Anxiety was a big part of my life for many years, and I am SO GRATEFUL that I do not struggle with constant anxiety anymore. It can be complete debilitating.
Here are some of my top suggestions of managing anxiety.
Chat to a friend
Living with anxiety means you’re more receptive to moments of panic when situations don’t go as planned or something happens that you are struggling to make sense of. It can be hard to open up when you are still trying to make sense of your own feelings, but keep in mind that your anxiety may also be preventing you from seeing a situation in the right perspective. Getting your thoughts or fears out in the open by chatting to a friend will release some of the stress in your mind and body. It will also remind you that others are there for you.
Create a worry hour
It can be difficult to stop worrying and overthinking when you have anxiety. Sometimes it feels as though bad things might happen if you don’t worry or consider the negative outcomes of all situations. While worrying can be useful at times, too much of it is detrimental to your mental health. Schedule a worry hour into your routine and if you catch yourself worrying outside those times, gently remind yourself that you have set aside time to worry. Some people like to have a worry book or box where they can write down all their worries and come back to problem solve during their ‘worry hour’.
Create a happy hour
Schedule some time for happy hour and take time every day to make a note of what’s going well in your life. A popular form of this is to create a gratitude journal, jar or box. Living with anxiety can mean you think a lot about things that worry you or are hard to do. It’s important to be kind to yourself and notice the good things too. Open up your gratitude collection for a positive boost when you are feeling low.
Anxiety can be caused by too much focus on the past and future. There are activities you can practise that will help bring your attention to the present. Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment.
Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. A short walk outside can also help ‘reboot’ your thoughts.
Look at your physical health
Your diet and level of physical activity can play a role in decreasing your anxiety.Making sure you don’t skip meals will keep your blood sugar stable to avoid energy dips and spikes. Some people find relaxing exercises such as yoga or pilates can help, while others swear by cardio to get the blood pumping and to expel all the nervous energy in your body. If you don’t take part in physical activity for any reason, research other ways you can get your body moving; such as desk exercises a few times a day or light stretches in the morning.
Clear the clutter
Having anxiety sometimes feels like ten ping pong balls bouncing around your head, leading to a sense of mental chaos. Take ten minutes to organise or clean the space you work or live in.
Your to do list growing longer and longer? Is this adding to your anxiety? Make that phone call you’ve been putting off. Send that email. Take 5 minutes to complete a task that is playing on your mind note how much better you feel after its done. Do any two-minute jobs that have been hanging around on your to-do list. It’ll help clear your mental space.
Anxiety can cause you to be completely overwhelmed. There are times when I feel like there is so much to do, I end up getting stuck on how to start, and I get even less done because of my inability to get past feeling like I’m drowning in unfinished tasks.
Coping with change
Recognize if your anxiety is being caused by someone suggesting a change or change of plans. Understand if you tend to react to changes or unexpected events as if they are threats.
Find time to laugh
This may seem like mission impossible when you’re feeling anxious, but it is in fact possible. Find a movie on youtube that makes you laugh out loud.
Reflect on past experiences
Jot down three things you worried about in the past that didn’t come to pass.
Jot down three things you worried about in the past that did occur, but weren’t nearly as bad as you imagined.
If you’re imagining a negative outcome to something you’re considering doing, also try imaging a positive outcome.
Look back on the anxiety-provoking situation you’re in from a time point in the future, e.g., six months from now. Does the problem seem smaller when you view it from further away?
Imagine how you’d cope if your “worst nightmare” happened, e.g., your partner left you, you got fired, or you developed a health problem. What practical steps would you take? What social support would you use? Mentally confronting your worst fear can be very useful for reducing anxiety.
If a mistake you’ve made is bothering you, make an action plan for how you won’t repeat it in the future. Write three brief bullet points.
Ask yourself if you’re jumping to conclusions. For example, if you’re worried someone is very annoyed with you, do you know for sure this is the case—or are you jumping to conclusions?
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then, ask yourself, “How would I cope if that happened?” Now, answer those questions.
Be aware of your beliefs or thought patterns
Give yourself space to make mistakes
Forgive yourself for not handing a situation in an ideal way, including interpersonal situations.
This is my favourite selection of videos that explain anxiety.
“Fear normally pops up when we’re doing something scary; jumping from planes, running from bulls, going clothes shopping. but sometimes our fear response gets out of control and we end up spending a disproportionate amount of time feeling afraid, and we call this anxiety. language is limiting and its sort of frustrating that we use the same word, anxiety, for both reasonably worrying about a job interview and also crippling terror that prevents me from leaving the house. It’s like having the same word for all out nuclear war and playful tickle fight.”
“I was putting up an image. And that was bad. It was bad for me because I didn’t get to share my problems with anyone else. but it was bad for others because they didn’t get to see the truth. If we all put up an image then everyone struggles alone.”