As someone who has dealt with anxiety my entire life, I appreciate reading and hearing other people’s experiences. But the stories people tell often aren’t specific enough.
I can’t relate.
I want to know exactly how you experience anxiety on the ground.
For example, when I lived in San Francisco I used to ride my bike a lot. However, anxiety robbed me of more bike rides than I can count.
I remember it so well.
I’d grab my bike from the apartment building’s garage and ride it about 90 seconds to the corner of Haight and Baker.
Then I’d sit there, at the top of the hill that would propel me toward Divisadero, sometimes for up to an hour. Frozen in fear, the source of which I still can’t put my finger on.
Half the time I’d muster the courage to actually go for a ride.
The other half, I’d retreat to my apartment and sit in my room. Ruminating about anything I could find to be anxious about.
Today — about 15 years later — I did the same thing, but in my current home, Los Angeles.
That’s my day through about 3 p.m.
I’m happy I got 6.4 miles of walking/hiking (the light blue line) in. But my anxiety almost stopped some of it from happening.
I took my first walk in the morning after getting coffee.
From there, I stopped home, grabbed my computer, and went to Griffith Park to do some work. I sit under a tree in a camping chair and write. It’s great.
When I wanted a break from writing, I decided I should hike up to the Griffith Observatory before heading home.
But I did the same thing I used to do all of the time — more than a decade ago in San Francisco — and still do occasionally.
Where the gray meets green on the right side of the route, I spent 15 minutes questioning my decision to take the short, but challenging hike.
I thought maybe I should check out this new vegan bakery instead. Food helps relieve anxiety. And I could probably find something low carb there.
I wasn’t wearing my trail shoes. I worried my new sneakers would get dusty. I just bought them. But I could just wash them when I got home.
It was sunny out. And felt hot. I had no water. My sunscreen had worn off. But I’d be less than an hour. The sun wouldn’t burn me. I had just downed a Swell bottle of water. I wasn’t going to dehydrate myself.
I still had work I wanted to get done. But I’d be home way before dinner. I’d finish it with time to spare.
That’s the ringer I put myself through just to decide on a short, spontaneous hike.
I’m proud to report I made myself go on the hike.
I gotta pay my prime, tramp this line
Over that hill one more time
Gotta get up in the morning, make my way
Over that hill again
— Tom Petty, Climb That Hill
Every time I beat my anxiety and take a bike ride, go for a hike, or do something else good for myself, I feel better afterwards.
I felt great not only because I went on the hike, but because I defeated my anxiety. And I rewarded myself in kind.
Most of the anxiety I experience has no logic.
On another day, the vegan bakery might have won out. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with checking out the vegan bakery (I hear it’s great). It’s just that I was using the vegan bakery as a way out of taking the hike.
I don’t know why I viewed the bakery — which required the same time commitment — as less threatening than the hike, but I did. It’s illogical. Most of the anxiety I experience has no logic.
I’m taking the money I would have spent at the vegan bakery and transferring it to my savings account. It’s a small amount, but every little bit counts. I’m obsessed with investing and I have goals and objectives I want to achieve (see my other Medium stories).
I also got all of the work done I had planned for the day.
It’s about taking practical steps to change the more often than not illogical story in your head.
By rewarding myself with something I love doing (transferring money to savings and eventually investing it), I associate overcoming anxiety with something positive and productive.
I want to get to the point where I don’t require the reward. Where I take the hike because I know it’s the right thing to do for my physical and mental health as well as my productivity.
The reward should be the action and direct outcome itself, not something I have to use to motivate myself past my anxiety.
But it’s a work in progress.
Today, I mapped it, beat it, saved it, and invested it.