Cut Down, Reduce, Filter

Following up on yesterday’s thoughts in relation to anxiety, you might find it useful to read about the greatest positive action I have taken to reduce my own anxiety. This action was simple: I cut down, reduced, and filtered out.

Cutting Down

Firstly, I am running fewer games. I am playing more than I used to but I am being selective.

I used to run three or more games but none of them ever went longer than six sessions. I was constantly disappointed, stressed, anxious, and felt bad about myself. The best thing about my neural crisis back last year was that I was forced to stop.

Right now, I am running one ongoing campaign – Mystamyr on Mondays biweekly. While I am talking about and working towards a new campaign in Glorantha – biweekly on Friday nights face-to-face – this feels like my limit.

Cutting down the volume of games I run or commit to playing in has helped.

Over the summer, when work was on hold and I had more time, I both ran and played in some more games. The best decision I made was to kill them all once they encroached on the September going back to school (wherein I work) deadline. Term time, I can handle one campaign… maybe two… but possibly one is enough.

Reducing

Reducing what I am consuming has helped me hugely.

I buy less stuff. Most of the stuff I buy doesn’t get read, used, or played. The fear of missing out was driving my addiction to shopping. This in turn was driven by my social anxiety. Believing I needed to be in on stuff was costing me a fortune but also costing my sanity. I buy less stuff now.

What I do seek to consume is getting organised. Reading wise, I have my Bullet Journal reading list as a collection plus a carefully curated approach to doing the actual reading.

For TV and movies, I have limited myself to one thing at a time in my playlist. Deb (my wife) and I share several shows we enjoy watching but I have been grateful for the recent return of one episode per week, per show. It has lessened the flow of input and I am happier and healthier. The binges are lessening.

This has knocked on into other aspects of my life, such as my dietary habits: I binge less food, eat fewer take-outs, feel better overall in my body. This is because I am less anxious, a driver of those behaviours to soothe myself.

The magic is that I am reading more. I am enjoying the TV and movies more. I feel better.

Filtering Out

I have also begun to filter out the noise. The static in my life is overwhelming: too many voices, too many colourful products, too much of everything. Living in an abundant world is both wonderful – so many choices – but also unhealthy… at least for me, as an anxious person.

Opinions are all well and good but I am tuning out, filtering out, weeding out the angry voices. The urgent demanding voices – like the TV or radio news channels – are unnecessarily stressful. Instead, I am turning up the gain on people who mean more to me. On the voices that interest me in a genuine way.

Not everything in the world is made for everyone. I don’t like much jazz but that’s ok because that music isn’t being made for me. Iron Maiden, however… that stuff was made for people like me and I love to hear it. The same goes for Mozart and Eurovision’s pop offerings.

In gaming terms, I am seeking Otherworld-immersion as a player. As a Game Master, I am seeking good people who share my values.

I want to part of a community of discovery that accepts me for who I am. That community is probably small but scattered all over the globe. Thanks to the internet and the magic of technology, I can find those people and they can find me. I just need to filter out the rest – wonderfully different human beings, but not my tribe (as Seth Godin would say).

Overall, these strategies have made it easier for me to continue to function in a pandemic, through the political upheaval of Brexit, through the challenges of being a High School teacher… and so on.

I’m still finding my way through my bouts of anxiousness but I feel like I have found my feet.

Game on!

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