It’s 3:30pm and my hands are shaking uncontrollably. I can feel my heart racing, accelerating to the near-dangerous level it hasn’t reached since middle school gym class (the perfect storm of my less-than-ideal BMI doing the exercises designed for my pre-pre-professional athlete peers). I feel the constricting of my chest usually synonymous with forgetting my wallet at home or realizing I shame-ate my last box of Caramel DeLites.
But I’m not in middle school gym (thank God), I have my wallet with me, and you best believe I’ve purchased several boxes of my fav Girl Scout cookies, one of which is still stashed in my freezer for safekeeping. Having eliminated the usual culprits, I’m stumped; why do I feel so anxious?
Anxiety affects each of us differently, and its causes are myriad – from situational stressors to generalized anxiety conditions. Regardless of how anxiety comes to us, we have all been driven to that place of heart-in-stomach-must-not-vomit-at-work. No matter your anxiety levels, it is always a stellar idea to see a mental health professional, but in the meantime here are some tips on how to decrease anxiety in your everyday life.
1. Watch your coffee intake.
As a near-addictive black coffee drinker, a friend’s suggestion to switch to decaf was nearly slap-worthy. Until I actually tried. Subbing in decaf for just one of my four(teen) cups a day made a noticeable difference in my physiological anxiety symptoms (heart racing, palms sweating, nails biting, thoughts racing).
Not ready for that full-decaf commitment? Consider going half-caf! Not ready for that kind of commitment? Consider getting ready, because that’s your only other choice here, pal.
2. Go hands-on!
When was the last time you played with Play Dough, slime, or a different malleable plaything? Probably not since you also thought those playthings belonged in your nose and mouth. Occupying your hands engages your mind and body so you can stay focused on that meeting, the paper you’re working on, or the persistent contemplation of the meaninglessness of existence. So get fidgeting! Because you’re worth it… And because you’re anxious AF.
UGH I know, I know. I felt annoying just writing it. But honestly, those endorphins do wonders at getting out anxious energy. It doesn’t have to be that agonizing trip to the gym where homeboy who grunts too much keeps licking his lips mid-squat or lady in full make-up asks you how to use the elliptical (both my real life). Lunges, crunches, jumping jacks or any other simple workouts can be a quick, easy way to treat yourself to a less anxious body and mind.
4. Eat healthy.
Maybe worse than exercise, I know, but you don’t have to go #Whole30 to make yourself feel a #WholeLotBetter. Providing your body with the nutrients it needs has a big impact on feelings of anxiety. I know nomming carrot sticks sounds hare-ible, but everybunny can benefit from filling their bodies with a robust source of energy, so find a healthy option near you and gRabbit!
5. Use positive self-talk.
Y’all see that video of the little girl saying nice things to herself in the mirror? Y’all ever try it? It’s awkward; but, positive self-talk can’t be verbatim from someone else, it has to come from your voice! Saying, “Girl, you look good as hell today” is a lot more effective for me than repeating, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” over and over because – devastatingly enough – I will never be Viola Davis. I am me, but the me I am is pretty cool. Telling yourself that, in your most authentic voice, can help ground you in something other than your uneasiness.
6. Involve yourself in safe social interactions.
Safe because; 1. not all of us feel safe in every social environment (#privilege), 2. some of us don’t feel safe in most social environments, and 3. some of us count me-and-my-cat time as a social environment.
Safe social interactions are those that subjectively fit you most as a person. If that’s heading to a crowded bar or a club to chat up strangers, how? But also, yay for you! If reading a Facebook comment thread is the extent of the social interactions you can handle, unfriend all Trump supporters and go at your pace! Regardless of where you’re at, engaging socially in whatever context feels safest can help distract from negative feelings, and inject some positivity.
7. Get some fresh air.
While ‘fresh’ may be relative since the planet is dying, outside air does feel drastically different. Taking 30 seconds of space outside and breathing deeply before you head to your next practice, meeting, or existential crisis can help calm your brain and body and reset you for success!
I don’t care that you “don’t dance,” or “have no rhythm.” This isn’t So You Think You Can Dance! It’s more like Dancing with the Stars; the crazier and less coordinated the better! Engaging your body releases pent up energy. Spinning, jumping, or just five solid minutes of booty shakin’ can really get the blood flowing. Feeling bold? Do it in front of the mirror. Bolder? Do it naked! Boldest? Share it online #ColinsNakedDancing! Just kidding, please please don’t. Damn, even writing that just spiked my anxiety.
The reason I love stretching (the same reason I love many things), is that it doesn’t require any skill. You don’t need to be in a certain position, wearing a certain outfit, or even super flexible. Touch your toes, roll your shoulders, or scrunch your face up as tight as you can and then stretch it as wide as it can go (Now that one you can share online #ColinsWideFace). These are all great ways to get energy out with barely any extra effort.
10. Understand your anxiety.
Understanding your anxiety is hugely important. When I was struggling, my immensely talented and insightful sister gave the metaphor that anxiety is a single cloud in a vast sky. Know it’s there, know how it might impact your day, and know it’s gonna pass soon and sunny days are on the horizon! Using this imagery, or a different example that may work better for you, helps put big feelings into context!
11. Externalize your anxiety.
In whatever way you most comfortably communicate, get those feelings out there! Writing, singing, talking to a friend, typing, calling your mom, or one thousand other options are all great ways to evict your anxiety from its current home (your body) and give it a new one (the universe). Want an example of how this could look in real life? You’re currently reading it.