How I Manage My Anxiety

June 25, 2019

Tips for Managing Anxiety I wit & whimsyThis 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.

How I Manage My Anxiety:

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.

Breathing exercises.

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.

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.

Acupuncture.

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.

Recognizing Triggers.

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.

Meditation.

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.

Working Out.

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.

CBD.

CBD has been a welcomed addition to my daily routine after I discovered Equilibria’s Daily Softgels and Daily Drops. With regular use they both have helped me achieve more balance and calm. You can read more about my experience with CBD in detail in this post and this post.

. . .

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.

p.s. my battle with thyroid disease and my career tipping point.

[Image outtake via this post]

20 comments on “How I Manage My Anxiety”

  1. It is these types of personal posts that attracted me as a reader to your blog, starting with the being single post.
    While I do not suffer or experience anxiety the way you do, all people usually have an attack at least once in their life and these are great tips for anyone. I really appreciate your sharing your authentic self. Extremely helpful for you to even explain what an attack feels like as I think many experience it but don’t know what it is.

    Throwing out the idea of Hypnotherapy and hypnosis if you haven’t tried it; not meant to be a cure all but it has worked wonders for some.

    Again, thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. As someone who also deals with anxiety, I find myself being more and more open about it because it’s becoming more acceptable to talk about it. These types of open and honest posts really help with that. I find breathing and meditation to be the most helpful for me as well. I did medication for a time, and then decided I wanted to go without it (after consulting with my doctor). It helped me get through a particularly hard time, and I’ve used a lot of these other methods to battle since then. I’m really interested to try acupuncture! Thanks again for sharing and always being so open with your readers.

  3. Really inspired by your self awareness around triggers and knowing what works for you. Thank you for sharing your journey. You’re so strong!

  4. I really appreciate your willingness to share! I do think it’s important to note that not everyone can or should try to go without medication. There is so much shame that is part of depression and anxiety, so it’s crucial that those providing advice also note that people should seek the advise of a physician or therapist when new symptoms occur or things get worse.

    1. You raise a great point, Amanda! Medication definitely helped me for a period of time and as with any medical condition, a doctor can help provide the best guidance on what treatment(s) may work for each patient. Going to add a little notation to the end of the post – thank you!

  5. Thank you for sharing so honestly about a difficult topic. I’ve seen a lot more people talking openly about mental health, and I think that’s I wonderful thing. For me, medication has helped my anxiety a lot, but I totally respect other approaches. Different things work for different people, and whatever can help us get the most out of life is worth it.

  6. Meghan,

    First, thank you so much for your honest and sincere post. I find that my anxiety is greatly affected by my diet. “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger and his website nutritionfacts.org are great resources for the latest in peer-reviewed nutrition and health research, presented in a way that is easy to understand (i.e. real scientific studies, not just someone’s opinion). Good luck and thanks for your wonderful blog.

    T

    1. So interesting and I definitely would believe it! I was recently listening to a podcast where they were talking about the mind-gut connection and even how bad diets can cause more negativity in someone! Thank you for the book rec!

  7. Thank you for this post! I have a Pinterest board of calming images that helps – forest of pine trees, waves, a hot cup of coffee by a lake, snow covered mountains, a fancy bathtub full of bubbles etc. I reference it whenever I feel anxious and overwhelmed.

    1. What a lovely idea! The power of visualizations is pretty amazing. Thank you so much for sharing with me + everyone reading these comments!

  8. Meghan,
    Your honesty in writing about your own experience with anxiety is wonderful. As a 50-something woman who has experienced episodic anxiety I am very impressed by your self-awareness, motivation to live a healthy but fun and rewarding (in many senses of the word) life, and thoughtful sharing of solutions that work for you. I know it can be trial and error; thank you for sone new resources! Diane

    1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment, Diane! It means a lot to me given this has definitely been a journey! Really appreciate you sharing.

  9. I’m a psychologist and have always been an anxious type of person….running at a high speed from thing to thing, high achieving, always planning, always playing out worst case scenarios in order to be prepared. It was never really a problem until this past year when I started having panic attacks (that were at least in part triggered by caffeine). I’m not sure if I just overdid it (busy as a mom and I had recently gone back to work full time) and with my age (turned 40 last year) it just all caught up to me. I found the following helpful: my religion (I’m Catholic), meditation (HeadSpace app), essential oils, and yoga with Adriene YouTube channel (short videos).

    I HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone suffering from anxiety. Written by a medical doctor with many examples and discussions of all the symptoms that come along with anxiety. Also has a pretty simple protocol to follow for overcoming the anxiety without medication. It has been EXTREMELY helpful for me: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Help-Nerves-Claire-Weekes/dp/0451167228

    I also HIGHLY recommend looking into EFT/Tapping which uses acupressure points to deal with anxiety and emotions. I heard about it from a friend and then saw a video that discussed it and recommended books. I found this book which I think has a good description of tapping along with several other simple grounding and relaxation techniques that I have incorporated into my daily routine: https://www.amazon.com/Heal-Yourself-Anxiety-When-Else/dp/0738756466/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2VT3SCIFVEX50&keywords=how+to+heal+yourself+from+anxiety+when+no+one+else+can&qid=1564751710&s=books&sprefix=heal+yourself+from+anx%2Cstripbooks%2C256&sr=1-1

  10. What a great post, thank you for talking about anxiety. I also have anxiety and feel like from a societal point of view I have to hide it often as ppl just think you “worry about nothing” or it’s somehow your fault that you worry like it can be controlled so easily. I find it hard to describe to people as well. Since having 2 kids in 2 years my anxiety has gotten way worse and the things I used to do to help, go for a walk, call a friend etc are impossible now since my kids take up every minute of everyday. I’m working to try and find ways to help myself and make time for myself but it’s not always easy. Thank you for being so open! It made me feel better to read about someone who goes through the same stuff.

    1. I can only imagine how kids contribute to your anxiety and think you’re so brave for acknowledging and sharing this! I hope you’re able to carve out some time for yourself in the weeks and months ahead. Have you tried CBD? That’s been a great addition to my routine in 2020 to help my anxiety.

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