I’ve written in the past about my lifelong battle with anxiety. It’s been like a bad ex-boyfriend that always shows up when you least expect him and makes everyday life a struggle. I recently went through a 2-week intensely anxious period (It’s passed and I now feel great again!), and although it’s not fun to talk about, I hope that by sharing my tips, I can help someone else get out of a dark place in their life.
I won’t get into my history with anxiety but I will tell you how it effects me: It creates another Julia who is unhappy, gets stressed out by the simplest of tasks (like going to the grocery store or even getting out of bed in the morning), and feels like there is no end in site.
It feels like there is a bowling ball sitting on my chest that makes it hard to breath and makes me feel almost claustrophobic in my own body. During those times, when I hear other people say “ugh that makes me so anxious”, I want to scream “you have no idea!” but at the end of the day, it’s all relative and everyone’s feelings are relevant.
I’ve gone through bouts of this for my entire life and have learned a few things along the way. I could go on about this forever but these 6 tips have been the ones that have helped me the most.
6 tips for overcoming anxiety:
1. The most important piece of advice I’ve gotten about anxiety is to recognize that you’re experiencing it. If you’re getting that tight-chested, head explosion feeling at work and start freaking out about getting fired, take a step back and say to yourself, “I’m feeling anxious because I have an anxiety problem, not because I’m going to get fired.”. This step is, of course, much easier said than done, but once you can master it, I promise that everything will change. I’ve also coached my husband into recognizing this so when I’m feeling very anxious at home he can say something like, “You seem anxious, is there anything I can do to help?” instead of getting upset with me.
2. When I’m in that really deeply terrifying space of excessive anxiety, it’s hard for me to do anything, let alone pull on some spandex and hit the gym. But as impossible as it seems, exercise helps more than anything else (except for the step above). Now that the weather is nice, running outside is my favorite option because not only can I move my body and clear my mind but connecting with the earth and with nature makes me feel more whole. For many people, the constant staring at a screen adds to the problem and being in sunlight is the opposite of that.
3. Cleaning your home or your desk at work gets rid of physical clutter but also that cluttered energy around you. In general, you’ve probably notice that you can focus more when your desk is clean. That’s because there is less distraction around you and you’re creating a space that’s organized and open which leads to more organization and a clear space to create something creative. Another reason that cleaning helps me personally is because a big part of my personal anxiety is feeling out of control. When I feel like there is something that I can control during that scary time, it helps to calm me down. Lastly, it will give you a sense of accomplishing something in a time where everything can feel impossibly difficult.
4. Eliminate the things that make you more anxious. This one sounds really obvious but in the moment it’s not! Things like caffeine, social media, and drinking alcohol may not be the root of your problem, but taking them out of the equation for a few days until you feel better can do wonders. My friend and I were talking last weekend about how sometimes looking at Instagram makes us feel anxious. It seems like everyone else’s life is going perfectly, while ours are spiraling in a different direction. That is obviously not true and Instagram paints a very glossy picture, but by not looking at my feed for a few days, I found myself not comparing my life to others as much which definitely helped.
5. This one is going to sound crazy but I’m going to tell you my story and if you want to think I’m crazy, I’ll live with that! Last week when I was at my wit’s end, crying every night and in a really bad place, I felt like I had exhausted all of my options and tips and was ready to call a shrink. I came home from work one night and remembered that I had a smudge stick in a drawer. A smudge stick is a bundle of dried herbs, (usually including sage and cedar) bound together with string into a small bundle. You light it like a big cigar and then blow out the flames so that you get something similar to burning incense. Then you walk around your home or office or whatever area has negative energy for you, and set the intention of cleansing the space. Last week, I came home and said “I set the intention of leaving behind anxiety, fear, and sadness and replacing it with love, peace, calmness, and happiness.” I kid you not, my husband came home that night and said “Wow, it’s nice to see you smile!”. Since then, I’ve felt 100x better and plan to use my smudge stick on a weekly basis going forward.
6. Meditation. It’s such a hard one and I used to hate when people told me to meditate to get rid of anxiety. It’s really hard for me and makes me more anxious. Until I discovered Headspace. Headspace is an app that gives you daily 10 minute meditations that are as easy to do as listening to someone’s voice. It doesn’t judge you and it’s incredibly digestible. I’m on day 6 of their free 10-day trial and feeling more comfortable with it every day. It’s definitely worth a try!
Please note that I’m not a doctor or a psychologist and have no professional training on how to deal with anxiety. If you experience serious anxiety and cannot get rid of it on your own, I urge you to seek professional help.
Image via This is Glamorous.