After I left home for the first time to study abroad in the US at the age of fifteen, I used to wake every morning with my stomach completely tied up. I struggled to have any control over it. Breathing exercises helped, however, since then, anxiety as a daily phenomenon has never left me. Now I can’t even imagine a day without any underlying anxiety.
Since then I have learned a thing or two about how to deal with anxiety, and I would like to share one them, a simple method that in an instant can alter the anxious state and offer relief.
The simple way to get rid of anxiety is first to identify what are you anxious about and then to laugh at it.
Go ahead, try it.
Right, just laugh.
Most of the anxiety we feel is completely irrational. When we laugh, we take away the false importance of anxious feelings and we see them for what they really are, nothing to be worried about.
Most of the things we worry about are so ridiculous that upon forcing ourselves to laugh at them we begin to see their ridiculousness.
Of course, you can have real worries, such as losing your job and not being able to take care of yourself or your family, or worries about a friend or a family member that is fighting a terminal illness.
Yes, humor is more complicated in these circumstances, we might even feel that humor is disrespectful to the severity of the situation. And yet humor is able to offer a new perspective. Laughing at our condition is the physical experience of the words “everything is going to be alright”.
Maybe things turn out the way you don’t want them to, but even if they do, you can physically experience and believe that everything is going to be okay.
Laugh, smile, find humor in the struggle life has thrown at you, find the irony, the absurdity.
More often than not, however, we find the absurdity in our worries not in our life itself. Although there can be real worries, most of the things we are anxious about are inconsequential. In the words of the creators at the youtube channel Academy of Ideas, from where the inspiration for this post comes from, most of the things we worry about don’t have life-shattering consequences. We think they do, we worry our future will be gravely affected by our failures, when in fact they sometimes turn out to be the best things that could have happened to us.
Don’t take the situation you find yourself in so seriously. Laugh at it, laugh at your anxieties. Find the humor both in real and petty problems.
The Backwards Facing Perspective
There is a backward-facing perspective that allows me to find humor in all my circumstances.
It is that the toughest times I had so far are the ones I am the most grateful for. They changed me for the better. I am a better human being because of them. I am more helpful, more understanding, more compassionate, less vain, less self-centered, more hardworking, more dedicated.
Hard times are good times. They allow us to learn, to grow. We can then laugh at our worry, whatever this situation turns out to be, it is going to be good.
We can approach any problem with future perspective in mind. If I know that most of the failures I had so far I look now at as good things, as something I am not very inclined to change, then I don’t have to worry about my future failures. I am indebted for this perspective to Tim Ferris’ podcast #302, where Aubrey Marcus talks about this method.
Of course, it is preferable to learn the lessons without failing, but sometimes there isn’t another way.
If you want to read about one of my failures and the lessons I have learned from it, you can do so here.
So to our anxieties, I say, let us laugh, and see how quickly our perspective changes.