Dragging Anxiety Through the Fire and the Flames

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word “relaxation”? Do you think about slow music and a warm massage? Do you imagine yourself in a sunny meadow in the summertime? How about a hot bath surrounded by candles? Or even reclining in your favorite chair to watch the big game with a beer in one hand and a plate of junk food on your lap?

Everyone has their own way to relax, but we generally accept the same sorts of things to be “relaxing”: pleasant smells, yummy foods, comfy furniture, time to rest, time to enjoy something that you truly love, being pampered. But then again, some of us relax in ways that make other people raise their eyebrows and wonder if perhaps there is something wrong with us.

I’ve mentioned a great number of times on this blog that I have stomach problems. Part of those problems are due to the fact that I eat food I really shouldn’t and fail to take care of myself properly, but something I’ve only really figured out in the past couple of years is that a great deal of my problem is due to anxiety. I get anxious about the possibility of stomach problems, and thus I wind up having them. Then the stomach problems make me more anxious, which exacerbates the stomach problems even more. My body and mind work together to create a very miserable, cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anxiety can result from a great many things, but for me what starts the avalanche sliding is any kind of travel. If I know that I’m not going to be handy to a bathroom for any significant period of time the anxiousness rears its ugly head and it all goes to hell from there. And because my work requires me to spend a significant amount of time on buses, shuttles, or out in the plant where I can easily be a ten-minute walk from any wash-car, you can see that I have many opportunities in daily life to become an anxiety-riddled basket-case.

Medication helps to an extent, but I also have to talk myself down on a regular basis; to force myself to relax, if you will. So how do I do it? How do I convince myself to relax? Peppermint tea? Lavender perfume? Pressure points? Breathing techniques? Nope. When I find myself in a position of imminent anxiety, I throw on my headphones and listen to this:

Now, you may, of course, recognize Through the Fire and the Flames by Dragonforce to be one of the least relaxing songs of all time. This is the point in the post where you’re probably raising an eyebrow and wondering if there’s something wrong with me.

The fact is that I’ve tried lots of different, seemingly more appropriate, music to help me relax. Classical music helped the most because it’s so soft and soothing, but what I found even with that was that my mind would still wander, and that wandering would inevitably land me back in anxiety-land. Then one day Through the Fire and the Flames randomized on my playlist while I was on the bus coming back from work, and by the end of it I realized that I’d spent the last few minutes of the trip blissfully lacking in anxiety.

My theory is that what I really need is something so busy and complicated that it forces my brain to turn off in order to deal with the barrage of information. I can’t think about being anxious because I’m busy focusing on the multitude of different instruments, beats, voices, and melodies that are intricately interlaced to create what many people would say is just noise. For many people this particular song would probably send their heart rate through the roof and actually make them more anxious, but for me it helps my brain to default to some kind of primal music-only level. I start to count the drum beats, to predict tonal changes, to focus on distinguishing each instrument, and to follow the notes in my head as they storm past. My mind becomes absorbed with music and everything else turns off.

Of course, that’s not to say that this method will work for me forever, but for no the combination of medication and Dragonforce are making my daily travel a heck of a lot more doable.

How do you relax? Do you have any favorite techniques or methods that seem weird to other people in your life? How about suggestions for methods that you think could really help other people? Please share!

2 thoughts on “Dragging Anxiety Through the Fire and the Flames

  1. Ahh.. Through the Fire and Flames! That was on Guitar Hero (I think). Great song! To relax, I go running. When I’m running I can think about everything (or nothing) and I know there’s no need to worry because I’m out running and there’s nothing I can do about it out there. I can think through what’s worrying me without feeling the need to act. Also, the music helps, too. I’m either so focus on the music that I don’t even realize I’m running. Or I’m so focused on a thought that I don’t hear the music or realize I’m running. Win Win.

  2. To relax? As you’re likely aware, I’m an introvert, which means that after work, and after all the things I need to take care of at home, the social aspects of life seems to become burdensome on me. So I need a little bit of me time.

    Sadly I hardly get this kind of time to myself, as I have an enormous palate of responsibilities that orbit around me like satellites. There’s always something to think about. So even with the alone time, I hardly ever relax my brain.

    And on a side note, (with respect to the fact that we’re both happily married), I think you’re awesome.

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