How To Deal With Anxiety
*I want to start out by saying, I am not a professional and these tips may not work for you or someone else struggling with anxiety! If you or someone know is seriously battling a mental illness of any kind, please seek professional help! That is the support you truly deserve!*
I have struggled with anxiety for a very long time. If I’m being honest, I think I struggled with anxiety before I really even knew what it was, what to call it, or how it had affected my life and altered my personality. I was always a very hard worker. I got straight A’s in school, I played every sport under the Sun, I volunteered, held down a job as soon as I was old enough to do so, and oh yeah, if you couldn’t tell…. I could not calm down. I would not calm down. Ever.
I had always just been hyper, ‘do everything,’ perfectionist of a kid. I saw it as that. I really thought that I just had a lot of energy, I was extremely capable to multitask, triple-task, and somehow never fail at anything I set my mind too. Except if the goal had been to relax… but those goals I simply ignored. Finding balance and working on my anxiety has actually been a huge part of my own, personal wellness journey. Because we need to rest. We need to relax sometimes. I’d become so accustomed to thriving off stress and anxiety that it almost felt like a high to me. I would just power through my days, weeks, months accomplishing and doing more and more until one day, one week, and for a few months, I truly found myself crashing. I began to spiral out of control. I couldn’t commit to anything. I couldn’t accomplish anything. A day did not go by without a panic attack, some tears, maybe a total meltdown. I was so trapped in this anxious ball that I was scared to leave my apartment. I couldn’t talk to people. I couldn’t think about today because I was so stressed about tomorrow. My mind had gotten fed up with living life at 1000% for so long and boy did it let me know. I completely crashed.
This happened at the end of 2018 and I was so embarrassed that I doubt more than a handful of people in my life even know. That is the other thing, mental health stereotypes are just that: stereotypes. I was very good at hiding it. I am an incredible actress if I do say so myself when it comes to my mental health sometimes. Now, I don’t lie. I don’t fake it. But, I do find myself pushing it further and further to the back of the bus. Until I can no longer do that…. For example, me at the end of 2018.
So, how did I get out of the dark spiral? It was not easy and it is still a work in progress. Those are probably the first two major points I want to share with you all. Recovery, any sort of it, is not easy and it never completely goes away. That sounds depressing and some people may see it as such, but for me, it is powerful. Knowing that and accepting that is very powerful because it prepares you for the battle ahead. You don’t expect an easy fix or you don’t see a mess-up as a failure; it is all growth, it is all a learning curve, it is all part of life, your life with anxiety.
However, there are some things that help. There are some tips I want to share with you that made my life and recovery a lot easier. These are things I really wish I had known back in 2018 or the years I struggled before then, as well!
Call It What It Is
This is sort of my point above, but let me expand on it. It helps absolutely no one, especially yourself, to pretend like you don’t have anxiety. It helps no one to not speak up when you feel anxious. It helps no one to hide any mental illness. Because that only gives it more power.
I remember the first time I told my friend that I was feeling anxious. It was literally the first time I said those words out loud in my entire life. AND WHAT A RELIEF! Instantly, in that moment, I felt some of the anxiety go away. Just like that, just for speaking about how I was feeling and why. That’s all. That’s the power you have when you own your emotions. Do not hide them. Do not be embarrassed by them.
“Embarrassment leads to shame and shame leads to guilt and guilt leads to pain. You do not deserve pain, my love.”
You are somehow that has anxiety. You are not anxiety. Know the difference between these two concepts and when you start to treat the infection rather than press on another bandage, you will find you are then able to heal. Because to get better, you have to first face what you are struggling with.
You cannot fix something if you refuse to admit that it is there.
Write Your Calendar in Pen
Whenever my anxiety would get really bad, I would begin to back out of things. I would cancel plans or change my work schedule at the last minute. I would find it difficult to go out or enjoy the hobbies I once loved. It was so much easier to stay inside and suffer…. So much easier, maybe, but so much better for myself, no.
I know the feeling of panic. I know the feeling of dread. I know the feeling of being anxious and having plans. And these plans could be anything! I would be anxious about seeing my friends (nothing to do with them!) or even going grocery shopping! When my anxiety was really bad, I didn’t want to do a single thing that I did not ABSOLUTELY have to do and even those responsibilities sometimes got canceled.
If you make plans or if you have responsibilities, write them in your calendar in pen.
You cannot change them.
This was a trick I learned recently and it has helped me fight back against my anxiety big time! If someone were to ask me out to dinner on Friday, the moment they ask me, I am allowed to say no. If I have other plans or if I really feel I need to spend some time resting this weekend, etc. I am allowed to say no and I am allowed to honor myself and what I want to do. However, if I say yes, then, it goes in the Calendar in pen and it cannot be changed.
If you struggle with anxiety you will understand this: last minute changes, freak-outs, frets, and cancellations are our favorite. I would catch myself being SO excited for that dinner…. Until about an hour before. Then, for whatever reason, I would worry and stress. I would become anxious. I would wrack my brain with the things I should be doing, what if it’s awkward, what if it rains, maybe I should just stay in, etc. and to be honest, I don’t even have social anxiety.
Anxiety, in general, would make me overthink and over-worry, which would lead me to take the easy route… canceling.
You are not allowed to cancel. You are not allowed to back out. This will help, I promise. At first, it was really hard. In fact, sometimes it led to more panic and more anxiety when I was faced with the reality that I could not escape. But then, it taught me that I was going to be okay. It taught me that plans should not be feared. I didn’t have to overthink. I didn’t have to fret. I started to do this less and less because I had made a rule with myself that I couldn’t cancel, so there was less and less stress.
I wasn’t anxious because I had taken a firm stance with myself and told myself not to be. I told myself I couldn’t be. I couldn’t allow it to impact my life. I couldn’t allow it to alter my plans. And the more and more I told myself these things, the truer they became for me.
Challenge those triggers
This tip could go hand-in-hand with the other tips! If your trigger is being around people, then guess what I am going to tell you?
Be around people.
For me, my trigger was always being quiet, still, and alone. I actually had the opposite problem. I hated being alone. I hated not having plans. I hated not accomplishing, working, moving, SOMETHING! I was my most anxious self lying in bed with nothing to do. So guess what I did?:)
I put myself in those situations that made me feel the most unsettled. Why? Because growth is uncomfortable; because change is scary. I didn’t want to keep living my life filled with anxiety, so I couldn’t expect to keep walking the same path every day but have different results. I had to challenge myself. I had to challenge my anxiety.
Put yourself in situations where you feel anxious. Prepare yourself to feel anxious. Then, just feel anxious. That’s another thing I’ve learned, we are so terrified to feel anxious that we refuse to do so. Which makes it much worse. It is sort of like being really angry, but ignoring until you just explode at the smallest thing your friend says or does.
Be anxious. Experience it. Talk to yourself or others about it, but do not shun away from the places, hobbies, times, moments that you feel your worst. This is where you will recover the most.
I make myself meditate every single day. Why? Because my anxiety hates it and I hate my anxiety. My anxiety feels threatened and it should. It feels challenged because it is. It feels weaker because I am getting stronger. If you are going to change, you have to fight back and fights are tough, but guess what else? You will win:)
Maybe it could be a superpower
This one is sort of weird, but hear me out. When I refused to let my anxiety hurt me or my life, I saw it for what it truly was: just a little quirk of mine. Not many people can do so many things in one day or not so many people can empathize with others like people with anxiety can. We understand that people can feel uncomfortable or uneasy. We understand what it feels like to feel on edge, but dive in anyway. It makes us incredibly strong. It makes us unique. And without allowing my anxiety to get out of hand, I began to try and utilize it for my advantage. My anxiety always made me a workaholic because I was able to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time. Alright, so guess what I did? I found a hobby that I adored that would take up my free time, that would remove the anxiety I felt when I had nothing to do. I gave myself a project that I loved and a dream that I could chase. I started my blog.
It’s true. I started my blog and I published my e-book and I grew my Instagram because it was fun for me, because I hated having nothing to do, because it gave me an outlet when I left the office. And not everyone could do that! Not everyone could balance all the deadlines, expectations, and work, but I love it! Begin to toot your own horn. What can you do because of your mental illness that others can not? And use that! Use that gift that makes you unique!
Now, of course, use your superpower responsibly. I did not just slap on another band-aid and work on my blog for hours and days on end. I made a schedule for myself. I still made myself relax, be free, and have fun! I made sure I slept and ate well, but I also got to start a fun project that helped relieve me of a good amount of that anxious energy that I had been carrying around for far too long.
Superpowers are both blessings and curses, but it is how we view them, harness them, treat them, and live with them that determines their outcomes. Don’t let it make yours a negative one.
I hope these tips and tricks help you or anyone you may know to struggle with anxiety.
I hope they have brought you a sense of calm. I hope you feel less alone or confused.
“Anxiety is having to remind me that being afraid of things going wrong is not the way to ensure that they go right.”
Relax. Breathe. Smile. Laugh. Love. Be anxious, then, learn to control it.
Namaste, my sweet friend.