This post has been a long time coming as I’ve battled anxiety for over nearly two decades. I can pin point it starting following a car accident in which I was rear-ended in 2001. My chronic headaches started that day and from there I began to experience depression and anxiety and then endured years of various prescription drugs and therapies that promised to help but often made it worse.
Don’t know what it feels like to have anxiety? Picture having a shortness of breath, your chest feeling tight and constricted, your heart is racing, your mind is moving a million miles a minute, you’re having trouble concentrating, you’re imagining worse case scenarios on repeat…It’s scary. And having these feelings regularly can be really draining. My anxiety can also manifest itself in negative self talk and it particularly kicks in during times of change, in scenarios where I am not in control and when my stress levels are in overdrive.
Today, I take no medication for my anxiety which is a huge feat. It wasn’t until I became self employed that I achieved this, either. Oftentimes, when it comes to things like anxiety or depression, we’re made to feel ashamed to admitting whether we battle them. I’ve come to accept my anxiety and worked hard to have more self-acceptance of the fact that it is a part of my life. I will say that it has been much better since I stopped working in a traditional office environment. Removing myself from the many stressors I battled in a more corporate environment has done wonders for my mental health and for that, I am grateful every day.
That being said, the anxiety battle is an ongoing one and I have had to figure out a variety of ways to manage it that don’t involve drugs. As I’ve had emails and comments over the year when I’ve mentioned my anxiety from many of you who also battle it, I thought I’d share today what works for me when it comes to managing it.
Breath work is the #1 tip I can provide if you battle anxiety. Learning a variety of breathing exercises has been incredibly helpful for me and I use them now when I can’t sleep, when I’m feeling panic come on or if I’m in need of calming down. One of my favorite exercises is the 4-7-8 rule. You inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. Another one I like is doing deep breaths in, holding for 2 seconds and then trying to make your exhale as long as possible. Long exhales actually help calm your nervous system and I find these exercises minimize my anxiety after 5-10 minutes no matter the scenario.
Essential oils have a lot of rewarding properties but breathing them in or diffusing them in your home can be really helpful when you need to center and calm yourself. The doTERRA Peace oil is my absolute favorite. The scent is beyond comforting. They have one you can apply to your wrists, etc and also one you can diffuse. My other nighttime rituals designed to help calm and avoid pre-sleep anxiety can be read about here and recently I’ve subbed in this diffuser which automatically turns on every night for and diffuses from 7-9PM. I love it!
Call a friend.
Sometimes my anxiety just needs a distraction and calling a friend is usually just the ticket. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, I highly recommend picking up the phone and calling a loved one.
My first experiences with acupuncture didn’t feel very fruitful back in high school but in recent years I have found it can be good for treating particularly anxious times. As my current acupuncturist says, the therapy can provide a reset for your system so that you feel better equipped to handle life’s stressors. I’m a big believer in Eastern medicine and I have loved the results I’ve been seeing from acupuncture lately in regards to my chronic headaches and anxiety. I also deeply value the minutes on the table where there are no interruptions and no technology. That time away from a screen is so precious to me these days.
When I moved to New York I realized how much overly crowded places like Times Square or even going to large scale concerts really triggered my anxiety. I had a mild panic attack at a concert with strobe lights at Madison Square Garden once and quickly realized that I’m no longer cut out for concerts except for once in a blue moon. I have learned the importance of avoiding places, things and even people that I know will trigger feeling anxious. Making decisions based on how I know I don’t want to feel has become an important tactic for me in managing my anxiety.
I don’t meditate every day but I rely heavily on it when anxiety strikes. I use the Inscape app exclusively (I’ve tried a few others but always come back to Inscape for its no-frills approach and extremely soothing narrator and sounds.) When I’m stressed, my anxiety has a way of often manifesting itself right before I go to bed which often makes sleep stressful. I was on medication for nearly ten years to help battle my mind-racing anxiety that would occur as I would try and fall asleep. But, upon coming off the Rx in June of 2016, I instead rely on meditation if I’m feeling anxious at bedtime. I’ll use one of Inscape’s several sleep-related meditations and almost always fall asleep shortly after I begin the session. The breath work helps me to quiet my mind and soothes any stress I feel built up in my chest. I can’t say enough good things about meditation if you suffer from anxiety. It provides a reset to your mind, body + soul and really does help me feel more calm.
Go for a Walk.
There’s a lot of science behind what good being outdoors and going on a walk can do for your mental state and I definitely am a believer in it. Sometimes just a 10 minute walk around my neighborhood can be what I need to calm down and reset. If I am extra anxious, I’ll do a meditation session while walking. A secondary option is a motivating podcast while I get out and walk.
Relatedly, working out has been a great means of lessening my anxiety. After a workout, I feel more empowered, more confident and less stressed. Those endorphins are flowing and I’m feeling much more prepared to conquer what’s causing my anxiety. Hot yoga in particular is my go-to for fighting anxiety and feeling as though I’m re-gaining my center but pretty much any exercise helps.
. . .
Do you suffer from anxiety ever? Do you have any tried and true ways that help you?
Anxiety is a medical condition and treatment should be discussed with your doctor to determine what is best for you. As I am not a doctor the above reflects what works best for me at this time and is not intended to replace the guidance of a physician in treating anxiety.
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