Anxiety. It’s a weight that’s been with me for years. It’s heavy and burdensome, constantly pulling my shoulders towards the ground where it rests. It’s a shapeshifter, at different times controlling nearly every aspect of my life, from my relationships to my eating habits to my decision-making (or lack thereof).
In college, I’d imagine my life as an “adult,” not day dreaming of getting married or having kids, but of living free of my thoughts going at a mile a minute, tumbling down rabbit holes of worries and what if’s, dissections and diagnostics. Decisions can be so difficult that I sit on them for weeks or months, procrastinating their outcome for as long as I can.
Anxiety even permeates my sleep; I have detailed dreams of full-on arguments and yelling matches. I remember them so vividly that I can write out the dialogue and have it take up an entire sheet of paper. That is, of course, if I can even get a good sleep. I take medicine to help that.
So yeah, I have clinical anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder to be exact). And because it’s pretty common nowadays, it’s time to share 10 tips to calm your anxiety, aka things that have helped me tremendously in alleviating anxiety. Because if I can help even just one person feel better then this post did it’s job.
1. Your brain is out of balance, and that’s alright
Real talk? Dealing with chronic anxiety is hard. It’s even difficult for me to admit how hard it is, because it’s so silent and invisible that it feels illusory at times. And it can be hard to measure that against so many of the problems that so many others confront in their daily lives- hunger, safety, homelessness, abuse, financial issues. But ignoring what is and has always been a very real part of me doesn’t help anyone or anything. Instead, I’ve made it a habit of telling myself that my brain is out of balance, and that is alright. I can have anxiety and still be very lucky to have the life I have; the two are not mutually exclusive. So don’t beat yourself up over having anxiety, or think that because “it could be worse,” that your anxiety isn’t real. Your brain is out of balance, and that’s alright.
2. Be open to therapy
I’ve been going to therapy on and off since I was in elementary school, so I think that therapy is awesome. But a lot of people feel as though therapy is a sign of weakness, or that it’s just B.S. I think this is a narrow way of thinking. Therapy is all about unpacking and making sense of your life. It’s like clean up for your mind. And sometimes cleaning up sucks, because it takes energy and hard work. But it’s one hundred percent worth it. Going to therapy is also a great first line of defense, because if you feel as thought your anxiety may be clinical, the only way to know for sure is to have a mental health professional diagnose you.
3. … and medicine
For years I thought that I didn’t need medicine to deal with my anxiety, because I was in therapy regularly. In high school, my therapist said that he thought our society relies too heavily on medicating to numb our problems, so I (incorrectly) took that as a sign that I shouldn’t take any medicine for my problems. But as the years went on and my anxiety persisted, I got more open to the idea of incorporating medicine into my life. So I started taking SSRI’s. It took some time to find the right one, but once I did, it was an absolute game changer. The way I describe my anxiety when I’m on my SSRI is that I still have a lot of the same thoughts, but I can so much more easily brush them aside now. It’s like breathing a huge sigh of relief.
4. Do something for someone else
Having anxiety can often feel like you’re stuck in your own head, so to get out of it, why not do something nice for someone else? It makes the other person feel good, and it can help you to put things in perspective with what really matters: connections with your friends and family 🙂
5. Get sweaty in the morning
I have found that working out first thing in the morning nearly every morning has been huge in regulating my anxiety. It gets my endorphins up first thing, helps to calm my brain, and controls my energy levels throughout the day. It’s gotten to a point now where my body feels more physically tense and wound up on days when I don’t work out in the morning. It definitely takes getting used to (I never thought I’d be a morning workout person), but try it for a few weeks and see how it feels. It’s pretty amazing.
6. Push back at it
If social anxiety is familiar to you, I challenge you to push back at it. Oftentimes my anxiety psychs itself out before heading into a social situation that is totally manageable. It’s more the “what if’s” that get me wound up. So give those thoughts about as much credit as they deserve: Zero. None. Nada.
Oh hey social media, why u have to be so all-consuming? It’s exhausting to have to constantly compare yourself to those around you, and just being on social media we do it, a lot of the time without even realizing it. When you’re feeling anxious, try to stay off social media, as it can be mentally taxing and make you feel inadequate. Instead, take time to do things away from screens, like taking a walk with a friend, biking around your city, reading a book, going on a hike, going to see a band or show, or generally doing something where you interact with the world off-screen 🙂
Mentally separating the things that make you anxious from everything else in your head can be a huge help. Because having anxious thoughts doesn’t mean they need to take up your entire headspace. I try to practice what they tell you to do in meditation when a thought comes into your head: acknowledge it, then send it on its way.
9. Talk to yourself.. for real
A lot of times anxiety can come on as a result of feeling overwhelmed by things in your life. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and I don’t know why, I will often sit down and literally talk out loud to myself, and ask what’s going on. I don’t think about what I’m saying, I just let myself talk, and in doing so I am usually able to get to the root of what is bothering me. Just voicing aloud what the source of my anxiety is can be a huge weight off of my chest. And furthermore, determining the source of my anxiety can help to make it more manageable.
10. Take a bath
I swear if we all just took more baths the world would be a better place. I use a lavender bubble bath and, when I’m really in the mood, I light candles and turn off all the lights in my bathroom. I just sit there, breathe deeply, and try to just let go. I truly think baths are restorative for the mind, and find myself more calm and relaxed when I get out.
Honorable mentions: Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Meditate for 5 minutes a day. Do some deep breathing. Get outside and into the sun. Practice yoga. Do arts & crafts. Blast music. Hug your dog. Cook dinner with your fam. Practice daily gratitudes & affirmations. Dance.