“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” -Dorothy Neddermeyer
Anxiety can be psychosomatic. It can be genetic. It can be chemically-induced. It can be thought-induced. Above all these potential contributing factors, though, it’s no fun. It’s a bummer. And we all experience it in varying degrees. You may be a particularly anxious person; you may be the person we all know who just always seems to dodge worry with constant agility and is always cool, calm, and collected.
Regardless, we could all do with less anxiety in our lives. It’s the epitome of what Zen seeks to subdue. Here are some ways to get even with anxiety and prevent it from hampering your enjoyment of daily life.
1. No expectations.
If you’re not running through the potential outcomes of a given situation, anxiety flies out the window. This is not an easy thing to do, however. You can’t wake up tomorrow and suddenly stop anticipating every event in your life. Instead, start small.
Build your mindfulness and realize that the world you’ve planned out in your head is, for lack of a better term, a fantasy. Anything we imagine that hasn’t happened is a fantasy. Whether you’re expecting the worst or the best, stop fantasizing and just do what needs to be done right now. You’ll be too busy excelling to worry about how things will turn out.
2. Rethink ‘good’ and ‘bad’
Instead of saying anything else here, I’ll leave you with this (which you’ve probably seen here by now, but just in case):
“An old farmer had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“We’ll see,” replied the farmer.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“We’ll see” said the farmer.”
3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
This sounds ridiculous and obvious, but you are not other people. You’re not anyone else. This should be clear. It’s a strange human tendency to try to emulate others and want to be just like the people we admire, but it’s a stupid notion. Chances are, your chemistry is not the same as your idols’. What makes ‘great’ people ‘great’ is that they do their own thing. Just do yours and don’t worry about judgements or idolatry. This starts with not judging others.
4. Live diligently.
This basically ties in with the last one, but don’t act thoughtlessly. Much of our anxiety involves worrying about having to clean up after the mistakes we made in states of absent-mindedness. Stay fully attentive to the here and now; not only will you worry less about the past, you’ll prevent yourself from having to regret anything in the first place.