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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Conquering Anxiety

Robert Manni - Thursday, July 13, 2017


Unless you’re entering an actual lion’s den, fear is a fleeting emotion created in the mind. But in these uncertain times of fear-based news and media, many folks live with an omnipresent feeling of anxiety.

Even the word “anxiety” sounds uncomfortable. Wikipedia defines it as an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, like pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. Shit, I feel nervous already. So how can we manage our nervous pangs and the feelings of dread that can creep into our consciousness? Let me tell you a story…

I recently had a bout with anxiety that had been triggered years ago when I was trapped alone in an office elevator for close to an hour. Before this occurred, I had never had any thoughts of discomfort about tight spaces. But after that incident, I realized that the mind could play tricks and allow fear to grab hold of our consciousness. In most cases, the old adage “there is nothing to fear except fear itself” rings true, but we all have triggers that cause mental and physical discomfort, and waves of anxiety. It might be a fear of heights, tight spaces, spiders, snakes, clowns, or situations like losing a job, money, or your lover. Today, your Guy’s Guy is drawing on his personal experiences and bouts of anxiety to serve up a few tips that may help you deal with that nasty stuff in your head. Here goes…

Ever since I was trapped alone in an elevator for close to an hour, my mind has played games on me when I’m faced with really tight spaces. Being a certified advanced clinical hypnotist, after the elevator incident, I made sure I practiced what I preached and got help from one of my teachers. It made a huge difference, but like all hypnosis, the patient needs to take an active role in overcoming his issues.

Although hypnosis wiped away most of the residual claustrophobia, I did a double take the first time I saw an MRI machine online. I was due for back-to-back robotic surgeries and needed MRI’s prior to and after both operations. After that, I would need annual MRI’s for the next five years. The first time I saw that tube on my computer I was hit with a wave of anxiety. Requiring two robotic surgeries on my kidneys was stressful enough without adding multiple stints in the MRI tube. None of this had ever been in my purview. My world had been turned upside down when I was diagnosed. I needed to get a grip on my mental, physical, and spiritual facilities, pronto.

I thought I had moved past any discomfort with tight spaces—I took the subway almost every day—but the thought of sliding into that tube was troubling. I was expecting to be in there for about five minutes, but I was wrong. The first time I was in the tube it would be for forty-five minutes.

Inside the tube, I laid with my eyes closed listening to the distant voice of the technician telling me to breathe in, hold my breath, and breathe out while disturbingly loud noises from the machine clanged through my head. It was awful and it was just the beginning. What could I do?

I looked inside myself and I asked for help. I had to get a handle on this quick and take charge of my emotions. So, after the first session, I reviewed the details of my entrance form and realized I had foolishly agreed to take part in a research study. I said, sure, without inquiring what this entailed, only to discover that my participation in the test required me to spend twice the amount of time in the tube. Even though I had checked the box for claustrophobia on my form, I let myself be convinced to be part of a study to help other patients.

So I called the test center, raised hell, and got out of the test. Based on my claustrophobia, they never should have asked me to participate in the first place. But, I learned that as a patient, you have to fully participate in the process and all of the decisions you make concerning your care. Fortunately, the next test was only twenty minutes. And I was better mentally prepared for the series of MRI’s that were in my immediate future.

How did I handle my anxiety? I asked myself what else I could do and then realized that I’d done my best. What I needed most at this juncture was to stay alert and trust the process. Six weeks and two robotic surgeries later, I set out to heal and learn from the experience. And I really did. I had faced the abyss, not even knowing the fate of my right kidney when I went under the anesthesia, and came out fine. What I learned from my fear and anxiety had ultimately made me stronger.

A year went by and I forgot about the MRI until about a month before it was time to slide back in the tube again. I was caught off guard by new pangs of anxiety, but this time I felt more prepared. I placed a call to the center and made sure I had been eliminated from the test study. But the day of the test, when I saw the tube, I took a step back. It looked way smaller than the tube used the previous year. I took a deep breath and slid in dutifully. I choose classical music for my earphones, kept my eyes closed, and repeated The Violet Flame Invocation— “ I am a being of violet fire. I am the purity God desires” as I listened to the tech’s directions. Although in my mind the tube felt tight, I was handling it okay until the machine malfunctioned. I didn’t know what was going on, but it felt like something wasn’t right. I called out to the technician, but no answer. Waves of anxiety poured enveloped me. I squeezed the ball they gave me to signal the techs to slide me out of the machine. At first, even that did not work. Then, finally I was moving.

Once out of the tube, I was told the machine had malfunctioned and I’d have to wait outside until another machine became available. WTF!? I sat waiting nervously in my gown and socks for the next half hour. I was totally off my game when they summoned me the second time. This time, the machine looked bigger. (Later I found out that it actually was.) I lay down, did my best to get into my zone, and got through it. Afterwards, I let out a sigh of relief and headed home. Fortunately my results were once again clear and I was free for another year.

Fast-forward to 2017. I had only three more MRI’s to go before shifting to an annual ultrasound. For some reason, about a month before my test, I began having anxiety about my upcoming procedure. I needed to get my shit together and get ahead of the game. I recalled what had occurred the prior two years and wondered what screw-ups and dread awaited me this time. I went through my mental checklist and made the necessary adjustments. This time I would wear boxer shorts because they were more comfortable in the tube. Check. I also got my blood test and results ahead of time. Check. Then, remembering what seemed to me to be varying sizes of the MRI tubes, I called the center and asked if I was scheduled for the larger tube I had the previous year, following the first tube’s malfunction. The administrator informed me that I was scheduled for the small tube again.

“What is wrong with these people?” I thought. After all, the previous year I had again checked the box for claustrophobia. I had assumed that people are mindful about their jobs. Nope. Finally management switched me to one of the big tubes. I knew which one to request in subsequent years. Check. The morning of the test I asked myself what the hell I was so concerned about. After all, there was really no way I could be harmed during the test. There were aides and technicians everywhere, and I had the signal ball to squeeze if I was freaking out and needed to come out of the tube for a break. Although I may have had reason for my mental anguish, I realized that my anxiety self-induced and all in my head. As soon as I got through to my subconscious, I was ready to go.

This time the test went as smooth as silk. I repeated my violet flame affirmation, but I also asked my guides and angels to be there with me. In fact, I could feel their presence and felt light and protected as a cool breeze from the machine blew up my boxer shorts. The twenty minutes flew by, and the results were all clear. I also picked up one more trick—instead of using the cumbersome headphones next time I’ll ask for the ear buds during the test because they’re lighter and less restricting. So now I know that, too.

Okay, this has been a long story, and thanks for hanging in there. The point is that there are ways to deal with anxiety. Want proof? Here I am, alive, healed, and stronger than ever. In fact, I’m running my usual 6.2-mile loop of Central Park in the same time as I did prior to my surgeries three years ago. I’m sure you will have your own challenges to face, but when you do, consider these steps to power through the situation and come up better than ever.

1. Be prepared – The more you learn about and know the practical aspects about what you’re facing, the less uncertainty there is and the better off you’ll be. Putting the randomness of human error aside, at least you’ll know you did what you could to address your fears and the scenarios you’re facing.

2. Ask what’s the worst that can happen? – If you’re really freaked out, take a few deep breaths, calm down and ask your higher self, what’s the worst scenario you might be facing. Then consider the best possible outcome. I’ll bet that the worst outcome is highly unlikely and in many cases not that probable, or that awful. Keeping a positive frame of mind helps create a positive outcome. When we think about only the bad stuff, that’s what happens. Manage your energy and your vibe. It matters.

3. Learn from your experience – Having a painful kidney stone, two robotic surgeries, and all the follow up procedures, including the dreaded MRI’s, has, in a crazy way, actually been a blessing. I am a different person now, and hopefully a stronger and better person. I’m not as fearful, and I now realize I have more power than I previously believed.

4. Ask for help – Despite the loneliness we all experience from time to time, we are not alone. Not only are we all connected, but we also have spiritual entities looking out for us. If you’re a believer, don’t be afraid to call on them.

5. Say WTF and go for it – After you have done your research, considered the possibilities, gotten your head together, and asked for help, the only thing left to do is to be like Nike and just do it. It’s called life, amigo, and we all have to face some shit. Believe me, adversity can make you stronger and more resilient. Believe in yourself.

This week’s GUY’S GUY OF THE WEEK is Daniel. You know, the guy from the Old Testament who had his faith tested when asked to enter the lion’s den. Now that’s major anxiety. But as he demonstrated, faith and love can conquer fear.

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