Oh good morning, Anxiety. Some days you wake up and you can feel it lying dormant in your chest. Like lava boiling up, your nerves are like a volcano ready to erupt. You know at any point, something can trigger an attack. Your mind races overthinking every step you take, every word that comes out of someone else’s mouth, you are startled easily. Unfortunately “you woke up like this,” (shameful Beyoncé lyric reference). A lot of people may not understand; especially if your life seems to be going well, but it is not something that can be controlled.
Many things can contribute to high-anxiety days; hormones, diet, lack of sleep, alcohol, and various medical causes. If you consult with a doctor and decide that you prefer not to rely on medication to manage the stress you are experiencing, there are ways to manage it.
I am no expert but I have been managing my own anxiety without a prescription for years and these are some things that have helped me along the way:
Do your research!
Read all about it and educate yourself. Dive into stories other people share about their experiences with anxiety. The more you know the more you grow! It really helps to know that there are so many people out there that can relate. They feel the same symptoms you feel, they found themselves panicking over the same seemingly small things. You will start to feel a lot more like a normal human, and a lot less like a hot mess. Take a deep breath; you’re not in this alone.
Talk about it!
There is a stigma about anxiety and many people feel embarrassed. However, one thing I have learned the more I opened up about my issues, almost everyone deals with anxiety, unless they are like… a monk or something. Even Buddha had to sit back and do a lot of meditation to learn how to stay “chill.” Don’t be afraid to let people around you know if you are feeling anxious.
It not only will help you to vent about it, or even laugh it off if you feel ridiculous for overreacting about something, but it will help them understand how to deal with you when you are having a hard day. The more comfortable you are talking about it, the less of a big deal with will seem; which will help lower your anxiety about having anxiety.
If you feel like the world is out to get you, eat a cupcake. Monica on Friends once called tacos “Beef Smileys,” so give yourself something to smile about. Stress can shut down your appetite for a short period of time; prolonged stress can cause you to turn to comfort food. I am not saying to go on week long benders where you are gorging on health detrimental meals, I am just saying to allow yourself to let loose when you feel wound-up tightly.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and you feel like you don’t want to eat, you definitely should. After all, you may just me hungry (or hangry). Just don’t make yourself feel worse by overdoing it.
Um hello, music!
Do not, I repeat, do not listen to emo or metal, geez you are just asking for trouble! Just listen to some mellow, happy, music. I suggest Bob Marley; I also suggest singing Bob Marley obnoxiously while driving in your car with the windows down. As long as it is sunny and warm, of course. Audition for The Voice while you are in the shower getting ready in the morning; trick yourself into being in a better mood. It may not last, but it will certainly distract you for a few minutes.
Do not skip primping in the morning!
Okay as superficial as it may sound, make the effort to make yourself look good on the outside and I promise it will help you feel better on the inside (which we can all agree is the most important thing). It can be really tempting to slum it all day if you are feeling high-risk, but one of the most helpful things to do to beat your anxiety is to forbid it from disrupting your regular routine.
So brush your hair, brush your teeth, and wear happy colors. Fight back negative feelings that bring you down to the point where you don’t feel like it is worth it to take care of yourself. Stress and anxiety often lead to depression, deter yourself away from a rut before you get stuck in it. Think happy, look happy, and feel happy!
If you are in a relationship, communicate how you are feeling, and accept the love they are willing to give to help you feel better. Sometimes your anxiety may tell you to push someone away, but what really helps is to pull them closer to you. Take full advantage of the natural anxiety and depression medication that our bodies make when endorphins are released. Say hello to serotonin and good-bye to anxiety! I’m sure your partner will not discourage you from testing this one out. If you are not in a relationship, well…you know what to do. It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but give it a shot, you probably won’t be disappointed.
Here’s the thing, the best way to beat anxiety is to know how to recognize what is anxiety and what isn’t. There are many different levels of anxiety and there is no shame in seeking medication if it is consistently interfering with your life. But if you train yourself to know when you are at risk of an anxiety attack, and do not allow it to change you, it will be a lot easier to deal with. There are days that start out feeling like you are at the bottom of a cliff, and you have no idea how you are going to climb to the top, but you have to.
If you accept the challenge, and dodge all of the falling rock on your way up, you will go to sleep at the end of the day knowing you did not let yourself be devoured by the anxiety attack that insisted on peeking its head around the corner. Nothing can destroy you without your consent, not even your own mind.