How To Quiet The Negative & Fearful Voices In Your Head
Hiii (Ryan here)!
If you had a chance to read my recent article "Behind the Scenes of my Writing // Blogging Journey" - you heard about the ups and downs of my creative career journey -- namely: the fear & anxiety that has come along with it. Today, as a follow up to that post -- I'm sharing an article I wrote for Best Kept Self (below) -detailing the specific steps I've taken to quiet the fearful, negative voices in my head, and get back to a more confident + controlled state of mind.
I’ve been thinking a lot about FEAR this past year.
What is it exactly? How does it feel? How can it be contained?
When I quit my “dream job” in 2014 (because I was totally unhappy and stressed out), I was excited to face the unknown. Even though I’d quit without a backup plan, I was ready to plunge myself out of my comfort zone, develop new skills and explore my strengths!
I was ready to do whatever I needed to do to push my life in a new direction (and thankfully, I can say that I’ve succeeded in that regard!). I built a writing career out of thin air, launched SOLO with Erica, and was able to cover several months of bills with well-paying freelance jobs in marketing, writing, and events.
The flipside, however, was that there were also many weeks without paid work, leaving me scrambling to find odd jobs— chasing down a million (less-than glamorous) brand ambassador, bartender and server gigs—and worrying where my next paycheck would come from.
So despite feeling really excited about my creative projects, dealing with the financial uncertainty became quite difficult. And although I didn’t regret quitting my job, and didn’t feel outright “fearful” about my future, I noticed that “fear” was still managing to creep up and manifest itself in new ways in my mind.
I started hearing the negative voices in my head getting louder and louder at bedtime—filling my mind with obsessive, worried thoughts about work, and making it impossible to fall asleep. It wasn’t the debilitating type of fear that could keep me from wanting to pursue my dreams, but more of a constant, nagging fear that I wasn’t “doing enough” to accomplish them fast enough.
Knowing that I couldn’t let this fear dominate my thoughts forever, I decided that I had to find a solution.
For two weeks, I analyzed my thoughts and behaviors: carefully noting WHEN I had these obsessive, fearful thoughts and WHY they could be appearing.
By the end of this observational period, I had identified four major sources of my fear.
Reason #1: My “to do” lists were unrealistic
I was writing down way too many tasks in my daily journal, and not factoring in enough time to accomplish each one. As a result, I was constantly disappointed with myself and obsessively worried that I wasn’t doing “enough” to be successful.
The solution? : Now, I leave much more time to plan out my weekly schedule (realistically) and focus on one to two major “goals” that I’d like to accomplish per week, rather than multiple tasks per day.
Reason #2: I was working too late
After coming home from my day job, I would work out, make dinner, then immediately switch over to writing for the rest of the night. This meant that by bedtime (after starring at a screen for hours) my mind was totally wired and hooked on looping thoughts about work.
The solution? : Now, I wake up 1-2 hours before work to write, and make sure to leave at least an hour to two hours before bed to wind down, separate my mind from my work, and focus on sleep and serenity.
Reason #3: I wasn’t allowing enough time for self-reflection
Because I was rushing through each day, constantly focused on work tasks left to accomplish, I wasn’t allowing time to celebrate small achievements in each day, and instead allowing negative, obsessive thoughts to build.
The solution? : Now, I regularly journal at night (3-4 times a week) —specifically writing about the “peaks” of my day and focusing on tasks that I’m proud of accomplishing. I've also started meditating using the "Headspace" app - which significantly helps calm and declutter the mind.
Reason #4: I had fallen into a health “rut”
Although I’ve always strived to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, I’d fallen into a rut and was making the same boring foods every day and doing the same workouts at the gym (and seeing minimal results). In turn, I didn’t have a healthy release for my stress and my self-confidence was beginning to suffer (which always leads to a spike in overall negative thinking).
The solution? : I signed up for Classpass to mix up my workouts (pilates & yoga are particularly helpful for reducing anxiety) and began experimenting with 2 new healthy recipes per week. As a result, I’m feeling much happier, healthier and more positive throughout the day.
As a result of this "fear" exercise, I was able to get to the root of my negative thoughts, adjust my daily habits and combat my fear by cultivating a more positive, confident state of mind.
If you yourself are grappling with anxious, negative, and/or fearful thoughts—I urge you to take back control of your mind and stop letting fear dictate the direction of your dreams! Conduct your own “fear investigation” by journaling daily. Write down what your negative "voices" are saying, figure out what's causing them, and adjust your daily habits to boost your confidence and get to a healthier mental state of mind!