“My life was ruled by panic attacks. Here’s my seven-point guide to tackling anxiety.”
Tim Clare, shown above, spent a year researching panic attacks, a condition that left him continually, grindingly anxious. He tried every treatment he could think of—chronicling his journey in the book, Coward: Why We Get Anxious and What We Can Do About It. A portion of his story is below.
Pinned to the living room floor, screaming, Tim Clare is having a panic attack. He’s terrified. Beneath the fear, he’s also burning with shame.
From two rooms away comes the sound of nursery rhymes, playing at full volume. Clare’s wife is attempting to drown him out, so he doesn’t frighten their baby daughter.
A couple of years ago, this was Clare’s reality. For more than a decade, panic attacks had controlled his life. He had several every week. He was continually, grindingly anxious, but didn’t know what to do about it.
Clare kept telling himself the panic wasn’t that bad, that each attack was a freak occurrence: He had been tired or under pressure or otherwise stressed out and overwhelmed and just didn’t know how to handle the situation in the moment.
Becoming a dad changed all that. Clare had read the grim statistics linking parental mental illness to lower academic achievement and resilience in children—one study even found a parent’s mental health correlated to a heightened risk of asthma in his or her kids. Clare couldn’t let this happen to his daughter. Something had to change, now.
“I kept telling myself it wasn’t that bad, that each attack was a freak occurrence—I’d been tired or under pressure,” Clare said. “I embarked on a year of trying everything I could, seeking out every treatment, every new frontier in research, to beat my anxiety.”
What followed was a long, uncomfortable process not of learning but rather of unlearning how to handle his panic attacks. Clare thought he’d feel smarter, more in control with each study he read and researcher he spoke with. Rather, with each article he studied and expert he talked to Clare felt less sure of his own expertise.
This wasn’t the journey he had planned. He wanted 12 Rules, 10 Habits, 1 Weird Trick to make his anxiety gone forever. What he got were 7 things that worked perfectly for him.
“What I learned through my experiments is, once you embrace uncertainty, you make space for possibility,” Clare said. “That’s where change happens.”
Here are Clare’s 7 strategies. For more details about each, visit https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/may/22/my-life-was-ruled-by-panic-attacks-how-tim-clare-learned-to-cope-with-anxiety?CMP=oth_b-aplnews_d-1
1) Find exercise that works for you. This includes HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State).
2) Pay attention to your diet. This involves eliminating sugary foods and refined carbs and choosing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in plant-based polysaccharides. Nuts and olive oil are ideal choices, as well. So, is not eating much meat.
3) Don’t rely solely on medication. Try other approaches in parallel.
4) Cold-water exposure can help. As an anxiety cure, jumping in a cold shower or swimming outdoors in cold weather seems silly but helps normalize the hormonal cascade our body releases under stress, causing us to relax.
5) The jury is still out on psychedelics. Taking a trip under safe, controlled conditions may prove profound and valuable, but it might not make you better. Error on the side of caution.
6) Writing can have unexpected benefits. Gratitude journals are often among the best options in modulating your mood, but other options also exist.
7) Talk honestly about how you feel. Once the message has been delivered, you can rest.
If you want to tackle your anxiety, be a good scientist,” Clare said. “Try things. Observe the results. Anxious people crave certainty. Science is about doubt. What I learned through my experiments was, once you embrace uncertainty, you make space for possibility. That’s where change happens.”
Clare, T. Coward: Why We Get Anxious and What We Can Do About It. Guardianbookshop.com. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/may/22/my-life-was-ruled-by-panic-attacks-how-tim-clare-learned-to-cope-with-anxiety?CMP=oth_b-aplnews_d-1