Life with anxiety is bastardingly hard.
Imagine the stab music from Psycho thumping in your ears, in time with your pounding heart, as you teeter over a scorching inferno across a creaking rope-bridge between a bloodthirsty zombie clown and a complete statement of all the debt you owe.
And that's just getting out of bed.
As author Aaron Gillies puts it:
"Anxiety feels like that moment of dread when you get to the airport and think you’ve forgotten your passport, but all the time and for no reason.
Anxiety is an unending, tiring, exhausting questioning of everything, going to every worst case scenario before a scenario has even presented itself.
Anxiety is worry on steroids."
And he'd know – he wrote the book.
As you might expect, then, us anxietybods are keen to do anything we can to minimise the constant terror of existence. And one of the things I've found that really helps is smart tech.
Whether it's knowing I'll get an instant alert to my phone if the fire alarm at home goes off, or calling up the webcam feed to check my cat is not only fine but fast asleep, tech has the power to reassure instantly.
Of course, tech alone can't solve anxiety: you also need treatment. But while you're waiting for the meds to kick in or the therapy waiting list to be less than 50 years long, it can really help.
Here are 5 ways it makes me feel better. (Your mileage may vary).
1. "Yes, your straighteners are still off"
We all sometimes worry that we've left something switched on. Whether it's the iron, the oven, or in my case my stupidly overpowered hair straighteners, there's always that tiny spark of doubt as to whether you really did flip the switch before you went to work. And if you've got anxiety, that spark quickly turns into a rampant flash fire that devours not only the room, but the entire house and possibly the neighbourhood too. We're just that powerful.
Image: Kasa via iTunes
I've solved this by attaching any device I worry about to a smart plug. This is a simple bit of kit that goes in between the three-pin plug and the power socket. The simplest ones just add connectivity, so you can control things from the app, or check they're definitely definitely not switched on. The more sophisticated ones can monitor power consumption too, so you can pretend it's more about saving your money than your sanity. (If you worry a lot about money – who doesn't? – a smart heating system can actually turn itself off when you go out).
2. "Here is the exact spot where I am in case a bear gets me"
Whether I'm on my way to someone or they're on their way to me, it helps to be able to share an exact location and real-time progress. That way, when I'm walking along a totally empty pavement yet still feel like I'm definitely being followed by an invisible axe-murderer, I know someone can come and find me immediately if I stop texting back.
There are lots of ways to share where you are. In Google Maps, for instance, go to Menu > Share location. From Uber, the 'Share ETA' option while you're on a trip sends a link letting your chosen saviour follow your journey in real-time on a map (ideal if the driver is giving you the spooks).
I also like Google's 'Trusted Contacts' app, which lets you request someone's location (or them request yours), and if you don't respond within a set time, it's sent automatically.
It's never been useful in a murder situation yet (touch wood), but it was well handy when my partner left his phone on the train.
3. "There is literally nothing happening in your lounge. Look."
I'm weirdly, ridiculously overprotective of my cat. Maybe it's because I've had her since she was a tiny kitten, or maybe just because I've got issues, but going out and leaving her feels like putting a baby in a basket and dropping it in the river.
Since I'm probably going to be Crazy Cat Lady forever, I use security cameras and webcams like baby monitors to check in on my moggy. 99% of the time, she's asleep, but rather than just trying to convince myself that she's totally fine and definitely breathing, I can see that she is. And that works a lot better.
It's also good to see that things in my house are fine. No one's smashed the window, there isn't a creepy dude sitting in the dark, and no one's eaten my emergency Doritos. All is calm.
4. "That's not carbon monoxide. You burnt the toast again."
On a similar note, smart home products are ideal for reassuring yourself that you haven't, in fact, been robbed or had your house burn to the ground while you were out, and that you're not breathing in noxious gases.
Lots of smart home manufacturers offer window and door sensors, as well as outdoor CCTV-style smart cameras, and smoke/fire/carbon monoxide detectors. Nothing makes me feel better than this screen on my Nest Protect app:
If the alarm goes off, I'll get a notification no matter where I am. And if you don't have a smart smoke alarm, you can use something like Roost to add smart chops to your old one.
5. "Your tablets are on the way"
A relatively new addition to my arsenal of anxiety-busting apps, Echo is an (iOS, Android is coming next month) app that works with the NHS to keep your stock of medication topped up.
It's amazing for people with long-term health problems and repeat prescriptions. You sign up through the app (surprisingly simple, considering how tech and the NHS usually interface) and reorder your repeat prescriptions there when you need them.
They're automatically requested from your GP, and you get a notification when they've been approved. Then, Echo gets the meds for you and sends them to you in the post. FOR NOTHING. The app and the postage are free. It's basically magic.
I know, you're thinking "somehow, this isn't going to work for me." But I've been using it for months now and although I had one prescription that needed an appointment first, I still got the tablets in the meantime.
Echo even tells you how to take your medication, and can send push reminders. It's brilliant, and has totally relieved my anxiety that my anxiety meds would run out. Yes, we even get anxiety about anxiety. It's great.
A few things to remember
Inevitably, there are some aspects of this article I'm worried about. So please bear these things in mind:
- Tech alone can't fix anxiety. You still need therapy and possibly medication. Please take care of yourself, nothing is more important than your health.
- Some of the tech in this piece could be dangerous in the hands of an abusive person. For instance, location tracking and webcams could be used to keep tabs on someone. If you're in an abuse situation or are concerned someone could take advantage of this kind of tech, it might be better not to use it.
- While I've found smart home tech useful for quietening the anxious voice in the back of my head, some people might find it makes them worse. If you get a webcam and can't stop checking it, for instance, that could be a sign that this isn't the right path for you. Speak to your therapist if you're concerned.
Phew. Now I'm going to put on a guided meditation (on my Google Home, obvs) and calm the eff down.
Let me know if this helped you, or you have more suggestions, in the comments. And be nice. Anxious people are mean enough to themselves without you joining in.