Beating the Anxiety Bees

(Do you beat bees? Or just disappear them?)

Man who looks like a bee monster
Thank you to the Dollop for the pic!

A friend today was telling me that she is super stressed out. She worked out twice that day, feeling like she could literally run the stress out (!). And I said, What is going on with you?

She was like, remember those crazy hives you got the week of your wedding?

Uh, yeah.

But you don’t, so: One night a few summers ago, I woke up itching my foot, and I couldn’t go back to sleep because have you ever had an itchy foot? The worst.

Well, I finally got up to see what sort of antihistamines I had in my bathroom and noticed that I had hives allll over my legs. In fact, I had them on my stomach and arms, too. And, of course, I didn’t have even one single drop of Benadryl nor one crusty tube of hydrocortisone cream to get me through. The worst part was that every part of my body that made contact with my bed–which was every part of my body–flared up with hives. I spent hours trying to not think about the discomfort, the itchiness all over my body (all over! Arms, sides, back, legs, hips, feet. I was basically one big welt) and was the first person at the pharmacy when it opened.

I managed well enough during the day (because my mind was busy?) but night time, man. That was hard.

Anyway, it lasted a few days, and was long gone by the time my big day came. I’m really tempted to include pictures in this post, because of course I took pictures, but that’s gross and I guess not really the point. Which is:

My friend said her stress was like that, but in her brain. Did I know what she meant?

Uh, yes. Yes I knew exactly what she meant because it wasn’t that long ago that I had an intensely stressful boss who caused me MONTHS of severe anxiety. I would go to bed with my mind racing with thoughts and when I awoke each morning, it’s like they dragged me with them. I was never rested, and my mind wouldn’t even slow down. Sometimes I would wake up in the night with a partial thought about work, fall asleep again, and wake up thinking a different work thought, all of it happening without any effort on my part. Like I had fallen asleep on a train that never stopped. And instead of traveling through the rustic countryside, it went only through (not under!) the world’s most populous cities–Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles, Cairo. So exhausting.

So what to do? I think everyone is going to tell you yoga and meditation, and they are right.

1. Get in yo body.

No wait! This is number 1:

1. This will pass. Those bees are swarming and it sounds like a gang of chainsaw murderers (and probably feels a little like that too–eep!) but it isn’t. You won’t get stung or chopped to bits. You will get through this. It will be tiring. It won’t be forever.

2. Your body. Look, anxiety is a disease of the mind. The bees are part of that. It is so hard to ignore the buzzing–actually, it’s basically impossible. Don’t even try. You’re just wasting valuable energy. But what will successfully divert attention, and give your mind some much needed reprieve, is to get into your body.

My friend runs. I don’t believe in running, so I say do yoga. Whatever. The point is that just like those bees are in your head buzzing around, stress and anxiety are loitering in your muscles. Stretch. Run. Jump. Yoga. Just get your body working.

The reason it’s important to get into your body is this: relaxation is not a cognitive process. You will not think those bees out of your head. Breathing is good but if your bees are like mine, the quiet will be done as soon as your breathing goes back to normal–which is what, 10 seconds? Maybe?

Working your muscles gets the tension out of them. It releases the stress. Yoga gets the tension out of them. The rhythm of running resets your mind and gets your muscles to let go of all that pent up anxiety. That’s why you feel better after exercise.*

3. Food food food. When I have the stress bees, I don’t eat. Some folks are stress-eaters but I am a stress starver. I have trouble getting enough as it is so when my brain is abuzz, the last thing I’m thinking about is good eating.

But you know what feels really good?

Comfort food. Not pasta and bread (no! Bees love carbs!) but like soup and curry and three bean chilli. Eat things that are easy for your body to digest, and that feel good to eat. Let it feel good to eat.

Having said that: last time I had the bees, I ate two boxes of cereal. I had been kind of starving and working late and one night I just snapped! I went out and bought myself some damn lucky charms and ate that cereal like it was medicine. Or maybe not medicine because then I’d be dead.

I applauded myself for finally eating but let me tell you: I felt pretty shitty over those next few days (during which I ate the box–I didn’t eat it all in one night) (but almost).

Learn from me and don’t eat the crap. I’ll link to some (easy delicious comforting) recipes later. Watch this space!

4. Meditate to sleep. Ugh isn’t this the most annoying advice? Duh you need to sleep–but how do you do that on a noisy, never ending train? When you’re being pursued by a swarm of relentless bees wielding chainsaws? Boy, these analogies!

People talk about headspace but I’m a fan of simple habit. Love love love their options and found them so helpful in relaxing my body and mind to sleep. You can adjust the length to do a 5 minute session, or a 10 or 20. (This is also super useful during lunch breaks.) And you can choose the topic! Deep sleep was great, and then there are more you can choose if you subscribe. I’m not a subscriber (yet) but I do really like it.

Sleep With Me is also, I hear, a great podcast for folks who can’t sleep. I prefer the meditation route but maybe you hate meditating!

Or, screw all the meditation advice and do something else instead. Color the stress out. Walk. Garden. Cook. Organize your closet. Throw away your husband’s cargo shorts. Maybe they won’t put you to sleep, but they will help your mind work out its stuff. And hey, if you’re not sleeping, you might as well be doing something productive.

In conclusion:

*I am not any kind of doctor or expert or anyone who can speak knowledgeably about why exercise gets the tension out of your body. But it works for me every time and I’m not a precious snowflake, so it will probably be just as effective for you. Try it–even just some stretching feels super good.

Also, my therapist told me that walking basically does the same thing as EMDR  and, in fact, was discovered on a walk.

So maybe this post was superfluous and I should just be telling you and my friend: yes. Exercise the shit out of those bees.

Because you’ll get through it. And chainsaws run out of gas, trains stop at stations, and bees die.

(Sorry bees.)

Three Pieces for A Wise Life

To ponder: What do you do when you have nothing to do? And other questions taken from a mini-course for college students designed to help them decide their majors and the lives they want to lead. But really they’re good questions to consider at any age.

To hear: The RobCast

My uncle once told me that you have to have something to look forward to each day because if you don’t, it’s going to be a crappy day.

Happily for all of us, the RobCast is released every Monday morning.

Rob Bell, creator and host of RobCast, is a pastor, and I am not in the habit of listening to pastors in my free time (or, really, my church time). But I dig Rob Bell. His stories are often straight from the Bible but though you may have heard them a thousand times, you may as well have never heard them before.

#14 You Are Always With Me And Everything I Have Is Yours
This iteration of the Prodigal Son isn’t about sin and repentance, but transactional faith, inherent worth, and the stories we believe about ourselves.

#45 Grief Loss Joy
This is an interview with an expert on grief but, in a year of loss, I found this interview comforting and insightful.

How To No

It’s Monday! Again!


Well as we do around here, let’s start off with some Mondayspiration to start your week off right.

How To Say No When It Matters Most by Tim Ferriss 

Tim Ferriss is one of those people that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp. Not for his podcast, which I only sometimes listen to, nor for his books which I’ve never read, nor his TV show, nor for any of his investing.

I love him  for his terribly brilliant, fascinating blog. It’s just so interesting. Where I just like to live and enjoy life, he deconstructs his life, analyzes the data, then optimizes it for efficiency. The closest I’ve ever come to that is sleeping with my fitbit.

So this may be the most analytical piece of writing on the subject of saying No that you’ll ever read, and it might be the longest. But at least skim the whole piece.


All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.

-The marginal minute now matters more to me than the marginal dollar.

-Are you squandering your unique abilities? Or the chance to find them in the first place?

“From 2007-2009 and again from 2012-2013, I said yes to way too many “cool” things. Would I like to go to a conference in South America? Write a time-consuming guest article for a well-known magazine? Invest in a start-up that five of my friends were in? “Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

“Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-player, even if you have A-player skills. To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others.”

See what I mean? Smart guy.

Related Recommends: I really love his posts on language acquisition. Super interesting and helpful!
I’ve been on his email list for a while and it’s fine–just blog posts, mostly–but. You sign up because the signing bonus freebies are awesome. Excerpts from his book, 4-hr Chef audiobook, and lots of really cool links.
Speaking of his email list: I look forward 5-bullet Fridays.


BONUS: Sh*t nobody says

Because I think we need a post-Halloween Monday pick-me-up. And I am still not tired of this video.

We should move to Oakland!
Hey, does anyone know how I can make papyrus my default font?
I’m hoping he asks me to help him move .

Be vulnerable. Be terrified. Beyonce.

“I feel very vulnerable when I perform a song for the first time. I may not say it, but I am terrified. Oh my God what am I doing? Why am I here? What am I doing? Why did I do this?
I like that nervousness. I don’t like it in the moment. But I know that it just means that I want it and it means that it’s challenging to me and I’m doing the right job.
You can’t be too comfortable and too confident.”

I think that all of Beyonce’s success comes down to that quote. She can sing and dance and go platinum with no hype, but it is her ability to create in the face of fear (alongside fear?) that makes her Queen.

Also of note:
The bit at 5:00 when he says, What’s your name? And she says, Beyonce. Bet she hasn’t had that experience in a while.

Did you watch to the end? That moment made me cry too.

Insight: She couldn’t get the look, the dance she wanted so she had her people find the dancers in the video. Which took four months. And then she flew them in from Africa, for a routine that lasts less than a minute. A routine in which not only is Beyonce the focal point, the center stage, the only dancer you can see with any clarity, but in which the dancers heads–the ones that took months to find and then were flown halfway around the world– are not fully visible(!).

And yet, the video would not have been the same without them. They brought something that no one else could bring. It’s subtle, and it’s the kind of attention to detail that has put her at the top.

That, and the real live lion she brought on to set for a four-second shot.