Hi everyone! If you have been following my blog for a while now, you’ll know that I sometimes struggle with anxiety. Last week my anxiety was oooofffff…off the charts. Physically it wasn’t hard, but mentally my anxiety was so darn bad. I had to ask myself a lot of questions, and really think to myself what the heck was going on. Without even realizing that I have a “process” for this sort of thing, my mind and body started going through a checklist of ways to make my anxiety manageable.
There are so many statistics out there on anxiety, and unfortunately I couldn’t find any recent enough to credibly cite. However, it is widely known that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness. Unfortunately anxiety orders also present themselves in many different forms including eating disorders, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), phobias, bipolar disorder, sleeping disorders and so many more. Also unfortunately, most people will experience anxiety at some point in their life, or if you’re like me for a good portion of your life. It can also be caused by a variety of different things, each specific to the person it resides within – whether it be DNA or environment related.
Anxiety can be very scary, and sometimes it’s worse than others. At times my whole body will start to tremble, or it might seem like there is a tightness in my chest. It might even show itself as something less dramatic like I’ll be irritable and jumpy with tingly sensations in my hands and face. Sometimes we know where it’s coming from, and other times it seems as if it came out of the blue. In my experience, more often than not; even when it seems as if it came out of nowhere, there is a reason behind it. Worries might suddenly start to sink in, or subconsciously the mind will recall a certain feeling associated with an event. (Possibly a traumatic event.) Regardless of what is going on, I have found a few things that are helpful for me when I am experiencing anxiety.
It sounds silly, I know, and I know you have probably heard it a million times. There is a reason you’ve heard it a million times. That’s because it can seriously help. Obviously we are breathing all of the time though. So lets try purposefully breathing. Try this:
- Close your eyes – even if just for a second, and take a deep breath in.
- Open your eyes.
- As you exhale, make sure to relax your forehead. Blink a couple times if you need to, to help.
- Take another deep breath in. Count to four.
- As you breathe out, relax your shoulders, and straighten your back.
Keep doing this as you need to. It won’t fix everything automatically, but it does help. If you are at work in an office setting do this throughout the day as needed. If you are always in front of people or in a customer based profession, try this between clients / customers. Sneak away for a bathroom break if you need to. Just don’t make it too long, to where you will get yourself into trouble. By doing this, it gives your mind something else to focus on momentarily. Also, if you’re having really bad anxiety, you can regain control of your breathing.
Identify Through Your Senses
Take a look around you. Look for one to three of each of the following things:
- Something that you can see
- Something that you can feel
- Something that you can smell
- Something that you can hear
- Something that you can taste
Focusing on each of these things will help by giving your mind something else to focus on. It helps if they are all something different, or in the same setting but related to each other.
If you aren’t in an environment that is appealing, try imagining something that is calming – through memory and identify something from each of your senses. For example if I’m at work and stressed out, I will imagine myself at my family’s summer cabin. I will identify:
- The view of the horizon over the lake. My favorite times were either sunset or windy days when the waves were perfect.
- The feeling of my feet touching the water on the sandstone beach.
- The smell of english muffins and coffee on the screened in porch with the fresh breeze.
- The sound of the waves brushing against the shore
- The taste of a Northern Michigan Pasty for dinner with the whole family there.
Take A Walk or Exercise
Exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins are the “happy” chemical part of our brain. Of course we are not always in a position to be able to drop everything and go to the gym to start lifting weights or hop on a treadmill. Try taking a brisk walk around the block, brisk enough to get your heart pumping. If you are in retail – take a walk around the store inside or out! Whatever it is, take a step away from what you are doing and get your heart pumping.
Be Mindful of What Goes Into Your Body
I didn’t always believe this one myself, but there is a lot of truth to it! Certain things that we eat can wreak havoc on our mental well being. Processed foods are actually a huge culprit when it comes to anxiety and depression. (I’m looking at you boxed foods and packaged treats!) Of course you can’t eat one healthy meal and expect to see immediate results. Over time I think you would be amazed at what the benefits are.
Keep in mind though, that what is good for one is not necessarily good for all. I say this because there are so many different food allergies out there. For example, I am lactose intolerant. So even though dairy provides a lot of calcium and helps maintain bone density, it makes me incredibly sick. The good doesn’t outweigh the bad. Fish and peanuts are another great example. Everyone is different, so find your happy medium, and eat what is right for you. I’m also not saying that you should never ever eat junk food. Heck sometimes I just need a little bit of dark chocolate to get me through! Just take note of what you’re eating, and how it makes you feel afterwards.
Ask Yourself Some Questions
At the end of the day, and after you have already or have tried calming your anxiety it’s probably best to (at least try to) figure out where it is coming from. I like to ask myself a couple things to walk me through getting to the route of the problem. Sure I’m irritable, but is the route of my problem really because my kids didn’t replace the toilet paper roll? Absolutely not.
Once you get to the bottom of your anxiety you can figure out if there is something that you can do to change your situation, or not. Sometimes the things you need to change in order to reduce your anxiety can also be stressful. (Moving, getting a new job, starting a new career, etc…) but the end result will be worth it!
Sometimes there isn’t anything we can do about it. An emotional trigger might come up, the anniversary of a death, or things like that. When those things come up, at least you’ll know what it’s from. Try a few grounding exercises, or find an outlet. Mine is writing, or singing and listening to music. Continuing to focus on breathing is also important. Process your emotions. Believe me, it is not always comfortable! In my experience, once you get the uncomfortable out of the way it starts to get better.
Do you suffer from anxiety? Or are there certain times it is worse than others? If so, how do you manage it? If not, how do you keep it at bay? Let me know in the comments.