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How to Systematically Cure Your Anxiety

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s “The Emperor Has No Clothes” moments when you realize everyone’s feeling something…but nobody is saying it.

It happened when I finally got behind closed doors with my friends and we started telling the truth.

How many of us sit and stare at screens for over 8 hours/day?

How many of us focus almost exclusively on our careers and — if I asked you what new hobby you want to tackle this year — would have no idea what to do?

How many of us use stimulants to mask our exhaustion?

How many of us feel guilty or anxious when not working?

If you raised your hand to any of these questions, this post is for you.

Today, I’ve invited my friend Charlie Hoehn to share how he systematically cured his anxiety within one month. Charlie knows better than most people what it’s like to lose control of his work-life balance.

charlie

Charlie has done some cool stuff over the years. He helped Tim Ferriss edit and launch The 4-Hour Body, he was a cameraman on Tucker Max’s movie tour, and he developed the Negotiate It iPhone app with me. But Charlie had a tendency to work around the clock. He drank tons of coffee, pulled all-nighters, and never seemed to sleep. I remember seeing him at a marketing conference a few years ago, and he casually mentioned that he’d only slept six hours in three days.

Hmm…

At some point, Charlie burned out and became extremely anxious. None of his friends really knew what he was dealing with because he kept it to himself. It took a while, but he finally figured out how to pull himself out of his funk. And he did it without pharmaceuticals or expensive therapy.

Maintaining a work-life balance has always been a struggle, but now it’s harder than ever. Everyone is online and on their phones at all times. It’s impossible to fully disconnect from work, and we often forget to have fun and enjoy life. Charlie took a unique systematic approach to cure his anxiety AND manage his workaholism, which is why I asked him to share his story.

In fact, he’s going to reveal the exact steps he took. This post will show you how to heal your anxiety, in minimal time, and enjoy your life more… just by making simple changes to your daily routine.

This is important stuff. We talk about living a rich life, but very few people talk about the costs of being ultra-focused on success.

Charlie — take it away.

*  *  *  *  *

What if I told you that your anxiety – panic attacks, paranoia, all that scary stuff – could be cut in half, in less than one month? I know it’s possible, because I’ve done it. All you have to do is systematize a few key areas of your life.

These simple changes to your daily routine can transform your mental health. It won’t happen overnight, and the journey won’t always be easy. But if you stick with these changes for a few weeks, your sanity will be restored.

For many who suffer with anxiety, that means having your life back. It means freedom. For me, it meant being able to breathe, to love, and – most importantly – to laugh again.

Here’s how I did it…

System 1: Replace Bad Content with Happy/Healthy Content

It took me a long time to see it, but the news was my single biggest source of anxiety. The websites I was reading each day talked non-stop about crime, corruption, economic breakdown, and the end of the world.

As a result, my fear of being attacked spun out of control. I became obsessed with protecting myself from every possible threat to my livelihood. I researched what to do if I was arrested and thrown in jail. I spent hundreds of dollars on food and equipment that I hoped would save me in the event of a disaster.

A small sample of prepper equipment

There was nothing inherently wrong with preparing for an emergency, but obsessing over preposterous apocalyptic scenarios, every single day, for months on end? What an enormous waste of time and energy!

It finally dawned on me that my fear of an imaginary future was destroying my ability to enjoy the present.

And what planted those seeds of fear? The news.

When I made the commitment to cut the news out of my life completely, my anxiety plummeted in less than two weeks. The negative information I removed from my conscious awareness freed me from the confines of other people’s frightening narratives. I replaced the scary news with positive, joyful, and fun information.

For instance, I listened to uplifting songs and standup comedy albums. I watched funny and happy movies. I read fiction books that sparked my imagination, rather than workaholic business books that made me feel productive. It really helped. (Check out more of my favorite “anti-news” content)

Your brain is a lot like your digestive system — it requires a healthy diet in order to function properly. That means you need to be selective about what you feed your mind. And the sad truth is that the news is poison.

News outlets don’t really care about relevant information, facts, investigative reporting, biased agendas, or whether they’re poisoning their audience’s psyche. All they care about is numbers: page views, shares, and eyeballs for their advertisements. Even the “truth deliverers” and conspiracy websites play this game.

It’s an impossible undertaking to sort through their incessant distortion of reality, and you can never be sure if what you’re reading is true… But that’s not what this post is about. All I can say is that the news was making me afraid of the world. When I cut it out, I stopped being afraid. You are free to do the same.

How you can use this system: Cut anxiety-inducing information – especially the news – out of your daily routine completely! If your friends are watching the news in the same room, either change the channel or go do something else. If a scary headline appears in your Facebook feed, don’t click it – block it!

There’s absolutely no reason you need to subject yourself to unhealthy unrealities. Replace those unsettling thoughts with positive content that will lift you up. Otherwise, you will taint your thoughts, instill fear in your mind, and continually spoil the quality of your life.

System 2: Optimize Your Sleeping Conditions

Like I said, your brain is a lot like your digestive system. That means you need to give it adequate time to REST and DIGEST. And the best way to do that is by improving the quality of your sleep.

When I felt my worst, sleep just wasn’t a priority (not a coincidence). I worked around the clock, drank coffee all day, consumed junk food and alcohol late at night, and checked my bright cell phone screen while I was in bed. I pulled a lot of all-nighters and got used to falling asleep at late hours – usually around 3:00AM. Then I’d wake up a few hours later and do it all over again. And what a shock: I felt exhausted all the time. I was chronically in a severe sleep deficit, which took a major toll on my body.

During the month I cured my anxiety, I made getting consistent, quality sleep one of my highest priorities. First, I optimized my environment for ideal sleep. Here are the changes I made:

  • Plug in cell phone charger faaaaar away from bed. It’s extremely tempting to use your cell phone or laptop while you’re lying in bed (the internet is open 24 hours a day!), but this seriously screws up your sleep. The biggest problem with looking at screens late at night is that it’s an unnatural source of bright light. Even if your screen is on the lowest brightness setting, it’s still tricking your mind into staying awake. The best way to prevent yourself from checking screens late at night is by setting up a little barrier. For me, that meant plugging my cell phone charger in an outlet faaaaaar away from my bedroom, so I had to get up and take a long walk in order to check it. That proved to be a big enough hurdle to stop me from checking text messages and email late at night.
  • Cover all sources of light. When I was in high school, I covered my bedroom windows with two layers of aluminum foil and black construction paper. My room was pitch black, and I slept amazing every night. Eliminate or cover up every single source of light in your room — including digital clocks and that little green light on smoke detectors — so you can’t see anything. Then wear a sleep mask.
  • Lower the temperature to 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooler your room, the better. Sleep in less clothing to prevent overheating during the night.
  • Install Flux on computer. Is the bright white light of your computer screen keeping you awake night? This free app will automatically change the hue of your computer screen to a sunset-like amber. Highly recommended.

Next, I had to make a few tweaks to my daily routine. It took several nights to adjust, but within a week, I was sleeping like a champion:

  • 5:00 PM — No more caffeine, aspartame, or alcohol. If you’re drinking coffee, energy drinks, or diet sodas after 5pm, then you’re making it much harder for your body to wind down. Those stimulants remain in your blood stream for several hours and keep your energy up. Cut them out. Also, you might think your evening glass of wine is helping you relax and feel sleepy. The reality is that it’s disrupting your deep sleep. The safe bet is to just drink water after 5pm.
  • 9:00 PM — No more screens. If you truly want to get your anxiety under control, you’re going to need to do something very difficult… You’re going to have to stop looking at ALL screens — cell phones, laptops, TV’s — after 9:00 pm. I know, it’s crazy. But it works. It takes a lot of discipline to stop looking at screens, so I use the Commit app ($2.99) to remind me to put my cell phone away at 9pm.

  • 10:00 PM — Get ready for bed! Every night at exactly 10:00 pm, I’d start getting ready for bed. I’d stop whatever I was doing, hit the bathroom, brush my teeth, and change out of my day clothes. I was dead serious about this rule. Even if I was in the middle of a conversation or near the end of a great movie, I’d abruptly get up and walk to the bathroom. After I finished getting ready, I’d climb in bed to read fiction for 15 minutes, and then I’d turn off the lights and focus on the rhythm of my breath until I fell asleep.

How you can use this system: All of the suggestions above will help you wind down earlier, but the key is getting ready at the same time every night. That’s what sets you in motion toward actually getting in bed, and ultimately re-trains your body to crave sleep at a reasonable hour.

If you take your bedtime seriously, you can get back into a steady sleep routine within a week.

System 3: Guilt-Free Play, Every Day

Exercise is a proven way to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. But what’s the best type of exercise?

Running on the treadmill for an hour?

Doing hundreds of sit-ups?

Self-inflicted torture via P90X?

How about ‘None of the Above.’ All of those activities are lame and miserable. People only do them because they think getting in shape has to be a punishment.

Exercise doesn’t have to feel like work; it can be play (i.e. physical movement that gets your heart pumping, causes you to sweat, and is legitimately fun for you and your friends).

In my experience, the best forms of anxiety-reducing play are outdoor sports. They are social (more than one person is required), mildly competitive, and cause everyone to break a sweat in the fresh air and sunshine (getting 20-minutes of sunlight does your body good). However, any fun play activity that you can do on a regular basis with your friends should work.

Each day, I set aside a minimum of 20-minutes to do one of my favorite play activities. I actually scheduled a recurring daily event in my calendar called Play! I started taking frequent trips to the park with an Aerobie Flying Ring — a flat rubber disc that flies really fast. The Aerobie was perfect for playing catch because I had to call up a friend to join me, and we’d both end up running around while chasing it.

I also played homerun derby with my friend Tucker Max on the weekend, took trips to the driving range, did an hour of circuit training a few times each week, and signed up for improv comedy classes (3 hours every Monday).

How you can use this system: Make Play part of your daily routine. Schedule 20-minutes of Play in your calendar (that’s only 1.3% of your day!) so you’re regularly having guilt-free fun doing an activity you love, with people you enjoy.

Oh, and one more thing… GET OFF YOUR PHONE.

How often do you see people doing this while they’re supposed to be having fun with friends?

If you truly want to get your anxiety under control, you need to disconnect. If the lure of the internet is too tempting, just turn your cell phone OFF. I know it’s fun to share your life, but social media is destructive when it’s compulsively used to gloss over how lonely and insecure you feel. Stop trying to convince everyone on Instagram that you have a wonderful life. Face the fact that you don’t, then go play so you can make it better.

System 4: Protein + Vegetable + Healthy Side, for Every Meal

When I was at the height of my anxiety, I was regularly eating foods that I knew were toxic on a daily basis — fast food, junk food, ice cream, pizza, alcohol… But I didn’t care. I was just so desperate for quick and easy forms of comfort, even though they ultimately made me feel worse. The food highs disappeared as quickly as they came, and I’d run off to find another stimulant to numb my bad feelings.

Then I swung in the complete opposite direction, and got ridiculously rigid about my diet. I would only eat vegetables and fruits. The result? I lost 25 pounds, and felt lethargic and depressed.

It took a while for me to get back in a healthy eating routine. What helped me most was copying my healthy friends’ eating habits. I just studied what healthy people ate, and then I copied them. After a few weeks of regularly emulating the routines of my healthiest friends, I was feeling and looking vigorous again.

Here’s the eating regimen I eventually settled on. I still eat this way now, and I feel great:

MORNING — 8:00 AM

  • Skip breakfast. Drink up to 1/2 cup of coffee, no more than that (too much caffeine is bad news for anxious people)
  • Take Vitamin B and fish oil. These are vital nutrients that your brain needs to function properly, and they’re depleted when you’re stressed out for long periods of time. I started taking both of these at the same time, and it took about a week and a half before my mind felt noticeably calmer and lighter.

AFTERNOON — 12:00 PM

Lunch is comprised of three ingredients: (1) Protein + (1) Vegetable + (1) Healthy Side. It’s basically a variation of the Paleo diet. These are the foods I most frequently eat:

  • PROTEIN: Grass-fed beef, free range chicken, cage free pastured eggs, wild Alaskan salmon
  • VEGETABLE: Kale, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, bok choy
  • HEALTHY SIDE: Avocado, almonds, blueberries, cherries, black beans, sauerkraut, sweet potatoes

I frequently assemble my lunch at Whole Foods’ salad bar (bit expensive, I know, but my compliance for sticking to my diet when eating at WF is 100%). I also eat gluten-free Thai dishes (meat and vegetables) and occasionally have Chipotle’s burrito bowl with fajita mix and steak (no rice, no queso).

For drinks, I only have water. No beer, no diet sodas (aspartame is poison), no fruit juice or beverages containing milk. Just water.

Notes: Have as much of the one protein and one vegetable as you want. Limit the quantity of your healthy side to one handful. Eat until you’re full. Cook and eat with plenty of KerryGold Irish butter (healthy source of fat).

Foods that are NOT allowed: No bread, crackers, pasta, rice, fried foods, fast food, pizza, chips, popcorn, candy, ice cream, soda, beer… Basically anything that’s made of wheat, sugar, or chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce

(If you prefer to have more leeway to cheat, follow Tim Ferriss’ highly effective Slow Carb Diet — it’s another variation of Paleo eating, which helped both of my parents lose 20+ pounds of fat in one month).

EVENING — 7:00 PM

Same rules as lunch: (1) Protein  + (1) Vegetable + (1) Healthy Side. Eat with a healthy source of fat, like KerryGold butter. Drink water.

That’s it! Just two big meals per day — three ingredients — at noon and 7pm.

Pretty simple, right?

How you can use this system: Try eating this way — protein, vegetable, healthy side — at lunch and dinner for the next two weeks. Assess how you feel at the end of each week.

Don’t chastise yourself if you break the rules and have some junk food every now and then. You’re just trying to get in the habit of eating healthy meals, while cutting most of the toxic crap out of your diet. Your transition to a healthier diet should be gradual and forgiving, rather than abrupt and perfect (which is impossible).

*  *  *  *  *

Final Thoughts

Anxiety builds up slowly over time, little by little each day, until it becomes a glaring problem. It’s not going to disappear overnight, but it can evaporate if you focus on making your life a little bit better every day. And the way you do that is by setting up systems that work in your favor.

Systems are what get you in a healthy routine, while eliminating options that are making you feel worse (e.g. the news, unhealthy food, checking screens late at night).

Don’t expect to be back to normal overnight (you won’t). And don’t expect to do everything perfectly (you won’t). Just set up these four simple systems:

  1. No news
  2. Quality sleep
  3. Daily play
  4. Healthy meals @ 12p and 7p

*  *  *  *  *

Sign up for Charlie’s free course: Heal Your Anxiety in 10 Days.

He’ll send you exclusive videos on how he rapidly reduced his anxiety, along with a bunch of other tips from his new book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety.

 

 

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cam
cam
2 years 6 months ago
As one of the first commentators, I’m so glad I didn’t have to scroll past a million: ‘You shouldn’t skip breakfast!!! Don’t you know it’s the most important meal of the day – makes you 94.567% smarter, yadda yadda yadda!!’ [Betting loads of people will still feel the need to say it though, sigh]. Anyway, I’ve just downloaded flux and LOVE it. It’s so awesome for anyone who works into the night. I feel sleepier already – can’t believe the difference it’s actually made!! On another note, I would have been interested to hear your thoughts on addressing the mental… Read more »
helen
helen
2 years 6 months ago

I would be interested in the answer to this too.

I’ve managed to get some major general and social anxiety under control with tons of different methods over the course of a decade. One of the big themes that emerged was play and learning to enjoy frivolous activities again. So seeing Charlie write about his book about play excited me. It does however seem focused on tackling anxiety amongst workaholics fairly exclusively, although his methods are still useful for non-workaholics too. Would be interested to see if the book does go beyond workaholics though…

Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago
Hey Cam, thanks for the nice comment! Great question (dealing with situations you can’t tune out). The biggest thing that’s helped for me is regularly doing fun play activities — outdoor sports, improv — with the same group of friends. In other words, PRACTICING being social and having guilt-free fun with cool people, without the use of alcohol or drugs. I also wrote about this in the book (chapters on playing away panic attacks, practicing observing thoughts, releasing frustration, etc.) Most anxious people are too shy / embarrassed / scared to put themselves out there willingly, so I’d suggest spending… Read more »
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Oh, and the book isn’t only for workaholics. That’s just the group that needs it the most.

Can
Can
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks for the interesting reply Charlie. I like the tip about committing $ to an activity where u have put yourself out there. Useful.

Jaroslav
Jaroslav
2 years 6 months ago
I have quite a similar regime. Diet: I’m also not a strict Paleo follower, I like the PHD variation http://perfecthealthdiet.com/the-diet/ White rice is ok. I also have occasional pasta with bolognese sauce. If you live in UK beef and lamb are pasture raised, so just pick one of those 3 for 10£ deals, I would skip on pork though. Preferably eat more chicken,turkey,fish than red meat. Fry everything with olive oil,butter or if you can afford coconut oil. Vegetables, do not forget them! 1. Frozen are good, just reheat them in the microwave, I sprinkle some mint on mine for… Read more »
Emily
Emily
2 years 6 months ago

Charlie,

Wow, what a great, comprehensive post. I completely relate with you on watching the news being a depressant; I could not stand all of the end-of-the-world and shocking stories of violence and evil that’s out there. I started listening to positive podcasts and audiobooks instead, and it has made a huge difference. The celebrity/gossip nonsense is enough to feel depressing as well.

Overall, fantastic job, and I appreciate that you went to great lengths to detail the information out instead of a quick “10 tips for better health” or something simple such as that.

Emily Jones

http://www.growaleader.com

Malcolm
Malcolm
2 years 6 months ago
Correction about alcohol and sleep: you said that “[alcohol] is disrupting your deep sleep. ” The article linked below, however, states “A review of all known scientific studies on the impact of drinking on nocturnal sleep has clarified that alcohol shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, increases deep sleep, and reduces REM sleep.” Deep sleep is most common in the early part of the night, and REM later on, which means that if you have only one drink, it will likely have worn off by the time you even get to much REM sleep. If you have lots… Read more »
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Sweet, thank you Malcolm. Good insight.

Ted
Ted
2 years 6 months ago

Love the improv class recommendation for having fun. I’ve been taking one for two months. It’s not only fun but has helped me be less anxious about social situations and connecting with people. It’s like a 2-for-1 special for reducing anxiety.

Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Agreed, 100%!! That’s what I was trying to say above, not sure if I accomplished it. But improv is great because it regularly exposes anxious people to one of their worst fears — looking really stupid in front of a group. That fear gets completely destroyed, it’s great.

ruo
ruo
2 years 6 months ago

Hi Ted, I did the same thing: i tried improv last summer for 6 weeks. It was so hard in class and getting there mentally. But everytime, I’d leave class feeling so free. I was like giving my brain a break from thinking so hard.

Aiden
Aiden
2 years 6 months ago
Great post Charlie. I’m really surprised there was no mention of meditation – have you tried it and not found it useful? For me, it’s been key to dissipating a lot of work related and personal tension, and given me a deeper perspective on many issues of my life and the thoughts/emotions associated with them. I don’t do anything fancy – 20 minutes in the morning and 10 before bed, both focusing on my breath – but it is a game changer for me and I can notice a host of negative emotions on days that I skip the morning… Read more »
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago
Hey Aiden, thanks for this. I’m a big fan of meditating and talk about it extensively in the book as a great technique I used. It worked well for me, and I considered including it in this post. But I wanted to be selective and not completely overwhelm the reader with a ton of suggestions. Meditating can actually be a frustrating activity for an anxious workaholic, because we tend to approach it with the wrong mindset (“I’m not doing this properly, I suck at this, my thoughts aren’t perfect or silent, time to check email”) so it’s not very relaxing… Read more »
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

P.S. I like the Do Nothing approach (even though it’s technically doing something). You can combine the two and just focus on your breath at all times (this is what yogis do). That way, you’re less worried about each moment and you’re just living.

LAMusing
LAMusing
2 years 6 months ago
Early last year I realized the news was making me anxious and depressed, so I cut it out completely for a month to see if it helped. WOW did it ever! So I kept at it – eventually allowing myself to scan the headlines only once a week, and only on one news site. I still avoid television news and newspapers. I only clicked headlines to read the article on ones that really could impact me (such as Affordale Care Act info, coming storms in my area, etc) and any article that appeared to be funny and/or upbeat. I HIGHLY… Read more »
Ellen Greenlaw
Ellen Greenlaw
2 years 6 months ago
Eliminating “news” is a wonderful idea. Not much there to help anybody be an informed, educated citizen active in her community. Would be helpful to suggest reliable sources of information to get accurate, realistic information about what is happening. I am disabled and need to be informed about what social services is doing (or not doing or cutting back) because I need their help. In my community, if I find someone interested in having a loving, caring community- and there are lots- I ask them where they get the straight skinny real life information. Great way to find out what… Read more »
Mel @ brokeGIRLrich
Mel @ brokeGIRLrich
2 years 6 months ago

I’ve actually struggled with anxiety for years and really appreciate when people write down detailed steps to what they did to make it better for them. I’ve never really tried adjusting my diet, although so many people recommend it. Maybe it’s time.

Alicia
Alicia
2 years 6 months ago

I don’t suffer from anxiety much, but these are all great systems for a healthier life. Thanks Ramit and Charlie!

louise
louise
2 years 6 months ago

Just fabulous, all of it 🙂 and btw Flux is totally awesome, I just tried it out. Thanks for the tips!

Minhaj
Minhaj
2 years 6 months ago

Great article! The same thing happened to me also. I was used to sleep late at night. I wake up with Headache, anxiety and feeling bad.

Thank you Charlie for your helpful tips. I should have to follow your tips from now to keep my health good.

I want to add another tips that i found helped me. when I got anxious I take some deep breaths and meditate myself for sometime. That heal my mind and alleviate my anxiety.

Also I am going to subscribe for Charlie’s free course.

Thanks.

Stella
Stella
2 years 6 months ago
These are fine suggestions, for some people. But to present them as effective for everyone or as sufficient to cure anxiety, which is an actual DSM recognized disorder, is irresponsible. For someone with diagnosable or chronic anxiety, these ‘fixes’ are not going to solve anything. They may be helpful for someone like the author, with situational anxiety due to stress. But a combination of clinically proven programs like MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction), medication, and therapy are probably going to be needed for most other people. Lifestyle and at-home remedies can only go so far. The overall tone of the… Read more »
Ian
Ian
2 years 6 months ago

Can’t agree more with you Stella.

Eric
Eric
2 years 6 months ago

There’s a critic in every group.

Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks for your feedback Stella. Didn’t mean to come across as arrogant; I understand what worked for me might not work for everybody.

Sara
Sara
2 years 6 months ago
Although there are certainly some good points here you lost me at, “my friend Trucker Max.” Why name drop someone who is purposefully cruel and hateful towards women? Sure, he has his audience and they love him but if you are trying to market a “treat your own anxiety” e-course maybe it would be best not to mention someone who is so controversial. I would also like to add that I am disappointed in Ramit for this. You wouldn’t brag about a friendship with a proud misogynist, so why are you letting someone else do such a thing on your… Read more »
Sara
Sara
2 years 6 months ago

oops, that was not meant to be a reply t this. Oh well.

Andrew Walsh
Andrew Walsh
2 years 6 months ago
Great post, and tons to think about! I personally love reading the news to stay informed about world happenings and even practice the languages I’m learning, but in order to keep your sanity it’s necessary to build a system for that as well. For example, maybe you’d cut out the local news outlet that tends to be sensationalist and apocalyptic, but instead subscribe to the blogs of a handful of columnists who you know write insightful, intelligent stuff (they are out there.) Personally I consume my news through email newsletters and I filter them all to a special gmail folder… Read more »
Cindy
Cindy
2 years 6 months ago
Good article (coming from a counselor) – I hope your readers appreciate this information and share it…it is right on target for general anxiety…I do want to note that ALL anxieties will be helped by following these guidelines. Anxiety that is related to PTSD can be immensely helped by the methods shared in the article, but may have to have some targeted intervention to reframe the traumatic memories into a neutral “storyline” to be fully resolved. And it was interesting to note that someone who had achieved so much had fallen prey to anxiety – but as with all your… Read more »
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks so much Cindy 🙂

Yash
Yash
2 years 6 months ago

It’s great that you mentioned PTSD, Cindy.

For those who have more severe/debilitating/entrenched anxiety & want to step it up a bit (the recovery, not the anxiety) check out Dr David Berceli ‘s Trauma/Tension Releasing Exercises. First hit on YouTube. 🙂

In fact, I think you’ll find it interesting too, Charlie. Loved your talk on Paleocon.

Ian
Ian
2 years 6 months ago
Well, I have a few issues with this article. Of course, having a good daily routine as suggested by Charlie in his post, does help a lot. Sleep, food and exercise are fundamental aspects of one’s mental health. BUT coping with anxiety is much more than just having a stable, active, healthy daily routine. You can’t go around claiming that “…your anxiety – panic attacks, paranoia, all that scary stuff – could be cut in half, in less than one month?” without any other evidence than ” I know it’s possible, because I’ve done it. ” That’s not just irresponsible,… Read more »
Eric
Eric
2 years 6 months ago

Ian, how are your results going with this particular plan? Are these suggestions working for you?

Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks Ian. Maybe my word choice was a bit too strong, and hope my advice isn’t dismissed because I was too enthusiastic.

What’s worked well for you while overcoming your anxiety? Have you had a chance to try my suggestions for an extended period of time? Results?

Lindsey
Lindsey
2 years 6 months ago
I agree with you, I’m also disappointed – it’s an all-around terrible post, and I’m surprised it would be posted here. It’s nice in concept, eat and sleep and exercise and you’ll feel better – but none of it researched. Especially “don’t eat breakfast” – that’s a good way to have fluctuating blood sugar levels and feel super crappy all day. Advice on diet, sleep, mental disorders – there are plenty of doctors and nutritionists who can help, and have published many great resources – but they’re getting harder and harder to find when everyone thinks they have expert advice… Read more »
PJ Mann
PJ Mann
2 years 6 months ago

Love your articles and desire to help…There is an established connection between the use of computer screens and depression that has widespread studies done…Also the dependency on screens is really scary…

P

Robyn
Robyn
2 years 6 months ago
Great advice! Systems and habit create the structure so people can relax, as I learned when my kids went to Waldorf kindergarten. One thing I would add: a small breakfast of a protein (egg) + veg (kale) + healthy side (avocado), a la the Japanese, keeps your blood sugar balanced after a night of good sleep, so you’re not hungry enough to eat your desk (or a whole super size chocolate bar) by lunch time. Also, a minute of measured breathing and a big glass of water can help with cravings until you can get to play or sleep breaks.… Read more »
Eric
Eric
2 years 6 months ago
As to Ramit’s introduction, I think I discovered one of the “everybody’s feeling” issues. It’s quite simple. We all want to feel important, or at the very least, potent to command our lives in some way. Some of us are over driven by work, others look to hold their lotto ticket like a figurative lightning rod in a storm, hoping to be struck down by an improbable benevolence. Others crumble under the weight of helplessness and despair. Still others insist on criticizing the work of others, since the criticizer can seldom offer any value on their own. This article is… Read more »
Cam
Cam
2 years 6 months ago
Exactly. Who would reasonably expect a post to contain a one size fits all solution to an issue that’s complex. And since when can’t one person share what worked for them, in their unique situation? I’m sure there are many who will find value in these suggestions and by implementing one or two start on the path to less anxiety- which is a step forward (anxious people can stay immobilised by faulty perfectionist thinking, so surely any positive improvement is worthwhile). There’s nothing wrong with constructive debate, but why not try to see the value, not pick out the faults?
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 6 months ago

Interesting point, but I don’t think we should believe everything we read either. We need to be critical thinkers, and there needs to be questioning and debate around important topics.

I thought this article was interesting, but I can see how people were put off by the unrealistic claim in the introduction. Writers have a responsibility to be truthful and accurate — the burden of proof is on the one making the claim, not the audience.

Ambrose WB
Ambrose WB
2 years 6 months ago

Great read. There’s a lot of good stuff here. The one tip that I’m struggling w/ right now is the “no news” tips. Mostly…because I know it works. But I’ve recently taken on a new project that asks me to look in the face of the “bad” stuff, or perceived bad stuff going on around us. It’s my aim to be a “truth delivery” that is able to cut through the bullshit to find a silver lining, but at the same time….realize there’s some bullshit out there. I guess the take away is that we all have a choice. Thanks.

Deborah
Deborah
2 years 6 months ago

I’d add meditation to the list. Numerous studies have been conducted that demonstrates its affects in reducing anxiety, plus it improves health in myriad ways (lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol fewer cardiac events, stronger immune system, to name a few) and enhances attention, innovativeness, ability to navigate uncertainty, resilience and emotional intelligence. You can learn more about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of meditation in this series of articles I wrote for MBA applicants here:

http://poetsandquants.com/2012/08/02/train-your-mind-improve-your-game-meditation-for-the-21st-century-leader/4/

http://poetsandquants.com/2012/08/16/meditation-for-mbas-train-your-mind-improve-your-game-part-ii/

http://poetsandquants.com/2012/09/01/meditation-for-mbas-train-your-mind-improve-your-game-part-iii/

and you can learn more about meditation here: http://www.insightadmissions.com/conscious_leadership/

Mariana
Mariana
2 years 6 months ago
A few things came to mind while reading this article. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ‘cut out news’ part – I’d have to quit my job! And I was surprised by the ‘skip breakfast’ part. We’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s interesting to read the contradiction to it. Personally I enjoy spending the time in the morning taking in the day over a bowl of Sultana Bran, so whether or not it’s healthier to skip it, it’s a part of my daily routine that I feel helps with… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
2 years 6 months ago
Great article, and excited to discover flux. I get 8 hours of sleep a night, but I tend to stay up late and sleep in late (at least according to the standard 9-5 work day). My entire life I’ve found that my brain is more “on” in the afternoon and evening, so I prefer to work within that time frame. At times I feel pressured to change it because it’s not the norm, and I wonder if you have any thoughts on that Charlie? I should also add that where many people like early mornings because it is a quiet… Read more »
Sebbie
Sebbie
2 years 6 months ago

I gave up facebook on Jan 1st and immediately felt great benefits from this. To build on that, I was just about to start reducing the news to zero and curating my daily diet of information to work/interest-related posts at a reasonably frequency. Glad to hear it worked for Charlie, here’s hoping it will work for me 🙂

Just installed flux… thanks for the tip! I’ve felt in need of an electronic sunset for a while.

Dan Cardenas
Dan Cardenas
2 years 6 months ago

Great post! Reading non-fiction can definitely wind the brain down and help you relax before going to bed.

Valerie
Valerie
2 years 6 months ago

I cannot believe you would recommend not eating breakfast. There are studies that show eating breakfast might even be associated with lower BMIs (for example http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23512957). Also, when I dont eat breakfast I just have a “low” all morning! Believe me, I didnt eat breakfast at all for a few years and now completely regret it.

Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago

Interesting, thanks Valerie. My experience with only eating for 8 hours of the day (intermittent fasting) has been really positive. There’s a lot of research backing up the benefits of IF, as well:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434759

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/1/7.full

http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877(06)00089-2/abstract

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[…] I Will Teach You to be Rich: “How to Systematically Heal Your Anxiety” […]

Andy
Andy
2 years 6 months ago
I liked the post Charlie. I have avoided news and skipped breakfast for ages and even used Flux. For me leaving a stressful job and seperating alcohol and social media are probably greater in their impact. I fail to understand the tone of some comments – in terms of research, there is loads. Tom Rath’s excellent book “Eat, Move, Sleep” cites sources (I’ve not read yours yet Charlie so I don’t know). Being committed to making changes in your life for a sustained period of several weeks is very likely going to make a difference. I’m glad you feel better… Read more »
Alex
Alex
2 years 6 months ago
Fresh-baked bread is the most delicious food in the world!!!! Take it away from me and you’ll see what REAL ANXIETY looks like!!! Besides, i don’t believe that anxiety could be related to a slice of bread or a home-made milk shake. Personally, i find Tim Ferriss’ diet really depressing. I’m absolutely against junk food and in favour of healthy food, exercise, good sleeping, meditation…you name it but when i start hearing: “NO BREAKFAST, NO BREAD, NO PASTA, NO RICE, NO MILK, NO THIS, NO THAT…”, i smell BS. Enjoying tasty food is one of the best pleasures in life.… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
2 years 6 months ago

Please educate yourself more in gluten,wheat,and GMO to name a few.All very much related to anxiaty ,depression and neurological disorders.Because you find Something depressing, that doesnt make it bad.Author is right with his diet recommendations.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 6 months ago

Some foods can certainly cause anxiety and other symptoms if you’re allergic, intolerant or sensitive to them — but that doesn’t make them “evil”. I can’t have dairy, but that doesn’t mean no one should have dairy ever. Some people are sensitive or intolerant to only one grain, so they’re “throwing the baby out with the bath water” by going gluten-free or grain-free.

Responses to food are so individual. One of the best things I did for my health was get my food issues identified by an allergist.

Eric
Eric
2 years 6 months ago

It’s very interesting that giving these foods up will cause you anxiety. That effect sounds like withdrawal symptoms from breaking an addiction, doesn’t it? Does that suggest anything to you?

Layla@Touch of Feathers
Layla@Touch of Feathers
2 years 6 months ago
Alex, LOL!! 🙂 Of course, if you’re healthy, you can keep the bread and spaghetti! I agree with Elizabeth that different people are sensitive/intolerant/allergic to different foods. Yes, wheat is over-sprayed, GMO’s are evil, some grains can be tolerated even by people intolerant to wheat or corn (buckwheat or amaranth anyone?) Breakfast is important too, probably better to have 2 healthy meals than 1 unhealthy though. (I was told that only one meal per day can cause diabetes.) Paleo diet can have its drawbacks too, long term… (there is info and testimonials on that online, it’s good to do some… Read more »
Craig
Craig
2 years 6 months ago

maybe bread is a great food for you to eat but… my experience is that I reduced my wheat intake alot (along with other diet changes) and my anxiety and mood is greatly improved.

Dan
Dan
2 years 6 months ago
Jennifer put her finger on exactly what is wrong with much of this article. Having a healthier lifestyle is old news, and will not help people much with real anxiety disorders. “Most of my friends are deeply politically active so I sometimes feel guilty that I’m shirking my responsibility as a citizen if I cut out news, but I resist the guilt in favor of peace of mind that actually allows me to be more effective and helpful.” Actually, you should feel guilty; you are shirking your responsibility as a citizen in a crumbling democracy. The news is depressing because… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
2 years 6 months ago

“Actually, you should feel guilty; you are shirking your responsibility as a citizen in a crumbling democracy….Rather than doing the work to become politically active to actually change the world, we lobotomize ourselves by tuning out the world and wrapping ourselves in a little cocoon to make ourselves feel better.”

HAHAHA WOW that’s like pure, unadulterated truth right there. If only more people could say that straight to our faces instead of being “do your own thing to be happy” BS.

ERIC
ERIC
2 years 6 months ago
New Age hocus pocus? Well, you DID come here to read the article. I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with the concept of responsible citizenship versus worrying only about things I can influence. The trouble is that our sources of info, the news, are highly filtered and attuned for paranoia and ratings, while providing no insightful analysis whatsoever. Why watch the news when it is no help and designed for paranoia? You really need to dig for alternate information sources, and even then you often can’t tell the provenance of their info. So you do the best you can.
Charlie Hoehn
Charlie Hoehn
2 years 6 months ago
Hey guys, good discussion. A few more thoughts… I disagree that people are tuning out. I think the opposite is true — they’re hyper-connected to a constant stream of noise that has little or no actual bearing on how to live a better life, or be a better citizen. If you really think it’s your civic duty to tune into what the mass media is telling you about world affairs, then you’re not only overlooking their incentives (ad money), you’re also romanticizing reality. News outlets do not have a financial interest to deliver truth! Most individual journalists will try, but… Read more »
Layla@Touch of Feathers
Layla@Touch of Feathers
2 years 6 months ago

hmm… There needs to be a balance between ‘information’ and ‘overwhelm’ – some suggest not watching the news early in the morning or before sleep, or if hungry or already overwhelmed…. Everyone needs to find a balance… I agree that knowing nothing can be like an ostrich with head in the sand, on the other hand being paralyzed by anxiety is another extreme, so in these extreme cases maybe cutting it out can help, then people can get some info in small doses later…

Bob
Bob
2 years 6 months ago

Great Post. I think many people underestimate the power of a good diet. I eat mostly vegan, but sometimes cheat on the weekends, and i always feel like crap on Monday. Same with unplugging. It seems like a harmless quick glance at your phone, but it has way more impact for other people hoping for your attention (especially kids). Thanks for the quick summary and tips.

Daniella Renee
Daniella Renee
2 years 6 months ago
You had me when I saw Ratatouille on your Anti-News board. There’s a line from an article about Da Vinci that’s stuck with me ever since I read it. His creativity and innovations were due in large part to his unceasing curiosity and willingness to maintain a childlike sense of awe and wonderment. It’s easy to get caught up in business books/blogs/articles/news/stock quotes…EGADS. But, stand-up comedy, Pixar movies and Ramit’s favorite, trashy reality TV, all serve an important purpose (well, some may disagree on the reality TV but everyone has their own form of anti-news content). It’s called work hard,… Read more »
Ragnar
Ragnar
2 years 6 months ago
Heads up: The landing page doesn’t work for me it says “This Web Page was built and hosted with InstaPage,but no longer exists.” Might want to look into that. Great post. I’m lucky enough to have dismissed the news years ago when I was teenager because I noticed that all it did was make me feel frustrated and powerless. But thanks for reminding me to restart my healthy eating efforts, and to get out there and have more fun. I definitely need to put some systems in place for the latter because that’s something I’ve never managed to maintain long… Read more »
Ragnar
Ragnar
2 years 6 months ago

So I wrote this a while ago and forgot to publish. The landing page loaded now although rather slowly.

Jane
Jane
2 years 6 months ago
Charlie, Your “skip the news” idea is music to my ears. I never read the news (save for a quick scroll through the WSJ or Dealbook every now and then, or to watch a favorite commentator on TV at my parent’s), though a number of my friends are true junkies — news apps galore on their phone, texting each other constantly with things like, “OMG, did you hear [person] did [thing]?!?” a few times a day. I’ve even heard people say they’re in a bout of “depression” over the things they read/see/hear in the news each day. It’s absolutely maddening!… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
2 years 6 months ago

Charlie, I am curious – what is your take on people watching sensationalized TV like reality shows, american idol, jersey shore, etc? People I speak with say they like to “tune out” and watch shows like that, but in my mind they are on the same level of sensational as the news, churning out endless drama and conflict and yet people seem to embrace that kind of television programming.

Jenn
Jenn
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks Ramit for sending the link for this post to my email. Really really appreciate that. And Chris – great job on turning your life around systematically. Love your straightforward way of writing, and the detailed links. Thank you!

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[…] But we’re just hurting ourselves when we let such stimuli run rampant in our minds, aren’t we? How does one slowly climb back up from the fall? New York Times bestselling author Ramit Sethi explains exactly how to do this in his article, “How to Systematically Cure Your Anxiety.” […]

Marie Torres
Marie Torres
2 years 6 months ago

Great tips! Here’s my thought, the best way to deal with anxiety is to treat it as opportunity. An opportunity to retrospect your habit, to pause,to relax and to go deeper not faster. We are living in a fast-changing world where the evolution of things around us affects our lifestyle consciously and unconsciously. In order for us to live in harmony, we should learn to train our brain to think only good thoughts and yes it needs practice but I believe if you give it a chance, the mind really will follow the body.

Sabrina
Sabrina
2 years 6 months ago
Full disclosure: Yes, I am a journalist. Yes, I am biased to defend my peers and the value of my field. And yes, I will admit it. That said, Charlie, you lost me by painting all of journalism with the same brush. Particularly what you said in this comment: News outlets do not have a financial interest to deliver truth! Most individual journalists will try, but anyone who’s worked for a high-churn online news site (that’s all of them now) will tell you that they can’t afford to care much about fact checking, biased agendas, or whether they’re poisoning their… Read more »
Cody Wheeler
Cody Wheeler
2 years 6 months ago

Thank you Charlie for writing this, and Ramit for hosting this article. I often suffer from anxiety from working too much, among other things.

Just bought your book on Amazon. I’m looking forward to digging into it at the park this afternoon 🙂

Charlie – Do you have material beyond the book I can check out? I’d like to become more educated on this topic.

By the way – Charlie was my late grandfather’s name. He was a great man, so, good on ya for that!

Olga
Olga
2 years 6 months ago

This is great advice, up until the part about two meals a day. If I don’t eat breakfast I get hangry. It throws my whole day off and I end up snacking on whatever the whole day. I recently realized that this was the culprit for my oversnacking and, since then, I’ve been doing much better.

But excellent advice nonetheless!

Megan
Megan
2 years 6 months ago
I had an aha! moment in the ‘no news’ section, not because news in particular makes me anxious, personally (I only get my news from the Daily Show, so it’s funny yet still put in context). No, my anxiety stems from the whole ‘fear of an imaginary future’ as it stems from reading blogs tangentially related to my field. I want to freelance, but the information overload has left me preparing for too many possible futures and then I get anxious because I can’t do everything and I don’t know what’s the most important. So my imaginary futures aren’t news-created… Read more »
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[…] Fantastic posts from Charlie Hoehn related to his new book, Play it Away: Preventing Burnout: A Cautionary Tale, How to Cure Anxiety — One Workaholic’s Story, Six Techniques That Work and How to Systematically Cure Your Anxiety […]

Veronica
Veronica
2 years 6 months ago

Hey guys,

I highly recommend dancing for a group activity! I joined a dance studio last fall as an alternative to the gym (I’ve always hated it and wasn’t going) and group salsa classes are great! Usually, studios offer discounts if you sign up for 3 months at a time, for example, so there’s a built-in accountability, without the year-long gym commitment. It’s a ton of fun, you form a community with the ‘regulars’, and the physicality always releases my anxiety. After a dance class, I always feel less tense and sleep well.

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[…] How to Systematically Cure Your Anxiety on I will Teach You to be Rich […]

wes@GenWiseWealth
2 years 5 months ago

Thanks for this great article. If find that it helps to always look at the big picture. View your life as a much broader journey, and don’t get bogged down in the details. Take a minute to be grateful!
-Wes

Natalie
Natalie
1 year 8 months ago
Thank you for this article. It has been just a month and a half since I had my first panic attack and started having all day severe anxiety. It was out of nowhere and very scary. I had several tests done as they triggered severe migraines and ocular migraines and a heart rythm issue. I came back as having a level of 9 in vitamin D. The test did not encompass any other vitamins but from what I understand usually low vitamin d goes hand in hand with low calcium, vitamin b’s and magnesium, as well as possibly niacin. I… Read more »
Nila Fashion
1 year 7 months ago

Thanks for this great article. We found your book on the Internet! Nice!

Aisha
1 year 2 months ago

Great article! Do you add any fat/oil in your coffee? What type of coffee do you drink? I have started intermittent fasting and I really love it! Great tip!

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Nick Stokes
8 months 1 day ago

This is one of the most thorough articles that I’ve read on the topic (and I read quite a few). Really nice read!

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Anonymous
5 months 2 days ago

Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

Anonymous
5 months 1 day ago

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Anonymous
4 months 28 days ago

Very energetic post, I enjoyed that bit. Will there be a part 2?

Anonymous
4 months 27 days ago

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Jenny
Jenny
1 month 28 days ago
What a disappointing blog post: Charlie’s advice is hardly some revelation. It’s blaringly obvious, simplistic stuff that is only the beginning of reducing stress and anxiety. I’m surprised it’s being considered as some kind of original contribution – rather it’s just a laundry list of basic, commonsense ideas that anyone who is suffering from this condition would find trite and probably useless. Genuine anxiety (not the middle class mildly neurotic anxious-about-anxiety that Charlie had) is not giong to be fixed by these trivial ideas. I expected something far more insightful, and I didn’t get it. More useful suggestions (but more… Read more »
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