3 Things I do to Cope With My Instagram Anxiety and Get My Mind Back
Here's the pattern I've noticed with my anxiety: I start feeling it the most when I'm basically working from 6 am to 10 pm for days at a time and my only "breaks" are cooking meals for Arthur, changing his diaper, and running around the outside of a play structure because Arthur has the potential to leap off a platform and expect me to catch him (I'm not exaggerating). And even during these "breaks," I'm not thinking about anything but work. I've taken on too much. I am in constant fear of receiving email and Instagram notifications. Usually I realize I'm having some anxiety issues and I grab a bowl of ice cream and turn on the TV for a little while. But my anxiety is already too deeply-rooted to be curbed with such surface-level treatment.
I know this isn't healthy. In fact, I tell myself that all the time. But that just makes me feel worse.
Studies and articles say I need to turn off my phone. I need to be present in my environment and the people I'm with, maybe delete my account. But said deletion is absolutely out of the question when I meet almost everyone that eventually becomes a client, customer, or valued collaborative partner through IG. I don't want to choose between being anxiety-free and having a thriving business.
(I feel like I should have a little disclaimer before you feel like my sister who looked at me worried during one particularly busy week and said "Emma, do you even like this?" Absolutely I do. I love building my business. I love what I get to create. I love the self-mastery I need in order to make it happen. But it is HARD.)
Here are the things I've discovered that help me dig out the root of my anxiety best (it starts with milder remedies and gets more potent):
1. Turn off Instagram and email notifications forever.
If I still find myself going into the apps to refresh, I take a little more drastic action and delete the apps for 24 hours. I've deleted my Instagram and email apps multiple times for 24 hours and each time I feel refreshed. One of those times I sat at a kids' show, holding Arthur, sitting next to Michael, and watched performers do very dangerous things for the sake of our entertainment. My memory of being there in the arena is visceral because I had been splitting my attention between my family and my notifications for weeks. Even during a colorful, action-packed performance, what stands out from that day is the overwhelming white space I felt.
2. Discover a gatekeeper in your mind.
Another episode of feeling the frenzied anxiety that lasts for days included multiple conversations with Michael where I kept saying "I can't stop thinking about work. I feel crazy. Like there's this loud voice that just won't stop talking about it even though I want to!" I felt like a different person. Like there was no me before my business. I decided to go for a run and I promised myself there would be no business-thinking. But as soon as I started running, it was only business in my mind. My first thought to combat it was negative self-talk. I wasn't keeping my promise to myself. And then, out of nowhere, I felt this other, awesome, voice in my mind. It felt like she was running right behind me, but in a protective way, not a creepy way. She basically said, "hey! Emma said no business talk right now." It was perfectly authoritative but still respectful. Just made business-Emma aware that it wasn't her turn to be in control right then. It was a huge breakthrough for me. And I named her my gatekeeper. At that point, my psyche was struggling so much that it was hard to remember what I was like before my business. But it came. Using the right language when thinking about a gatekeeper helps keep anxiety, guilt, and stress from your mind in having to switch back and forth. My gatekeeper always speaks respectfully to the two. "business-Emma, thank you so much for all of the hard work you've done today. You are really helping us get things moving. You need some rest! Go have your rest on the couch. Soul-Emma, this is your time to live life." And I imagine tucking business-Emma in for bed, and letting all of the stresses rest with her. It actually helps put all of that out of my mind and I can actually be myself.
3. Being near moving water.
Michael often tells me to go to a museum when I get overwhelmed like this. But I know that going to an art museum in this state would just mean that I'm walking around, knee deep in IG stories and trying to find inspiration for my next project (Which I love doing! But it's not the right activity to recover a healthy psyche.). The awesome thing about my job is that I get to pull into it pretty much everything I've ever loved about art, culture, and travel. But that makes it really hard to get distance from work, which is huge.
But when I walked through a park the other week and stopped on a bridge, mesmerized by the flowing water, I knew that's what I needed (I'm terrible at meditation, so staring at moving water is the best I can do). I went to the beach last week and even though the water was cold, I had to go in. I broke through the waves to reach the point where I could bob between the swells. The cool water felt cleansing to my body and my mind and the rhythm I felt and heard with the water allowed me to be present. Later I grabbed Arthur and we ran away from the waves breaking on the shore and then he wanted to be closer to the water like I had been. So I stood knee-deep and leaned him down again and again so he could touch the small waves coming to shore. Watch them break and slide back into the ocean again and again, clearing both of our minds.