I'm writing this here because (a.) it's a question-and-answer on John Green's Tumblr, and you can't reblog question-and-answers on Tumblr, and (b.) it's really good advice about the nature of stress. John answered a question on his Tumblr about brushing one's teeth. This is a topic he's discussed before, and he's experienced in the field of discussing dental hygiene failures. The whole post is quite good, but I want to draw attention to a particular segment:
So here’s the best way to overcome [your mental block] in my experience: You have to acknowledge that the thing you are about to do, even though there is nothing technically difficult about it, is extremely hard for you to do at this particular moment. You know that it is extremely hard because you have failed to do it on many previous occasions.
You don’t need to think about why it is so difficult; you just have to accept that it is difficult.
(I have to do this all the time when it comes to doing the dishes, which is not a hard chore, but I get very anxious about it and overwhelmed and my brain just says THE DISHES WILL BE THE HARDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED, and I have to tell my brain: Okay. You are right. The dishes will be very hard. But I am going to do them! I am going to do this very difficult thing!)
So then once you have accepted in a non-judgmental way that for whatever reason this thing you have to do is very difficult for you, you can then psych yourself up to do it, and then you do it: You’re brushing your teeth, and you spend a solid minute or two brushing all the surfaces, and then you spit and rinse your mouth out, and you have just done a really difficult thing.
John really nails, in this post, what it's like to have anxiety. When it's light, there might be only a few things that feel overwhelmingly difficult. When it's bad, it can feel like almost everything is prohibitively hard. But, the important thing to note is that it actually is difficult. You're not just imagining it -- well, okay, you could probably characterize it as imagining it. But that fact, because you can't un-imagine it, adds genuine difficulty to the task.