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.
Dear Julia, thank you for your tips, my mother is a very anxious woman and this is a problem, when she has a crisis I try to let her smile (also watching funny movies), and this helps her very much
A big hug
I too, have dealt with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve been through what you have been through. Especially the breathing problem! I’ve gone to psychologist to help me through it and how to recognize it. You are on the dot. There were days where I wouldn’t want to go into the grocery store or even drive for that matter. It was very embarressing trying to rush my kids out of Toys R Us because I was having a panic attack! I’ve dealt with numbness, clenching of my hands and feet, and feeling of shakiness inside of me. Like my nerves were on fire! It’s good that you talked about it. Since I’ve talked to people about it, there’s more people that dealt with this. My mom has anxiety, but not as bad as me. So I’m not sure if it’s hereditary or what. I’ve seen many doctors to find out what I have. My gyno thinks it’s because I have no progesterone hormone in me and so when I was off my birth control, I was unbalanced and affects my hypothalamus which is the breathing station. Sorry, getting scientific here. I know I’m not going crazy or thinking of anything stressful. It’s just weird to have this anxiety. Mine is so bad that I had to go to a psychiatrist and be put on an antidepression pill that could help with anxiety. Right now, I’ve had no panic attacks for 2 years and feel normal again. But I think you’re right that exercise, staying away from caffeine, meditation,and keeping yourself busy helps plenty! Thank you for sharing your story! I feel that I’m not alone! Theres also a good book to read if you’re dealing with it…in a spiritual way. I’m gonna share this with my husband because this will make him understand more. Hope you also don’t mind that I share your story on my blog later on. http://www.bonvoyagestudios.blogspot.com
Btw, hang in there and hugs!
I think this is so strong of you to share your personal struggles publicly. I have never suffered with anxiety or any social issues. I just wanted to drop you a comment and tell you how I appreciate your honestly and I’m sure this really helps people who are stuck in their lives and don’t know where to turn.
Thank you Kiki! I really appreciate you saying that!
Thank you for sharing this. There are so many of us with anxiety and panic attacks. It can be so debilitating! These are some great tips that I too use to combat those crazy anxious moments!
Glitter and Grey
Hi Julia, Your post inspired me to comment…first blog comment ever. I can’t tell you how timely this post was. My anxiety has ebbed and flowed over the last few years but the last couple months have been one of those flow times where I have struggled to keep it under control. Anxiety hit me right as I graduated college and at almost 25 is still something I am learning to manage. I relate to so much of what you said above and just wanted to thank you for your honesty and courage to post something like this. It’s not often that people want to discuss topics like anxiety especially in an industry that is focused on aspiration and beauty. I recently gave up social media for an extended period of time and I can’t tell you enough about the positive affect it had on my anxiety- although it didn’t completely change things it helped to be off the grid and not constantly plugged into what others are doing. I find that my anxiety often stems from comparing myself to others and without social media it’s more difficult to do so. You have inspired me to go out and get a smudge stick and I am excited to try it. Thank you again for this post, I look forward to reading more!
Julia– thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve dealt with anxiety since childhood but it started to really affect me in college and I’ve gone through so many ups and downs since then. I love your tips and they really resonate with me. I’m interested in trying Headspace- if anyone is looking for another great meditation app, I love “Calm.” The one thing that rubbed me the wrong way in your post was saying you almost gave up and called a shrink. In college, when my anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t take it anymore, I decided to see a therapist. It went badly and I thought the concept wasn’t for me. I’ve tried out 4-5 different therapists since then and finally found someone who helps and understands me and it has done wonders for my anxiety. Even when my anxiety is only minimal, I still try to see her at least every 4-5 weeks, and since I’ve started doing so, my anxiety has decreased and been much more manageable. Not saying this is the right choice for everyone, but I hope you and others can see this not as giving up, but as learning to seek the help that’s needed. Again, thanks for sharing this!
Hi Julia, thank you for posting this. I recently experienced my worst panic attack ever. I even went to the doctor to rule out anything physical. You are right about recognizing that you’re having one and talking to yourself about it really helps. And it is amazing once you start talking to others, you find out how many people deal with this issue. I applaud your courage. And I totally get the grocery store part! Thank you again.
Thank you so much for your honesty in sharing your advice. I know it will help a lot of people!
This is really helpful. Another thing that has help my anxiety is Young Living-Essential Oils. I purchased the premier starter kid that comes with 12 oils and a diffuser. It has been the BEST natural medicine for me. I now purchased an additional diffuser to keep in my office at work. Look into it and let me know what you think. All my girlfriends who have kids swear by it as well. It is a LIFE CHANGER!
Timely post! I find tips 2 & 3 to be the most helpful. Happy Friday 🙂
Thank you always for your honesty and openness and keeping the dialogue going about a topic that plagues so many, myself included.
Wishes & Reality
This was a great post, and I do try to do a lot of similar things that you do for both anxiety and insomnia. One thing people seem to overlook is that chronic anxiety is a disease, it’s not just oh I have a deadline and I’m worried. Many people also don’t realize that depression often goes hand in hand with this. I’m glad you have a supportive and understanding husband. For me my anxiety and depression is too much. I take medications to get through the days and try not to be so hard on myself. Infortunatly like most diseases there is no outward signs of anxiety or depression and there are stigmas attached to it. So while excercise, heathy eating, a good support system and relaxing rituals are all helpful so is medicine. Without it I honestly don’t know if I would be here today.
Thank you for this post! Both your experience, and your means of coping, felt very in line with my own. It’s nice to know you are not alone!
This a great post
i love this post! it was so helpful because i sometimes struggle with this one too.
Amen to all of this! Anxiety is something I have struggled with and I’ve found that removing alcohol and daily meditation are so helpful in easing the feeling. Smudging sounds interesting, I will have to give it a try. Always one for positive energy!