Curing Anxiety Through Play

“There’s no I in anxiety. Wait. Yes there is. Oh my god oh my god oh my god.”

– Eliza Bayne.

Before i start, I want to be clear that I am not a health professional or a mental health expert. These recommendations are taken from Charlie Hoehn’s book “Play It Away”.

We all feel anxiety from time to time. Some of us more than others. What I find to be the biggest cause of our anxiety is myself.

It wasn’t until I started to take 100% responsibility for what happened to me that I started taking responsibility for the change too.

Unless you are doing positive things daily anxiety and depression and general feelings of unhappiness become more frequent.

James Altucher calls this “The Simple Daily Practice”.

What this means is everyday you do positive healthy things that improve your health and mood therefore reducing anxiety and negative feelings.

If you just think about it realistically for a moment. If you or I go through a period of one day, one week or even one month of having no fun. Not one enjoyable and healthy activity you’re gonna start feeling like crap.

You trudge to work everyday, you eat shitty food all day, you spend the day on Facebook and spend the evening drinking and watching garbage TV.

There is nothing in that day that gives you purpose or health and therefore nothing that is going to help you.

This is why exercise is so effective.

Even if the day is seen as a waste, that 30 minute workout gives a feeling of fulfilment that you otherwise would not have felt.

Anytime I go through bouts of anxiety I realise that I’m not doing things I enjoy.

If you think about it, why would you not feel bad if you are spending all day online, not interacting with others and not having any fun?

This is where I think a lot of us go wrong.

We hit a bad patch but instead of addressing why we feel this way, what actions are bringing these thoughts up we go for the wrong option.

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Prescription medication

Below I have outlined the four-week plan that Charlie advises in his book: Play It Away.

Week 1

  • Remove anchors

Anxiety or self-consciousness around others is my most common anxiety. This tends to happen when I am alone as I fear judgement from those around me.

In my head I fear people thinking, “He has no friends!”. 

Removing this anchor is as simple as writing out the reasons about why I feel anxious.

When I write them down I realise that not one of them is a good reason and realise my mind is again trying  to sabotage my happiness. So once I write down feeling anxious because I fear that others will think I have no friends I realise how silly the whole thing is. But it is not until I actually write it that I realise this!

Other anchors that trigger anxiety could be negative news and negative people.

If you are always worrying about the state of the world it is probably due to the news. A simple way to change this is cut out the news and fill it with positive reading, audio and video.

Instead of watching the news, watch a documentary or a comedy. Instead of reading the headlines, read inspirational blogs and books.

The second problem is more difficult. Getting rid of the energy vampires. The people in your life you always leave feeling worse. 

You can either talk to them about it or just gradually spend less time with them. I find that by gradually spending less time with them they slowly leave the picture. This Jim Rohn quote has always stuck with me.  You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Have a look around. If you don’t like what you see then it’s time to start surrounding yourself with more positive people.

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Removing anchors means you have to take action for yourself. Just saying you can’t change anything is an opt out. You have to take responsibility for you feelings.

Action plan

  • Write down your 5 biggest worries

Pick your top 2 and list all of the reasons you worry about these things.

Next start listing things you can do to change these worries. So you would say. “? would not worry me if…” Spend a few minutes writing down what you could do to stop this worry or anxiety. This exercise is called sentence stemming and is powerful because you are planning the changes you want to make therefore taking responsibility for yourself.

Week 2

  • Play with friends. Write down some fun activities you used to enjoy as a child. When you find an activity you used to enjoy, ring a few friends and spend at least 20 minutes playing without any phone. Slacklining is something I have only recently started (thanks Sean) and it is so much fun. What is really cool about it is once you set up the slackline everyone wants to play with you.
  • Get some fresh air. When was the last time you walked in nature and breathed some fresh air? Set a date and meet a friend and spend some time outside.
  • Get into a proper sleep routine. Set a reminder on your phone to start getting ready for bed at 10pm. This will allow you to be in bed by 11pm. (Check this article for the all of the benefits of sleep).
  • Take a 20 minute nap.
  • Cuddling. I think human contact is so underrated when it comes to feeling better. So many people I have spoken with have said when they were feeling anxious or down, what they really wanted was a hug and someone to listen, not a pill.
  • Journaling. Write down everything you’re worried about. Write down a reason why you are thankful for it happening. Journaling your thoughts is a great way of getting everything out. It’s like having someone to listen to you. Give yourself at least 10 minutes in the morning and journal your thoughts. It is important to be completely truthful about your feelings. I held back when I first started in case someone read this but you just need to forget about this and write exactly how you feel.
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Week 3.

  • Eat healthy meals with friendsBefore leaving Ireland this was one of my favourite activities. I would buy good quality food and invite friends over. It was fun trying new recipes and enjoying good conversation. I migrated away from spending money on nights out in a bar and moved towards spending that money on food and some drinks for a night in with friends.

If you are not sure about what a healthy meal is you can sign up for my FREE sustainable fats course here.

You can find lots of delicious recipes online. I like For a healthy meal include at least one of the following in your meal.

  1. Protein – Chicken, pork, beef, seafood, tofu
  2. Vegetables – lettuce, spinach, broccoli, carrots, kale.
  3. Healthy fat – olive oil, coconut oil, butter, nuts
  4. Carbohydrates – rice, potatoes
  • Address nutrient deficiencies. Start taking a multivitamin and fish oil supplement each day.
  • ExerciseRunning, boxing or lifting weights are best for letting go of pent-up frustration.
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Week 4

  • Declutter your house. A cluttered house equals a cluttered mind. I have lived in a one bedroom apartment in Thailand for the last year. All of my possessions could be packed in one large backpack and a small rucksack. When I got home (to Ireland) last week I instantly felt more stressed. I had crap all over the house. I didn’t know where things were and it was one more thing to worry about. Since then I have decluttered and donated any clothes I wasn’t using. 
  • Take a day or weekend trip into nature. Think of outdoor camping, hiking, cycling. Anything that gets you outdoors. Bring a slackline
  • Do something for someone else. It can be something as small as holding the door, giving up your seat on the bus or listening to  friend.
  • Disconnect from all technology for 24 hours. Constantly “connected” is not natural. It stresses the mind and exacerbates feeling of inadequacy as you are bombarded with news feed updates from everyone’s perfect life.

This is a 4 week plan that will have a huge impact on your life whether you are an anxious person or not. If you apply anything on this list then it will help you but it is best to start with the anchors.

What is it that makes you anxious?

Once you find this you can address it. It all comes down to building awareness about what is causing you to be anxious.

If you have friends with anxiety please share this with them.

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