There is no Tiger
I can’t think straight!
The human body only has one stress response. The reaction is the same whether you are attacked by a wild animal, or worried about getting a question wrong. Elevated heart rate, nausea, sharper vision, keener auditory acuity, faster breathing.
Practicing controlled, deep-belly breathing exercises can help you reduce your stress response in just about any environment.
Beginner - youtube.com/watch?v=SEfs5TJZ6Nk
Intermediate - youtube.com/watch?v=e5tGCr22TlA
Advanced - youtube.com/watch?v=nzCaZQqAs9I
Learn more about how to Breathe to Heal by listening to this talk: youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34
I need to get everything right.
It took a few hundred yoga classes before I got an inkling of just how much of a perfectionist I am. I have always obsessed over how well I am doing something, and it is exhausting.
A few hundred more yoga classes later, I became more comfortable with being perfectly imperfect and I realigned my goals.
Instead of trying to get into a perfect posture, or hit every transition with grace, I deliberately lowered my aim. I focused solely on breathing deeply with control in every posture. Much easier to focus on one variable (breathe), than several (poses, joints, alignment, drishti, what everyone else looks like).
I feel like I don’t fit in.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real. It exists because we are social beings, and being left out of a group hurts.
Some of us are more social than others.
It is important to remember that you do not have to do anything you do not want to. I assure you, high school cliques evaporate after your first six months in college (or faster if you enter the work force).
The poet Shane Koyczan, explains your inherent value despite your perceived social standing in his poem “To This Day”, watch it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1iS1MqUy4
We’re all going to die anyway, so what’s the point?
First, I applaud you for coming to terms with your mortality. Many people never do, and they live in dreadful anticipation of their coming demise.
Second, as a budding nihilistic philosopher, you may want to challenge your belief that life is meaningless with some other philosophies:
After all, if you cannot defend your position that life is worthless then you cannot claim to believe in that position. Learn more about philosophy and other ways of life, and afterwards, see if you can justify your claim.
I can’t stop my thoughts.
Train your mind like any other muscle. The objective in any meditation is not to stop thoughts, but to allow thoughts to come and go without any judgment or attachments. The best explanation I’ve found about this principle can be found here: youtube.com/watch?v=iN6g2mr0p3Q
Here are some of my favorite guided meditations that I listen to in bed, with headphones.
For Overthinking - youtube.com/watch?v=1vx8iUvfyCY
For Anxiety - youtube.com/watch?v=VxVxyMyvA_U
For Sleep - youtube.com/watch?v=69o0P7s8GHE
Listen to this short talk to learn more about the value of adding meditation to your daily routine: youtube.com/watch?v=qzR62JJCMBQ
My thoughts are random.
The worst enemies are the ones who attack when you least expect.
Your mission is to track your thoughts. What are they? When do they occur? Do they arise immediately following an experience, or do they take their time to build? Which days are difficult? You do not need to answer why you think or feel a certain way.
There is little use in trying to figure out why you are being attacked while you are being attacked. Finding the pattern in your thoughts and behaviors will let you prepare for an eventual battle. Increasing your odds of success in this fight.
A journal or notepad work equally well. The benefit of apps is that they can display historical data to help you identify trends more easily.
I never have enough time!
Less macro, more micro. How you use the time you scheduled for school, practice, homework, studying, applying to colleges, etc. is more valuable than the total amount of time you schedule for each of these.
I assure you, no one wakes up at thirty and thinks: “Man, I wish I had studied an hour more for my AP history class.” I wish I had studied more intentionally, practiced more deeply.
Start a 25-minute timer
Work until the timer rings
Take a short, five-minute break
Every four pomodoros (focus periods), take a longer break—usually 20-30 minutes
Sleep? That is time I can use for studying.
As teenagers, you should be getting about 9.5 hours of sleep a night. I will not pretend like that is going to happen on any nights but Friday and Saturday. Instead, focus on optimizing the hours of sleep you can get.
Aubrey Marcus is a favorite author of mine, and here are some short videos where he explains how he optimizes his rest.
Hydrate, Get Lit, Move It - youtube.com/watch?v=NzS2Nv2bYs0
The Binaural Power Nap - youtube.com/watch?v=ND8aeNtKY9M
Sleep - youtube.com/watch?v=YtyEGSicg6c
Invest a few bucks into a red light bulb for your nightstand. This will help you fall asleep more easily.
My self-talk is horrible.
When I used to skydive, “dirt diving,” was the term we used to describe someone who mentally rehearsed their jump. Go through all of the motions for a successful jump, and you increase your chances of success.
This principle works in any endeavor. The more you think about something, the more you engage neurons focused on that thing. In essence, you physically grow more capable as your neurons develop thicker myelin sheathing, which allows for faster and more confident performance over time.
Medication and Vitamins
I don’t think any of the stuff I’m on is working.
5,000 years ago a witch doctor would drill a hole into your head to release the demons inside your skull.
2,000 years ago a medicus would cut your arms with a non-sterile blade to drain the black bile from your veins.
350 years ago you would be interred in an asylum, and people could pay to look at you and the other “crazies”.
Mental health treatments today are considerably better than the woeful efforts of our ancestors. It took me almost ten years before I settled on a stable medication regimen, partly because I stopped my medications without supervision multiples times. These medications are meant to be taken consistently and under quality supervision. They take time to work, but they are far better than a hole in the head.
Emergency Life Preserver
I’m worried about a friend (or family member).
A life preserver does not rescue someone, it stabilizes them for more advanced recovery options. If a person is considering suicide:
Take the person seriously
Stay with them
Help them remove lethal means
Escort them to mental health services or an emergency room
Read more about what to do when someone is at risk at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.