“I want to write a blog post on anxiety, but I’m scared.” – Me in a group text to my friends right before sitting down to start this.
Talking to me on any normal day, you would have no idea that I have anxiety. I’m an optimist and I handle most everyday issues calmly and with a clear head. But, every once in a while, I’ll have a sleepless night where I just lie in bed with my heart and head racing. And I worry. I think about how I’m not good enough at my job or my hobbies and I have no idea who the hell I am or what the fuck I’m doing. And then I panic. There’s never any true reason for these attacks, but unfortunately, that’s how anxiety works. It eats at you until you curl up in a ball and cry silently into your pillow. Thankfully, over the years I have found several ways to deal with this and since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes that they might help you too!
Count. One of the things that I find the most helpful when I find myself in an anxious state and need a quick way to get my mind semi back to normal, is to count. I call my counting “30x30x30” because I simply close my eyes, take a breath, and silently count to 30 three times in a row. I let my mind take its time and rattle the numbers off at a speed that fits the moment. When I’m done, I take another deep breath and open my eyes.
Hug someone. This may sound silly, but a few years back when I was having mini anxiety attacks quite frequently, I found it extremely helpful to hug someone or hold onto someone’s wrist. Feeling a heart pounding at a normal rate allowed mine to slow down and match that person’s. I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but it certainly helped me.
Listen to thunder. Or whatever noise you find comforting. I have an app called “Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds” that is ultimately a white noise app. What I find the most helpful though is that this app allows you to build your own sounds. For example, you can start with the sound of rain. Listen to that for a while until you are completely focused on the sound. Then, you can layer thunder on top. And maybe wind after that. You’re able to play with different noises and create a custom sound that is your perfect relaxor.
Make a list. A lot of my panic comes from having a million things to do and feeling like I have no time to accomplish them. The reality is that you do have the time. Take a minute to tell yourself that and then start making a list. I find it easiest to write things down in order of importance and deadline. Take control of what you can and make a plan instead of letting everything put pressure on you at once.
Go for a walk. Really just take a minute to breathe and take in your surroundings. Do your best to completely clear your mind. Focus on the cars driving past or count the people walking by. Whatever is around you, look at it, listen to it, smell it. (Unless it’s dog poop. Don’t smell that.)
Watch your caffeine and sugar intake. When you’re feeling anxious, you need the opposite of what these can provide. Your heart and mind do not need to be working any harder or faster than they already are. Stay away from coffee until you’re feeling balanced again. I personally can’t drink coffee at all.
Talk to a friend. As I mentioned, most of my anxiety comes when I’m laying in bed, wide-awake, mulling over all of my non-achievements and comparing myself to other people. As this normally happens around 3 a.m. EST, I’ve become extremely reliant on my West Coast friends who thankfully know how to handle me at my self-deprecating worst. It really helps to say every untruth that you’re stressing about out loud and hear someone tell you that the opposite is in fact true.
Talk to a doctor. This can seem scary, but if they are able to help you in any way, it’ll be worth it. There may be a daily medication that can you help you to feel yourself again. Or an as needed one. For me, it’s Ativan as needed and I’m now at the point that I rarely have to take it.
There you have it! My tips for dealing with anxiety. And through all of this, I think it’s important to remember that anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. Over 18% of the population is affected by it! So, don’t forget that you are never alone.