How I Cured My Anxiety

fireworks

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For a long time, I thought I was going crazy. I’d convinced myself that something horribly wrong was about to happen. I thought I would be stabbed, shot, or arrested every time I left my apartment. I was sure that there was an impending disaster that would melt the social contract and pit my neighbors against me. I saw criminals and undercover cops everywhere I went. All that “world is coming to an end” talk — I bought into it.

Every moment was exhausting. I dreaded being around more than one person at a time. I eyed everyone like they were judging me, pitying me, or attempting to manipulate me. My attention was divided in every interaction: one half of me would pretend to be normal, while the other half would be trying to keep it together.

I could feel various parts of my face twitching, like I was about to crack. My hands shook constantly. It got so bad that when a friend came to visit me, I couldn’t drink a glass of water because it kept spilling just from me holding it.

I tried to behave like nothing was wrong, when all I wanted to do was lock myself in a room and curl up in a ball. If someone had tapped me in the chest, my body would have shattered. If someone had ordered me to cry, my face would have flooded. I felt fragile, weak, and hollow.

I was ashamed. I didn’t want to be around anyone – not because I stopped liking people, but because I didn’t want them to catch my weird energy. I wearily watched my girlfriend cry when I confided that I felt dead inside, all the time, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

I laid on the ground for 20 minutes one night, wondering whether I should call an ambulance. My heart was beating so hard and fast that I could actually hear it, and my left hand was going numb. My first panic attack.

My anxiety lasted for more than a year. It affected how I breathed, how I thought, how I ate, how I slept, and how I talked. I was serious and tired and afraid, all the time. I wanted so badly to return to my normal, lively, care-free, confident self. But I didn’t know how to shake it.

I tried everything to fix myself:

- Meditation,

- Yoga,

- High-intensity workouts,

- Long runs,

- Therapy,

- Therapy books,

- Keeping a journal,

- Super clean diets,

- Extended fasting,

- Drugs,

- Deep breathing exercises,

- Prayer, etc.

I even took a six-week course, made specifically for men who wanted to overcome anxiety. A few of these things helped, a lot of them didn’t. Some of them made things worse.

Then one day, I discovered the cure. When my mind processed it and recognized it was the solution, I started laughing. The answer had been so obvious all along.

In less than one month, I was back to my old self. The cure for my anxiety was free, fun, painless, and immediately effective. I have no fear that those feelings will ever return. If they do, I’ll be able to wipe them out right away.

I hope this post can help you eliminate your anxiety once and for all. It’s not nearly as hard as you think.

Fill out my online form.

“Adults are just obsolete children.” – Dr. Seuss

Have you ever witnessed a little kid working out on a treadmill?

Or meeting up with a friend to chat over coffee?

Or wearing a suit and making cold-calls?

Or attending a networking conference to hand out their business cards?

HELL NO. That stuff is lame and boring. If you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would laugh and wonder what the hell was wrong with them.

Kids don’t run to get in shape; they run to feel the grass beneath their feet and the wind on their face.

Kids don’t have a chat over coffee; they pretend and make jokes and explore the outdoors.

Kids don’t go to work; they play their favorite games.

Kids don’t network; they bond with other fun kids while playing.

There is no ego. There is no guilt. There is no past to regret, and no future to worry about. They just play.

And that’s what I’d forgotten, what I’d been missing, all along.

Giving myself permission to PLAY was the cure for my anxiety. It was a subtle but powerful shift in how I viewed the world.

For two years, I had unknowingly prevented myself from playing. I am a workaholic, which can be pretty horrible when you work alone. No one tells you to stop or take a break, or that you’re burning yourself out. I’d find myself tethered to the internet all day, sitting in a chair for 10 hours and staring at a bright screen. Even when I was “finished,” I’d impulsively check email several times between midnight and 2 a.m. I know it’s dumb and unnecessary and “What could be so important?” and “You need your sleep,” but I did it anyways. I was oblivious to the fact that my nerves were being frayed for hours on end, and that I desperately needed fun face-to-face time with real human beings.

What made matters worse were the idiotic rituals I’d fallen into. Drinking coffee all day, then drinking alcohol with friends on the weekend. I didn’t get outside, I didn’t move enough, I didn’t sleep enough. My weeks were a cycle of over-stimulation and numbing.

I read Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. The message of the book hit me like a brick wall – it explained what I’d been doing wrong this whole time. I had completely deprived myself of play for nearly two years!

Even when I had been “playing” (doing fun activities with friends), I would still feel guilty or self-conscious. My mind was elsewhere: what I’d done wrong in the past, how I was compromising my future, and how I was wasting the present. I was so critical of how I was living my life that I couldn’t be in the moment.

Getting out of that mentality saved me. I remembered how happy I’d been growing up, even just years before, and I knew why I’d been that way: I’d always allowed myself — and been encouraged — to play.

“A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition: it’s a health risk to your body and mind.” – Stuart Brown

The real problem had been my state of mind. I’d become increasingly adept at rejecting any form of “non-productivity.” I couldn’t allow any form of play if it didn’t contribute to earning money or doing something “meaningful.” Even when I was with friends or doing something that was supposed to be fun, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the time I was wasting. I wasn’t being productive; I was losing valuable time. I had to get back to work!

What would the world do without me and my important work?!

Without realizing it, I became very serious, even though I’d never been serious in my entire life. I couldn’t play because that meant I wasn’t working, and I couldn’t really work because I always felt tired and jaded (because I never let myself play!) This resulted in me convincing myself that life was a miserable grind for adults, and that I needed to be very serious if I wanted to get through it. I approached everything this way, and treated my work as a form of self-imposed slavery.

Little did I know how limiting that mindset was, and how much it was hurting the work I was doing.

Play is what has driven and shaped every beautiful part of our culture. Music, concerts, books, cooking, sports, movies, television, fashion, art, video games… We pay for these things so we can experience the fruits of another person’s PLAY. And the most virtuous form of work, according to some of our most revered and accomplished minds, belongs in the realm of play:

“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” – Thomas Edison

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

“Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” – Albert Camus

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” – François-René de Chateaubriand

I know a lot of really, really accomplished people. Some of them approach their work in this way — they play. Others are very methodical, rigid, and systematic. It doesn’t look like play – it is unquestionably work. And it took me a long time to finally realize… I do not function well in the latter group.

I HAVE to approach work as play, otherwise my work sucks. When I tackle a problem with a sense of play – voluntarily because I’m inherently attracted to it – my creativity and optimism and happiness soars. I become fascinated with the world. I fall in love with people. And whoever I’m working with helps me make the game more fun, and our positive energy becomes contagious.

I realized that nearly every important career decision I’d made had been rooted in play. All the cool jobs I got – and the very concept of FREE WORK – ultimately came from me viewing the work as a form of play. They were activities I didn’t need to be rewarded or paid for (even though I was), because they were fun. It didn’t feel like hard work because I got to “play” with cool people, I got to be challenged and learn a ton, and most of the time, it felt like it was just a game I’d made up. And that’s where my best work came from: the belief that I was creating and playing my own game.

Once I saw that I’d forgotten to treat my work as play, I knew what I had to do in order to fix it. It was simply a choice.

When I moved down to Austin, a friend introduced me to his buddy David via email, and suggested we should meet. David replied to me with the usual request: he asked if I wanted to grab coffee. I paused a moment, then wrote back:

“Hey David, good to meet you. This is an irregular request, but you want to meet up at a park and play catch? Haven’t done that in awhile and it’s a lot more stimulating than sitting around and drinking coffee.”

His response:

“SURE THING. Playing catch sounds like a f*ing blast! I’ll ping you in a bit and if we can’t do it today, let’s play ball tomorrow!”

And it was a blast. It removed the pressure of us having to talk and impress each other, so we could just focus on the game.

PIA cover

I used to feel a bit nervous on first dates. I had to be “on” for hours at a time. The last date I went on was great — the energy wasn’t uptight at all because we played around the whole time. We ordered whisky Shirley Temples, shot cherry stems through our straws at random people, and cracked jokes about the karaoke singers. There were no attempts to be cool or charming, or thoughts about where this date might take us — it was all about making the moment fun.

That’s how I’m approaching my meetings and dates from now on: what games can we play together?

Life is funny. Back in college, I used to read Tucker Max’s site and think, “What a fun guy.” I’d go out with my friends and drink, and we’d try to create our own crazy stories. Now, Tucker is a close friend. We play homerun derby together every weekend. We come up with fun pranks we can pull. We make inappropriate jokes until we’re doubled-over laughing.

I just finished six weeks of improv classes — three hours every Monday. Every session, I was thrust into situations where I was essentially guaranteed to fail and look foolish. At first, I was nervous and slightly mortified. My heart beat rapidly and I would sweat when I had to perform in front of 15 other people. But by the end of the six weeks, improv became a tremendous source of strength.

All of us were there to play, to go with the flow and say “YES” to every possible situation we were thrown into, to cheer each other on and have fun together. We all looked foolish, but we all trusted each other. And that’s how it should be all the time — saying “YES” to every moment, knowing it’s another opportunity for you to embrace life and have fun (Improv, by the way, was the most effective remedy to curing social anxiety that I could have possibly conjured).

I’m signing up for more improv classes. I’m scheduling travel. I’m having fun because I’m making play a priority. And you know what? I feel 100 times better than I ever thought I would. I’m back to my normal self. I love life again.

Play is what we all LOVE to do. Play is where our subconscious naturally guides us. Play is the state where we are truly ourselves, once we let go of our egos and fear of looking stupid. Play immerses us in the moment, where we effortlessly slip into flow. Play allows us to imagine, to create, to bond with and understand each other. Play is what creates our strongest social circles.

And most importantly, play utterly destroys anxiety. Play gets you around other humans, face-to-face, and allows you to form a real connection with them. Play allows you to stop taking your life so damn seriously, so you can start living again.

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Life was never supposed to feel so serious or scary in the first place! The people who try to convince you that it has to be that way just aren’t very good at playing. They’ve forgotten what it’s like. So have a laugh, remind them, then go find better playmates. Everyone is looking for someone to have fun with. Go out, create your own games, then get others to join in. Just play.

You don’t need more money. You don’t need more free time. You can always do it.

Play is a state of mind – it is a way to approach the world. Whether your world is a frightening prison or a loving playground is up to you.

It’s only a choice: Anxiety or Play. Take your pick.

“Man is God’s plaything, and that is the best part of him. Therefore every man and woman should live life accordingly, and play the noblest games… What, then, is the right way of living? Life must be lived as play…” – Plato

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If you enjoyed this post, please share it with friends who you think it could help.

UPDATE: For several months last year, this post was the #1 result on Google for the search “cure anxiety.” More than 100,000 people have read it, and many of them requested more information. So I put together a short book — based on this post — called Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety, which reveals everything I did to conquer my anxiety and return to my normal self (click here to read a free chapter).

PIA_CoverThe book is a step-by-step blueprint for curing your anxiety — quickly, painlessly, without drugs, and without having to spend thousands on therapy. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and it’s been really well-received so far. Here’s a message I received from one of my first readers:

After reading your book, everything clicked for me… I can’t explain how nice it was to know that someone finally understood AND has solutions to change these feelings… The answers I’ve been searching for and asking doctors about for almost the last 3 years, you were able to summarize in one book.

To supplement the book, I’m also considering offering a few options to help with the process of healing your own anxiety. If you have a second, would you mind letting me know what you’d prefer?

Also, you can check out my 8-minute interview with NPR on TED, where I talk about the anxiety I felt after quitting two jobs in a row.

Finally, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter, where I’ll keep you updated on everything I’m working on.

Thanks for reading!

Comments

  1. Andy says

    Really interesting post. I particularly like the general theme of trying to identify what the differences are between your current self and your former selves (e.g., what you were like as a kid, how your activities differed). I think that there *is* a trade-off between accomplishing things and savoring life, but that too much of a focus on accomplishment in the short-run can lead to deleterious long run consequences. This is extremely well established for 1) sleep and 2) exercise, and I wonder whether “play time” is the next frontier for this type of thought. (Or whether it already is established, and I’m just a newb.)

    • says

      There is research being done on the importance of laughter and laughter yoga (which is basically PLAY!), Norman Cousins also wrote about the importance of laughter etc. I’d also be curious about any research done on PLAY exactly :)

  2. Andy says

    Really interesting post. I particularly like the general theme of trying to identify what the differences are between your current self and your former selves (e.g., what you were like as a kid, how your activities differed). I think that there *is* a trade-off between accomplishing things and savoring life, but that too much of a focus on accomplishment in the short-run can lead to deleterious long run consequences. This is extremely well established for 1) sleep and 2) exercise, and I wonder whether “play time” is the next frontier for this type of thought. (Or whether it already is established, and I’m just a newb.)

      • meece says

        The thing is here, some of us DO need medication for real serious panic attacks. Personally I must use xanax, & I have no issue doing so either. It works and nothing else had. For the more generalized anxiety day to day, Itry my best but places like public transit etc. send me into not just panic but rage too. I feel like either hiding or punching ppl. Its an odd feeling. Headphones and loud music help me immensely to concentrate. Music that would distract most, makes me calmer. So can my medication, which I need to keep using in spite of snd on top of other means of help I look for.

        • Matt (the new Matt) says

          Loud music can not help anyone concentrate. The feeling you have in your stomach and chest is a lazyish kind of feeling. Go play, I mean really play, I dare you to play so hard you sweat, activate those cells, heal yourself. You overlooked the part where he was laid out in his room, having a panic attack.

        • Adam says

          Reading this thread I relate in so many ways and always had been that guy to make a joke or turn the mood around. I sold cars amongst many other social jobs and learned to overcome by keeping a comical approach. However, the wolves are at my door and the lock is broken. Cheated on, job loss, insurance coverage lost, living far away from friends and family, unemployment loss, daughter to provide for, another on the way, recent second break up over her alcohol abuse, pending eviction, pending electric shut off, etc, etc. playing doesn’t work for me anymore because all those demons are there waiting for me. Burning man I have not experienced but is like the Oregon Country Fair. Good people and good vibes but it ends and the anxiety, panic, fear, depression set in again like a tick stealing from you what you’ve gained. Sigh

    • meece says

      I am torn because I still DO do the things I used to do as a child or teen. I have an unhectic life where I am able to take all the time I need.My issue might stem mire from past disasters still fresh in my mind- house burned down- I was raped- ended up homeless-My entire family died. Etc. and Im low income.I never changed much into adulthood. Same style, same music and likes. I do art,and colour and sing. But Im diag. With sever anxiety and panic attacks. My issue might be the past and not lack of play, if so can it still be fixed? Im not normal. I am fidgety nervy and socially odd, was even as a child. I am one of the more outside the usual types, punk/ goth style who likes 80s stuff& is never in “style” but never cares.Its something deeper inside me.I dont take life very seriously but others who do upset me. People in general upset me.

      • Matt (the new Matt) says

        Let it out, people in general frustrate me. I have a cd that I made called VS: People in General, no one can buy it, it sucks because I made it LOL. It makes reference to hating the way people are (people in general). You are doing good, talk about it, it will help. Writing, just put a pen to paper, or type about it. I say reply back and talk some more about your anxieties. Try walking or something to just wear yourself out, with me I had a lot of nervous energy. I lost my secret clearance with the government because of speeding, but I gained a physical labor job that cured my anxiety. Now if I could just get that job back… LOL.

      • says

        Hey Meece, you certainly have gone through a lot!
        Just curious, did you try this approach (together with nutrition changes – maybe not so strict, I’d still keep breakfast :) and lifestyle changes – more exercise etc)? And what were results? For past things, for me EFT and TAT have been very helpful, and otherwise a combination of journalling and books…. Different things work for different people, you need to find what works for YOU!

  3. dendelidendel kor says

    Great post. Thanks for sharing such intimate problems and giving us solutions. Don’t know if I’d have the balls to write this kind of stuff about myself.

  4. Marshall Thompson says

    This post really hit the nail on the head Charlie! It’s a trap you see so many people falling into as we get older, isn’t it? One I’ve fallen victim to as well. Now, I’m gonna turn off the computer and go play some frisbee.

    • Skweekah says

      You are right. We’re all different and there is no “one size fits all” remedy. For those who are really struggling, please consult your Doc. There is help.

      • jeff says

        actually there is a one size fits all remedy and charlie is right on, skweekah you obviously havent experienced what charlie is describing. seeing your doctor is not the answer at all. all he is going to do is give you drugs that he has no idea how it works and tell you to pay lots of money to someone who will talk to you. there has never been one case of anxiety cured by pills and doctors, unfortunately people like you have been trained to think that doctors are the ones to turn to, the answer is in side you and unfortunately the drug companys (who own the systems that regulate what treatments to give people) cant charge you money for that:)

  5. Ryan says

    Hey man….Great article, but I guess I just don’t understand how incorporating more things that you enjoy doing (play) affected things like your hands shaking when your friend came over. I’ve been dealing with pretty debilitating social anxiety for awhile, and like you have tried a ton of different things to alleviate it, but I go to the gym pretty regularly, play softball in the summer with friends, and I still really can’t relax too much in social situations. I’m not like a hermit or anything, like I think a lot of people picture when it comes to social anxiety. When I told my friends that I was dealing with anxiety problems, they all pretty much had no idea. I guess I’m just wondering if you have any advice for how to utilize “play” to deal with social aspects of anxiety? Thanks man. I would love to hear what you have to say.

    • says

      Great question Ryan, and I realized I didn’t fully address this (just added another paragraph explaining it). The thing that helped me more than anything else for social anxiety was doing six weeks in a beginner’s course of improv comedy. I’m guessing most anxious people aren’t willing to try this route, but it is amazingly effective. Because once you get comfortable with the group (usually in the third week), you realize that you can approach LIFE — i.e. every interaction you have — as improv. You make things up on the spot, you have fun, and you joke around. It really, really works. Give it a shot.

      • Ryan says

        Ya dude, that sounds like a good idea. I’ve entertained the idea of doing that before but am kind of terrified of actually trying it. Thanks for the response.

  6. says

    I’m reading this right before heading out to my first beach volleyball game of the season, and I couldn’t agree more.

    I place enormous pressure on myself to go out and chase big dreams, do ‘big’ things, and create the life I want instead of what is easy…That is usually a great strength, and has led me to accomplishing some amazing things. However, it’s only a strength when your life has balance (health, wealth, relationships) and it is FAR too easy to fall out of alignment and focus on work, especially when their are very accomplished people surrounding you (those of you hard on yourself can back me up on this).

    Whenever I’ve found myself unhappy my ‘balance’ has been way out of whack. Then I’ve had to force myself to make time for the things I’ve neglected (funny how it’s so hard, when you’re focused on work, to convince yourself to setup time with friends or do things you enjoy).

    I have a feeling this post is going to hit close to home for a lot of readers. Great article Charlie.

  7. says

    Charlie, wow. I just wrote a similar post in my head today. I just happened upon this and was happily surprised to find such similar thoughts. You really hit the nail on the head with your solution to anxiety.

    Thanks for the needed shove to get back to improv. I’ve been dying to perform again, I think now is the time to make that a reality.

    I appreciate your thoughtful post. I know this took courage to write. Cheers.

  8. says

    That was really inspiring, Charles… thank you for reminding me and all of us to play more. I totally forget to make life a game & that’s why I think Burningman is so powerful – cause its an environment that gives us permission to be free without consequence…. and as you pointed out, when you can make life fun, opportunities and people react to you in a more positive way… on a personal note, I also have experienced anxiety without really realizing what it was, so I REALLY appreciate you making light of it & offering such simple, but powerful solutions…. Really great post. Love you, man!!

    • says

      Alex! Funny you mention Burning Man. I almost wrote about it in the post. I was such a downer there because I was still in a bad mental state. I couldn’t relax and go with the flow at all. Had I known what the solution was, I would have had an amazing time. Much love!

  9. says

    Paddle boarding, even though it lacks much socializing, always forces me to be completely present in the moment. Ever since I read “stress is having your mind somewhere you are not” I notice how few activities leave me completely present.

  10. says

    This is GOLD Charlie!
    Thanks for sharing…
    I’m about to become a parent so perfect timing for me to remember the importance of play for the grown ups too…
    Love it!
    Jx

  11. says

    Great post. I’ve been trying to incorporate play into business meetings and dates as well (but especially on the romantic side of things). I was first inspired when I watched Jane McGonigal’s TED talk. Here is the quote I pulled from it:

    “We like people better after we play a game with them, even if they have beaten us badly. It takes a lot of trust to play a game with someone, we trust that they will spend their time with us, play by the same rules, value the same goal, stay with the game until it’s over. Playing a game together builds up bonds, trust, and cooperation, and we actually build stronger social relationships as a result.”

    It works.

  12. says

    Great post Charlie, I’m experiencing a very similar thing right now and taking everything in life WAAY too seriously. I feel uninspired and depressed because I have completely forgotten how to play, and I’m in such an intense work-a-holic mode I can’t even enjoy my play time when I do relax. Time to get back to being a kid!

  13. Chris says

    As someone who has been racking his brain trying to figure out where I “went wrong” (working from home certainly feeds the anxiety, I know that much now) reading this today was a gigantic breath of fresh air. Thank you.

  14. Paul Latta says

    Wonderful post, as always, Charlie. Here’s another one from Plato:

    “Watch a man at play for an hour and you can learn more about him than in talking to him for a year.”

    I haven’t tossed a ball around in nearly a decade. Calling a buddy tonight to play catch. Thanks!

  15. says

    My anxiety got out of control for a couple months here recently. Not dread, not terror….but the shaking, the barely holding it together in front of people….100%.

    Some of what you point out – just meeting our own basic needs for sleep, not making ourselves sick with stress – *should* be obvious, but we push ourselves relentlessly anyway. I made myself go to bed earlier for a week, and my anxiety was immediately cut in half.

    Not too long ago, I had the thought “I have no fun in my life.” There is just nowhere that I completely shut it all off and don’t worry. I think you’re dead-on about finding ways to make everything play.

    Our rituals for everything ARE so contrived, aren’t they? We all need to loosen the f*ck up!

    Sometimes I try to look at people and remember that they are just giant children with saggier bodies. Makes it all a little less scary;) Thanks for the post!

  16. says

    Excellent – thanks so much for sharing so openly! All my ideas start out as fun, bright stars of joy. Then somewhere down the line they are followed by thoughts such as ‘How can I be more productive, more efficient, how can I maximize return on my time spent on this?’. And while these are all good questions, they have automatically shifted my mindset from play to serious. I will read the book as well, but your post has already helped me shift back to play. Thank you! :)

  17. says

    This came a the perfect time… Today was a rough woorkk day and now I realize I didn’t have a play mindstate. Recently went on 3 dates with a dude and every time we played…. hula hooping, catching, volleyball, etc. Best dates I’ve ever been on. Now I understand why :) Thanks man.

  18. Rob says

    Charlie thanks for the reminder to play. “Fun” is my number 1 value, but I often bog myself down in being too serious and end up anxious and depressed.

    I love the idea of adopting a playful mindset, 24/7. It makes life feel much lighter.

  19. says

    If we learnt anything from The Shining it was this:

    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

    I echo the superlatives of Mohnish. This is one of my favourite posts of yours. Your blog posts are getting better and better, maybe that is a symptom of your playfulness?

    Now I’m off to run around the garden with my black labrador like a madman.

  20. says

    I also suffer from severe anxiety, and for me this post hit home. You brought up a lot of wonderful points I’ve never thought of and I will be sure to keep them in mind. I just recieved a text from a really good friend of mine asking me to hang out this evening for a girls’ night. I almost turned her down, because I figured I would be tired after work, but this post reminded me to play and I’m grateful for that.

  21. says

    thank you for reminding me. I sort of turned the playing into something that had to be meaningful, important,-even serious. I love being creative, but to have too high expectation and ambition can take all the FUN out of it. yes, taking life too serious is definitely a health risk.

  22. says

    Reblogged this on I am a strange loop and commented:
    surprisingly, the answer is PLAY. Play is the state of mind, so you can stay at the present, embrace challenges as a game.
    This, I think of a quote in my city people love to say, ‘you lose when you are too serious’. Serious people do not understand it, or they can not stand the attitude of play. But that’s true, when you are too involved in the rules of a men-structured system, like the rules of an education system- the exams, you lose yourself, you forget the meaning of learning. Life is a game, it doesn’t mean you have to be playful and forget all the work you have, but instead, able to let go and realise no matter what grades you have, it’s just a game, and have fun !That’s the right attitude.

  23. says

    I struggled with generalized (not social) anxiety for a while and came to a similar conclusion, that most of my anxiety was generated by feelings of guilt, obligation, and/or the desire to control what happens in my life. Once I learned to let go and just live more in the moment, and allow myself to just be happy and not worry if I deserved or earned said happiness in some quantifiable way, my anxiety noticeably subsided.

  24. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I struggle with anxiety and only yesterday the doctor prescribed me with anti depressants – there is no way I’m taking them, but it was the kickstart for me to make the effort to use ‘self help’ methods. I totally agree – ‘play’ and ‘living in the moment’ is the way forward!!

  25. says

    I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks, horrible. Feel a lot better now. I think your post is a really good read for anyone who’s experienced this problem, and I agree with the majority of what you say. What I found from overworking is the need for ‘me’ time, the need to empty your brain and truly relax. Great post.

  26. says

    Nice to see that anxiety can be helped with other methods besides drugs! It worries me when people think that the fix to anxiety is drugs, right?

  27. says

    Really good post! I’ve been suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and agoraphobia for the past three years. I’m so happy you were able to overcome this. I’ve tried everything and done things to relax, but to no avail. But I’m really happy that people can overcome their anxiety. I know what it’s like, I know how you felt when you said half of you was trying to keep it together. All in all great post, I hope that this can help someone.

  28. says

    This is so true! My partner and I adopted 4 kids about 5 years ago. It was through foster care, so they came with many issue. I had always been very active, I played Alot! Suddenly though, I dropped off the face of the earth, and did nothing for myself. I also started having severe panic attacks, always with impending doom!! I always chalked it up to loss of control, in issues that I wanted to control. But just last year, I said I couldn’t do this anymore, it was making me crazy! I started incorporating friends back in my life, and playing again, while still raising my children. I finally found a balance, and I haven’t had one anxiety attack since! Thank you for this great read:)

  29. says

    It’s a sad comment — if accurate — that this is a “brave” post, as though enjoying your life is something to apologize for or be embarrassed by. I write for a living, self-employed, and am now taking two weeks’ vacation; NOT writing while “on vacation”, not pitching new clients, but reading emails and replying only to the most urgent. I’ll be at the Grand Canyon next week, sitting in the sun and savoring the silence. That’s play. There’s nothing “productive” about it but it will make me really really happy and when I am back on the hamster wheel will sustain me.

    Sleep is very much under-rated, as is strenuous exercise. Good for you to incorporate both and to inspire others to better self-care.

  30. says

    Really great read. I’m just now in the process of making some drastic changes in my life, and I recognize some of the symptoms you listed as things that I knew I had to eliminate from my life somehow. I’m just starting, and I’ve got a ways to go, but it’s refreshing to wake up in the morning and be excited about finding myself awake. It had been a long time since I had felt that.

  31. says

    This is a really inspiring post!!!! I have felt the guilt of not doing work but I will definitely be thinking of this next time i feel it.
    P.S. I have never heard anyone make a game of catch sound so appealing!!!!! Think i’m going to have to find myself a catch partner :D

  32. Alex says

    I live in SF, keep a football in my car, and will frequently play urban football with my friends in the busy streets of the city. Throwing tight spirals over cars at busy intersections into spots between where people are walking is one of my most fun things to do in the city.

    The really interesting thing is that although it’s really fun for us, it’s probably even more fun for the people that are walking by who will frequently raise their hands for passes and run routes for us. Even the people that don’t want to catch or throw usually smile and find the entire scene fun and enjoyable. I think there’s something about just seeing other people playing and having a great time that will put a person in a good mood.

    It also helps that our accuracy and pass-catching skills are top-notch and we’ve never hit anybody, broken anything, or caused a car accident. Thanks for the excellent post.

  33. says

    Hi Charlie, congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! Your post is excellent and reminds me why I love hanging with my niece and nephews (ages 5-14), and my puppy. That sense of play, being in the moment, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, is infectious. My late husband also used to play a lot of video games and online chess. I used to think the former was silly but then I grew to understand that he was literally “playing” and this was his form of relaxation after a stressful work day. He also rode a motorcycle and that was definitely “play” for him, albeit dangerous play! Anyway, thanks for reminding me/us how important it is to simply have fun with no agenda other than to enjoy the moment.

  34. says

    Oh, wow, this is great! Permission to have fun! As I read this, I was thinking, “he has been visiting my brain, and must be in INFP”. So glad I found this post on Freshly Pressed.

  35. says

    Great post!

    I am anxious to start approaching life with a playful mindset. I’m such a boring, downer most of the time because I have compiled so many responsibilities so fast. And I’m not where I want to be in life right now. Cutting our alcohol from my diet has made it harder to let loose. I barely manage to spend time with friends. Even when I do, I’m timing my outing and worrying about what I’m eating. So, needless to say, I’m serious all the time. It sucks.

    But, I’m going to try this on for size. See how it fits.

  36. says

    I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety lately. I was bored so I decided to look at freshly pressed blogs and saw you post. After reading it I feel better and less lonely. Thank you for writing this wonderful post.

  37. says

    “Life was never supposed to feel so serious or scary in the first place! The people who try to convince you that it has to be that way just aren’t very good at playing. They’ve forgotten what it’s like. So have a laugh, remind them, then go find better playmates. Everyone is looking for someone to have fun with. Go out, create your own games, then get others to join in. Just play.” – liked it very much! :’))

  38. says

    Hi Charlie that was an outstanding read. The mind or spirit is from the brain. You always have to look inward for the answers to the problems you face because the reality is no matter where you go or what you do you always have to take you with you. You can run but you can’t hide. It sounds to me like you also had some paranoid ideations to go along with what I would call severe clinical anxiety disorder. Disorders of mental illness run in families sometimes. When I got married the second time little did I know what I was getting myself into. My ex was 20 yrs younger than I was which is a generation. Well to make a long story short she had 5 older brothers and mom and dad. After we were married I finally got to meet them all except the oldest brother who was in a mental institution and the family never mentioned his name because they felt shame. The entire family had some sort of mental illness from Schizophrenia to major depression. My ex had 2 little girls when we met 1 girl was 4 mo. old and the other 2 yr. old and we had a son 5 yr. later. Both girls had problems the oldest is Bipolar the 2nd girl is Bipolar and we divorced when my son was 8 and I had custody of him. He’s now 15 and about 6 months I noticed a change in his behavior. He’d isolate himself in his room never wanted to leave the house even to go to school. He had a depressive anxiety disorder which I glad I picked up on quickly. I took him to the Doctor and got him on medication and within a month he was back to his same old playful enjoyable self. It’s rough to have to put you kids on medication but what people don’t realize is you can’t fight genetics. So he’s fine now never has gotten in trouble, does well in school. Mental illness is a brain chemistry malfunction of neurotransmitters. I’m blessed your blessed and so far everything is great. I thought I share my story with you because there were times it was a night mare. Good Luck Charlie and thanks for sharing.

    Tim RN.

  39. says

    Great post. Play is something we forget to do as adults. I played soccer with my son on our deck last night for 1 hour and he really enjoyed himself the whole time. You forget how much fun sports are for kids. Somewhere we start calling it exercise and it’s way less fun.

  40. says

    Hi Charlie, I can’t begin to tell you how I have enjoyed this story. I have been telling myself to play with my kids but I feel so fat and tired most of the time. But you have given me new ideas and a whole lot of inspiration. I almost started crying because I just know what you are saying is true and I plan to start playing a lot; even in my career; somehow, I will incorporate it there to. Incorporating play where I work will prove to be a challenge, but I feel encouraged now and I am up for the challenge. This is my new goal. Thank you for your story. I will try to update you on how it works out. I am sure it will. I have only been blogging about a month. You should read a couple of my posts as they share my frustrations on some of the same concepts you write about. I feel your story contains some of the answers I have been looking for. Thanks again.

  41. says

    Great post! I can appreciate this as both a psychologist and as a person who has struggled with anxiety at various points throughout my life. Thank you for sharing your story with others:)

  42. says

    Reblogged this on notthesinger and commented:
    I’ve been soul searching a lot lately. I keep letting the light in my life slip through my fingers until I turn around and realize I don’t know which way to go and I’m an anxiety-ridden bundle of nervous energy. I’m not myself. I’m not someone I recognize and it frustrates me because I don’t know how to change it. Then, sometimes you stumble across something that makes so much sense it’s a relief. It’s about consciously changing the way you think and infusing it into everyday life. It’s about play :)

  43. says

    Charlie – You may not believe me, but I just had my first panic attack tonight in a year. I am utterly shocked that I ran into your post! I relate to your post in multiple ways and recently began my own blog as an outlet for personal issues and to help people live a less stressful life. I agree, at some point I stopped putting “relaxation” and “play” at the top of my list. Reminds me that I am not alone. Thanks for the post.

  44. says

    Love this! I don’t know if it would do for everyone what it’s done for you, but it’s certainly worth a try!

    I fell into the workaholic trap and am trying to find my way out. The irony is that most of my mentors say that their success is due in part to the fact that their work is also their play. I just can’t see it that way, and I desperately wish I could. But I know the difference between things that are fun and things that are a complete drag, and doing the fun stuff requires that I also do the boring stuff. I can’t find any way around that, and I can’t conceive of how to reframe some of the work as play.

    My mom would tease me for a lack of imagination, but that’s what happens when you don’t play enough. Maybe someday I’ll figure out a better way, but I can at least try to look for a game in it.

  45. says

    mariekymberly I’m sorry to hear about your panic attack tonight. I’ve been a nurse 33 yrs. and have dealt with many people who get panic attacks and there not a good feeling to have. Like you’ve lost complete control of your self. Are you a highly stressed person, workaholic type, trying to do everything for everyone around you? If so you definitely need some TLC for yourself.

  46. says

    i can totally relate to this. and i am only 17. i feel so sad suddenly. i feel like everything i valued is wrong. is it wrong to want to score well, for which i cant play by the way. this is crazy stuff. how do you pay for such a lifestyle?

  47. says

    Thank you for sharing, it is comforting to know that you are not alone when dealing with anxiety. Your advice is brilliant, I loved the part about why kids to what they do. Why as adults does everything seem to change, we lose the fun in things, but like you said that can change with our outlook!!! make things Fun :)

  48. says

    I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been said already. So – just to say I really enjoyed this and it makes a lot of sense to me.

  49. says

    amazing! so simple and yet we’ve spun complexity all around us. we all crave for these small laughs and carefree moments just like kids. you have stated the gospel, the mother of all secret mantras. thank you and congratulations on freeing yourself and many others of this self-laden anxiety.

  50. says

    Wow, you definitely hit this on the nose. I’ve been having similar anxiety issues for just as long, maybe even longer. It’s depressing and magical how much work can be accomplished online, but I hate what computer work does to me. I’ll give this another try, but the trend leaves me and my ‘friends’ in front of computers not getting out, no money to go out, etc. I’ll see how it goes if I take a more conscientious approach to work and play. Thanks for the great post!

  51. says

    omigod, i can totally identify with this. I didnt realise I have anxiety. thank you for sharing this article. I seriously need to go out an air myself more and play without making it all about work and doing meaningful things.

  52. says

    Your post is touching and I’m glad you were able to escape your anxiety with a change of mind-set. I blog about some of the same topics, however I have yet to find a way to banish my anxiety and panic attacks. My issues are deep seated from childhood and run rampant through my life, still to this day. That’s 20 years now that I’ve been struggling. I do often feel the pressure of society to keep going, keep achieving all the time and it does drag you down. I feel like I’m stuck in a rigid job where I only have so much vacation time and it’s not a fun/play job. I wish it was as easy as you say here, to just decide everything is play in order to end anxiety. For me, it’s deeper, more ingrained in certain kinds of activities and in making myself deathly ill whenever I panic. I think this could be very helpful for those who are feeling anxiety about the pace of life. Also I agree that exercise, not drinking too much and no caffeine is very good advice. Also learning to relax about stress and deadlines, also good advice. Overall, very well done. However for those of us with a deeper problem…we wish it could be this simple. I will however, remember what you have said here and try to apply it to my life. A little relief is better than nothing. :)

    • says

      Hi Victoria- Agreed, I don’t think this is a cure-all for everyone. A few friends of mine expressed similar things that you have, and said psycho-analysis is what helped them more than anything else. It’s not cheap, it’s not quick, but for them, it was extremely effective. I hope you find relief someday.

      • says

        Thanks for your comment back Charlie! I actually just sent you an email regarding a novel I’ve written about my own struggles. Tough stuff, certainly and it does take years to try to get better. But I think you’ve done a great service for those who have moments or months of struggle with anxiety. Great article!

  53. says

    Such a great example of how powerful the mind is… how fortunate you are that you were able to find the trigger for your anxiety and address it. For me, it was filing for divorce! Not one panic attack after that decision was made and I didn’t even realize except in retrospect that it had been that traumatic of a decision for me. Our minds are so incredibly mysterious!!

    • says

      Yes. Closing the loop on personal issues that are bothering you on a day-to-day basis is so critical. Good for you for making the tough decision. I took stock of everything that was bothering me, and eliminated the few things that were constantly draining my energy. Makes a huge difference.

  54. says

    i literally felt the positive transition of you being in a bit of a dark place to being this carefree person who’s enjoying life in every bits and pieces. im so happy for you. your bravery and determination to get out of something that couldve drown you for the rest of your life is just inspiring. i didnt realise that i was walking into a miserable life until this post so thank you for writing this.

  55. says

    I have always taken to heart the saying “Less work, more play” and your blog just reaffirms how important that is. I am a firm believer that growing up is for old people and adventuring is fun!

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