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 500 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. Charlie and Tim –

    Thanks for this great post! I use exercise, a consistent bedtime, power naps, exercise, nutrition, and unplugging in mature (usually hiking) to help find balance and fight anxiety. As an entrepreneur it can be difficult to do these things, but I find that when I schedule them in I am much more productive. Some other favorite tricks I use are:

    1. Headspace – Tim recommends this app on his podcast. I now meditate each morning before work and find that I am more calm and focused. The app also helps me fall asleep much faster at night and for power naps!

    2. Juggling – I am not very good at juggling, but it takes a great amount of concentration and helps me to calm down and bring things back into perspective during the day.

    3. Music – I love music. It is also a great cognitive and breathing exercise (when singing or playing a wind instrument) and helps me similarly to juggling. It fills my soul. I am religious and find an added amount of peace singing, playing, or listening to hymns as well.

    4. Standing vs. Sitting – I recently converted an Ikea dresser into a standing desk. I still use my normal desk as well, but I find I get much less stressed when I stand at least 50% of the time.

    5. Service and Gratitude- Anxiety often comes from being too self-centered and focused on our own problems. Taking a moment each day to serve those less fortunate and to show gratitude for the abundance I have (even, no, especially when everything is going wrong) has a very positive impact on my anxiety and happiness. Besides, if everyone would just practice a little more selfless service and gratitude then most of the negative news and media wouldn’t even exist to worry us! This tip is the most important as it affects not only individuals but the world as a whole.

    “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” -Rabindranath Tagore

    Where I most need to improve: Playing with friends.

    I always see a huge benefit when I do this, but need to schedule it in! I am making this a priority 😉

    Thanks again for the great post, and best of luck to everyone!

  2. I watch the Graham Norton Show, a stand up comedian on Netflix or listen to anything by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell’s books and podcast are fascinating, but there is something so soothing about his voice.

  3. My ways of relieving anxiety: 1. Cuddle up on the couch with one of my children and read aloud to them. 2. Deep, slow breathing. 3. Enjoy cup of herbal tea or a bottle of Kombucha (kombucha is loaded with B vitamins and just wee bit of alcohol from the fermentation process, so I find that it gives me both energy and serenity simultaneously. and, strangely enough 4. Picking up clutter and piles of stuff around the house. Clutter and messes do a lot to contribute to my stress levels and I find the act of cleaning up really goes a long way to release these anxious feelings. Lastly, as I am a Catholic, some anxiety is cured immediately by going to Confession!

    Thank you for this very interesting post. I just ordered the flying ring you linked to…trying to get more play in my life!!

  4. I brought Dr Berceli’s book “Trauma Releasing Exercises” after briefly skimming your blog post. I immediately flicked to the section on how to do the exercises and gave it a try. I was blown away by how quickly my body started the tremors and continued to shake uncontrollably for a good 15 – 20 minutes. I have carried a lot of stress related tension through my body for a number of years, especially in the neck, jaw, back and hips. After just sessions today I noticed a huge amount of relief! I have tried a number of things in the past but nothing like this. Excited to feel the changes after a couple of weeks.

  5. Like you said “play” but for me it’s with my 11 month old grandson.. Since I became a grandma and started playing with him it really has helped me with my anxiety. Now I have learned other awesome techniques to help me fully recover from this debilitating plague…

    Thank you!

  6. What a great, in-depth article on this topic. I personally struggle with generalized anxiety and a mild panic disorder. I recently had a bit of a relapse back to old habits and I noticed severe changes in my diet whenever I experience debilitating symptoms.

    When my anxiety is the lowest I have a very lean diet with lots of fresh veggies, other complex carbs and clean protein sources. When it is bad, I observe that my diet consists of a lot more red meat, junk food, aged cheese etc.

    I just recently started researching the effect of glutamate excitotoxicity and its correlation to anxiety and depression. Come to find out, the latter set of food was almost identical to the list of foods to avoid and are known to contain higher levels of glutamate.

    Now this is not to say my problems stem directly and only from this, but I am curious as to whether or not my condition is exacerbated by this.

    Have you are anyone else done any investigating into this topic? If so, any results from personal trials of lowering glutamate in your diet to help combat anxiety and depression?

  7. My favorite technique is play! It’s amazing how you get caught up with life and something as simple as reverting back to techniques you used as a kid are the cure. Play, have fun and nap!

  8. A great way to have an energized day is to make other people laugh by telling them a funny story. For instance, at work today, I told this true story: “this morning I was telling my husband that I was going to have a fun day because he made me laugh first thing this morning. Immediately after saying this, my dog puked on my bare feet.”

    It is truly energizing and a quick connection with someone you don’t know by laughing together. THE BEST and QUICKEST way to connect and reduce anxiety is laughter, (especially since this is only my 5th day of working at this new job, a large automotive supplier-a high stress environment.)

  9. Excellent post!

    I wholeheartedly agree that exercise is 80 percent of the battle. I can feel the tension physically leaving my body when I run, lift or box.

    Thanks for these extra tips.

  10. This is a great post with practical and useful info.

    I actually follow one of these already and I understand now why it works for me.

    I work in a startup where we are expected to work 9+ hrs daily. Needless to say it gets are bit stressed there.

    Early on I implemented two must have breaks.

    Around 10-11 A Co worker and I take a 5 minute break and we juggle together. It’s a great way to talk though things and build teamwork skills.

    Then around 3-4pm three of us go out and do “meatpacking” i.e we workout. We have the 7 min workout app and simply do that.

    I now see how those two little activities make my day so much better and removes the stress and anxiety that tries to creep in to my day.

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m going to read again and again to apply the other tools daily.

  11. This is an insightful and informative window into your Challenge to manage your emotional state. as a psychotherapist, I love the idea of play and it is so sad that we generally do use this as we grow older.

    In relation to mood it might be interesting to look at the gut brain connection. I’m not sure I have heard any of Tims podcasts talking about faecal matter transplants. This may be next on the list for you both?

    Regarding exercise, you are absolutely correct. However, there are many people with conditions like lyme, CFS et cetera who cannot exercise and it would be fantastic to develop innovative protocols to assist them

  12. My favorite thing to do when my anxiety is getting out of control is to go for a run on some of the trails through the woods by my home. The combination of exercise and being outdoors is great. Plus the trail running is technical enough with the changing terrain with logs and rocks, that I have to be solely focused in the moment. I always come away refresh and calmer.

  13. Fake a smile. The brain doesn’t know that the smile is fake so look like the joker and smile like crazy for a minute. It fools your brain into thinking everything is fine and your anxiety lessens. Also riling your shoulders up and back helps too. 🙂

  14. Finally, an anti-anxiety plan that sounds fun and makes sense! My son and I have been suffering from anxiety a long time – trying all the things like meditation, etc.. , to no avail. This sounds fun and easy and I can’t wait to start implementing it in my life! Thank you!

  15. Hi, Charlie.

    Thank you for posting this great info! Having suffered from anxiety and mild – severe depression most of my life (without even realizing it!) and overcome a great deal of it, I can relate to each of your 6 points. The one which immediately caught my attention is #3) ‘Consistent Bedtime & Afternoon Naps’. Not until age 30 did I finally experience a truly restful night’s sleep and it was incredible! The waking process from start to finish took about 10 minutes and was very gradual. I was alert, and refreshed. To contrast, I also know what it is to be sleep deprived: being wakened every 30 – 60 minutes over a 24 hour period and it was Hell: my disposition was unpleasant, judgement impaired, and outlook grim.

    Thank you for the reminder!

  16. Favorite tool for anxiety management – HeartMath (sensor and iphone app) – I continue to tell myself I don’t need it, then I continue to discover how much better I feel when I use it to help regulate my breathing, even for 5 min. When will I learn?

  17. I just bought 4HB and I’m waiting for my ordered copy 4HW to arrive any day now. I’ve heard cannabis is used as medicine to treat anxiety. I wonder if you know about this and what the minimum effective dose might be.

    1. There are different strains that have varying effects. Consult with a pot club first, I have had terrible anxiety from pot, and good results with high CBD with very low THC vape pen.

  18. For me the D.A.R.E. response has been helpful. When you feel anxiety coming on, you defuse the threat, accept and allow the anxious feeling, run towards it or demand more of those anxious sensations if it blows up into a panic attack and engage with activity you were doing before. I experience exercise induced anxiety and have been using this approach when my heart rate goes up and I start feeling panicky. I find the fear of the fear is worse than anything else and disempowering this feel brings tremendous relief.

  19. Wow! Just wow! I’ve never been diagnosed by a dr with anxiety but now in my late 50’s I know that’s what I have. And yes, physical health is a huge problem from it. So frustrated with drs trying to just throw sleeping pills, antidepressants and muscle relaxers at me that I stopped telling them 20 years ago that anything is “wrong” with me, stopped taking all the RXs and don’t feel any worse. But the idea is I want to feel better and feel alive! My standard thought Morning, noon, and night, is “I’m so tired of being tired”. They’d do test for D and B levels which routinely are low. Even on rx of “D”, my level doesn’t stay up, so to me I obviously don’t process it. They on the other hand shrug and just say keep taking it. Would love to win the books!

  20. Oh joy, from a burnt-down, tense coffee-drinking reader 😊. But I am watching the ocean as we speak, and I have taught myself to drink in the details of my life ad it goes on: sense the wave sounds, the cool air or sun or rain, how it feels to rest on the ground during a walk in the woods. I am exhausted after illness and many surgeries – and, surprise, the experiences and overwhelm have got stuck in my body and and mind as tension and fear. Enjoyed reading this, very much 😊

  21. This is an awesome article which I am going to share. It’s good to know of other techniques to help the nervous system calm down and then to be able to be integrated. I am a TRE provider and know how well this technique works for anxiety, stress and deep seated trauma that affect us everyday. Thank you for putting it all together.

  22. I first identify that “this is anxiety”. Sometimes it feels physical like a heart attack so by saying out loud and claiming what is real helps me. Then I sit or lay and breath in for 3, hold for 3, then out for 3. As you breath go through the body from feet all the way up tightening each muscle as u breath in and releasing them as you breath out. Do this until the anxiety levels down. This action pumps blood back to the brain away from the limbs, where the blood has gone in fight or flight which gives one a dizzy uneasy feelings. The mental thoughts about the physical feelings creates an anxiety loop. Then examine why you may be feeling anxious reasons for stress and try to acknowledge and remedy if possible. Nothing is worth your peace of mind. Thank you great article!

  23. I work for child advocacy center were daily we interview children who have been abused or neglected, so vicarious trauma is unavoidable. After working for a year at the CAC I started noticing that I was becoming bitter towards the world, and snapping at my family mire frequently. Through Tim’s podcast I discovered GST and that has helped me tremendously. However, this wasn’t enough. I was increasing my alcohol intake, and realized quickly how toxic this was. I began doing sñow breathing laying on the ground with the bottom of my feet down and taking deep breaths while arching my back on the inhales and slowly realising the air. This has been a life saver. So, excersise and breathing are my cure.

  24. Brilliant ! I wonder if the T R E will dissolve my acute anxiety of driving on the motorway – a phobia which appeared out of nowhere & which can cause me to have anxiety symptoms just sitting at home & thinking about it ! I would love the book ” Play it away ” too !

    Thank you in advance . Looking forward to engaging fully & reaping the benefits ….😃

  25. I hate anxiety and panic attacks. I drink more than I should but it calms me. I’m sure it causes more issues the next day. The physical effects are real. Bad neck pains, stomach tightness. Etc… I will try some of these. I have tried so many things. Driving on a busy road and the thought of a heart attack and wrecking. What if I lost control of my body and could drive. Sound crazy. I do accomplish amazing tasks with these issues. Very well planned and can stop many things before they may happen at work because of it. I hate having things to do. I want them all done today. I know it will take time but want them done. When I was a kid I didn’t give a shit. Probably started around 21. 40 now. Still on a journey to be free. I’m missing out on a lot. Thanks

  26. Great read. I definitely have been sluggish and foggy, and have been turning to energy drinks. I will definitely add more play time, and get my micronutrients test. There is so much more for me to produce and lack of energy shouldn’t not be an issue.

  27. Reduce complexity where it can be reduced – even if it’s as simple as not over complicating meal preparations. A large pot of chilli or big bowl of soup can be reheated and see you through several days.

    Like ‘play’ and ‘sleep’, ‘walking’ isn’t given the credit it deserves when it comes anxiety-busting! A chance to let the mind wander freely and the body to discharge some of that energy brought about by ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms. Daily walks are a must – two if possible.

  28. I love this – thank you for such great advice.

    Play/exercise is so great for so many scientifically validated reasons as mentioned above, but I love that the social aspect was emphasized. Brain science is showing us more and more how interconnected we are and when those connections are strong we are more grounded and can be less anxious and in our own heads.

    Our brains literally respond differently to fear and to pain when we have a strong relationship in mind — the science to all of this is amazing and showing us how in many ways we ARE our relationships.

    Thanks again for such a great post and love that play with FRIENDS was #1!

  29. Thanks, Charlie for your insights and sharing your experience. but also to you, Tim for using your bog is such an empowering manner. It’s easy to get confused nowadays with all the fake doctors and guru that are after our money.

    Be strong everyone, and you’re not alone!

  30. Hi Tim, I heard you call in to the Ask Gary V show when Ray Dalio was a guest and speak about depression. I hope you find this helpful on the subject of depression. Here is how I cured my depression. I am not a doctor and of course serious depression requires professional treatment. However, I was lucky enough to cure mine by myself and this is the story of what I did.

    I had read about a study at Stanford (I think it was Stanford) that found that a very high percentage of clinically depressed patients each saw an image unique to them just before and each time that they entered into a depressed state. This reminded me of a simple NLP technique used to cure habits that are triggered by recurring images. For example, just before a chronic nail biter begins to bite his nails he will see a picture flash into his mind of his hand just before his face. A common cure for this nail biting habit is to have the person substitute a new habitual picture that does not trigger the habit using a simple NLP technique called the “Woosh technique” or (I call it) the “Horizon Attack”. It is my recollection that Tony Robbins discusses the “Woosh” technique, although not in the context of depression.

    Here is what I did. I first tried to find the mental image that triggered my depression. I never could see it clearly (remember, the image pops up without our being conscious of it), but I came close. In the image I was young and alone and had a feeling of loss and abandonment. I made a new happier image of my friends and family on a beach laughing and eating. Then I closed my eyes and tried to pull up the “sad” picture. Then I opened my eyes to reset my mental screen, and then closed my eyes again and saw the “happy” picture. I moved the image far, far out into the horizon on my mental screen until it was just a dot on the distant horizon (hence the name). I felt a huge rubber band being pulled back such as we might find on a kid’s sling shot made from an old inner tube. I could feel the tension. Then I put the sad picture in my mind and did the following things quickly: I let the happy image loose and felt it fly straight towards my mental screen at high speed as I clenched my fists and brought them in towards my body and made a loud noise, “whoosh!” (because the technique looks and sounds silly it is best done in private). The most important thing it to do this with great speed and enthusiasm. Then I opened my eyes, reset and did it again. After about 10 repetitions, I tried to bring up the sad image. Instead, I found the happy image. Each time the sad image would try and pop into my mind the happy one would show up instead and the depressed state was no longer triggered. I repeated the procedure the next day and a few times time I started to feel down.

    I am no longer depressed, and have rarely felt that way in many years. I also swim every day which seems to help my mood.

    I don’t know that this will work for anyone else, but it worked for me, and I hope it helps someone else.

    Thank you. Bill Ramseyer

  31. Thank you so much for this article .

    Wish I could have read it before getting burn out.

    You stated it all : caféine nicotine smart phone disputed sleep anxiety +++ and getting ready for a catastrophic scenario .

    After reading this 6 months ago I found out I was not alone and not driving insane out of the blue

  32. Thanks for this amazing post. As someone who has dealt with anziety and still do to some extent, I’d say your tips would be quite useful for people who have just started seeking help. One more thing that really got me through some of the worst episodes of my life was the help and therapy I received at Comprehensive Counseling Services in Winder GA. I believe that along with self help, its extremely beneficial to go see a professional therapist.

  33. Thank you for telling me that consistent quality sleep can help me ease my anxiety, and I hope I’d be able to get a 20-minute nap as you did. I’ve been having sweaty hands whenever I’m about to face an unfamiliar situation and my mind just goes blank. I’m not sure if it is really anxiety or just plain nervousness, but I’ve experienced it for a while now just to label it as nervousness. t might be better to consult a psychiatrist after trying out all the tips you’ve mentioned here.