Living with anxiety is tough. The constant worrying, feeling like you’re under immense pressure, not to mention the racing heart, clammy hands, and spinning head. The Anxiety and Depression Association of Americans reported that 40 million Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder.
As one of the millions more across the world, I have had to find ways to cope with my own personal brand of anxiety. I’ve always believed that an anxiety disorder doesn’t ever necessarily disappear, but you do find ways to handle it in a healthy manner. Here are some things I’ve learned on my journey.
- Take the time to break
One of the major contributors to anxiety is the constant grind of work. Sometimes it’s the lack of work that causes anxiety, with unemployment at affecting some 14 million in 2018. With all the stress that comes with bringing in enough money to live on, it can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind or worry, especially when it feels justified. Of course, you want to be able to pay the bills! It is important to consider, though, how much stress do you really need to put on yourself? Can you not afford to take a little time to sit back? I’m not saying all day, but maybe you could afford to take 15 minutes every so often to not think about anything.
- Find a hobby
Finding a hobby is a great way to not only take time for yourself but to actually enjoy the time doing it! There are even websites like Discover a hobby that gives you suggestions of things you may be interested in. Maybe you already have an activity you love but have let it sit on the backburner. Pick it back up! Life is too short to not spend time doing the things that you enjoy. I personally love to surf and fish. I don’t get to do these things every day, but even knowing that I have a fishing trip coming up makes a bad bout of anxiety a little less heavy.
This one is a little trickier. While meditation is a wonderful activity (something I try to make time for every day), it is not always easy to do in the middle of a full blown panic attack. I tell people that meditation is more a tool to prevent anxiety, not solve it at the moment. Whatever type of meditation you practice is up to you. I have a nice quiet spot that I go to where I put aside 15 minutes to focus on your breath. All I do is tell myself “In… and Out…” and try and let my thoughts float away. No, I don’t always stop the hamster from running on his wheel, but I do improve my ability to do so every time.
- Grounding Techniques
Now that we’ve talked about preventative measures like meditation, it’s good to address how to stop the anxiety as it comes. One handy tool I keep in my toolbelt is fun grounding techniques! These are very easy, often mindless activities that you can practice and utilize without anyone noticing! Some of them include counting objects of a certain color (one red light… two red pillows… etc.), focusing on your senses (I smell the candle, I feel my cotton shirt, I hear a bird, etc.), or even just counting backward to yourself. The whole purpose of this is to bring us back into the moment, and realize that the moment is usually not as bad as we think.
When I get anxious, often times it is accompanied by some sort of fear. Maybe I didn’t study enough, or I didn’t prepare for the job interview, and so on. Forgiveness for ourselves in critical to battle anxiety, not only when we are beating ourselves up for lack of preparation, but also after the outcome we feared occurs. For example, if I didn’t study for a test and then I fail, I need to forgive myself for that F! If I don’t practice self-forgiveness, I am more prone to have anxiety the next time around. However, if I am able to say “I didn’t study enough this time, and that’s OK”, the anxiety is less likely to come about the next test.
All of these tools need to be practiced, but they are handy ways to fight off anxiety. I know that I still deal with anxiety attacks from time to time, but the frequency of the attacks as well as their severity have diminished by practicing these five items. Keep your head up, be grateful, and never forget that you are a wonderful human being.