Anxiety, as I have experienced it, is a mean fucker. It was something I didn’t think would happen to me because where I am from, mental health was never given much importance. If you’re depressed, you are told to cheer up and get over it. If you are anxious, you are told to chill. It’s how things here are here.
Anxiety came to me like a horrible aunt who is visiting but has outstayed her welcome. It came suddenly, without much preamble or warning, and kicking it out required herculean effort. Anxiety is a killer; it’s no joke. It’s not something where you can wake up and shrug it off. But you can beat it. Trust that you will. Trust that it will not be like this forever. You will endure.
These tips may seem like something you have Googled and read about a million times before and if you are like me, you never paid them much attention to them thinking they probably won’t work. They seem so simple but trust me in the realization that, in battling anxiety, simple is good.
1. TALK IT OUT.
I was never a talker. I was the type to keep my feelings bottled up until it became too unbearable and I would break down and cry. I don’t have many friends that I can trust with how I was feeling so one night, I Googled free online therapy and I could never be grateful enough for finding people that helped me get through what I was feeling. After some time I decided to become a listener and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Being online provided the anonymity that I needed—I was free to talk and listen without having to censor my feelings. Hearing people say that I have helped them in whatever crisis they were experiencing helped heal what I was battling. Through this process, I made two new friends—the three of us now talk constantly about our feelings, our lows, our highs, our fears, our partners and sometimes just the most random things. We have graduated from strangers to treating each other as comrades.
2. BREATHE IT THE FUCK OUT.
Whenever you read about anxiety, breathing is always connected to it. It is an almost immediate solution—you tense up, you breathe out. You feel like a whole truckload of stress is sitting right on your chest and like how my friend described it— “it feels like you’re going to have a fucking heart attack.” Breathe it all out. Trying to cope with anxiety made me realize I have been taking breaths the wrong way, so I started watching and listening to breathing exercises on the internet and tried doing it every morning. You just inhale the good as much as you can and breathe out all the bad. You might think that’s cheesy but trust me, you will thank me for it.
3. GO DO YOUR MILES.
And when I say miles, do as many as you can. It doesn’t matter if you choose to run, walk, skip, hop, jog, or do cartwheels, JUST DO IT. This was not easy to do because getting out of bed was a challenge in itself, but give yourself the pep talk you need. Get up, lace up, and just go. There are many days where I felt like giving up 10 minutes into walking because it was taking everything in me to not break down on the side of the road (I have once—not a pretty sight). There were days when tears would be running down my cheeks as I was running as hard as I could or mornings when I would go on a million-kilometer walk giving myself the TALK and people would look at me as if I was some deranged person—I just shrug them off. I still have days when I prefer my bed and my cocoon of safety, but it’s easier now especially when I wake up each morning determined to get better.
4. MEDITATE LIKE A MOFO.
Ah, this one is still splotchy and I have yet to master it but I am proud to say that I can now sit and give myself three minutes to just declutter my mind and give it much-needed peace. I used to scoff at meditation as it was something that I couldn’t figure out. I couldn’t figure out how to give my mind a minute to wind down and clear. Now I’ve learned that I can do it better if somebody is guiding me, and in this world of technology and easy accessibility, I now have a playlist that I got from YouTube that helps give me this gift of quiet and peace. It has been the most beautiful gift I’ve ever given myself.
5. FUCKING PRAY, SERIOUSLY.
I was never a religious person. I don’t know my Catholicism very well—I only go to church a maximum of three times a year and most are just visits; funerals don’t count. But anxiety made me desperate and there was nowhere else I could go so I got down on my knees and just prayed. Sometimes it’s serene; sometimes it’s a mess. There were so many tears, so much bargaining and begging that I swear it feels like God just looks at me and shakes His head in consternation. I begged, wailed, sobbed, talked to God like He is my mate, prayed some more. I have whimpered quietly in the shower and screamed into my pillow—I did all of these with God as the sole witness to my heartache. I think He understood. He might not have words to send me, but He sent me everything that I have begged Him for in His own perfect timing. I mean, I am getting better, right? That’s enough of a miracle.