In my last post, I explained some triggers for anxiety. Dealing with anxiety myself, I was able to see some of the five biggest reasons for anxiety coming on and coming on strong.
As stated before, I have high functioning anxiety. However, there are multiple types of anxiety that range from looking completely normal to outsiders to not being able to leave your house or enjoy social outings. So how does one function or overcome anxiety?
Honestly, I don’t know if I can say you completely “beat” it, but you are able to cope with it. One of my longest friends has dealt with anxiety for years, but it worsened when she was hit hard with depression as well. She felt helpless and didn’t know where to turn. As I spoke with her this week, she followed some of the same tips I did when my anxiety seemed out of control. After a month, she was able to have a positive conversation and see the importance of mental health. Is this a cure all post? Absolutely not. However, I wanted to provide some tips for those who may not know where to turn, what do do, or how to get their mental health under control.
Included are 5 tips to help you cope with anxiety.
- Breathing Techniques–While in counseling and even seeing medical doctors, I found that breathing techniques became a way to give me a moment of peace. Sure, it didn’t cure the anxiety, but it gave me a moment of help when things were hectic. The saying “just breath” makes every single person with anxiety want to hit you over the head with a frying pan. Learning how to breathe is a different story. Counting to ten did NOTHING for me. Alright, 1,2,3….this does nothing. For some it helps, but I found focusing on my breathing was what I needed. Deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. The breathing was quick and short when I started. I had to learn how to take in deep breaths and zone out everything else. Only my breathing. I also found that sticking my head between my knees while breathing truly helped. It calmed down my heart rate, lessened any dizziness, and I could focus on just my needs. Instead of focusing on my anxiety, I would purposefully turn my thoughts to something positive. It wasn’t easy at first. Plain and simple. It takes time folks. You have to retrain your brain how to think and even your body on how to respond.
- Therapy/Counseling–-Going to talk to someone about your problems at a large financial rate seems silly and pointless to many individuals. Why should I tell someone else about my problems? They can’t help me. Talking about it won’t do a thing, I need actions. Well, for some individuals, this is a life saving action. Therapy and counseling has changed over the years as well. Sure, you can talk to someone one-on-one or even in a group setting. However, mobile apps, texting, video chats, email, and online chats can be a form of help as well. If you’re unconfortable meeting with someone (especially those with social anxiety) try a form of email, phone call, or even texting at first. Let me stress this though–mental health apps are not an alternative for professional therapy, but it can help with day-to-day issues and stress. Going to therapy was a big step for me. An embarrassing step to be completely honest. It took almost 6 months before I saw results. One session does not fix years of anxiety and stress. Yet, I saw results. Going and seeing a professional was a life changing experience for my mental health. I no longer saw it as a weakness, but strength because I was reaching out and asking for help. My therapist gave me techniques and tips for managing my anxiety (many that I’m sharing with you), and gave me “homework” to do at home to help with my specific issues. If you’re sick or have a physical problem, we go to a doctor. If you’re having problems with your mental health, go see a mental health doctor. There is no shame.
- Media Hiatus–-Why does taking a social media break help those with anxiety? Well, recent studies have found that social media has changed peoples lives…and not for the good. More people have reported feeling worried and/or uncomfortable when media outlets are not accessible. People panic without their phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The fear of “missing out” on something increases, and, believe it or not, social media is more addictive than cigarettes. Social media prevents individuals from even sleeping! Those with anxiety are more prone to compare their lives to everyone around them and despair when it is not living up to this fictional picture. Yes, I say fictional. Marriage is not always perfect. Your house, not perfect. Your life, not perfect. However, through the lens of social media and picture filters, everyone else looks perfect. As stated in my previous post as well, this makes a perfectionist’s anxiety go through the roof. Take a break from social media! When my anxiety was at it’s highest, I shutdown my Facebook for 40 days. Woah! Tough, but as each day went by, it became easier and easier. I didn’t care about someone liking my post or photos. My relationship with my husband (at that time fiancé) became closer, and my anxiety slowly lessened as I couldn’t compare my life with those around me or worry about how many likes I may receive. Although it causes anxiety for some at the beginning, it’s almost a time of rehab and getting a true reality check. Read more here.
- Body–Part of anxiety includes multiple aspects of taking care of your body! So what should you do/try?
- Exercise–Not only does exercise help you become healthier and stronger, but it also releases endorphins, which triggers positive feelings into the body.
- Eating Healthy–Eating better helps clear up your skin, keep your mind sharp, and give you energy for the day. Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks for energy boosts throughout the day. With anxiety, comes indulging in junk food or “comfort” food, not eating, or eating too much. Find a food that is healthy and you like. This is probably one of the hardest aspects of life to change, but it can help you balance and control the anxiety.
- Sleep–Aim towards 8 hours of sleep each night. Oh no. Definitely difficult with anxiety as I stated in my previous post. So what should you do/try? Limit screen time before bed and even turn it off completely. Do NOT check social media in the middle of the night. Again, turn it off. Have your phone set for only your alarm and emergency calls. Try a few things before bed like reading, listening to music (I prefer classical or instrumentals), yoga, and breathing techniques. Set a routine. We do this to our children, why not yourself? Set a bedtime and stick to it. Again, it will be difficult in the beginning, but over the weeks you will see results.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol–these two can trigger or aggravate anxiety. Drink more water instead!
- Medicine–This is always a touchy topic. Why? Some people think that medicine shouldn’t be used to treat mental health. Others don’t want to depend on medicine for the rest of their lives. Some are simply embarrassed at the idea. My experience with anxiety medicine–it took the edge off, but I needed the other four tips from above too. A small pill (with a low dose) did not fix me over night. The side effects of the medicine did not settle well with my body, and I had to adjust my dosage and type of medicine to combat that issue as well. For some individuals, medicine helps and gets them to a place where they can fully manage the anxiety. Others don’t need it. I am NOT a medical professional. Speak with your doctor first on this issue. They will know how to help you in the best way!
Will all of these steps heal your anxiety? Probably not. Can they help? Yes. Give them a try and see the results. Worse case scenario, it doesn’t work. On the other hand, it may just help you and your mental health.