I got a chance to connect with Allison Micco from the Don’t Freak Out podcast about mental health! She has some amazing insights about anxiety, sobriety, and being open about mental health.
What inspired your podcast Don’t Freak Out?
I had struggled with anxiety for years, and I honestly did not think there was any hope for healing in my case. I had panic attacks, phobias, OCD, social anxiety… you name it! Every time I reached out for help it seemed I got another diagnosis and another medication suggestion, which left me feeling so frustrated and hopeless.
I set out on my own healing journey through a combination of education, self-care, nutrition, and spiritual practice and started to feel an incredible shift in my experience of anxiety. Once that happened I felt like my entire world opened up- I was more self-confident, social, independent and driven. The idea for a podcast came about because I wanted to share all the resources that helped me along my recovery. I never ever thought I could heal- so I wanted to be a source of information to other young people who may have a similar thought about their own potential.
You get to interact with a lot of interesting people for your podcast, what has been the biggest eye opening chat you’ve had?
Great question! Probably Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety. I’ve known and loved her work for a while, but one thing she said during the interview really stuck with me forever. She said so many people are OK with their lives being not that bad, which allows them to find almost a level of comfort in their discomfort. I totally resonated with that- life being not that bad kept me drinking, smoking, eating garbage, wasting my life on the internet, etc., way longer than I should have. I could see how anxiety being “not that bad” prevented my growth and healing for so long. Anxiety had become almost a safety blanket for me- I hated it, and I did suffer from it, but the mantra “I have anxiety” allowed me to avoid potential failures, step away from taking any risks or trying new opportunities, and really just kept me stuck in a shitty mindset and lifestyle.
What impact do you see yourself making with Don’t Freak Out, what direction are you headed in?
I love this! I took a bit of a break from DFO in the fall to plan the next steps, so it’s a very timely question 🙂 Since the start of the show I have highlighted how mindset, nutrition, addiction, lifestyle, and spiritual practice effect our experience of anxiety. Lately I’ve been particularly interested in the way new media and technology is affecting our mental health. Smartphones and social media are a massive problem affecting mental health today and I hope to bring some awareness to this problem as well as tools to manage tech/social media addiction in the context of mental health.
What keeps you going everyday and leaves you inspired to do more?
There is so much suffering and injustice in the world, and we need mentally healthy and aware people. In many ways depression and anxiety are an incredible tool for social control- after all, if you can’t get out of bed in the morning you can’t be an activist that takes down the system, right? I want to continue to help education people on finding mental fitness so they can have the courage, strength, and mindset to create the change they want to see in the world.
What is your favorite coping mechanism for a tough time?
It depends. Sometimes I am an unhealthy coper and I emotionally order lamb vindaloo takeout (which, hey, does sometimes help!). Other times I get my ass to the gym, or hit my journal, or talk to a friend about what’s going on. Also watching standup comedy is a big brain break for me.
Favorite quote or lyric that helps you through?
“It is No Measure of Health to Be Well Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick Society” -Jiddu Krishnamurti
Sometimes we judge ourselves because we feel depressed or anxious. Well, I think it’s normal to be depressed or anxious when the world is in the state it’s in. Right now there are 9 genocides happening globally. A handful of corporations own basically everything and are poisoning everything from our foods to our mind for profit. Human trafficking is the third biggest illegal industry behind guns and drugs. We’re fucked in many, many ways. If that doesn’t make you a little depressed or anxious, then THAT’S a problem.
I’m not trying to be a total downer, but the reason this quote is helpful to me is because it reminds me that my mental state is actually a reflection of my misalignment with a world that needs healing, and that’s actually a good thing. It’s a sign that the problem isn’t within me, but rather something I am witnessing. It helps me to try to get myself back into balance and get to work on the bigger picture.
I loved your episode with Holly Whitaker about sobriety, can you tell me a little bit more about what inspired you to be sober?
Yes! Anxiety both caused me to and was the reason why I stopped drinking. I drank because it made me outgoing, funny, and more confident. It quickly became a crutch and turned into a problem, and was causing way more anxiety than it was fixing. I was blown away by how much better my mood got when I got sober. I think so many people who have anxiety, even sever anxiety, don’t realize the massive link between drugs, alcohol, and mood. I wanted to be a voice for sobriety because it’s probably the single best thing you can do for your mental health. I’m very proud to be sober, and I hope that by sharing my story other people can find some confidence in their decision to quit the things that are holding them back.
What has been the biggest help to stay sober in social situations?
Change my friends! Ha, half kidding there. The “drinking buddies” naturally faded away, and as I spent more time doing sober things – podcasting, going to yoga or cafes, etc., I started to surround myself with authentic relationships. I think changing your scene is key to maintaining sobriety. I’ve heard many people say they can hang out in a bar and that they’re not tempted, but I think especially in early recovery you need to be careful of falling into that trap. I am at the point where I can hang out at a concert of beer garden and feel confident in my decision not to drink, but in the beginning it was a massive no-go for me, and I still try to avoid those scenarios when possible. In the beginning, surround yourself with sober situations whenever possible. After you have some recovery under your belt, decide whether or not boozey environments are healthy for you, but don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t vibe with you.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen in your life, good or bad, since eliminating alcohol?
I no longer wake up and check every social media channel for embarrassing comments I may have posted the night before. Everything I say, do, or text now is in total alignment with my clear mind. That is a mother fucking godsend. Alcohol and drugs take us out of ourselves, even if what we say or do is harmless, there is a certain amount of shame that will always accompany saying or doing something that we’re not totally aligned with. I love that I never have to second guess anything I’ve said or done anymore.
Weirdest mental health suggestion that actually worked?
Schedule worry appointments. If you’re prone to worry, schedule ten minutes a day to worry about anything that comes up. If you find yourself worrying throughout the day, postpone it to your worry appointment. Life changing tip right there. You’ll notice you either forget what you were going to start worrying about, or aren’t worried about it anymore, or that it lost its power.
Has being open about your struggles with mental health changed how others interact with you?
Yes! Everyone is so much more open with their struggles with me. I can’t believe how many years I struggled by myself when there were so many others out there in my shoes. I would have started a little mental health coven back at 18 had I known haha.
How has being open about your struggles changed how you interact with your own mental health?
I feel a sense of responsibility in really examining the things that affect my mental health. It’s both good and bad. For example, I’m switching to a flip phone now due to my opinions on social media and technology addiction which is great because it will help with my mental health but terrible because I can’t get out of my town with GPS anymore. Oh god, send help!
Say something nice about yourself! I am…
An idealist! I will always be looking for the best way to operate.
Favorite self care technique?
It’s so cliche, but there’s nothing better than a hot bath.
What self care do you turn to when you are pressed for time?
Meditation! Even if it’s only one minute before something stressful, it will work wonders.