Rad Reads: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

It was a lazy Sunday at the mall with my dad when this book came into my life. We were browsing around the bookstore (I had forced him to go in, naturally) and the title caught my eye. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Alright, you got me. I picked it up and turned to a random page to get an idea of what this book entailed, and read a passage with about three or four uses of “fuck” in it, so obviously I bought it.

With therapy comes the reading of certain self improvement books, just to experiment and see what resonates with you and your particular form of anxiety. I’ve read The Four Agreements and next on my list is You Are a Badass, which I’m pretty stoked for. Some you relate to, some you don’t. In this particular book, I found almost every word motivational. If I could have highlighted the entire book, I would. Mark Manson has a way with words that inspires, and also hits you with an uncomfortable truth that results in laughter and tears. Since this book has been so moving for me, and issues I face daily with my own anxiety, I decided to share some of my favorite passages.

“Look, this is how it works. You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice – well, then you’re going to get fucked.”

This passage is on page 13, so you hit it right off the bat. Mark Manson, the author, doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. When faced with our own mortality, life’s petty and trivial struggles seem just that – petty and trivial. They are small, and shouldn’t be limiting our ability to truly shine in what motivates us, and brings us joy. Life is so short, and we only have the ability to give a certain amount of fucks, why waste them on things that could bring us down or dull our light? For me personally, this passage meant more about my anxiety. Why would I be wasting my time obsessing about things I cannot control; like if someone actually likes me or if they are just being nice, or if I did something perfectly right at work, when there are so many other, bigger things I could be devoting my time to? It’s a question worth asking yourself, you never know what the answer might be.

“Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy. Even when you’re farting fairy dust. Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing. Don’t ever forget that. And don’t ever be afraid of that.”

There is a certainty relief in knowing that we are all in this thing called life together. When you think about it, no one really knows what they are doing. Everyone from President Obama, to your next door neighbor has no real clue. All of our doubts and insecurities about tackling that next goal or step towards happiness or true success comes from the fear that we “don’t know” what will happen. There have been plenty of times where I’ve stumbled into something completely blind, not knowing at all what will happen next. It’s a really scary place to be, but also the most thrilling. It’s a true sign of being alive to brave unknown challenges, so we must not forget to do it anyway.

“When the standard of success becomes merely acting – when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite – we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.” 

In particular, this passage struck a nerve with me. Failure has always been something I struggle dealing with. It ties directly with shame, an emotion that constantly triggers my anxiety. The fear of failing is what keeps me from rising to the challenge – whether it be at work, or a personal goal – but rather paralyzes me with anxiousness. Manson challenges us to change how we view success and how we reward ourselves, so we are able to tackle that next goal without that fear of failure creeping in. Yes, failure will always be there like a constant black cloud, but failure isn’t always a negative. Throughout the book, Manson also challenges that dealing with the negative is crucial and failure is something we encounter on a daily basis, but it’s how we handle the emotion that truly counts. Can you move forward from that feeling, or will it cripple you?

“If you make a sacrifice for someone you care about, it needs to be because you want to, not because you feel obligated or because you fear the consequences of not doing so. If your partner is going to make a sacrifice for you, it needs to be because he or she genuinely wants to, not because you’ve manipulated the sacrifice through anger or guilt. Acts of love are valid only if they’re performed without conditions or expectations.”

This passage not only applies to romantic relationships, but family or friendships. It can be very difficult to wade through the constant bullshit of family drama and toxic relationships – whether it be a shitty ex boyfriend or a manipulative parent – and come out the other side completely unfazed. More recently, I’ve had to unlearn a lot of behaviors that were taught by my family, and learn how to think more for myself. As someone who has had her fair share of manipulative relationships, it can be tricky to tell when it’s genuine and when the act of love is fake, especially when you’re still learning new ways to be in these relationships.

Manson teaches us that love is only real when the acts are performed without any expectations or conditions, which almost everyone has trouble erasing. For me, it’s been a slow progression, but the more you realize that you deserve genuine acts of love from the relationships you’re in, the less you care about people dropping from your life. They never really deserved to be there in the first place.

“You are great. Already. Whether you realize it or not. Whether anybody realizes it or not. And it’s not because you launched an iPhone app, or finished school a year early, or bought yourself a sweet-ass boat. These things do not define greatness.

You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact, this simple optioning for your own values in life, already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it. Even if you’re sleeping in a gutter and starving.”

I wanted to make this the last passage from the book because it captures the essence of Mark’s message to his readers: you are already good enough. At least, that’s what I felt reading it. He so wants you to understand that you already have greatness inside you, it’s just a matter of rejecting the fear holding it back, and facing what life will ultimately throw your way.

With my anxiety, I have real trouble with statements or affirmations like this because I mostly don’t think I’m good enough. So, reading it and hearing myself say it can be emotional. This passage very much reminded me of a time when my therapist first got to the root of my stress and anxiety and told me, “you know you’re good enough, right?” Which resulted in enough tears to fill the entire room. It’s books like this that I must force myself to read and fully grasp the message of channeling my greatness. Plus, it helps that there’s a good deal of swearing and sarcasm, I like that.

The very end of this book takes you on Mark’s journey to look death directly in the face, and the final page leaves you with a sense of peace and new motivation to apply for that job that seems out of reach, ask that guy or girl out who makes you weak in the knees, or even push you to write a blog post about how much this book moved you. Like Mark says, we all are going to croak one day. Why not just do the things that scare us, and give out our fucks only for things that build us up, not bring us down. It’s not the simple path, but it’s one I plan on giving a go now.

Sidenote: If you want to learn more about Mark and his book, check out his website here. Manson also writes another book called Models: Attract Women Through Honesty. You know, just in case you fellas were reading this and wondering why us ladies aren’t flocking to you as of late. Just a suggestion.

Did you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, or another self improvement book? What were your thoughts? 

7 Small Ways To Practice Self-Care

As I quickly approach my 26th year on earth, I’m realizing the schedule of an adult is hectic. Finding the time to practice self-care and alleviate anxiety can sometimes seem impossible given the few hours in my day I have to get work done, but it’s extremely important. Not only for my mental health, but to improve my daily mood and keep me grounded in reality.

No matter how short of a time window you have to squeeze these small habits in, they will make a real impact on your anxiety and how you approach each day.

Express gratitude

While it’s beneficial to keep track of what you’ve accomplished, it’s equally important to notice what we already have. Personally, I keep my therapy journal by my bed and each morning when I wake up, I make a point to note the things that I feel lucky to have. There’s no wrong answers, it can be anything from the bed you’re sleeping in to a close friend. Practicing an attitude of gratitude each morning can set the tone for a positive day where you’re fully grounded in reality.

Unplug

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can have its benefits, but does it really make you feel good to constantly compare? Take some time to break away from social media and focus on the beauty of right now – without any filters.

Personally, this one can be difficult for me. I’m a big fan of Instagram, and I can find myself permanently attached to my phone but lately it’s my boyfriend who will give me a reminder to set my phone down and be present. With my anxiety, it can be really beneficial to have these key moments where I’m experiencing the right now.

Call Your Person

Whether that person is your best friend, mom, dad, boyfriend or second cousin – set a time to catch up and check in. This doesn’t have to be just to catch up either, if you have an anxiety crisis or just need to vent, text or call that person who always knows how to ease your mind and just knows you. One crucial thing I’ve learned is that you can go to dozens of people seeking advice or validation, but they’re never going to say what you want to hear. When you realize who your people are, they’ll always make a genuine effort to say ease your nerves. 

Meditate

While everyone has their own form of meditation they practice – make time for moments of mindfulness each day in your own way. Whether it’s right when you wake up, on your drive to work, or before you go to sleep at night, find something that works for you and stick with it. For me, it’s Simple Habit. With hundreds of various, brief meditations for my busy schedule, it’s easy to open up the app on my phone and find the perfect meditation I need in that moment. You can learn more about my thoughts on this magnificent mediation app on Simple Habit’s blog here. (Shameful self promotion, I’m aware).

Create Your Own Space

Does your bedroom look how you want it to? If not, add some candles or silly throw pillows that show off your personality and make you smile in your sanctuary. Building a cozy space that feels warm and inviting helps to establish the perfect place to retreat to when anxiety levels are high and you just need a safe place.

For me, this has been quite a journey. I’ve always made any bedroom my own, but only a few weeks ago, I finally moved into my own studio. I’ve come a long way from living with my mom years ago and I’m proud to have crafted a comfortable, inviting space to come home to at the end of each day.

Read A Book

You know what’s a great way to ease anxiety? Peruse that bookshelf and curl up with a good read. Whether you’re headed back to Hogwarts or near Narnia, the act of reading encourages a sense of peace and let’s be honest – we all love escaping in a satisfying story.

Fun tip: If you’re feeling social, hosting a monthly book club is a great way to explore new books and meet up with close friends to catch up over some chips, guac and of course wine. I host my book club, Books and Babes, and it’s something I seriously look forward to every month as a relaxing night filled with laughs and high spirits.

Learn To Say “No”

It might seem like the easier route to say yes to things, just to make others happy, but have you considered what will make you happy? This is a hard lesson to learn, and it takes a lot of practice, but in the long run it’s worth it to walk away from things, or even people, who don’t invest in your growth.

You can’t be your best self without being a little selfish. However you want to, practice self-care every day to ease your anxiety and empower your mind.

How do you practice self-care? Tell me your morning routine in the comments below! 

How Simple Habit Helps Me Slay Anxiety

I know I like to call myself really self aware when it comes to my anxiety, but I didn’t always used to be that way. Before I started the journey into therapy last June (almost a year ago – nuts!) I was thinking irrational, insecure thoughts and having trouble keeping the people in my life because of the intensity level of my anxiety. Once I got into my sessions and felt comfortable talking about my insecurities and coming to realizations, I began to want to know more about why I was the way I am.

I delved deep into self help books, podcasts, and also guided meditation. When I first thought of the idea of mediation, I was entirely too judgmental of it. I thought it wouldn’t help me, and I’m not capable of shutting off my brain for any length of time…but’s that’s not all it is. From exploring yoga, guided meditation at my old work, and different podcasts, I discovered Simple Habit. Donned the “Netflix of meditation,” this helpful app offers guided audio meditations anywhere from fifteen to five minutes long so that busy people can squeeze some tranquility into their daily lives – and anxious ones can have a vital resource.

I used Simple Habit for months before I made the leap into paying for the app. Unlocking the premium level allows you to listen to any of the meditations with specific scenarios such as having a tough day to happiness at work. None had such a profound effect on me as the “Dealing With Failure” meditation. The session, “Shame” is one that I turn to on my worst days of anxiety, stress and fear. The reason I do this is because within that session, the narrator, Quentin Finney, teaches you to approach failure with ease and compassion – rather than fear and insecurity. He does this through a guided meditation and the use of repeating six key affirmations that can be applied to any kind of anxiety or specific situation in your daily life. Whenever I’m feeling severely anxious or like I’m not good enough, I grab my phone, break open the Simple Habit app, and get outside for a walk and a guided meditation.

Here are the six key affirmations that continue to help me each day:

I am worthy of happiness

Say this to yourself over and over and over until it’s memorized in that anxious brain of yours. I’m very guilty of forgetting that I’m allowed to be happy. Sometimes we can get caught up in all the negative thoughts and personalizing, that we forget to just stop and enjoy the things and people we have as a constant in our lives. Cherish them and realize you’re worthy of happiness.

I am worthy of appreciation from myself and others

When someone gives you a compliment – don’t just shrug it off or say, “don’t lie.” Accept it because guess what? You’re worthy of someone appreciating you or your awesome style. Even more importantly, appreciate yourself! If you’re feeling your outfit, hair, face, ass, boobs – whatever, voice that to yourself. Or if you know you rocked an interview yesterday or nailed a presentation at work – celebrate the small victories!

I am worthy of forgiveness for my mistakes and i recognize that others are worthy of forgiveness for theirs

This is a tough one for most. Like most people with anxiety, I can be incredibly hard on myself. Making mistakes are shrouded in anxiety and insecurity for me. Whenever I slip up or do or say something wrong, I don’t just apologize – I think about it for entirely too long.

How could I be so stupid?
I’m the worst.
I’m not good enough.

These thoughts should be sweating they run through my mind so much. Ruminating on negative thoughts is just a common part of having anxiety, but it’s crucial to combat these thoughts with reality. That’s why this phrase is great – it forces your mind to think about what is real. You aren’t perfect, you make mistakes and that’s okay. And guess what? You can forgive others when they make mistakes too.

I am worthy of being seen and heard, my actions and voice have value

As a woman in the workplace, it’s so important to know this affirmation. For years, I was not aware of the idea that my thoughts and opinions mattered at work, or really in general. I wouldn’t speak up in meetings or in social situations because I would just think, “well they don’t care what I think.” I’m here to break it to you – they do care. Turns out your opinions have value and sometimes you can have an amazing idea that no one else has thought of, you just have to speak up!

I do not have to be perfect and i learn from situations that have outcomes other than what i anticipated

Personally, this one hits home. I’ve never really considered myself a perfectionist or a control freak of any kind, but my anxiety flares up when things change. I can get a plan into my head and when something diverts from that, my anxiety has a hard time dealing. More recently, I’ve been able to battle this specific part of my anxiety and it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I am good enough

Sing, rap, whistle, scream – SHOUT this from the rooftops because you will literally never say it enough. You are good enough. I am good enough. I was never told or didn’t tell myself this mega important affirmation so I’m making up for lost time. I listen to this session daily and repeat this last phrase to myself over and over until I feel it. Whether I’m driving to work in the morning or going to bed at night, it’s the best way to end or start a day.

UPDATE: I’m beyond proud to say that Simple Habit (being the fantastic and dedicated company they are) saw this post and reached out to me and now it’s officially featured on their blog, check it out: https://blog.simplehabitapp.com/2017/02/21/guest-blog-how-simple-habit-helps-me-overcome-my-anxiety/

This is how I battle my daily bouts – what tools do you use to slay anxiety? Tell me, I want to know!

Create Your Own Calm: 7 Steps to Building An Anxiety Reducing Playlist

We all have that one song that calms our nerves, makes us feel at peace. Sometimes, it can be an entire playlist. If you find yourself feeling extra anxious about anything, whether it’s that big meeting at work tomorrow, or just knowing you have to talk on the phone later, it’s important to find an outlet for that increased stress.

Personally, I’ve found that music can be a powerful tool to calm my anxiety. With my anxiety, I will ruminate on my thoughts for hours unless I do something to distract or refocus my mind, so music is a great way to accomplish that. Music not only absorbs our attention, it can help us to explore emotions we haven’t even paid attention to yet. It aids in meditation and helps to prevent the mind from wandering too far.

Too busy for it? Music can be played anywhere – whether it’s in the car on the drive to work (that can be a stressful time) or for me, poppin’ in some headphones and listening to my playlist while walking my furry friend. There’s no excuse for having no time – make time for your mental health.

If you don’t know where to start on this magical, musical journey; I’ll be your anxiety spirit guide. Let’s do this!

1. ADDRESS YOUR EMOTIONS

When you blast a beat as you’re cleaning your room or listen to an upbeat song during your morning routine or workout, you’re using music therapeutically without even realizing it. When we are thoughtful about the selection of our music, we can build a powerful playlist that combats stress, anxiety and depression while increasing motivation and evoking positive emotions.
To start the process, let’s talk about those emotions. Sometimes this can be a hard step. Personally, I’m very self aware with my own emotions or anxieties, but if you have trouble – don’t be hard on yourself. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you can, ask yourself:

 

What’s my current emotional state? Am I anxious, restless, or sad? 
 
How would I like to feel instead? 
 
With those questions in mind, you can gradually bring yourself to whatever state of mind you would like to achieve through music. You just need music that’s cathartic for your current mood and slowly guides you to your desired emotional state.

2. FEEL THAT FAMILIAR FUNK

Start combing through your own collection of music, whether that be your CDs (ha, I know these are obsolete by now, but who knows) records, iTunes, or the popular Spotify, to discover what genre or specific songs really resonate with you. Personally, I’ve been building my “Anxiety Playlist” for a few weeks now and whenever I stumble across a song, whether it be on a Spotify pre-made playlist or just through exploring, I immediately add it to my collection of calm. My favorite feel good song on my playlist happens to be “Why Should I Worry” by Billy Joel, and I’m not one bit ashamed of it. It’s one of my favorite Disney movies and it gives me a feeling of complete and total ease. Even hearing the words, why should I worry, gives me such a instant shock of relief and reality that my life is pretty great: why should I worry?

 

Memories, especially emotional ones, are stimulated by music and can transport us back in time instantly to the moment we experienced that specific song – and how it made us feel. Be aware of how songs make you feel and label them as happy, energizing, disturbing, etc. Most importantly, trust yourself and how you believe songs make you feel. Only you know what emotions you have and how to combat them, it’s all about finding that trust within yourself. Place different songs into categories according to your common moods like depressed, tired, anxious, stressed, and so on.

3. ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE

You know when your mom cranks up that country radio station and says, “you’ll love this song”? I love you mom, but I can guarantee you I won’t. If it doesn’t seep into your bones and feed your soul, don’t bother adding it to your playlist. You know what you like – explore your options and match those songs to different moods.

4. LET IT SPEAK TO YOUR SOUL

Music is the ultimate form of empathy. As humans, we’re constantly striving to be understood. This could explain why we enjoy music that’s relatable or that speaks to our soul. Certain lyrics of songs can validate our feelings and even provide comfort when they are suited to our current mood. For example, when you’re listening to sad music it actually causes your brain to produce the same neurochemical that’s released when you cry. This chemical, prolactin, helps to elicit feelings of comfort, which means that listening to a sad song when we feel depressed or down not only provides empathy, it’s causing our brains to begin the process of feeling better.

5. MATCH YOUR MOOD

Think about how you’re feeling right this minute. How fast are you moving? Is your heart racing? Are you feeling sluggish? Heavy? How fast are you breathing? There are many questions to consider before changing your mood with music. It can be easier to wade through matching your mood with the beat when you explore different musical elements such as tempo, volume, and harmony. Keep these things in mind when you’re creating your playlist. A great example is volume. If you are overstimulated and feel like you need to turn the world off, find a song with soft lyrics and instruments.

6. LOSE THE LYRICS

While I personally always attach myself to specific lyrics in song, I’ve found that songs without any lyrics have done wonders with my mood and anxiety. Lyrics leave a little less up to the imagination because someone else is telling the story. When lyrics are included in a song, our brain has to work even harder to process them. They could also stimulate more memories – good or bad. If you want to ease stress, allow your mind to wander without so intensely focusing on the music.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you’ve listened to a song and felt yourself on the edge of tears (Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra – every time) or motivated to run that extra mile, you know the power music can have on your emotions. When we make a conscious effort, music can provide emotional comfort during the struggles of anxiety and depression. We have a serious knack for picking songs that soothe and heal just for us, without thinking too much about it. Trust the way you feel because it’s real and it’s valid. 
 

Well kids, that’s my advice on the matter. The amazing article on Anxiety.com also seriously helped with the organization of this post, because sometimes I need help. Now, I’ll leave you with my very own Anxiety playlist. Enjoy:

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Anxiety Erica

Is there ever a good way to start these things? I’m Erica and I have to admit – I’ve started my share of blogs. Being a writer all my life, blogging is something that tends to come with the territory. I’ve always loved the notion that I could write out my emotions and feelings and potentially have some stranger relate to it.

A little over a year ago, I made the life-changing decision to start going to therapy. For what, I had almost no idea yet. Once I was settled into a really great therapist who I was comfortable with, it only took a few sessions for her to diagnose me with GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. While this may seem rather “general” from the name – believe me, it’s anything but. Up until that point, I hadn’t been handling life very well. I was overly anxious about anything and family matters were next to impossible to deal with. It was actually my father who encouraged me to take the leap into getting help. I made every excuse in the book: it was too expensive, what if I didn’t find a good therapist, or my personal favorite what if she thought I was crazy? Yes, because that’s exactly what therapists think every time they see a new patient, right? Once all those excuses were worn out, I took the journey, which I’m still currently on. Guess what? It was by far the best decision I could ever have made for myself. I was already slightly self-aware going into therapy, but once I arrived, I grew more and more.

I’ve learned so many amazing things from my thoughtful, beautiful soul of a therapist. I’ve been educated on how to say no to things that make me anxious, how to let go of control, and how to accept the flaws of my family – among other lessons. If I didn’t force myself to go down this path, who knows where I would be. Probably huddled in the corner of my parent’s room in the fetal position. I certainly wouldn’t be a Copywriter at a PR firm where I’m writing every day and working with an awesome group of girls, no sir. I wouldn’t be chillin’ with a beautiful, wonderful group of constant, supportive friends – nope. I wouldn’t be working on my family relationships in a consistent and healthy way, uh uh. Lastly, I wouldn’t have had a fantastic partner fall into my life, merely because I wouldn’t have been ready for him.

It’s all these things and more that have led me to this very moment. The moment where I begin this brand new journey. Anxiety Erica is just one part of me, but it’s brought me purpose, meaning and a whole community of magical people who are strong, brave fighters. The more we talk about mental health, the less stigma there is surrounding it. Through this blog, I hope to share my story with you all and if I help one, just one, person feel less alone, I’ll have accomplished my goal.

Let’s battle anxiety together, folks.