The thing with anxiety is every fear and worry you have makes sense and is actually real to you. Your surroundings in a social situation become a danger zone yet being alone causes you to dig yourself deeper into a hole of irrational thoughts. It’s different for everyone but it seems that no matter what you do to escape your own thoughts they will be patiently waiting for you when you let your guard down — and then suddenly you can’t breathe, the world is spinning, and you feel like your choking … a panic attack, for no apparent reason.
If I think about the past 6 months and compare it to a year ago I think I’m mentally in a better place. I’ve changed a lot of my daily habits in the past year which has helped my anxiety remain at bay, but when I stop prioritizing those habits I find myself spiraling and everything seems to fall apart. I was recently sick with the flu so naturally I spent most of my time in bed and alone for most of the day — no exercise, not eating well, the house is a mess, doing nothing productive, no energy. All of these things are essential for feeling your best and I was doing none of that for almost 2 weeks. By the end of that I was falling apart, mentally of course. Just recently I’ve slowly started getting back into my routine again. Here are a few things that help me:
I find it really helpful to write down my thoughts rather than leave them feeling unresolved in my head. It’s almost like talking to a friend and just venting except you spare your friend if you journal. But I think in order for this to work you need to not pressure yourself to journal every day because then you’ll get more anxiety and won’t want to commit to it. Journal when you need to, at least a few times a week and it can be anything from a paragraph to a few pages. For more inspiration and tips, check out my How I Started Journaling Regularly post.
2. Drink water
This is one of those annoying tips you hear at least once a day. It’s not even really about drinking “more” water for me, just drinking less sugar-filled drinks. I find myself feeling sluggish and fatigued when I drink too much sugar. And when I’m not drinking enough water throughout the day, I don’t think properly and I find my mind wandering. I also find drinking from a water bottle helps me keep track of the amount of water I’m drinking.
3. Eat well
This is a big one for me. Being gluten-intolerant, I have to triple check that my food doesn’t have any gluten ingredients and isn’t cross-contaminated. It triggers my anxiety and lasts for a couple days at least. I also have to make sure I’m eating enough fruits and vegetables to get the right amount of daily nutrients. “Healthy food” according to your own body can be different for everyone so this may be something you want to look into to see what works for you.
Ironically, I find reading murder mystery and thriller genres to be best for me when I’m feeling anxious just because they get me out of my own head and into trying to solve a mystery and actually feeling engaged in a novel. This may not be the case for everyone, but reading in general is good for the mind.
I’ve never been a fan of exercising, but I’ve recently been doing body weight exercises early in the morning for about 30 minutes and combining it with a 20 minute walk. I’ll do this 3-5 times a week and it has helped me immensely! Mental energy can be converted into physical energy and its effect on me is that I feel accomplished, energized, and like a load of stress from my shoulders has been lifted. I suggest looking up some workout ideas on Pinterest or YouTube and choose a day to start and stick to it.
6. Clean your space
No one likes to cook in a dirty kitchen. This can be applied to anything. Just like no one likes to work or create something on a messy desk. I find when I have a clean room, kitchen, or desk area I feel more motivated to get things done. But when the house is a mess I would rather hide away somewhere so I don’t have to see all the mess that needs to cleaned. It’s like a cycle: messy house —> unmotivated —> stays in bed —> gets nothing done —> don’t feel accomplished —> gets anxious about the things I didn’t accomplish —> feel overwhelmed so I avoid cleaning —> and the cycle starts again. I try to check off a couple chores a day so that they don’t pile up on me and the house stays reasonably clean throughout the week.
7. Listen to music/play instrument
I play piano so usually when I listen to good music then I’m motivated to learn a new song on my piano which is a creative outlet for me that allows me to release my anxiety. I’ve known this for so long but sometimes I forget how much of an impact it has on me. When I was younger I would come home from school and go straight to my piano because it helped me with my stress. However, if you don’t play an instrument, listening to it is also good for your mental health.
8. Find a project/set a goal
This can be anything and it can change every week. For me, this blog is my project. I actually miss it when I haven’t posted in a few weeks and once I get posting again I start to feel accomplished. It feels good to get things done and to see the results of your hard work. Even checking of a to-do list on a daily basis can make you feel accomplished. I find when I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing and only doing things I NEED to do rather than what I WANT to do, I feel like a robot and like I’m not living with a purpose. So find something you have been meaning to do and work towards that goal.
9. Do something for someone
My mom has been telling me this time and time again. It helps a lot though. I find even cooking a meal for someone makes me feel good. I admit it’s kinda difficult making yourself available to help when you feel like you can barely help yourself. But making someone else happy is so rewarding because then you feel good about yourself and it gives you a rush of happy feelings. It helps distract your mind even for a little while.
10. Be true to yourself
This is a big one for me. I find that when I’m trying to please others I start to become overwhelmed with trying to be this person that everyone expects of me. Being one person is enough, but having to worry about being a certain person for someone is exhausting. Staying true to yourself can mean wearing that top that everyone else thinks is hideous but you think is cute or saying no to a party or dinner because you would rather stay at home and catch up on some reading or finish that project you’ve been putting off. I have to constantly remind myself that I need to do what’s best for my health so that a week from now I won’t be crying my eyes out or having a panic attack for no reason. It’s not selfish to have to say no or to do what you prefer. It’s what’s best for your health, like any other health condition.
I hope these tips will help you in some way. This is what I find works for me but it could be something else for you. Do you have any tips? Leave them down in the comments. I’m always open to try something new!