My Anxiety Relief Is a 5-Minute Scream Every Morning
How stimulus control can compartmentalize your worries and fears
My list of worries is long. Yours probably is, too. It contains all of my own issues: the impending visit with my accountant to do my taxes, the freelancer’s eternal anxiety of waiting for paychecks from clients, the logistics of where I’m moving when my lease ends, that thing where you replay every conversation you’ve ever had in your head and think about how you specifically said exactly the wrong thing in each interaction. But there are also the existential concerns. I know I’m not alone in feeling out of control and overwhelmed with the world right now; it’s impossible not to be.
So, I’ve been trying something new. I’ve been waking up early — earlier than usual for me, which is already quite early — to sit in the predawn blue silence and, for precisely five minutes, scream. Or cry. Or just sit there silently experiencing the entire spectrum of negative human emotion.
I used to do this as a kid. Not the screaming, but the sitting. After my parents’ divorce, when they sold our house with the swing set and the backyard and my mom moved us into an apartment complex, I woke up every morning around 5:00 with a stomachache and stared at the AM/FM clock radio on my nightstand. I’d watch the numbers change until the morning light filtered into the apartment and I could leave my bed to get ready for school.
I didn’t have a word to describe what I felt then, because I was a child, but in retrospect, what I was feeling was anxiety. In recent years, during periods of intense anxiety — after I got harassed off the internet in December 2017 when a video I worked on went viral, after a world-shatteringly bad breakup, after I quit my job last year in a stressful and public way — my internal body clock has recalibrated to 2000. Suddenly I’m seven years old again, processing grief and sadness and staring at my clock at five in the morning.
I call my morning ritual Five Minutes. (The name is not creative.) I set a timer for five minutes and fully allow myself to feel however I want for that chunk of time. I can be sad or upset, or lament something I think is unfair, or mourn a lost…