It’s time to leave this place behind, I’m afraid and move on to…well, somewhere else. In this case, here. That is, Throwaway Literature. At the moment it’s all the same stuff as here, but go, have a nosy, make yourself at home, add it to your feedreader, add me to your Twitter, all that jazz. BYE GUYS! It’s been real.
Madrid was a bit of a strange one for me. These guys seriously love their ornamental cauliflowers, for a start, but also, it rained quite a lot & I could not gear myself up to do an awful lot. I went to the Retiro park a lot & the Reina Sofia art gallery, which I loved but didn’t take any photos of. It seems silly to me to take photos of art.
More, more, a few more over at Flickr.
Frequently I find myself sitting among friends, walking alone or reading in my room & I notice that my chest is tight, my muscles are tense & my thoughts are rushing all over the place, alighting briefly on each to-do, then on on onto the next one. I think that I’m seeking out solutions to what ails me, but I’m really fueling my nervous, paranoid anxiety, uselessly & meaninglessly.
What I realise what I’m doing to myself I have a few go-to methods for calming down.
Strip it all Back
Getting naked is a sure-fire cure for anxiety. Er, mentally naked that is. All these worries are ephemeral & usually something which nothing can be done about at the moment of worry. Often they’re beyond out control altogether. Instead of letting my mind trip over the piles of junk in my brain, I breathe deeply & focus on feeling the inhale & exhale inside my lungs & throat. It reminds me that I am alive & all I need to survive is air & everything on top of that is practically a bonus. I’ve written about breathing before.
Get into Nature
Have you ever been walking down a country path & realised that you can’t remember anything you just thought? You have a memory of the wind in the trees & on your cheek, the birds chattering & the way the edge of the clouds glow golden in the sunset but nothing beyond that. A walk in a forest or an afternoon on the beach or a hike up the nearest hill provide enough of interest to distract the brain but in a calming & refreshing manner. Green is also supposed to be the most calming colour!
Fuck Shit Up
Do something! Anything! Go for a bike ride, fly a kite, have a tea party, hit the gym, bake, dye your hair blue, get a tattoo, hoover, do the weeding, skydive. Anything which absorbs you completely &/or gets the adrenaline pumping &/or leaves you feeling as though you’ve achieved something. I usually make cookies or go for a long walk. The concentration required to follow a recipe isn’t much but following a step-by-step guide keeps my mind of all my ‘problems’ from real life. Taking part in an activity which keeps your mind & body engaged leaves you no time to dwell on that which makes you anxious & the adrenaline & extra skills are a bonus!
Phone a Friend
Trust that your people know how to, and want to, cheer you up & distract you. A few of my most visited spots on these anxiety trips concern my friendships & trust/dependency, so I have to first convince myself that it is perfectly okay to phone my friends and freak out at them. So I have only managed to do this once, but we talked about self-appointed dictators & ruling the world, because that sort of thing makes I laff. Ahem. Each to their own.
Do What Scares You
What are you anxious about? Instead of putting it off & letting the tension build, get it done. Write that poem, apply for the job, kiss the girl/guy/porpoise, fashion fancies from fondant, start the petition, get on the plane, say ‘I love you’, say ‘It’s over’, throw away your television, email your idol, give that speech, dive in, jump out, roll over…It probably won’t be half as bad as you imagine & once it’s done, it’s over. You can learn from it & do it all over again, nervosity be damned.
This surely isn’t a full-blown analysis into anxiety & these tips are most useful when you know that your anxiety isn’t helpful at all. If you have serious issues which need addressing then don’t use avoidance techniques such as these (!) but talk to someone who can help & try to deal with the problem constructively. I often freak out irrationally because I don’t have seventeen hands and a time-turner so distracting myself from that which I cannot change is usually the best course of action.
How do you deal with being overwhelmed?
Raising awareness only goes so far. I once had a very long rant about my hatred of that phrase. ‘Raising awareness’. Knowledge is important but it is only the beginning. Climate discussions around the dinner table are important. Information is valuable. Sharing information, spreading facts & not being afraid to TALK is incredibly important. Words are thoughs, words define policies, philosophies & theories. WORDS are POWERFUL.
But once knowledge has been spread, once awareness has been raised, what then? We need to talk about rape, child abuse, homosexuality, racism, climate change, whaling, torture & our superpowers. & after dinner? I’m a member of one of Facebook’s causes, Free Tibet…or something. I read the updates, occasionally. I know a little bit. My awareness that something is going down in Tibet has been raised. How does my knowledge of these facts aid them in any way?
At a recent(ish) dinner table climate change discussion I became increasingly frustrated with, uh, an attendee, as she argued that it was positive how people were talking more about environmental matters & ‘things were getting better’. I asked her what evidence she had for this positive viewpoint. I was honestly interested, since I like to hear good things about the state of the world & she might have been able to cotton me onto some resources as yet unknown to myself. However, she couldn’t tell me anything she knew of, only that people were talking about climate change, cap & trade, eating less meat…
There is a lot of talk about the environment at the moment. Climate Change is a BIG DEAL & Cop 15 was a bit of a milestone for politics & the environment in terms of the talking (not so much the action). Ironically, all this talk about climate change seems to be inferring to people that Something Is Being Done & that they can go on living as before, but with a greater awareness.
At this specific meal, everyone was aware of environmental damage at some level but did not seem to grasp that they could do more than turn lights off when they left the room & taps off between teeth brushing. (Both important things to do, yes.)
Having a greater awareness of the world, the environment, all of the above is important since without having the knowledge in the first place, how do you know there’s something out there to do something about? But once you have acquired this knowledge, there is rarely nothing that can be done.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should be supporting every cause that comes their way but that we could all definitely be doing more for the ones we are aware of and do want to take part in. So once you feel passionately about something, don’t just retweet the viral video then hope somebody else picks up the slack; check out what else you can do.
This is one of the reasons I’m vegan, actually. It’s incredibly simple to do & yet not eating meat & dairy, & eschewing all animal products means not supporting the devastation of the rainforest (soy production, cattle ranching, unsustainable palm oil manufacture), water pollution, animal testing & suffering of all kinds. You can be vegan & work for Amnesty International, donate to GreenPeace, volunteer at a local DayCare centre, stage protests & sign petitions but it definitely makes me feel like I’m making some kind of difference every day and, of course, I chat to my friends about being vegan & why I’m vegan to raise awareness…but also prove that changes can be made & actions taken to contravene, or at least remove personal support from, the actions of certain companies.
It frustrates me that I feel as though I don’t do half enough as I could & I want to work harder to get involve with direct action & so forth, but it frustrates me more when people have an ‘awareness’ of issues, but believe that a) one person can’t change anything or b) there’s nothing they can do anyway.
Anyone reading this? You certainly have the ability to take action. Just pick something to take action on.
Hot damn, Paris is one of my favourite cities. The Eiffel Tower haunted me at every turn, I traipsed through cemetaries in the snow & blitzed past hollow-eyed skulls whilst discussing relationship dysfunction with one of my favourite peoples, we chilled out surrounded by aging, page-crinkled tomes, sipped café express in street-corner cafés & solved the world’s problems. I tried a hookah pipe & did not speak hardly enough French, lost my train ticket to Madrid & spent a night drinking on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur, took more photos of graffiti than people & went to the loo on a building site. I walked around Paris, linking the districts together, becoming lost & cold & wet & still marvelling at being in the deliciously French town. I ate a lot of bread.
More at my Flickr. Next week…Madrid.