Pt. 2 The Silent War: 10 Ways to Mitigate Anxiety

Cole Schafer Blog

I remember I was at basketball practice one day as a freshman at a small catholic university. I played for a coach that was considered "Tough" in college sports. For those of you who don't know, "Tough" is a ridiculous word college athletes, fans and past alumni's use to show respect for a coach that just so happens to be an asshole. 

Only in college sports have I seen this widely accepted mentality that it is okay to tear college athletes down mentally and emotionally in hopes to produce a "tougher" player. In no other settings is it acceptable nor tolerated to cuss people out, fire off insults and tear down individuals in hopes to produce "results".

I've been in plenty of business settings and never have I heard, "Hey Roger, if you don't get me that report tomorrow you can go fuck yourself." Or "Dennis, did you really just make that recommendation? I can't believe your instructors let you spew out that shit at Standford. You're the worst fucking employee."

Anyways, excuse my rant, shall we return to my story? I was at basketball practice as a freshman and I believe I was three or four shots in and my coach just started ripping off insults left and right. Maybe this was in hopes to make me a better shooter, maybe it was because he had a superiority complex, regardless it had an adverse affect on my shot. 

I started air-balling every single shot I fired off. This was not intentional, he had gotten so far into my head that something deep within my subconscious believed I didn't know how to shoot a basketball anymore. In baseball, they call this the "Yips", and often times it is experienced by catchers. It's when they suddenly struggle with this mental hurdle  that makes them believe they can't throw a baseball anymore... and what happens is they start throwing it way over the pitchers head or ten feet short of the pitcher, to the left, to the right, etc. 

For an entire week, my mind was so fucked up with anxiety and stress that I was lucky to hit the rim. I think I air-balled close to 70% of the shots I took. After seeing a sports psychologist and spending hours in the gym to overcome the mental hurdle I was experiencing, I returned to shooting better than ever. 

Once I had returned to my normal state, without the help of the asshole who caused it, I made myself two promises -- 1. I am not a quitter, so I am going to finish out the season, but I would be damned before I played three more years under my head coach, 2. I was going to conquer my anxiety, and never was I going to allow one individual to have so much control on my life again. 

The following recommendations are the ways I have gone about mitigating my Anxiety over the past four years, and have allowed me to help take control of my life. If you haven't taken a moment to read my previous blog post, The Silent War: The 10 Characteristics of Anxiety, I highly recommend you do so before continuing any further with Part 2.  

1. Run Like The Wind -- It is not uncommon for me to run or walk 5 miles at night around my neighborhood when I am feeling anxious. I generally will throw in a favorite podcast or artist and just get lost in the darkness, allowing the streetlights to be my guide. If you find that your brain is moving too fast, wear it out. Running and exercise doesn't just calm your body, it calms the nervous energy in your mind. 

2. Read Fiction Before Bed -- Unlike self-help/business books, fiction allows the reader to get lost in a story. No, it doesn't have to be the type of fiction about magical elves and dragon warlords, it can be any story that pulls in the reader. If you have difficulty sleeping due to a racing mind, you will be blown away at how fast you can fall asleep to a good fictitious novel. Here are a few of my personal favorites; The City of Thieves, The Oxygen Thief -- finished this late last night (intense/vulgar/brilliant) and Of Mice & Men.

3. Cut Back on Alcohol Consumption & Caffeine -- I know, I know. We all hate to see these two on the list, myself included. But it is unfortunately the root of a lot of people's anxiety and depression. I am not a prude, a well mixed Gin & Tonic will forever be my vice. I am just recommending that those prone to anxiety should be drinking in moderation. Alcohol is a depressant. People who don't suffer from anxiety can actually develop anxious behavior due to alcohol consumption... and we wonder why college relationships are such a constant shit storm. Caffeine on the other hand is a stimulant, it's effects vary on the person, but I try to stick to a cup a day. I have noticed too much makes me anxious.

4. Become an Artist -- No! Do not change your career path, hear me out. I firmly believe that the arts are a great way to channel the anxiety and emotion that we feel on a day to day basis. Whether this be poetry, writing, playing a musical instrument or painting. When I was going through a very anxious time in my life a few years back, I actually picked up the piano and it did wonders for excess nervous energy I was feeling. Why do you think Adult Coloring Books have turned into a multi-million dollar industry?

5. Hot Yoga & Meditation -- Eventually, we all have to face the fears harboring in our minds. We live in a world full of constant distractions. Take a moment and think about how much time you actually spend with out your phone, Netflix or your laptop. Hot Yoga & Meditation has actually helped me face my thoughts head on, and ultimately has been instrumental in calming my mind. Unfortunately, we can't always run from our thoughts. While this may give us temporary relief, it doesn't solve the underlying problem. In order to overcome your anxiety, you have to be willing to face your anxiety. Please understand there is a difference between working to overcome your anxiety and worrying about your anxiety

6. Find a Therapist -- Oh, shit... he just dropped the T word. Listen people, life is hard, and God never intended for us to get through it alone. I know the American mentality is to be tough as nails and get back on the horse, but it is 100% okay to ask for help. The brain is extraordinarily complex, it can get jumbled up sometimes, ask for help when you aren't feeling 'normal'. 

7. There is Nothing Wrong With Medication -- If you break your leg, the doctor prescribes you pain pills. If you have an infection, you will be given antibiotics. The mind is no different, and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. If you have hit a point in your life where you need that extra push to get you over a particularly troublesome hump, talk to your doctor about medication. There is absolutely no shame in this. I seriously can't stress this point enough.

8. Change Your Mindset Towards Relationships -- It is not your partner's job to heal your anxiety, IT IS your partner's job to understand your anxiety. Anytime we expect our partner's or friends to be the one's who heal/sooth our anxiety, we are placing too much strain on the relationship... which will ultimately lead to it's destruction. The mitigation of your anxiety starts with you, it is not your partner's job to fix it. With that said, don't get in a relationship with someone who doesn't understand you, your feelings and how your mind works. If your partner or friends call you crazy, emotionally exhausting or unstable then fuck them. There is simply no room for people in your life like that anyways. Surround yourself with people who love you for you, and are willing to understand you. But please keep in mind that it is never anyone else's job to solve your anxiety, a solution has to start with you. 

9. Ice Cold Showers -- It sounds odd, but I generally start my mornings with cold showers. Is it miserable? Yes. Do they help? 100%. Cold showers have been proven to fight both anxiety and depression. The shock you experience from cold water actually floods the mood-regulating areas of your brain with happy neurotransmitters. 

10. Anxiety Doesn't Have me -- A very dear friend of mine said something once that stuck with me for a long time when describing her anxiety. She said, "I have anxiety, but anxiety doesn't have me." I love this because I admired what a positive outlook she had. She accepted the fact that she suffered from anxiety, but she was never going to allow anxiety to control her. This is so crucial to remember as you fight any fear that you have. There is a difference between having a fear, and allowing a fear to control you. When you are stressed, remember my friend's wise words. 

When I left my freshman year of college and decided to walk away from the sport I had spent 15 years of my life playing, some people probably thought I was "Mentally weak". I went on to continue my studies at the University of Southern Indiana where I flourished. I traveled to Alberta Canada and won an international case study competition with an incredible academic team and business coach, I won an entrepreneurial competition in the state of Indiana with a brilliant business partner in Zach Mathis and I had the opportunity to work with the Navy to develop military patents and transform them into commercial technology. 

All of this was because I decided that I was no longer going to allow anxiety to control my success. 

My name is Cole and I have anxiety, anxiety doesn't have me. 


By Cole Schafer