Anxious people are handy to have around. We notice things before anyone else. We over-plan (ha, just kidding, there’s no such thing as over-planning). And we do our darndest to make sure everyone around us is happy.
Sure, we can be neurotic. We often overthink things and worry about every eventuality. But we care. So much.
And sometimes, we’re even able to laugh at ourselves! Oh yes, it’s true. That’s why I’ve put together this little list of things that drive us up the wall. While we all have different anxiety triggers and traits, you might find yourself nodding along to one or two…
1 Loud noises
Noisy neighbours. Peak hour traffic. Blaring sound system at a crowded concert. Loud noises penetrate deep into our soul and make it impossible to focus on anything else. So if you find yourself chatting away about cute puppies and we suddenly scream, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” please don’t blame it on yourself or the puppies. Take a look around…see if there’s something in our environment that’s got us agitated.
2 Crowded places
Sprawling shopping centres are said to be a top panic attack trigger. All those agitated people crammed into winding, windowless corridors, scrambling to tick off their shopping lists, while crappy Mariah Carey covers play on loop across the PA system. What’s NOT to hate about malls? Thank God for online shopping.
Cramped car parks, music concerts, sporting events and traffic jams can set us off, too.
3 Plans without a plan
Me: “What time are we meeting?”
Friend: “Whenever you like…I’ll be home all day.”
Me: “Ok, so 12pm?”
Friend: “Sure, or later. Whenever.”
Me: “Ah, so 3pm then?”
Friend: “That should work…I’ll message you.”
Please, we’re begging you, make a plan so we know what the hell is going on. And when the hell we need to be involved. It takes a LOT of energy for us to get ready and psyched up to step out into the world. Worst thing you can do is leave us hanging, or ask us to make all the decisions.
One of my friends says, “I’ll pick you up at 9am out front. Wear workout clothes and your hiking boots. I’m taking you on a three-hour drive to the mountains for a hike. You’ll be back by 6pm.” This. This is music to an anxious bunny’s ears!
4 Spontaneous visitors
We love you. Really we do. But nah, you probably won’t feel that way when you rock up to our house as a surprise. Maybe we won’t even open the door. We really want to see you, but you’re supposed to give us at least two hours’ advanced warning. So we can clean up, wash our hair, and open the door pretending that we’ve just been ‘chilling out’ all afternoon with Bob Marley in the background. We know that you know it’s an illusion. That’s cool. Just play along, k?
5 Dripping taps
Or noisy air conditioners. Or draughty doors. We’ll notice it and fix it before you even knew there was a problem. You’re welcome.
6 “Don’t worry.”
Shhhhh! Just don’t say it. And if you do say it, slowly back out of the room. Because if you only remember one thing from this list, it’s this: never, ever, EVER, tell us not to worry. It makes us anxious about being anxious. And it has the opposite effect: we worry more! Because not only are we worried about the thing we were originally worried about, we’re now worried that you think we’re worrying too much. And maybe then you won’t want to play with us anymore.
We know you’re trying to be comforting and tell us there’s really nothing to worry about. But to us, there’s PLENTY to worry about. So just let us worry about it.
And if you want to help or bring us out of a panic? Ask, “What is one thing we can do right now to change this situation?”
See. That wasn’t so hard.