I am back after way too long and I am anxious. I am not anxious because I am back, I am back because I am anxious. I have some tips and advice on how to deal with anxiety and after thinking about this post for almost a year I am ready to share with you all ( Maybe 2 of you?).
So that being said, I am the most anxious person that I know who is not on some type of medication. I do think I could benefit from some sort of pharmacology. Instead I’ve chosen to rely on several coping mechanisms that help me keep it together right when I feel like it is going to fall apart. Do you ever feel this way?
My anxiety started when I was in college, or at least that is when I started to notice it. Which I feel is pretty normal with all of the new experiences, new responsibility, more responsibility, and independence. I didn’t want to let my parents down, and I didn’t want to let myself down. While I was anxious during this time, I still loved it. I just thought it was part of adulthood to feel this way. That it was normal. I am learning more and more every day since then that what I am feeling is not 100% normal or healthy, but that I am not alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), nearly 18% of Americans have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by a medical professional. Knowing that there are 40 million people who feel something similar to what I feel makes me feel a little better when I feel the most crazed.
Knowing I’m not alone has also helped me find the list of tools below that work for me. I can’t tell you how many times I googled at 3:00am “how to sleep when you are anxious.” Over many sleepless nights and days where I could hardly eat, and my heart felt like it was going to explode, I have come up with the below list that helped me find my balance, bring me some peace, and use my anxiety to my advantage whenever possible.
Make a List
When I am feeling the most overwhelmed I am thinking about my job – such as what needs to get done, when it needs to be done and how it should be done on a Never. Ending. Loop. That is just going faster and faster and faster. When I start to feel these emotions come on, I make a list on paper or in an email of what needs to get done. I try to do this before going to bed so I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night. Immediately seeing it in writing makes me feel like:
A. I took an action and got one step closer to my goal, and
B. Makes the tasks at hand look much “smaller” and more manageable. My brain goes from “ OH MY GOD, I NEED TO COMPLETE A WHOLE LINE SHEET, CHASE UNPAID INVOICES, ORDER SAMPLE YARDAGE IN 6 COLORWAYS, AND GIVE A PRESENTATION IN THE NEXT MILESTONE MEETING.” to “Ok, look at that! I have only 4 things I need to get done. You got this. Now let’s get some sleep so you can kick major ass.” Once the list is made, I either tuck it in my bag for work the next day or email it to myself. Afterward and I can take a breath and sleep easy knowing my plan for the next day, week or month has been set into motion.
This is always easier said than done, but it’s simply looking taking a step back and being rational and realizing that you have been in a similar situation before or a under a similar amount of stress and that you came through it. This very rarely brings my heart rate completely down, but it allows me to believe in myself, and believing in yourself is the first step in kicking butt. It has more power than we realize. If you don’t think you can conquer something, you are not going to. It’s gonna kick you in the ass unless you kick it harder in the ass.
Communication is key for most things in life. It is the most effective way for someone to get what they need and want out of life. However, speaking up can be hard especially when talking about anxiety and your mental health. There is a negative stigma attached to anxiety or perhaps worse, even doubt from the people around you that you even have the right to feel anxious. It can make it feel impossible to get the support you need. Remember: You are entitled to your feelings; to be you. You owe it to yourself to find someone you can speak to. For many it may be a medical professional, but a supportive and trustworthy friend or family member is who I seek out. When I am feeling the most stressed I speak with my boyfriend or call my Mom. (God bless all Mothers, especially mine!)
These chats are mostly monologues on my end, but that is ok. In most cases I just need to be heard and get whatever it is off my chest. Getting my stress out in the open and formulating thoughts and opinions out loud to someone who cares about me is enough for me to get my head straight and feel more in control of my anxiety. Other times, it’s an honest tough chat where they are like “Ok, Stephanie. We love you and your feelings are valid, but come on. You are smart and tough and of mental fortitude. You got this because you have done it before and you can do it again.” Having someone who believes in me helps more than any list I could write. Humans are not islands; we need each other to survive. Whether you are anxious or not, everyone needs someone they can talk to.
This is probably the oldest trick in the book and it is every doctor’s first suggestion when it comes to mental health, but it works. According to the ADAA , in some cases exercise can be as effective and as long lasting medication in reducing the effects of anxiety. With regular exercise, one’s symptoms can be significantly reduced over time. Which is pretty amazing, because anyone can do some type of exercise no matter what. I am personally not crazy about going to the gym and picking things up and putting things down, but I do enjoy low impact forms of exercise that can be done whenever and are low cost. For me, my exercise of choice is yoga and walking. The most basic. Yoga calms and centers me, allowing me to separate myself from work. As for walking, I don’t know, I love it. I could walk all day and just take in the sights I see. It’s both a mental and physical exercise. I also do my best thinking on a walk. Before work every day I try to get in at least a 20-minute walk. I get my thoughts in order and in a business focused mindset to prepare myself for the day.
Practicing gratefulness has the same effect on the portion of that Wellbutrin or Xanax does. Off and on I keep lists of things that I am grateful for. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, that I have a job, that I get to live where I want to live, that I get be myself, my health and the list goes on and on. I have so much to be grateful for. When I can think about the good things in my life it gives me the boost of encouragement to get on top of the anxiety and outside of my head.
As you all know, I am not a doctor so the above tips might not be the best or recommend by a professional but they do work for me. When I practice the above tips regularly, I feel healthy, calm and on top of things, especially on the worst days. They give me freedom from my own thoughts. If you have any tips of your own that relieve your anxiety, please leave them below. I would love to learn more and, I hope this helps you.