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The Three-Minute Rule

Anxiety is a dreadfully fearful and isolating experience. How do you best communicate your needs to others, when you can’t quite figure out how to communicate your own needs to yourself?

As a way to manage my anxiety when I am with company, I devolved an unsophisticated, yet highly effective rule: ‘The three-minute rule’. The three-minute concept is painless, easy to administer and can help manage symptoms of anxiety – particularly when you feel an attack approach. Of course, this is just something that I use in certain high-anxiety situations and it perhaps isn’t fitting for everyone… but hear me out!

When I have moments of anxiety, I panic because I’m panicked. I often worsen my experience by overthinking: I imagine that people are going to think I am bizarre, or if I tell others that I am anxious people may believe I am fishing for attention. In those times, all I want is just a few moments to myself to try and calm myself down and relieve myself of the mental vertigo I suffer when my world is spinning out of control. I am sure we have all experienced moments where we’re feeling a little low then suddenly the people around you charge at you with an abundance of sympathy and fussiness. Sometimes people’s fussiness – even if it’s out of love – can make your experience more difficult, that’s why I started using my rule.

I tell my friends that in the times that I start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, that I just need three minutes to myself. Three minutes is just about long enough to be alone with yourself in your head and calm down a little, but short enough not to look completely withdrawn. Often there will be times where you need much longer to yourself – the three-minute rule doesn’t replace your need for uninterrupted, periods of healing space. However, the rule is a no-fuss way to try and manage anxious symptoms as they come in social situations – particularly if you are like me and gag at the idea of being fussed over.

I explained my three-minute rule with a friend just the other day. My friend suggested other ways we could communicate the three-minute rule – like holding up three fingers, a sign that is enough to show that I require space. The three-minute rule itself isn’t just advantageous for those who suffer with anxiety, but anyone who starts to become heated and overwhelmed. It is always beneficial to take a moment to deliberate over what you are going to say or consider how you respond in high-pressure situations. Everyone can benefit from those ‘no questions asked’ three minutes.

If you struggle to tell people how they can best help you when you have symptoms of anxiety, the three-minute rule can be a simplistic but valuable way to communicate your need for breathing room. It does not replace the need for space when you have particularly challenging anxiety, and it would probably not be suitable when you are experiencing an anxiety attack – however, it is an uncomplicated way to help you find peace and explain your mental health needs to those around you. I highly recommend you have a chat about the idea with your friends – it could be something useful for them too!

If you have overpowering symptoms of anxiety and are finding daily life challenging, consider visiting your local GP for advice. There are a variety of places that have great resources; you can find these on the contact page of the blog.