3 Ways Menswear Helps Me Deal With Anxiety
I have been an anxious person my whole life. I was always aware of it. But while I always knew I “was anxious”, it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood before I came to the realization that I actually “had anxiety”. That is, I was always aware that I viewed life through a dirty window, and that that was abnormal, but I wasn’t always aware that those feelings were a “thing”. And that that “thing” had a name.
I think I just set a record for number of times using the word “that” in a paragraph. Oh well. Come at me, grammar bros.
Anyway, as I am sure many of you know, dealing with something like anxiety is a constant struggle. Some days are good; some days are not-so-good. If you’re like me, you’re constantly analyzing yourself, trying to better straighten out whatever your mind may be doing at any given time. Constantly thinking about how you relate to yourself and others, especially your kids. Constantly trying to get a better and firmer handle on things.
Sometimes you even have an “A-HA!” moment. An “I Was Today-Years-Old When I Realized…” moment. I had one of those moments earlier this morning which is what inspired me to write this post.
I realized that my love of menswear and clothing in general could very well be a direct result of my anxiety. A way to cope, if you will. And now that I know that, I can proactively leverage it to help me even further. Also, I hope that in sharing these details, I can help others with their own anxiety.
Here is how menswear helps me deal with anxiety…
#1 – Keeping Me In The Moment
One of the things I like so much about menswear is all the “stuff” going on. I find it a feast for the senses. Textures, colors, different fabrics, different weaves. Silky tie knots, scratchy tweed, fragrant leather. Powder-soft cashmere, icy poplin, crinkly seersucker. Sometimes I will just sit and feel or touch whatever I am wearing and smile.
Often when I am feeling anxious, it’s these sensations that help keep me in-the-moment. If I’m feeling like my mind is about to fly away from me, these sensations help keep me grounded. I’ll think about how my fluffy corduroy feels, or how I got my tie dimple perfect today, or how supple the crown of my hat is, and those thoughts are juuust enough of a distraction to keep me from spiraling out of control.
Those thoughts are like little pin-pricks in the bucket of my anxiety. They won’t totally take it away, but they drain it enough so that it doesn’t overflow. My mind is distracted enough so that it can’t add the proper amount of fuel to the anxious thoughts.
#2 – Giving Me Control
When things feel out of control it is natural to want to exert control where you can. Feeling like you are controlling something makes the out-of-control moments feel more manageable.
For me, I find it calming know that my clothes are something I have 100% control over. And because it’s a hobby of mine and I know a lot about it, I always feel confident that I am appropriately dressed wherever I am. Getting dressed for me is not a source of stress as it is for many men.
Because of that, getting dressed helps reduce my anxiety because, even if I am in a stressful situation like an interview, I know that I at least have that part nailed down. Also, thinking about what to wear helps divert my thoughts away from ruminating about other things (“Will I say the wrong thing?”, “Am I truly qualified for this?”, “What if they see that I’m super anxious?”).
When my wife I first got together, I didn’t have a clue regarding dressing. I’m talking cargo shorts and twenty-year-old t-shirts with holes. When we went to dinner, I would dress “nicer”, but only because I was still an adult with a functioning brain and knew not to look like total crap while out with my wife.
Going out was always a trigger for my anxiety. And even though I was having a fully immersive experience with my wife, my mind was always trying to boomerang back to my anxious thoughts.
Once I got a handle on proper menswear and actually got dressed UP for dinner, going out was no longer a trigger. I had control of something. I thought about it ahead of time and distracted myself from the needless silly thoughts. It helped transform going out from a source of anxiety to a source of total joy, which is what it should have been all along.
#3 Helping Me Think Of The Future In A Positive Light
This is somewhat related to #2.
In the past I always thought of upcoming events or get-togethers through the lens of “Oh my god, I hope I can just make it through this without having a panic attack and embarrassing myself”. Once I started enjoying dressing, I automatically starting thinking of upcoming events as “Oh cool! I wonder what I should wear!”
It became a positive and excited reaction, instead of a reflexively negative one. So all of a sudden, my mind was taken up with thoughts of what to wear and getting happy about that. I WASN’T thinking about all the reasons I should be anxious. Once that started happening it became habit after a while. Now whenever I am faced with a new experience, I feel good and confident about it. I look forward to it instead of dreading it. I have inadvertently trained myself to be less anxious simply because I like getting dressed for things.
It’s strange that it took me this long to connect the dots. It’s not exactly a stretch that my hobbies reflect my natural predisposition. But then again, I was 24 when I realized I had anxiety so I am apparently on a slower learning curve than I’d like to think.
Hopefully someone will find some value in this. I would love if I could help someone else through some of the struggles I deal with now and then.