Doing something a little different today. I wanted to talk about anxiety.
I have been working with my anxiety, depression, and PTSD for some years, and I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like I have my anxious thoughts under control. Now, I will never say they are completely under control, that’s absurd. We’re all working and progressing individuals, and I will always have days where I feel triggered and anxious, but it’s not about letting those days define who I am…it’s more how I deal with those days in the moment as well as how I deal with them in the future.
In the past couple months, I’ve had a few people talk to me about their struggles with their anxiety and how they feel lost and unable to cope when those feelings come up. They’ve described how the anxiety hijacks all of their emotions and turns what used to be a good day into a terrible evening. I wanted to share some of my personal coping mechanisms that have really helped me, in case there is anyone out there that these might help as well.
Ways to Cope When Feeling Anxious
1. Take a shower.
I know when you’re anxious, tasks for the day seem impossible. I’ve learned that a good way to clear my mind and refocus is by taking a shower. Think of it as a brand new start to your day. The water washes away bad emotions, you feel the warmth hit your skin, you take deep breaths, and it’s like you’ve refreshed not just your body, but your mind as well.
Grounding is an amazing technique I’ve learned through therapy that I feel any anxious person needs to learn. I especially find this technique helpful if you have some one there to help you. When the anxiety hits you, and you feel it overtaking you, turning into an anxiety attack or a panic attack, grounding is a great way to come down. The thing with anxiety is it tries to trick your mind into thinking you are in danger when you really aren’t. During panic attacks, you may feel that the world is ending, you’re life is in mortal danger, there’s a crushing feeling to your chest, and you can’t breathe. Grounding helps you reconnect to your senses and reminds your brain that you are, in fact, sitting in a room somewhere, completely safe.
Some ways to ground yourself are taking deep slow breaths, naming things you can react to with your 5 senses (ie, what can you hear, smell, taste, touch, see?), etc. (I think maybe I’ll write a whole post on grounding (: ).
Sometimes this doesn’t work for everyone, especially if you’re to the point of an anxiety attack, but I’ve found that running a bath and distracting myself with a book helps me escape my world for a bit and focus on the lives of fictional characters. Or even better, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading books that deal with anxiety and changing your habits. Here are some of the books I’ve found amazingly helpful so far:
- Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
- Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Get a PhD in You: A Course in Miraculous Self-Discovery by Julie Reisler
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
I know that meditation is a difficult task for a lot of people. One app that has really helped me with different forms of meditation is Calm. This app is amazing! Even the free version has enough to help you just settle yourself. I pay for the app yearly because I find it so beneficial. They have everything from daily meditation practices to meditation series, sleep stories, guided help for stress, soft music, beautiful scenery for your phone screen, nature sounds, and so much more. I’ve been using it for a couple years now, and I don’t see myself unsubscribing for a while. But meditation is a great way to refocus on your breath and it calms you enough to help you fight whatever you’re feeling anxious about.
Now, I use walking in conjunction with a couple other techniques that you would do without even realizing: Walking incorporates EMDR therapy as well as mindfulness and grounding. EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements to help unlock subconscious thought and bring them to your frontal cortex in order for you to process them. Walking is a great way to help with that, because subconsciously, you’re mind is focusing on that back and forth motion of your feet, which in turn helps you bring forth your subconscious fears and struggles. It is also a great way to match your breathing with your walking, and focus on the warmth from the sun on your skin (a great way to ground yourself, I’ve found).
Only do this when you are stable! You don’t want to be on the roads when you are having an anxiety attack, unless you can get someone else to drive for you. I did this a LOT in high school and the first couple years of college. I was really struggling with focusing and with my anxiety, so my mom ended up driving us through neighborhoods we’ve never been through and it helped calm me down enough to go back home and restart my studies. I still drive sometimes, when I’m feeling anxious. It reorients me to the idea that this world is large with so many opportunities out there, I shouldn’t be spending it anxious and under my covers.
I LOVE TEA. Maybe I’m a little partial because I picked up my tea habit while in the UK, but it’s true, tea can be the answer to all of your problems. I’ll brew a cup and sip on it, and it instantly makes me feel more chill. Maybe it’s all mind over matter, but it’s been working for me all these years, I may as well keep doing it.
When your environment is chaotic, of course you’re going to feel anxious. Clean it up, and it helps symbolically clear your head as well.
Journaling is always a great way to just jot your jumbled thoughts down. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in comprehend-able sentences. Just write the words or shapes that you’re feeling. It’ll help you in the moment to get it out, and it’ll help you when the anxiety is gone to process what you were going through at that moment.
10. Learning and recognizing triggers
The only sure way to deal with anxiety is to understand what’s causing the anxiety. Was it something some one said? Was it an event that lead to you feeling this way? If you can identify it, you can learn to react to it differently the next time it comes up.
11. Recognizing negativity and stopping it
Negativity has always caused some anxiety for me. Whenever I’m having negative thoughts, I stop myself and say “Hey, this isn’t true. This is that weird part of the back of your mind trying to convince you that you are bad and insignificant, but you’re not. Don’t listen to it.” It has done wonders for me as well as my relationships with other people. When I’m starting to feel jealous or when I start to compare myself, I think “hey, you’re not like this,” and it helps me switch my mindset on the situation.
when you exercise, you’re body releases dopamine, which is that amazing neurotransmitter that influences pleasure, motivation, as well as learning. Dopamine is so important. Going for a run, or lifting weights, helps expel dopamine into our system and it lifts us and not only makes us feel better, but motivates us to do more, be more, and learn more.
Aaaand….last but not least, and I know it’s weird I’m ending on 13 but…
This one is SO VITAL. I know therapy has a stigma around it, and everyone wants to prove that they can get better on their own, but let’s face it…if it’s been this long and you still haven’t gotten better, wouldn’t it be great to have a little help? I mean, pretend like you’re in a dressing room, and you tried on an item of clothing that maybe was a little too small, and you’ve been working on trying to get it off for about 20 minutes, but your arms just do not bend that way, you’re not just going to stay in that dressing room for the rest of your life trying to get that item of clothing off, right? You’re going to ask someone for help. And sure, it may be embarrassing in the beginning, but guess what? They’ve seen it before. They’ve helped MANY people take off those small pieces of clothing. You get help getting those items off of you, and you get to leave knowing that you don’t need that item of clothing. Ever.
Therapy is the same way. It seems embarrassing, it’s hard, and it’s scary to ask for help to get you through your troubles, but the end result is so worth it. They’ve seen it all before, you’re not the first person to go through whatever you’re going through. They have ways to help you cope, they have strategies, and techniques, and resources to help. And in the end, you’ll leave therapy lighter, knowing you don’t have need those stressors, and now you have the right tools to deal with them.
Now, of course these are all my personal ways of dealing with stuff. Just remember that I am not a therapist or counselor, and their advice is ALWAYS better than mine. But at least this can be used as a stepping stool to help towards whatever you’re dealing with.
I love you all, and take care of yourselves.
Mary Jane xx