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When I’m Anxious, I Turn Off the Music. Do You Do Something Similar?

When I’m Anxious, I Turn Off the Music. Do You Do Something Similar?

Recently, I realized something about myself.

When I'm feeling anxious, I often respond by turning down some sensation. For instance, during the most intense part of the pandemic shut-down, I stopped wearing perfume or lighting scented candles—and I was puzzled by my own reaction.

Then, as I thought about it, I realized when my daughter Eleanor was playing music in the kitchen, I'd ask her to turn it off.

I wouldn’t be feeling particularly anxious, but suddenly, the extra scent or sound seemed like too much.

It took me some time to realize that this habit was my “tell.” In gambling, a tell is a change in behavior that reveals a person’s inner state, and gamblers look for tells as clues about whether other players are holding good or bad hands.

I knew that one of my tells is that when I’m feeling worried, I re-read my favorite works of children’s literature, because I want the coziness and familiarity of a book I love.

Now I’ve identified a new tell.

I’ve only recently realized this habit in myself, and I'm curious—do other people do this, too?

For instance, I recently got this email:

I had been a dedicated listener of the Happier podcast for a long time, until the Covid shutdown, when, bizarrely, I stopped listening to all podcasts. I’m still not sure why I stopped listening, but I’m so glad that I resumed listening to your show.

How about you? When you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, do you try to change your environment in some way?

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