86 Comments
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

I love all of these suggestions. My biggest game changer since becoming a mom 7 years ago and developing such FUN CONSTANT ANXIETY, is Zoloft. 100mg. Love it, changed the entire game. No more racing thoughts, trying to predict catastrophes and prevent them, over planning or needing 1000 specific things to be *just so* for peace of mind. Some therapy along the way for rough patches, and yes connecting with others and having a sense of purpose that isn’t just raising my child.

Expand full comment

I have a prescription to Zoloft I haven’t started, for a million excuses of things I’ll try first and being too scared of the side effects…but this might be the push I need to finally give it a try. Thank you.

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

Ah anxiety, my old friend. I have been anxious my entire life. As a kid I was called a worrywart. Oh how cute. Not. Eventually I was diagnosed in adolescence and have been struggling or managing it since then. All this to say: I am a freaking expert on anxiety! You had some great suggestions, especially being outside and connecting with friends. I call it my toolbox and my therapists have helped me stock it over the years.

Here are some more:

1. Medication if necessary. I have friends who swear by cbd but I’ve never tried it. I am in love with Buspar, a recent addition to my life and I’ve had success with both Zoloft and Celexa. I have not had much luck with Xanax but it is popular.

2. Outdoors is important but sunshine is also a really big key for me. If you can’t get outside, try to get near a window and soak up the sunshine when it’s there.

3. Recognize that this too shall pass. My favorite therapist ever told me this mantra: Nothing lasts forever. So even when you’re in the throes of a bad anxiety spiral, it is not going to last forever, because nothing, good or bad, does.

4. Making lists and creating a schedule. Nothing makes an anxious person happier than the illusion of control. Seeing what I have coming up on my calendar and having a to do list makes my anxious brain calm down.

5. Comfy reads/watches: I have several books I reread whenever I’m having a rough patch and need a little brain snuggle. I also like to rewatch certain shows or movies when I need some relief. Schitts Creek is great for this. So is Dirty Dancing.

6. Coloring books. I know they’re a thing now but I used to just buy dollar tree carebear or whatever ones and some crayons and color away and it was so soothing to my brain. A simple focused distraction.

I hope some or all of these help you and anyone else having a hard time.

Expand full comment

'Nothing makes an anxious person happier than the illusion of control. Seeing what I have coming up on my calendar and having a to do list makes my anxious brain calm down.' I love this! thank you. so true. Now I realise there is still a point to making the lists and planning things, even if I don't do them!

Expand full comment

Exactly! No one says you have to do them 🤣

Expand full comment

Love this! A comfort read/watch helps me so much when I just need to know the world is ok

Expand full comment

Phenomenal List. Thank you for sharing.

Expand full comment

Yes to the comfort read/watch! Love the suggestions here.

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

Hi Emma,

Thank you for offering those good suggestions that I could definitely use.

My only other suggestion is going to see art or a getting into a museum. It's not as easy as most of your suggestions but I started doing crazy long walks with mom friends from Brooklyn into the city to go to museums (those trips are a two-fer; outdoors & art!). Or I just find gallery shows near some errand I have to do anyway and just squeeze it in. Hopefully you see more good art than bad but I find just the project of looking and trying to decide what works of art or an exhibit are communicating to me, takes me out of my anxiety brain - a vacation from worries. Gives my monkey brain something else to do besides be anxious.

There is a phone app called See Saw where you can browse art exhibitions and build your own list/map. And, of course, because most NYC museums charge to enter, memberships become more economical.

I try to plan one art interaction per week if I can - I don't always manage it but even planning it helps me put down some anxiety.

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

I discovered Yoga with Adriene during the pandemic and while it can’t replace a beloved yoga studio, her voice in my head has been magical at quieting anxiety.

Expand full comment

If anxious in the night, get out of bed immediately. Do not lie in bed and think/worry. Get up and start the day, or at least doze in a hot bath. Get up and stay up. Make food or read. No internet! This really helps.

Expand full comment
author

omg what Alice!! I'm not getting up at 2am!! that would ruin me!

Expand full comment

I know it sounds rough, but since I started doing it I have never had a serious depression. (I had very serious depressions when I was young.) Save it for dire times though, when the podcasts don't help.

Expand full comment
author

Will do. <3

Expand full comment

I have conditioned myself to fall asleep reading my kindle in the middle of the night. I save comfort books that I have read before that for anxious occasions only and read physical books or on the kindle app on my iPad for non-spiral normal reading.

Expand full comment

Winnie the Pooh is great in the middle of the night. I love the audiobooks too.

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

Re: Meditation, I love the Insight Timer app though it can be overwhelming how much (free!) stuff it has. My favorite meditations are Tara Brach's Vipassana (Basic) Meditation and Sharon Salzberg's Breath Meditation. I've found doing the same meditations over and over is the most impactful for me. What I learned from Dan Harris that stuck is: shorter meditations more frequently is better for you than say, a super long meditation once a month. Last year, when my boys were 3 & 2, I started SSRI's for the first time (in addition to continuing talk therapy which I've done for years). Prozac has helped immensely with my anxiety. On the whole, I am more prone to depression than anxiety, though. (The anxiety seemed to come on with parenting.) Still, for me, it is a helpful tool. I personally hope not to be on it forever, but for this phase of my life, it makes sense and is impactful. [And has HELPED my writing. Sharing only because I know you're a writer :) I am too, though unpublished, but I've been working on novel drafts for years and the year I started Prozac was also the year I finished what I think is my best novel draft yet. So! Perhaps the whole "medically treating my depression will make me a worse artist" is a bit of a myth, ha!]

Expand full comment

I love Sharon! Her 'Begin Again' meditation on Insight Timer is my fave. I love her podcast too.

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

10 mg of Lexapro and lots of time in nature. I work for an environmental organization so I actually get paid to be in the forest at least twice a month and then write stories about it, so that helps!

Expand full comment

Lexapro changed my life. I started about seven years ago after a summer of debilitating panic attacks and general anxiety that had me convinced I was dying. It has calmed the anxiety "noise" in my head so much.

Expand full comment

I have this theory that writers are all anxious. It’s very rare to meet a writer friend who isn’t. I’m wondering if that’s why we all become writers to work out some of the crazy stuff floating around in our heads. I have one more to add to your list. Admit what you’re anxious about. I’ve noticed that if I tell someone what’s festering inside me it goes away or at least, it alleviates. If I don’t, then it gets bigger and becomes bigger than it needs to! Why are you anxious? Is it the bookshop? Or is being a mom? Or the pressures of writing a hot novel?

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

I love these expert suggestions; I used to be a cat hater and then one stormy day not long after my mom passed away a tiny kitten jumped into the window boxes at our bookstore during a wretched storm. A kind construction worker noticed, brought the cat in, and by the end of the day, I had this magical being in my home. I'm not one for mystical thinking but I do think my sweet Barrett was sent to our family to help with grief, anxiety, and all those other worldy worries! And MP for the win - I'm in a group with dear college friends and there is NOTHING like spilling the tea and getting so much love and support in return! When I feel that terrible sense of anxiety washing over my body, I try very hard to think: "Will this matter a year from now? Will anybody care?" Most of the time, the answer is: nope. Sending love and peace.

Expand full comment
author

oh page, that is a picture book waiting to be written! a kitten, a bookstore, a construction worker! <3

Expand full comment

Your lovely encouragement had me sketching ideas all weekend ❤️

Expand full comment

LOVE this story, agreed it needs to be a picture book!

Expand full comment

Ah, thank you Janet!

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

For me what makes a huge difference is naming/ identifying the anxiety and then validating it. First I identify what is causing the anxiety or what it’s around, and then I validate my feelings of anxiety by giving compassionate affirmation like “of course you’re anxious about this”, or, “that completely makes sense.” Being totally honest around the identification is crucial, and can be hard because so often it seems (at least for me!) like inconsequential, silly things that make me anxious. And that can make the validation difficult too. But both are important! Without being properly “seen”, the anxiety will continue to grow.

I totally second going outside too! I got really into gardening last year and it’s made a huge difference for me!

Thanks for talking openly about anxiety, it’s important for erasing the stigma.

Expand full comment
Feb 21·edited Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

20 mg lexapro and 150 mg wellbutrin. Lots of dog cuddles and petting. Laundry -- I know, I know but clean laundry makes me feel like I have my shit together and I like folding and putting things where they're supposed to go. Sending lots of solidarity on this anxious experience called being alive!

Expand full comment

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Reading this outside my therapist’s office and after meditating - I can agree with your suggestions wholeheartedly. Also - significant time away from scrolling on phones!!!

Expand full comment
Feb 21·edited Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

Mantras! Mine change all the time, but I find repeating something to myself, especially in those downward spirals, helps a ton. One I come back to often is: "Thought switch!" Where I then try to shift my thinking from thought to though. I usually start with obvious, physical things around me: Blue sky, green plant, that person's sandwich looks delicious, etc. etc. Basically try to think about anything other than what you're thinking about. It's a nice way to bring yourself back into the present moment. The other mantra I love: "Joy. Here is Joy." This I stole from one of my favorite teachers, and it brings me back into the moment where I can then name things and people right there in front of me that bring me joy. (Also, on the topic of meds, I'm hesitant myself...but I can tell you the green plant some refer to as Mary Jane is a nice treat in the evenings, and it always settles my tired brain.) xoxo!!!

Expand full comment

The number one thing that helps me is something I got from my therapist, and it is asking myself: "Is [worrying about this] a good use of my energy right now?" Something about it is so pragmatic that it really helps me re-direct my free-floating anxiousness.- J

Expand full comment
author

I love this. Dan Harris said something sort of similar, which is the repeating of the phrase 'Dead End!' to a repeating anxious thought. Like, mind, get back! There's nothing for you here!

Expand full comment
Feb 21Liked by Emma Straub

Similarly, there's some quote out there that says to worry is to suffer through something twice. I remind myself of that when I start to get anxious about something, and it brings me back from the ledge.

Expand full comment

Love all of the suggestions. I'm allergic to cat dander, but do have a miniature schnauzer and today he brought me great joy when he chomped loudly on a piece of celery. Small things, big joy <3

Expand full comment

The thing about Dan Harris made me chuckle. He is smarmy in the best way I think. Like an older brother who is a baby bit pompous at Thanksgiving but also sits on the back porch with you all night as you cry about your boyfriend.

Expand full comment