Anxiety still carries plenty of stigma. Have you ever wondered what anxiety feels like? Here’s what might help.

Editor’s note: Whether you have anxiety or you have a close friend who has anxiety, it’s good to understand what other people may be experiencing. Part of successful adulting is communication and empathy, and reading or hearing what someone may be going through is helpful in that respect, and will help grow stronger relationships.

In the old days, the days of your parents, they just called you nervous. If you were on edge, it was your nerves. If you had a particularly bad episode, they would say you had a nervous breakdown. People went their entire lives without knowing the actual cause of that nervousness: anxiety.

Thankfully anxiety is better understood today, and for good reason: it’s one of the most common mental health disorders on the planet. According to The New York Times, it’s now more common among college students than depression. No matter who you are, you or someone close to you has probably been affected by anxiety.

But despite its ubiquity, anxiety is still misrepresented and misunderstood. It’s a difficult disorder to describe, and as such you’ll still hear it referred to as “nerves” or “stress.” Those terms aren’t completely off the mark, but they lack the nuance to truly explain just what it actually feels like to have anxiety.

How does it feel?

I didn’t realize I had anxiety until my senior year of college. I was often stressed and anxious, but so was every Type A student managing a full course load and extracurricular activities. I’d known since high school that I frequently got stomach problems if I started getting nervous or upset, mostly due to my irritable bowel syndrome, but I never considered that the nervousness itself was a symptom.

When I heard someone describe the symptoms of anxiety, I recognized them immediately. Anxiety is about feeling overly nervous or worried with no reason to be. It’s about perceiving every minor slight or incident and worrying about it incessantly.

Living with anxiety is like having the most pessimistic devil on your shoulder. When I lose a client, anxiety tells me that I’m not cut out to be a freelance writer. When I forget a friend’s birthday, anxiety tells me that this is why I struggle to keep friends. Anxiety is a straight-up bitch.

I spent years with different therapists learning about cognitive behavioral therapy and how, even though I couldn’t cure my anxiety, I could learn how to recognize when it was affecting me.

What helps?

One of the best strategies my therapist taught me was how to challenge the anxious thoughts in my head. There are many ways anxiety can manifest itself, but thankfully there are just as many ways to combat it.

She gave me this worksheet where I could list the anxious thoughts I was having, why I was having them, and a more rational scenario. For example, if I was anxious about not hearing back from an editor and assuming that he didn’t like my latest article, the worksheet could help me realize that he likely hadn’t taken the time to read it yet.

What helped even more was taking medication, a solution I resisted for years. It’s one thing to go to therapy, but I was convinced pills were only for people who were “broken.” Even when my equally prescription-dubious husband suggested it, I resisted. I was worried I wouldn’t feel like me anymore. I was also worried that if my anxiety did improve, it would be because of the pills and not anything I accomplished

After consulting with a good friend who takes anxiety medication, I finally talked to my doctor. After one day’s dose, I felt significantly better. Suddenly I wasn’t as anxious on a regular basis, and when I was, I could handle it.

I compare anxiety to driving on the highway in the dark with traffic cones everywhere. Anxiety medication can remove the cones and make it easier to drive, but you’re still in charge of the car.

I know there’s plenty of stigma about anxiety and medication. When I texted my mom that I was getting a prescription, she left two voicemails. I told my dad in person, and he got very quiet — a rare feat, if you know my father. Society is still coming around to mental health medication, but to me it’s like taking medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol.

The more I talk about it openly, the more I find out how many people I know that are medicated. Like anything, the more we share, the more we realize how similar we are.

Do you have anxiety? Does a close friend? Share your experiences — you might help someone.

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What is your passion in life? Can you even answer that question? Here’s why it’s important to find your passion now.

As a fresh college grad with a terrible diet and pack-a-day Marlboro habit, I knew it was time to get in shape. And after months of forcing myself into the gym every day, something finally changed.

I ran an entire quarter of a mile on the treadmill without stopping. Looking back now, it was such a small accomplishment, but one that filled me with confidence and the desire push myself harder.

From there, I worked my way up to a mile, then two, which then evolved into a full marathon — and then five more. At some point, running became my passion and it changed my life in several positive ways.

What’s yours? If you struggle to answer the question, it might be time to do a little soul searching and discover what you’re passionate about. Here’s why.

Your passion gives you a sense of purpose.

Maybe you’re someone’s husband or wife. Perhaps you have kids, or you’re hyper-focused on your career and kicking ass at it. All of these things are fantastic.

However, the older you get, the more you’ll notice your peers defining themselves by their relationships or what they do, not who they are. That’s an easy way to lose yourself entirely.

Having a passion affirms your values. Maybe it’s volunteering, painting, writing — hell, even playing video games. Your passion in life is a reminder of what’s most important to you outside of these other obligations. It allows you to find enjoyment in something that’s all yours, out of the control of others, and instills a deeper sense of meaning to your life beyond simply existing.

It drives you to accomplish goals.

Plenty of people live day-to-day simply going through the motions. And that’s fine, but it’s also incredibly boring.

Setting goals — and even more importantly, accomplishing them — makes life so much more enjoyable. Having a passion gives you something to strive for, whether it’s setting a new personal record in a 10k or achieving level 80 in World of Warcraft.

Not only will you feel good about yourself for reaching your goals, but you’ll be much more interesting at parties and have something to #humblebrag about on Facebook. And isn’t that, really, the ultimate goal in life?

You’ll inspire others and be more successful.

Passion is contagious. When you’re hungry, driven, and full of positive energy, it tends to rub off on others – which a great thing for everyone involved.

Richard Branson, one of the most accomplished and well-known entrepreneurs, gives a lot of credit to passion for his success. In a recent article for the Daily Monitor, he wrote, “When you believe in something, the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success.”

There are few accomplishments better than being a source of inspiration to the people around you. Except maybe becoming a wildly loved, self-made billionaire. Take it from Sir Branson, you need passion in your life.

Remember, it’s about you.

As a runner, I’ve won first place in my division and also been one of the last people to cross the finish line. I’ve logged 60 mile weeks and gone months without lacing up. Some days I feel like I could keep running forever, and others, my legs might as well be made of lead.

But I keep going, no matter my speed, age, size, or ability. Because having a passion is not about being the best; it’s about striving to a better version of yourself.

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Slow down. Experience. Your vacation isn’t about what you show your friends on Snapchat.

Have you ever come back from a vacation and felt like you needed another vacation?

This is pretty common when you’ve packed in a lot of stuff in one trip. For many of us, a vacation seems like the perfect time to do as much as possible. Unfortunately, this is approach to a vacation can mean a lot more stress and a lot less relaxation.

If you aren’t going to relax and have a good time, what’s the point in going?

Plan fewer activities.

When I was growing up, there were times that the vacation was just a rushed and stressful mess. We ran from activity to activity site to site without really experiencing anything. My favorite vacations were those that doesn’t involve quite as many activities.

When you have a chance to slow down and experience life you are far more likely to enjoy what you are doing, even if you do a little bit less of it.

Don’t forget: you can always come back again.

Even if you don’t, you’ll still make better memories if you truly experience a small part of something rather than getting a superficial view of lots of things.

As you plan your vacation, figure out which activities are most important, and which site you want to see more than the rest. Focus on the most important activities and don’t worry about cramming everything in. You can move slower I feel like you’re on a real vacation.

Take your time.

If you plan a real vacation with fewer activities, you will have time to slow it down. This can help you relax more and feel like you really are on vacation.

This effect can be enhanced if you plan longer vacations. When you have the time to take more than a day or two, you can enjoy yourself more. I am looking forward to my summer vacation because we will take six or seven weeks to move slow. For a good portion of that time, we will have a home base in the Philadelphia area.

Having a large chunk of time and a home base can help you move slowly and relax more. This works best if you are location independent with your work or if you have the ability to bank vacation days with your job.

Choose shorter trips.

Another way to plan a real vacation is to make it shorter. This can’t be a weekend getaway that doesn’t take you very far. When you choose a shorter trip, it should be more about seen one thing or just relaxing in a new place.

One of the things I like to do is go camping. I pick a place within four hours so that I only spend a half day of travel each way. Then it’s usually possible to spend two whole days in the woods. It’s very relaxing and I feel refreshed when I get home — especially after I take a shower.

Travel light.

How to Plan a Real Vacation

There’s nothing like having to put it away a ton of stuff to ruin the end of your vacation. That’s why I like to travel light. I have one medium-sized suitcase and that’s it. If I will be gone longer than a week, I plan to do laundry. I don’t get bogged down in packing a lot of outfits or shoes or makeup. I don’t even bring a carry-on beyond the backpack hold my laptop and other tech gear.

The fewer things you bring with you, the less you have to worry while you travel and the less you have to put away when you get home.

Traveling light can also apply to souvenirs. My son and I have a tradition of getting one magnet for each place we visit. This allows us a nice, cheap memento that doesn’t take up space. Plus, we know exactly where to put it in when we get home — on the fridge.

Plan time to relax.

As you plan a real vacation, don’t forget to schedule time to relax. Keep your schedule clear enough that you can sleep in, just to sit in the hot tub, or read on the balcony. Plan a spa day. Take a long dinner. Sometimes, I like to cancel a plan so that I can keep doing something I enjoy.

Don’t plan out every minute of every day. Leave room for spontaneity or just to discover something new. You’ll be glad that you didn’t still every single second with some sort of planned activity.

If you don’t time to relax while on vacation, you’ll come home and feel like you didn’t get a vacation at all.

Put the camera away.

Finally, as you plan a real vacation, consider putting the phone away. Yes, your phone is probably your camera, but if you send all of your time trying to get the perfect shot for Facebook, you’re not really enjoying the moment.

Leave the selfie stick home. Take a couple pictures of what you see and a couple pictures of you and your loved ones. All you really need are a few pictures to trigger your good memories. You don’t need a ton of pictures to try and impress your Instagram followers.

Once you learn how to plan a real vacation, you’ll get the most out of wherever you go.

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Miranda, Harlan, and special guest John Rampton discuss having a positive attitude towards failure, and how failure is essential for ultimate success.

Every week, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! on Blab. Subscribe and join us for the next event, and share your questions about or suggestions for future discussions!

Adulting.tv LIVE! welcomes special guest John Rampton from Due.com. John, Miranda, and Harlan discuss failure, and why it’s an important piece of everyone’s life path.

How do you react to failure? Having a positive attitude is essential.

Watch the video above, or listen to just the audio by using the player below.

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Don’t get hung up on changing the world immediately. Start local and watch your efforts bear fruit sooner.

Do you want to live with passion and purpose? Do you want to change the world? Do you feel like I’ve shared froofy sentiments that don’t actually matter?

The reality is that you don’t need to try to change the world all by yourself if you don’t feel like you have the time, energy, or ability to make it happen.

What you can do is find a cause you believe in and start making a tiny corner of the world a little bit better.

Do you really need to change the world?

To often we get bogged down in the idea that we need to change the world in an earth-shattering way. We like the idea of making a big impact. But most of us aren’t going to change the world in that big way.

That doesn’t mean that you are inconsequential. Since moving back to Idaho, I’ve realized that I can help effect meaningful change right here, on a local basis. So far, I haven’t made a huge impact, but I’ve seen that some of my efforts do matter.

It’s easy to step back and say, “I can’t make a big change, so I won’t try.” But you can make small change, and you can help men, women, children, animals, and the environment right where you live.

When you find a cause you believe in, you not only make an impact, but you also live with greater purpose. You are more likely to feel good about your life, and enjoy the mental and physical health benefits that come with volunteering your time and energy.

Don’t get hung up on the idea of changing the world; think about what you can do locally to make a difference. Later, if it snowballs, or if you get an opportunity to change the world, go for it. But don’t sit around feeling impotent when you might be capable of effecting a change that matters to the people around you.

What matters to you?

The first step, when you want to find a cause you believe in, is to decide what matters to you. Figure out what makes your life worthwhile. Decide what you wish was different in your area. Look around. There’s always something that could be better.

What are you passionate about? Do you care about education? Do you want to fight for LGTBQIA+ homeless youth? Do you wish people were kinder to animals? Is there an environmental risk in your area? What kind of local policies are causing harm to under-represented populations? Do you believe arts education is vital to the preservation of our culture?

You can go crazy trying to fix every problem out there. And it’s impossible to do everything all at once — especially since you probably also want to put a roof over your head. Narrow down to the issue that matters most to you and focus on that first. You’ll probably find that there are interconnected issues that you can branch out with, but start small and simple. That one issue can provide you with a manageable way to start making a change.

Join with like-minded people.

How to Find a Cause You Believe In

Once you know what matters to you, look for like-minded people. Whether you work for change at the neighborhood, city, state, country, or world level, you can’t do it alone. World-sweeping ideas come around very rarely. TBH, most change is incremental and arrives only after years of work and effort in conjunction with others.

Look for people who share your passion and values. Chances are that there are others interested in changing the world the same way you are. When I first moved to Idaho Falls, I joined the Chamber of Commerce for networking opportunities and to figure out which business leaders and professionals shared my values. I sought out a local political organization that better fit my leanings as well.

These larger organizations allow me to meet like-minded people who are part of a smaller subset. Together we can lobby for change, and our volunteer efforts can make a difference locally. It’s been heartening to see some of what I’ve done matter — even if it’s to a small portion of the population. That sort of change has the potential to spread.

Contribute your resources.

What if you feel like you don’t have the time to volunteer? You can still find a cause you believe in and contribute your resources. I’m involved in certain activities that, when considered with my other responsibilities, mean that I don’t have time to volunteer with the food pantry or soup kitchen, even though hunger is a major issue for me.

I have to say no to some things, and I realize that I can have an impact by donating money to local relief efforts. I make regular contributions to local food banks. I love local donations because I can meet the people responsible for the way the funds are used, and I can see the impact my donations have.

I choose which causes get my time, and which get my money. You can do something similar. Look for an organization that could use your financial support, even if you don’t feel like you have the time to volunteer. My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area.

My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area. He’s researching local organizations to see where his money might do some good. He’s 13, and he’s thinking about what he can do to make positive change where we live.

It won’t be a lot, but it will be something — and it just might make a difference in at least one person’s life.

What issues are you passionate about? Have you found a cause to believe in? How do you support it?

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It’s important to be engaged in the process. It’s also important to avoid being a jerk.

We have reached a scary point in political discourse: repeating something loudly makes it true.

Unfortunately, just asserting something at a high volume over and over again doesn’t actually make you right. And it’s certainly not civilized discourse.

Our society and form of government rely on an educated populace whose members recognize that compromise is important. It’s also important to engage in the system and use civility when discussing different viewpoints.

Right now, we are becoming increasingly divisive, and forgetting that we’re all in this together. We might have differing ideas of how to move forward, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be enemies. The all-or-nothing approach that has been taking over politics, not to mention the demonizing of anyone who disagrees, is a plague to our system.

It’s good to share your opinion. But it doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it.

Concepts

  • Why are political discussions so fraught?
  • How social media makes it easier to share your opinion.
  • Why we are becoming less aware of others’ thoughts and ideas, even with the wealth of information at our fingertips.
  • Tips for learning to understand another person’s viewpoint.
  • How to stop seeing someone who disagrees as “stupid” or the enemy.
  • How to share your opinion politely.
  • Why local politics are so important and how you can get involved.

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Resources

NPRWhy people don’t respond to facts.
Weber ShandwickThe decline of civility in America.
CQ PressHow we cherry-pick information.

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Does your phone run your life? Peel it off of your face and start engaging in the world around you.

Everywhere I go, I have my phone.

When I don’t have my phone I feel stressed. What if I miss something?

I like to point to the time I missed a call from my son to pick him up due to illness as the reason I’m obsessed with keeping my phone nearby. But let’s be honest: most of us are just addicted.

What you do — and seeing who acknowledges you — on social media is addictive. When you see the likes, the messages, the replies, and all the signs that someone sees what you’re doing (and perhaps approves?), the rewards centers in your brain trigger. In fact, your addiction to your mobile phone is probably due, in part, to the fact that you can enjoy a reward whenever you want just by checking your social media.

And it really can be addicting, with the brain patterns of compulsive social media use remarkably similar to the brain patterns of drug addicts.

It’s not just about the addiction, though. I noticed that I experience life better when I’m not totally attached to my phone. Moving away from the phone as my default allows me to experience life more fully.

Now that I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the phone, including time to unplug on the weekends and evenings and to put my phone in DND mode at night (with the exceptions of my parents, my son, and my ex), my life has improved dramatically.

Here are 5 good reasons to unplug at least some of the time:

1. Boost your creativity.

When you’re constantly consuming media, you aren’t creating anything. And you don’t have to be creative all the time. I specialize in writing uncreative non-fiction. My attempts at fiction suck. But I still take time to try my hand at creative efforts, including music and sad attempts at fiction. I’ve even started adult coloring. And I never really liked coloring. I also crochet, and I’m useless at anything more complicated than a scarf. But I find these efforts oddly satisfying.

Creativity is a process. Our creative “muscles” can strengthen or weaken. When all you do is consume, consume, consume, your creative muscles atrophy. If you want to be more creative, put the phone down, and work on something else. You might be surprised at how the time flies, and at how you are less bored than you could have imagined.

2. Feel better about yourself.

Constantly checking your phone and being on Facebook can actually make you feel bad about yourself, and trigger feelings of envy. The problem is that you compare yourself with how others present themselves online.

Spend some time away from your phone and put things into perspective. Recognize that there are some pretty great things about your life. It’s hard to do that when you’re obsessed with everyone else’s life.

3. Stillness is good for you.

5 Reasons to Stop Letting Your Phone Ruin Your Life

Even if you aren’t using your phone for Facebook all the time, it can still cause problems. Are you constantly playing games? Do you check your phone, even if you don’t have messages?

In a world where distraction and stimulation are all around, stillness is falling by the wayside. However, stillness can be beneficial. Do you ever just sit, without the need to accomplish anything? We consider boredom as the worst thing ever, but the truth is that our bodies need to recharge.

Put the phone away and sit in stillness. Meditation can help with this. You can even benefit from better sleep if you stop playing games or checking your email or reading on your phone or doing whatever it is you do before bed.

Stop letting your phone control your life, take in a little extra stillness, and unplug a couple hours before bed, and you might be surprised at how much you better you feel about everything in your life.

Take back control of your time.

Who’s in charge? You, or your phone? Be honest. Do you have to answer every text immediately. Do you feel frazzled because there’s always a notification for a new email calling off your attention?

You don’t have to let your phone manage your life. You don’t have to answer every call or text immediately. Turn off the push notifications on your phone. That way, you won’t be distracted by feeling that you have all these things to do because Instagram or Facebook or your email are always intruding on your time.

Just turning off my push notifications changed how I feel about things. My son has his own text and phone alert tones and if I’m in the middle of something, I ignore the phone unless it’s my son. It was hard at first, but I find it empowering now.

Today, we expect instant responses from everyone, and we think we have to respond instantly as well. That’s just not true. You can control your time. You don’t have to let your phone run everything.

Experience life.

When I attended my son’s first fencing tournament, I was so engrossed that I didn’t take a single picture. At first, I felt bad, but then I realized that I had paid better attention to him because I wasn’t fumbling around with my phone.

I don’t record recital performances, either.

The truth is that life doesn’t look the same when viewed through the phone. The phone gets in the way. I like taking pictures. I like having them. But I try to get it out of the way at the beginning of any event so that I can fully experience it going forward.

There’s a lot going on around you, and amazing people to connect with. But when you let your phone run your life, whether you are constantly checking for messages or trying to accomplish something in Bejeweled, you really are missing out.

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