Just in case you haven't heard of him, James Altucher is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and angel investor. The New York Times refers to him as self-help guru (even though he says he simply shares what works for him as opposed to telling people what will work for them) and Forbes dubbed him the "most interesting man in the world."
He's candid about his emotional and financial experiences--he earned millions, went broke, and then earned millions again.
He's interviewed me on his show a couple of times. And last week, I was invited to be on his show again--except this time, I got to interview him.
As a therapist and an author of books on mental strength, one of the things I wanted to ask him about was his anxiety.
He talks openly about being an anxious person. He's even had times when he was suicidal.
He tried taking Klonopin, a strong sedative, to help him function better. But, he grew dependent on the medication and it created new problems in his life.
He had to discover strategies that would help him manage his anxiety on his own. And clearly, those strategies have worked. Despite his anxiety, he's massively successful and he's feeling much better about life.
I couldn't wait to learn more about the techniques he uses and I discovered many of the strategies he described are the same skills I often teach people in my therapy office.
Here are five strategies he told me he uses to battle his anxiety and stay mentally strong:
1. He "Acts As If"
Anxiety interferes with the way you feel about yourself, the way you act, and how you interact with others. But, you can take steps to change that by "acting as if" you didn't feel anxious.
James is an introvert. So I asked him how he handles events that require him to be social, like a networking event or a party.
He said, "I act so I'll just say to myself, 'I'm going to play somebody who can just talk to anybody,' and then I'll just go up to anybody and talk to them. But I'm just naturally shy though outside of that."
How to apply this to your life: If you want to feel confident, act confident. If you want to be outgoing, act like an outgoing person. Change your behavior first and the emotions and thoughts will follow.
2. He Sets Himself Up for Success
James spent years bouncing from one Airbnb to another in New York City. At the time, he only owned 15 things.
He didn't want to waste his mental energy on things that didn't matter. He created an environment that prevented him from wasting his willpower--such as his Airbnb diet.
Rather than fill the pantry with snacks that might tempt him (and spend all day trying to resist the urge to eat Doritos) he only orders take-out. He said, "You can't order a bag of Doritos as a dessert from a restaurant."
How to apply this to your life: Get rid of things that are taxing on you. Establish habits and routines that allow you to devote your mental energy to the most important things.
3. He Sets Healthy Boundaries
Anxiety makes it difficult to establish healthy boundaries. Some people become people-pleasers who say yes to everything while others turn down good opportunities because they're afraid doing something new will be too anxiety-provoking.
James said yes to too many things in the past. Over the years, he learned to say no more often by acknowledging his priorities.
He said, "I think now I say no to almost everything. Family and relationships are a priority for me. So I never want to demonstrate to my family, for instance, that I prioritize this podcast over them."
How to apply this to your life: Zoom out and look at the big picture of your life. Know your values and be intentional about how you spend your time and who you spend it with.
4. He Balances Emotions With Logic
Anxious feelings lead to anxious thoughts. And more anxious thoughts intensify feelings of anxiety. It's a self-perpetuating cycle that becomes hard to break.
James learned to break that cycle by examining the facts. Rather than allow his anxiety to distort his thinking, he took a logical approach.
When he managed a hedge fund, he would grow anxious that a fund might be a scam. He said, "I'd call my business partner on a Sunday and I would say I'm absolutely sure this one fund is a scam. And he would sigh and say, 'You know, James, you say this about every other fund. Just call them Monday, ask them questions, and you'll be fine.' He was always right. They answered me and they were fine."
How to apply this to your life: When your emotions are skyrocketing, raise your logic. Look at the facts to balance out the irrational thoughts, catastrophic predictions, and exaggeratedly negative inner monologue created by anxiety.
5. He Accepts That He Has Anxiety
Many people come into my therapy office believing they can't live their dreams until they get rid of their anxiety. But life begins to pass them by as they wait for their discomfort to disappear.
James' anxiety used to interfere with his ability to function. He said, "Ten years ago, I was less confident and if I was feeling like I was in a precarious money situation, I would get so panicked. It'd be like I'm having a heart attack. I wouldn't be able to sleep. I would write on pads all night long adding up how much was in each account. All this worry would do nothing."
James accepts that he has anxiety--and he moves forward anyway. From doing speaking engagements and stand-up comedy to interviewing the biggest names in business on his podcast, he's proof that you can live a big life while dealing with anxiety.
How to apply this to your life: Rather than waste your energy fighting your anxiety or wishing you didn't worry, accept that you feel anxious and move on. You can accomplish incredible feats even when you're battling anxiety.
Learn From Others
One of the other things James always says is that he interviews people on his podcast because he wants to learn from them. That's another great tip for managing anxiety--you can learn from people like James. To hear more of James' strategies for managing anxiety and building success, listen to the full interview.