Simple Tips for Managing Anxiety
Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is only recently that I have been able to put a name to the uneasy feelings I’ve dealt with my entire life. Anxiety. It’s a loaded word and it’s one that has increasingly become a part of our everyday vernacular. So many people suffer from it in varying degrees. Some take medication for it. Some people manage it in other ways. Over the last year I have been taking steps to manage my own anxiety and wanted to share some of them with you.
Some of these I have mentioned here before on other posts. This is because a huge part of how I manage my anxiety deals directly with how I structure my days and the routines I have created to remove certain triggers and to challenge my comfort threshold.
I can feel all of the eyes rolling when they read “breathing”. But hear me out: Breathing has always been an issue for me. I am a “breath-holder”. I hold my breath all the time. I have no idea why I’ve done it since I was a child. And this feeling of catching one’s breath after holding it can often trigger anxious feelings. Oxygen in the blood is one of the things that can help calm us. It’s why we are often told to “breathe” through physically painful experiences like childbirth or an injury or medical procedure. There is literal science behind it. Taking long slow deep breaths through the mouth and out the nose when I am feeling nervous or anxious helps tremendously. It forces the feeling of fight or flight to subside. Your hearts pumps slower, your thoughts stop racing… my therapist told me that deep breathing for ten minutes one or twice a day does wonders to help with lowering that general feeling of anxiousness. And it has helped. And I can always tell the difference when I haven’t done it in awhile!
I have often found that when I am feeling anxious it’s not about whatever is going on in the moment - not really. That general feeling of anxiousness is usually tied to something. What I have been doing more is questioning my own thoughts. Not doubting them - but asking myself tough questions like “what is worrying you today?” ‘What are you fearful of?” And more often than not that feeling has nothing do with what going on right then and there. By asking myself these questions it forces me to step out of those feelings and look at them objectively and critically.
Write it down
I’ve mentioned this before but one thing that helps when I am worrying or feeling anxious about something specific I write a note. I do it on my phone. And in that note I write down everything I am feeling. However irrational or silly or heavy it may be. I have found that when I do this it gives my brain a break. Because with anxiety can often come obsessive thoughts or repetitive thinking where you worry over and over about the same things. Which if course only increases your anxiety. By writing it down it’s almost like I am releasing the thoughts from the echo chamber of my mind. It helps. Next time you are worried or anxious write a note - not to anyone in particular. Write it in the first person. “I feel” “I am afraid” This way you are owning the feelings and thoughts while also setting them free.
It’s been said that doing the thing that scares you takes all of its power away. It’s why therapists who treat patients with OCD challenge them to touch dirt or shake people’s hands. It is literally forcing you to face your fear. A few weekends ago I had some errands to run. I like to get out early and get things done before it gets busy and crowded. Starting my day late gives me anxiety. Except that nothing went to plan that day. I had horrible allergies and slept in and by the time I felt well enough to leave the house it was 1pm. I considered just waiting until the next day to take care of everything. The thought of starting my day that late was making me a bit panicked. The fact that I was feeling this way made me realize that I had to do it. And so I did. I left the house at 2pm. I ran all of my errands. I even stopped at Starbucks and grabbed and Iced Matcha Latte. And the world didn’t stop turning. Nothing bad happened. In fact - it was a lovely day and I enjoyed my time out. And I felt proud of myself. This little story time is to say: do what makes you feel anxious. Being in a crowded elevator freaks you out? Ride a crowded elevator. And each time you do it it will get easier and you will feel good about it and it make you want to challenge your anxiety and the thought processes that are controlled by your anxiety.
Simplify your life
Over the last year, I have made steps to simplify my life in various ways. What this has helped to do is clear my mind of worrying about simple things. I do drop-off service for my laundry. I order my groceries. I get up earlier in the morning. I go to sleep earlier at night. I pick out my clothes the night before. All of these things take away some of the anxiety I can feel in day to day life. I worry about being late. Doing laundry makes me feel stressed out. I hate grocery stores. Now laundry service and grocery delivery may not be an option for everyone. I thankfully live in a major city where I can do these things at a relatively low cost. But my point is that it’s okay to out source these things if by doing so it declutters your mind a bit. For me getting ready for work in the morning was always stressful and anxiety-inducing. I hate being off schedule or late. I always felt like I ran out of my house in the mornings like a chicken with it’s head cut off. In a bad mood from all the rushing. That did my anxiety no favors. And so I decided to simplify my routine in the morning. You can read about what I did with my morning routine here. By chaning a few things hear and their in your day to day life you will find that a lot of the general anxiety you feel dissipates a bit.
Talk to someone
I started therapy late last year. My first thought after my first session was, “why did I wait so long to do this?” My therapy doesn’t consist of a ton of revelatory moments. I talk to my therapist about what’s going on in my life with my family, my work, etc. When I leave I always feel better overall. And this is because even as an introvert I’ve come to recognize and understand that sharing our experiences is necessary and healthy. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or that something is wrong with you. I use my therapy as a psychological and emotional tune-up of sorts. It helps me stay on track with what I do to manage my own thoughts and feelings on a day to day basis. And if you are not a particularly self-reflective person it can help you identify things that you are unable to spot on your own. Now therapy isn’t an option for everyone. And I will acknowledge my privilege in being able to afford to do it. If therapy isn’t an option for you try journaling or the note taking tip mentioned above. You could even try online therapy. There are apps that function as a sort of “therapy-lite” that I tried before therapy and while they are not as involved as traditional therapy they do help.
I hope you found these tips helpful and inspiring. Anxiety is a personal thing, what works for me may not work your or vice versa. But I think it is always a good idea to share out own experiences in hopes that it can help someone else. If you have your own tips of how to manage anxiety please leave them in the comments.