Some people have a hard time imagining what anxiety exactly is or what an anxiety attack feels like. It’s more than just feeling a bit stressed for a test, or feeling scared in a dangerous situation. That’s why I like to describe my anxiety attacks as a crashing computer.
Computers receive input and process that into output. But my computer isn’t always working properly. Sometimes there’s just too much going on. And then the input becomes too much for my computer to handle. So it stops working. It crashes.
Anxiety attacks are like a crashing computer.
That’s basically how I experience anxiety attacks. Sometimes, there’s a lot going on. I’m worrying about work. I’m worrying about my health. I’m worrying about the past. I’m worrying about the future. I’m scared that I’ll fuck up. I’m afraid that I’ll ruin something.
A lot of thoughts are popping in my head, a lot of computer programs are open. And then it gets too much. The program freezes. My mind freezes. Blackouts happen. When I get blackouts, I’m not even able to remember passwords or pin codes. And the more I try to remember them, the more anxious I get and the worse my memory gets.
If this happens on an exam, it means I’ll fail or get a bad grade, even if I knew the answers half an hour earlier, even if I studied hard. If this happens during a conversation, I’ll either turn completely silent, start crying or spit out sentences that don’t make sense.
It’s a terrible feeling. And I can’t even do much against it. I try to ignore the feeling, I try to shut down the thoughts, I try to keep the conversation going, but it all makes the feeling worse. It’s too much for my computer to handle.
Solving the problem.
The one thing that helps me battle my anxiety is very similar to the way I would fix a broken computer as well. When my computer freezes or crashes, I leave it alone for a bit. I don’t try to reopen applications, I don’t try to enter more text, I don’t try to hit any buttons. I just let it be. And then I restart the computer. I run anti-virus programs and take it to repair if I must.
In a similar way, the best way for me to snap out of an anxiety attack is by being alone. By removing myself from the stressful environment. I like going for a walk, drawing, writing or meditating in those situations. Then I try to find out what went wrong; I analyze my thoughts and my feelings. I also visit a therapist a few times a month, which is a bit like computer repair for my brain.
Lately, I’ve taken some other measure to help me with my anxiety as well. I keep a mood journal, I stopped drinking coffee and meditate for 20 minutes every evening. All these things combined are helping me a lot to improve myself and reduce my anxiety. I still have bad moments, but I’m learning how to deal with them and make them go away.
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