Real Talk: Crippling Anxiety & How Snail Mail Can Help
Hi, my name is Jules and I have crippling anxiety.
As a self-deprecating, sarcastic human being, I’ve joked about this rather large facet of my life for maybe... ever? Humor has a funny way of shielding us from truly coming clean, doesn’t it?
Sarcasm has been my crutch, fitness my therapy, and adrenaline my preferred drug of choice (ok fine, booze too).
Maybe it’s aging, maybe it’s spending a year plus being quarantined from friends and family and no longer giving a f*&k, but for the first time ever, I’m owning my anxiety and sharing it here with you. Yes, you!
Why? Well 1.) the above-mentioned cocktail of coping mechanisms are no longer enough, and 2.) because I’ve seen how coming clean with my own mental health issues has opened the door for my friends and family to express their own mental health woes.
And spoiler alert: WE ARE ALL JUST A BUNCHH OF BEAUTIFUL MESSES!
The thing about mental illness is that it lurks there, often undetected by the people around us. We post the “good stuff” to social media, we proclaim “I’m fine!” even though we feel ourselves slowly dying inside because we’d “hate to put that on anyone.”
We’re told to kind of just get over it. “So many people have it way worse!” or “I heard Vitamin D can help!” or my personal favorite “Maybe you should try drinking less coffee.” (that last one miiiight have some truth to it but leave coffee out of this, OK?!).
And real talk? Before I came to terms with recognizing and handling my own anxiety, I too doled out those bogus one-liners. My b.
The truth is when you’re sitting in your shower at 2 pm on a Wednesday, clutching the walls, having a panic attack, all of the vitamin D in the world ain't gonna help.
Ok, cool, so what does Snail Mail have to do with ANY of this?!
Friends Do This was a chance to express my weird creativity and inspire others to connect with their people more often via good old fashioned snail mail. But I’d be lying to you if I said launching and building this company hasn’t been a painful process a majority of the time.
In fact, Friends Do This was ready to launch in October of 2020 but I was in such a dark place I had to tell my business partners, "no mas". We eventually launched in March 2021 (wahoo!) but my god has it been a slog!
Trying to inspire positivity and happiness in others when you yourself feel like crawling into a hole, is friggin’ hard! Fake it 'til you make it, right?!
As the Founder of one company (Rolling Hills Media!) and the Co-Founder of another (Friends Do This!) one might think I have my shiz together. The reality is I suffer from a mean case of imposture syndrome, 98% of the time, I carry a guilty conscious like a MOFO, and I get anxiety attacks on the regs.
TLDR: I'm a fraud who is insecure. Wow, am I catch or what?!
For me, being vulnerable with my besties/business partners (read: being honest for the first time ever that things were NOT ok) has been my saving grace. Without my Hype Girls #1 and #2 (which is which? That’s one secret I’ll never tell. xoxo Gossip Girl), I’d have thrown in the towel on this business a long time ago.
With the help of my fellow FDT Founders Carolyn and Jordan, limiting the booze, lots and lots of miles, and leaning hard into gratitude and practicing what I preach - write more snail mail to your people, yo! - I've managed to find some ways to curb my own anxiety, even momentarily, all while spreading some good juju to the important people around me.
Do I still want to jump into a pool of lava every other day? Yes, but life is a process, friends and sending mail can help!
Stay with me here...
Gratitude, Neuroscience and Why Snail Mail Matters
When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial neurotransmitters that are seriously the tits. They are responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel 'good'. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
It turns out that when we express gratitude, especially via writing - say, I don't know, writing a thank you letter, for example - goes a long way in affecting our overall biological functioning – especially the brain and the nervous system. Studies have found that when individuals write gratitude (as opposed to texting or using a keyboard), lower stress, fewer depressive episodes and improved immune function follows. Cha-ching!
According to this clinical psychologist and relationship expert who is a hell of a lot smarter than me, endorphins tend to increase when you are engaged in a positive activity — like reading a letter from or writing a letter to a friend. Enter dopamine again which cues feelings of happiness, confidence, optimism AND acts as a natural pain, stress, and anxiety reliever. I mean, can I get an AMEN for snail mail, ya’ll?!
Plus, get this: Novel experiences (getting an unexpected letter in the mail counts!) automatically triggers a flood of dopamine to your system. Um, are you running to go get a pen and card right freakin' now? We’ll wait for you...
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves. Imagine a world…
Look. Will sending your friend some snail mail cure your depression and anxiety? Ugh, hard no.
But could sending and receiving snail mail make you feel a little bit better, even for a second? Apparently, yes… it’s science, ya'll!
So quick question: Why the hell are we not sending a lot more of it?!
Put it into Practice: The Friends Do This Sexy Six
Because I recognized the positive vibes I was getting when I'd write letters, I instituted a little internal practice here at FDT: The Sexy Six.
Every month, the three of us get six "You're seriously the tits" cards to write to six fabulous humans. Friends, family, strangers, celebrities - basically any one we think a.) could use some lovin' and/or b.) should be told how much their life makes our life better.
That's 18 cards, traveling far and wide, every month. Because we love a good freebie, we also toss in a postcard so they can pay that shiz forward. So they get some good unexpected juju and we lock in some of that free dopamine. We are all about the win-wins here at FDT.
Two ways to tap into that free dopamine juju, snail mail style:
Check out our silly cards here. Consider sending a friend a card "just because." Chances are they could use the pick-me-up and if you comprehended any of the words above, you'll benefit too!
And bonus: 5% of each card will go to TWLOHA in May! (I wrote another piece highlighting TWLOHA which includes resources for you “or your roommate” who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or addiction.)
- Send a little snail mail love to us! Our address is Friends Do This PO Box 490 Rockland, MA 02370. We promise we’ll write you back!
If any of this anxiety and jumping into pools of lava talk has resonated with you (or triggered you), I'm really sorry. Anxiety and depression can suck a bag of d's. But here's the good news: You are NOT alone and the world is better because YOU'RE in it. Period.
Questions/comments, general nuggets of wisdom? Drop it in the comments section below or better yet, refer to bullet number 2 above :)
Peace, love, and cannonballs into lava,