5 Ways To Escape Your Anxiety-Ridden Mind Without Self-Medicating

by Zara Barrie

I used to be so intensely anxious all of the time that I would pop benzodiazepines into my mouth like they were breath mints.

“Benzodiazepines” are in the Xanax, Klonopin and Valium family of psychotropic drugs. They're used to treat anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

Those of us hip to pill slang refer to them as “benzos” for short.

If you pop a benzo into your chapped little lips the moment you begin to feel the weight of anxiety crushing into your fragile chest, wait about 20 minutes and I promise, you'll feel just fine, sweetheart.

Joselito Briones

Nothing in this cruel, cold world will bother you when you're riding on the pink puffy cloud of a benzo.

Suddenly, looking at your bank account or checking your voicemail doesn't feel quite so harrowing.

So what's the catch?

Well, first of all, they're wildly addictive.

Take them for a few weeks, and suddenly one pill isn't strong enough. You need two pills. Then, you graduate to three pills.

And before you know it, you're at risk for benzo addiction. I've had several friends check into to rehab centers just to get off them.

And benzo withdrawal is no joke, sister. I've heard through the grapevine that it's even worse than coming off of heroin.

That's fucking terrifying.

They can also make you kind of stupid. Your brain can get too loosey-goosey on le chill pills.

I have a hard enough time trying to leave the house without losing my keys six times, and when my brain has turned into Xanax oatmeal, it's impossible.

Also, real talk: I don't want to be hooked on a controlled substance, not these days.

I want to attain the inherent confidence that I, Zara Barrie, can get through this haphazard, beautifully complex life without depending on a substance to soften its razor-sharp view.

I want to be able to handle the real world with all of its glorious imperfections!

But HOLY SHIT, do I understand how hard it is for those of us who suffer from anxiety.

It's why so many of us are inclined to abuse substances to begin with.

That chic-looking, sea foam-colored pill washed down with a soothing glass of white wine oh-so-easily staves off the demons.

But you know what? There are some drug-free ways to calm down, I swear to Lana Del Rey (my higher power).

After I put down my bottle of benzos, it took me a while to figure out what works for me. Eventually, I learned some incredible, natural calming tactics.

So, I'm going to share the love with you today, my panicked little kittens.

Here are five tools to help you calm down without SELF-MEDICATING with DRUGS (and booze is, in fact, a drug):

1. Sweat the demons out of your body.

I used to hate working out more than anyone on the planet.

I was that raging, anti-gym, anti-yoga, super-miserable, anxious, self-righteous bitch for YEARS.

And then one morning at my parent's house in Florida, I decided to go for a run.

I had just spoken to my cousin in prison on the phone, and I began to think about how sad it is that he can't run freely outside.

I thought about how he was locked up behind bars, only able to see the daylight two hours a day. And as a sort homage to him, I felt obligated to RUN.

To be honest, I didn't even own a sports bra. I went running in liquid leggings from American Apparel and a T-shirt with Kate Moss's face emblazoned across it.

I cranked up the volume as high as it could possibly go and took off running. I ran and ran and ran and ran, and eventually, I found myself in this strange, meditative place I had never been in before.

I wasn't thinking. I wasn't worrying. I wasn't full of dread and doom.

I was just running to Lady Gaga, completely in the zone.

When I finished my run, my Kate Moss shirt was totally see-through, and I was so soaked in sweat. I was dry heaving and ready to keel over, but I felt amazing.

I was so clear-headed that I wanted to write 10,000 articles right then and there. I experienced a profound clarity and I had never experienced before.

And I've been running ever since.

If you think about it, what is anxiety, anyway? It's excess energy that hasn't been channeled into anything.

Physically exhausting your body releases some of that excess energy.

2. Pray to your higher power.

Look, I don't believe in a traditional god. I was raised by a bikini model and a businessman.

We NEVER talked God, ever. We talked fashion and Champagne.

But one day, I was reading this memoir by my favorite author ever, Michelle Tea, called “How to Grow Up.”

In the book, Tea talks about how she prays to her higher power every single day, and how it eases her anxiety.

She refers to her higher power as the rock and roll goddess Stevie Nicks.

She also explains how it makes her feel calm and safe to ask Stevie Nicks for all the things she wants in her life and to fully believe that she'll take care of it.

Now, this was a spiritual plan even I could get down and dirty with.

So, I started praying to Lana Del Rey aloud in the shower every single morning.

I ask her to take care of me and my family. I ask her to make it all happen for me: a book deal, love, something glam and fun, world peace — the sky's the limit.

I can't tell you what a life changer praying to Lana has been.

I get out of the shower feeling very centered. I feel like I don't have to worry about HOW it all pans out.

I just have to work hard and be a good person and let Lana and her glittery, cosmic energy take care of the details.

I'm aware I might sound deranged, but if you're struggling with anxiety, what do you have to lose?

3. Stare at a body of water.

You need to find a natural body of water and stare at it until your eyeballs are so dry, they feel like they're bleeding.

Staring at the water will remind you of how small you are and how insignificant all of our embarrassing, little failures and screw-ups are in the grand scheme of things.

4. Get a manicure.

My life motto? Chipped nails, chipped brain. Polished nails, polished brain.

Sometimes taking care of yourself superficially works wonders for your mental health. When I look down at my nails during a bout of acute anxiety, I'll quickly spiral into a tunnel of darkness.

“Your nails are disgusting! You can't even get it together to PAINT them. What's wrong with you?”

Just looking at the chipped polish and the dirt lingering beneath my nails is enough to send me over the edge when I'm feeling fragile.

When I'm having an anxiety attack, and I look down and see my nails are painted a shiny BLACK, I smile.

“I might be a mess, but at least I can get it together to take CARE OF MY NAILS,” I'll smugly think to myself.

5. Don't neglect your sexuality.

Sometimes, you just have to fuck the pain away. No really, you do.

You're a sexual creature, and if you repress your sexual desires because you're too anxious and uptight to have sex, your anxiety is going to swell inside your body until it explodes into a full-blown breakdown.

Having sex releases hormones that are scientifically proven to make you feel gooey and cuddly and calm.

Sex gets you out of your ever-spinning head and connects to your heart. You're pure, raw instinct when you're fucking.

So ladies, gents and anyone in-between, if you're feeling anxious, call the hookup buddy (the one who is nice and respectful to you) and work through all those dark, terrible demons by basking in the sensation of a warm body on top of you.

There is a reason we say someone needs to “get laid” when they're acting uptight and bitchy.

Sex is like Valium. It makes your bones feel nice and loopy, and it puts a blissful smile across your angst-ridden face.

Only unlike Valium, sex is natural.

And isn't the goal is to be relaxed and calm, not a pill-obsessed robot?

I've been a pill-obsessed robot before, and trust me, honey, it's much more fun to have sex and feel strong enough to combat the anxiety with only the tools that exist inside of you.

And of course, if you're feeling really anxious, you can always message me, your internet big sister.

Disclaimer: This article is solely a reflection of the author's personal experience. The content of this article should not be used to replace the advice of a mental health professional.