I have some of the weirdest anxieties — my parking one, for instance. Yes, I said parking, as in, a place to put your car to keep it safe until you return.
It starts well before I get to my destination. Let’s say I have to drive somewhere I haven't been before.
I start getting a strange tingling in my gut several hours before I leave.
Then, I start thinking of ways I can back out.
Am I feeling sick? Maybe I can call them instead? Does the dog need a bath?
I know the issue; it’s the unknown. The feeling of going someplace you haven’t been to before and not having a routine to follow. For me, it manifests itself in “Where the hell will I park my car.” For you, it is probably something very different.
It’s not a paralyzing anxiety, but it causes me some degree of mental pain.
I often try to mitigate it by driving to those places days beforehand to scout out the parking.
Before you ask, I’m not usually affected by places like retail shopping malls. I reason I’ve been to places like this before, and know there will be plenty of parking.
But tell me I have to drive downtown next week, and I’m in my head about it days beforehand.
Parking has also led to more than a few arguments with my passengers. Holiday shopping is the worst. When parking lots are full, my mind goes into overdrive. I see this as a challenge to get the next open spot.
I change into some Mr. Hyde being, who is fighting for that next parking spot.
I stopped going shopping during busy times for this very reason. I don’t see Amazon touting road rage as an argument for online shopping, but they didn’t ask me.
If you have ever been cut off in a parking lot, it was probably me, and I sincerely apologize.
You’re Not Alone With Your Anxiety
I tell you this imperfection about me to let you know none of us are alone in our anxieties. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of U.S. adults are actively suffering from anxiety, and 31% will deal with a disorder at least once in their lifetime.
Anxiety often causes us to spiral into negativity. We imagine the worst possible situation and role-play what others are thinking about us. How we handle the anxiety will depend on factors we often can’t understand or see at the time.
Years of coaching and training have taught me some tips to control anxiety better.
1. Find tricks to help mitigate.
If you can find ways to help relieve the stress of the event. This will help make you more comfortable with the anxiety.
For instance, driving to the place ahead of time to scope out the parking.
2. Ask others for help.
I have a friend who is my “idea guy.” When I have a problem, he can present three or four ways to look at it that I hadn’t thought about.
He once suggested:
“When you plan a meeting, ask the person if they can recommend a place to park.”
It never occurred to me to ask before he mentioned it.
3. Try not to put yourself in these situations.
If you learn your triggers, you can recognize them in the future. It may help to write down how you felt leading up to the anxiety.
You can take yourself out of the situation if needed.
When you set up a meeting you could see if the person would like to meet in a familiar place.
4. Relax and think calmly.
Most of us jump to the worst-case scenarios in these situations. It’s probably not as bad as you think. If you take a few minutes to recognize the anxiety, you can calm down and use a technique to help.
We take short breaths during these situations, which can deprive the brain of oxygen and slow your thinking.
When you feel anxiety coming on practice taking several long calming breaths.
5. Take little steps to alleviate the problem.
If you break down a problem into small pieces, your mind isn’t as overwhelmed, and you can work through it one small chunk at a time.
Ask yourself, “What steps can you break the issue into?”
This tip works for many things in your life, not only anxiety.
6. Be a role model for others.
If you find a coping mechanism, share it, others need to hear they aren’t alone.
Several of my family members have anxieties. Providing a good example helps them see you can take steps to cope with anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with seeking professional guidance. I’ve spoken to therapists and life coaches throughout my life. Both have given me ways to cope and alleviate my anxieties.
There is a misconception where everyone but you knows what they are doing.
This is anxiety’s power.
The real secret is every one of us is making it up as we go along. All of us struggle.
Some of you just have more experience and practice than the rest of us.
It is ok to experience fear and uncertainty. People are understanding and want to help. Let them.
I still have anxieties, but now I take a breath and use tools at my disposal.
I’ll even give up the last parking spots. I know there will be others opening up soon. I have to relax and wait.