Listen. I know we can’t all afford therapy. I know we don’t even all have access to it, or insurance. As someone who has struggled with an anxiety disorder all of my life, I would like to spread a little bit of the knowledge I’ve learned as an adult. Even if you can’t go to therapy, there are some tips I have learned to aid in living a happier life with anxiety. When I think of managing life with anxiety, I think about coping mechanisms and community. I understand that everyone is different, everyone’s mental health is different, and these are just some tools that I’ve learned along the way that I hope will help someone out there get through their days a little easier.
So when I talk about “community”; I mean a lot of things. When you struggle with anxious thoughts, I think it’s super important that you find a supportive community. In my mind this could be family members, trusted friends, or it could be something much broader. Music is a community, social media is a community. Not everyone has a physical person in their life that they feel comfortable talking to about anxiety. For me, music has been a huge influence on my mental health. Through music, you can learn that you’re not alone. Music has helped me cope with my anxiety in many different ways. Depending on what I need at any given moment, music can help me change my mood from scared and sad to happy; or it can help me come to terms with my emotions by listening to lyrics that mimic how I’m feeling inside.
"When you struggle with anxious thoughts, I think it’s super important that you find a supportive community."
Social media doesn’t necessarily have a good reputation, especially when it comes to talking about mental health, but I have found some really cool communities and resources for anxiety, especially on Instagram. Some pages that I adore (and have helped me many times) are: @dlcanxiety @doodledwellness and @theempoweredtherapist. These are only a few! There are some amazing, creative people on the internet doing a lot to help people cope with mental illness. I personally love having posts from these accounts pop up in my feed. Again, it confirms that you are not alone--and I can’t stress how important it is to feel validated! It is also inspiring and grounding.
GIVE YOUR FEELINGS A VOICE
Say your thoughts out loud! Or write them down. I think this is an important one. Depending on your comfort level you are going to probably choose one of the two. I have learned, over the past few years (with the help of a lot of therapy) that expressing my feelings and emotions out loud to someone I trust is a really great way to gain some perspective. It can also make the scary thoughts and emotions a little less scary. Sometimes, our anxious thoughts aren’t built from a rational place. If we just say it out loud--blurt out every thought we are feeling in that moment--sometimes those thoughts even feel silly. If you can say it out loud and hear that it “doesn’t make sense” so to speak, it takes some of the edge away and can make it easier to deal with.
"Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is actually making you feel better."
Writing in a journal or making lists can also help. You can build the habit of writing a list of things you are grateful for daily, or start a journal to get the anxious thoughts out on the page. This can serve as a way of getting them out so you can then dismiss them. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is actually making you feel better. Everyone is different and everyone’s anxiety is different! If writing down your negative thoughts doesn’t help, or makes you feel worse--don’t do it! You might want to instead focus on writing down the good things (like a gratitude list) or a list of goals or small accomplishments.
UTILIZE HEALTHY DISTRACTIONS
Distractions can be a wonderful coping mechanism for anxiety. It is not always a bad thing to distract yourself when you are going through a hard time. The trick is to pick healthy things to do with your time. Some top things that help me? Reading a book. Listening to a podcast on an interesting subject. Taking a long, hot bath or shower. Running my diffuser with essential oils and listening to ambient music. You could also try something completely new, like taking up a new creative outlet. Drawing, writing, pottery--whatever calls to you! You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to enjoy it. Another great distraction could be volunteer work. Think about what interests you, who you’d like to help, and go out and spread some positive energy!
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
We always hear about self-care, and the importance of adding it into your life to ease mental health issues. But, what we often hear for anxiety is just this: Yoga. Meditation. I’m here to tell you that these two things are totally not one-size-fits all when it comes to anxiety disorders! Not everyone benefits from either of these practices. I think it’s important we branch out on our definition of self care for mental health issues, and that we as individuals get a little bit creative and find out what truly works for us. I believe that it is important to find healthy things that we enjoy, and add it on to the basics that we all need.
"Our body needs your mind to be healthy, and vise versa."
When struggling with anxiety, there are a few things that are super important: water intake, sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Without these fundamentals of self care, I have learned that it’s pretty hard to tackle anxiety when it creeps up. Your body needs your mind to be healthy, and vise versa. So--take care of yourself! I hope these tips help you do just that.
What exercise are you excited to try the next time you feel anxious?