*I am not a doctor and I’m in no way trying to tell anyone to quit taking their medication if they need it. We’re all different, and we all handle our mental illnesses in different ways. It takes a strong person to battle mental illnesses with or without medication. This post is simply meant to help you cope with the day-to-day struggles that come along with anxiety.*
If you struggle with anxiety, I just want to say: I see you, I understand what you’re going through, and you’re a strong and beautiful person. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re carrying a weight on your shoulders that a lot of people don’t understand. That also goes for people with depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and everything in between.
One of my monthly goals for September was to be more personal with this blog. So here goes.
I have suffered from anxiety since I was about 18 years old. (So the past 5 years.) I have generalized anxiety disorder and derealization disorder. Derealization isn’t talked about a lot, but it’s the scariest symptom of anxiety that I have.
I was originally prescribed medication for these disorders but I didn’t like taking them. They made me worse and I just started freaking out about every little side-effect I felt, paranoid that something was wrong with me. I tried 5 different prescriptions before I eventually stopped taking them.
I know that a lot of people disagree with my decision, but I don’t handle medicine well. We’re all different. Some of us do much better with medication and that’s great. I’m happy it helps people – that’s what it’s for! In my own personal experience, I’ve steadily gotten better doing my own thing and learning to manage it myself.
So today I thought I’d share 40 ways that I’ve learned to manage anxiety. These things can help you whether you take medication or not!
1. Light a lavender candle or spray some lavender oil around your house. Lavender is known for its calming effects on the mind, and it can really help get anxiety under control.
2. Get a good night’s sleep and take a nap if (and when) you need to. Sometimes sleep is all it takes to get any emotional problems you may be suffering under control.
3. Get some exercise. Try to exercise at least 3 times a week! You probably don’t need to be told how important exercise is for both the body and the mind.
4. Practice meditation regularly. Also, meditate when anxiety strikes. This is one of the most helpful ways to manage anxiety for me.
5. Try talking to someone who will understand. Or try reaching out to someone else with anxiety so you can help each other.
6. Be mindful of your triggers. If you don’t know what they are, try to pay attention to what things seem to regularly cause anxiety for you.
7. Eat a healthy diet. It’s important what you put into your body and some things can make your anxiety worse (or better!)
8. Try to not to control your anxiety too much. Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it can be to try to ignore anxiety. But the more you focus on your anxiety and try to control it, the worse it can get.
9. Read inspirational quotes, listen to upbeat music, recite positive affirmations. Try to find ways to cheer yourself up and get happy.
10. Try to do some self-therapy. Here’s a workbook for dealing with anxiety that may help you if you don’t know much about self-therapy.
11. Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings really helps. It’s also helpful to try to always keep your journal with you so you have it whenever you need it.
12. Try not to drink too much alcohol. Try not to abuse any substances because that’s a quick way to feed your anxiety.
13. Spend some time outside. Take a walk, sit outside and read, or just relax. Sunlight + fresh air + nature = very therapeutic.
14. Distract yourself. Read, watch a movie, play video games, or spend time doing one of your hobbies. This is a great way to relax and distract yourself from anxiety.
15. Try not to avoid the things that scare you. Challenging yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone can be one of the most helpful things for anxiety. But don’t bite off more than you can chew; you don’t want to make things worse. Challenge yourself in small steps and be patient.
16. Don’t continue to only focus on the bad things. Focus on your blessings too and remember to be grateful for what you have.
17. Read books, blogs, and anything else you can about anxiety. This is comforting; it helps you feel understood and realize that you’re not alone. Plus, it helps you understand the condition better.
18. If you’re comfortable with it, consider going to therapy or counseling. Talking about your problems with a professional can help.
19. Breathe. Don’t force yourself to breathe or you may hyperventilate. Just pay attention to your breathing. Sometimes when we get worked up, we start taking short breaths or even holding our breath, which can make anxiety worse.
20. Practice mindfulness. This is a great way to manage your anxiety. Being mindful allows you to live in the present moment instead of living in the past or being fearful for the future. If you want a good book for discovering mindfulness, I have two suggestions that helped me a lot: Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World and Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.
21. Spend some time investing in yourself. Learn something new. Have you been wanting to learn a new language, learn a creative skill, or start a business? Then spend the time (and/or money) on learning it! Read a book, take a course, or whatever else you need to do.
22. Lend a helping hand. I know that when I help people, it fills me with the best feeling. Volunteer in your community, offer to babysit for free for a single mother, pay for someone’s meal in a drive-thru line. Even something small can make you feel good.
23. Take a relaxing bath. Baths can sooth your mind and body. Light a few candles, add some lavender oil to the water, drink some tea, and read a book.
24. Avoid over thinking. Over thinking about negative things doesn’t help anything. All it does is overwhelm our mind and it can definitely cause anxiety. Instead, try visualizing positive things.
25. Do some coloring. Coloring has a surprising amount of therapeutic benefits. It can increase your focus and your creativity, it can calm you and relieve your stress. Here’s a Color With Music adult coloring book of mandalas; it comes with a relaxation CD!
26. Drink plenty of water. Along with all of the other problems dehydration can cause, lack of water can affect your anxiety and screw with your hormones. So make sure you stay hydrated!
27. Practice yoga regularly. Yoga is very helpful in relaxing your body and mind. It has many other benefits too, and it only takes a few minutes a day.
28. Read self-help books. One of the biggest things that’s helped me manage my anxiety and decide to turn my life around is reading self-help books. So head to your local library and take a look around. If you’re ever looking for suggestions, you can keep an eye on the blog for reviews. (Or add me on Goodreads!) 😉
29. Limit your time on social media. Studies have shown that spending time on social media can raise a person’s levels of anxiety. If you feel like this happens to you, then limit your time on these sites or delete your profile altogether.
30. Laugh. Laughter is shown to calm the body and mind, and increase the amount of oxygen we breathe in; all of these things improve anxiety. So watch a funny movie or video or spend time with someone who makes you laugh.
31. Use positive self-talk. When you suffer from anxiety, you probably hear a lot of negative talk in your head. Instead of listening to these thoughts, flip them around and try to use positive self-talk instead.
32. Plan ahead. Something that helps me manage my anxiety is preparing my day ahead of time. So grab a planner or notebook and write out your schedule and to-do list each day.
33. Tell yourself that you’re okay. If you’re having a panic attack (or any other symptom of anxiety) remind yourself that this has happened to you before, it’ll pass, and you’ll be okay. Sometimes that’s all it takes to calm yourself down.
34. Create a coping toolbox. I think that this is a pretty neat way to manage anxiety. Some people think it’s childish, but I think it’s actually pretty smart. You basically gather up everything that comforts you when you’re having a bout of anxiety so that you have it when you need it. You can read more about it here.
35. Do a brain dump. I know that when I’m feeling anxious, I have about 4,365,269 thoughts running through my mind. Doing a brain dump helps with this. I grab a notebook and write down every thought that comes to my head. Then I look at the list and cross off anything that’s negative, unimportant, or out of my control. This helps me think more clearly and focus on one thing at a time. Plus, it helps me from forgetting any important things that I should remember.
36. Soothe yourself. Self-soothing is a very helpful thing. If you’re having an anxiety attack and you’re alone, self-soothing is a good way to help yourself feel better. Here are tips for self-soothing your stress away.
37. Set yourself goals. Setting yourself goals (even small ones) and taking steps to work towards achieving them can help lessen your anxiety. This gives you something to work towards and helps you feel better about yourself.
38. Develop a self-care routine. Self-care is super important when it comes to anxiety. Developing a self-care routine is very effective because routines are comforting to anxiety-ridden minds. Here’s a helpful post about how to create a self-care routine.
39. Take a break. Let yourself off the hook once in a while. On your bad days, give yourself permission to sit around in your pajamas and relax if you need to.
40. Go easy on yourself. A lot of people struggle with anxiety and you’re only human. Some days are worse than others and that’s okay. Nobody is perfect, but you’ll be okay. <3
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Question: What helps you manage anxiety (other than medication)?