of trouble.

    – Be able to spend time calmly in your own company (“proof of a well ordered mind”…according to Seneca)

    – Nothing is more important than devoting yourself to living / becoming a better person.

    Of course, these are just the tip of the Seneca iceberg.

    Thanks Tim and Charlie,

    Brian

  86. One of my favorite ways to play to overcome anxiety is to sing silly songs with my brother. We’ll burst out singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — “Da da daaa, da da daaa!” Or we’ll start making up a random song on the spot: (with Spanish sounding chords) “this is the story, of RICO AND FERNANDOOOO…. witness the tale of two lovers in MEXICOOOOoooooOOOO!”

  87. Seriously, getting shit done does it for me.

    For me, action relieves anxiety. Having the discipline to work off lists and knowing when to move to other tasks. Most importantly knowing when to turn off and stay off regardless of where I am at with my task lists. Tomorrow is another day.

  88. THERE’S THAT OLD ADAGE THAT SAYS “LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE.” ALTHOUGH IT’S BECOME A CLICHE (WHICH ISN’T NECESSARILY A BAD THING), I BELIEVE THERE IS A LOT OF TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT.

    WHENEVER I’M FEELING DOWN OR OVERWHELMED OR ANXIOUS, I KNOW THAT I’M NOT IN A HEALTHY MINDSET; I DON’T HAVE THE KIND OF ENERGY THAT I WANT TO LIVE MY LIFE WITH. EVERYTHING JUST FEELS OFF AND INCONGRUENT.

    ALTHOUGH FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN THROUGHOUT ANY GIVEN DAY, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES TO LAUGH. I KEEP A COLLECTION OF STAND-UP ROUTINES ON CD IN MY CAR WITH ME AT ALL TIMES. I DON’T LISTEN TO THEM EVERY SINGLE DAY, BUT I DO LISTEN TO THEM QUITE A BIT, ESPECIALLY IF I AM FOCUSING INTENSELY ON MY MOOD AND INNER STATE.

    A GOOD LAUGH DISSIPATES THE WHOLE BODY, IT MAKES IT FEEL LIGHTER. A GOOD LAUGH BRINGS A NATURAL SMILE TO YOUR FACE. WHEN WE LAUGH, WE CONNECT WITH OUR INNER JOY.

    1) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH HUMOROUS, JOYFUL PEOPLE. 2) LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE COMEDIAN IN THE CAR (IF YOU DON’T HAVE A FAVORITE, FIND ONE!) 3) LOOK FOR HUMOR AND JOY IN EVERYTHING, EVEN THE MUNDANE THINGS IN LIFE.

  89. Changing my environment (usually stepping outside) and making time to get my sillies out. Being mindful of what i am putting in my body and bringing it down to the basics – sleep, movement and self care. Most importantly, persevering with the little things and not expecting big, earth shattering changes as a result of anything i do. Every bit helps in my quest for balance!

  90. 1. Traveling, even if it’s not to a tropical paradise. Traveling just makes me forget everything and recharge the batteries. I only bring a computer to import my photos and videos as I take lots of them because it is my job but I rarely use any internet. Instead, I experience culture, food, talk with locals and share stories and laughs, go on adventure trips, experience the nature and give myself a whole new magical world and that really calms me down and makes me feel so alive and balanced in life.

    2. Skateboarding. As you mentioned, fun recreational activities are the best exercises and I’ve found that to be really true and not just because it totally makes my mind and thinking process die completely (I’m REALLY in the now!) but also because I’m diabetic type 1 -and love to analyze things- and I’ve found that doing fun exercises/activities actually lowers my blood sugar WAY more than doing exercises in the gym or workout classes that I feel is a chore or punishment.

    Can’t say why but I think there’s a lot of positive things that are being triggered inside the body when exercise is combined with joy!

  91. I agree that TRE is a fantastic technique for anxiety and the creator David Berceli is a wonderful philanthropist. I’d also recommend you look into the techniques from Energy Psychology like Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and our own Simple Energy Techniques (SET), simple acupoint tapping techniques which often have fantastic results with anxiety: My clinical experience as a psychologist is that around 97% of clients with anxiety will experience a significant difference and most people notice a shift within a few minutes of tapping on the acupressure points. It is simple, portable, and once you get enough of it the results are lasting.

  92. Most of these are commonly cited remedies for anxiety, but unfortunately they are temporary solutions. Most people suffer (unknowingly) from anxiety due to unconscious attachments to feelings of helplessness, unworthiness, and passivity that are formed in childhood. Counterintuitively, individuals unconsciously recycle these negative emotions in a variety of situations – like a familiar window pane that moves with the owner (even on vacation). Once people gain awareness of their inner conflicts (e.g., wanting to be powerful, but expecting to feel helpless) they can break free of anxiety. See works of Edmund Bergler, Freud, and Peter Michaelson for more info.