James Altucher: Four simple steps to stop worrying today
From James Altucher in The Altucher Confidential:
I’m afraid my daughter might one day kill herself. She gets worried and anxious about everything.
If she’s one minute late for something, she’ll get “a bad part,” or get “kicked off the team,” or get an “F” in school.
And then it’s on her “record.”
I tell her, don’t go to school then. I’m happy if you just hang out here as long as you read one book a week. She’s an avid reader and writer.
“But I have to go to school,” she says, “or I’ll never get a job.”
I know where she gets her anxiety. She gets it from me…
Here’s what I’m anxious about: I just read that the child can sense in the womb when her parents are anxious.
My kid’s older sister was born when things were going well for me. But my youngest was born when I was going bankrupt and losing my home and losing a lot more.
Every day I would search (AltaVista) if there were any painless ways to kill myself. There aren’t, by the way. Even if you shoot yourself in the head you can just end up brain damaged and paralyzed.
And I didn’t want to jump off anything. What if you changed your mind halfway down? What if it hurts when you land? What if you just drown instead of get knocked out?
An acquaintance of mine was really into meditation. She would go on retreats for sometimes months at a time. Silent meditation retreats.
Then she was pregnant with twins. Their names were picked out. She was about seven months pregnant. Last month she drove all night to a bridge known for its suicides. She jumped off the bridge and that was the end.
Sometimes it’s very hard to escape the demons. You can’t escape it with meditation. Sometimes that only dives you deeper into the monsters inside that are trying to kill you.
What does all this have to do with “choosing yourself”?
Because there’s no paycheck. Because the world is a scary and competitive place filled with hunger. And you only get to eat when you kill.
Some say you only get to eat when you provide value. I agree with that also. But the way to provide value is to “kill it.”
I told my daughter to do several things when she finds herself anxious. I told her this a year ago and I’m glad to see she’s doing it.
When she feels that worry in her head, just stop for a second and notice it.
I told one of my business partners once what I do when I get the 3am worries. If you’re an owner then maybe you get them also. I sometimes (to this day) wake up at three in the morning with all sorts of worries.
The worries nudge me in my dreams until they push me off the bed and I start pacing.
I tell myself: I know this is the “3am Dance.” I make an appointment with myself for three in the afternoon. I say, “I’m going to figure out all these worries at that appointment, but now I’m going to get to sleep.”
Then I sleep. Then at three in the afternoon I, of course, realize none of those worries were valid. They were illusions that melted away with dawn.
I told this to my business partner and he started doing it. “I’ve stopped worrying,” he said.
So I told a similar thing to my daughter (who also wakes at three in the morning). Just notice that this is what you do. Write it down so that later you can see what your track record is for predicting the future.
She now knows her track record is very poor.
You can’t get rid of the worry. It’s good enough to just notice it. Don’t try to fight it also.
You’ll get bloody and ugly if you are always fighting worry.
Write it down in the pad. Or make that 3pm appointment. Hello worry, I can’t talk right now but we’ll talk later.
You don’t need to fight. It’s good enough to realize that it’s an anxiety and not a part of you.
When I am anxious (and maybe you also) I have this unfortunate tendency to breathe fast and shallow from the chest and even the neck. This is normal. It’s part of the fight or flight adrenalin fix.
So to counter it, I try to breathe deep and expand the stomach. I fight evolution. I try not to let the breath even go up into the rib cage. Just the stomach expanding.
This sounds like hocus pocus, but Google “oxytocin” and “deep breathing.” It works.
Oxytocin is the neurochemical that helps you reduce stress. Quite a bit is also released into the brain when you have sex. And if someone TRUSTS YOU, you feel the oxytocin rush.
Among other things it’s good for, a woman’s body is flooded with it during childbirth because it helps reduce stress and open everything up so the baby comes out ok.
For me, it helps reduce stress.
Congratulations. You’ve done everything you could to get rid of the anxiety.
Maybe there are other things, but if you just follow these four items (Notice, Accept, Deep Breathe, and Wait), your anxiety will subside.
The benefits of reducing your anxiety are enormous. You can now run your business. You can now deliver value. You can now live another day.
The gatekeepers can no longer hold you hostage.
They keep you in slavery by paying you “just enough,” by teasing you with a promotion you’ll never get, by scaring you with the thought you might not pay your mortgage or have a happy retirement.
They are against you choosing yourself. But that’s your choice, not theirs.
I never want my daughter, or anyone I know for that matter, to go through the loneliness and fear I’ve felt… When it seems like your decisions are spinning down in a cone-like funnel until there is only one tiny way out.
There’s a saying that time heals all wounds but they never tell you how much time. I know for me that the above reduces the amount of time considerably.
Anxiety will never solve tomorrow’s problems but it will definitely take your energy away today. And for creatives, energy is our primary resource. You only get today to use it.
Thousands of candles can be lit from the fire of a single candle and that candle won’t die. Be that candle.
Have you read my latest book The Power of No? You can order a copy here.