Since I was around 15 years old, I have had anxiety. Whether it was general anxiety or specific kinds, like hypochondria or paranoia, anxiety has made itself an unwelcome company in my life for a decade and caused me countless problems. And I know I’m not alone. I’ve had so many friends tell me they also experience anxiety, and it’s never, ever a fun thing.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no secret that anxiety is peaking for many people and even showing up for people who typically don’t experience it. My brother, who never worries or experiences these things, has said he’s felt anxious several times over the last two months. It’s easy to see why, between worrying about getting sick, loved ones getting sick, being financially insecure, or just plain getting stir-crazy in these trying and unprecedented times.
And it isn’t just the mental part – anxiety also takes on physical signs, which leads to a vicious cycle of worry and – yep – more anxiety. In fact, once in college, I went to the doctor with fatigue, red spots all over my body, and a fever. The cause? Not mono. Not the flu. Anxiety. Anxiety actually made me physically ill.
Since there are so many people feeling anxious right now, I thought it might help if I used my experience with anxiety to list some tips on handling it. It’s not as simple as telling someone “just relax!” It’s been 10 years – if telling me to just relax worked, would I still be here experiencing it? Mini rant over. 🙂
Without further adieu, here are my tips for dealing with anxiety. And note, I’m not a psychologist or mental health professional. Just a gal with anxiety.
Acknowledge that you’re anxious and what you’re anxious about
Anxiety is such an overwhelming experience that we can often find it hard to pinpoint what exactly is making us anxious. My tip here is to write down a list of what you believe you’re anxious about. In 2015, at the height of my anxiety, I wrote down a list of my fears. It was long. Once I got them out of my head, it was much easier to manage my anxiety and nail down what the common theme was among my fears. The theme was fear of loss. Identifying the root cause of my fears and anxiety has helped me tremendously.
Limit your exposure to negative or triggering things
I love true crime. Whether it’s a documentary or a podcast, true crime just grips me and is honestly addicting. But the truth is that it’s heavily contributed to my anxiety. Whether it’s panicking because I think someone will break-in at night, or someone I had a falling out with years ago will suddenly stalk me, true crime has done nothing for my paranoia and has only fueled it. So about two months ago, I stopped consuming it and it’s helped so much. If there’s something you’re either consuming or is just in your environment that is triggering your anxiety, cut it out.
Over the past few years, I have become a passionate advocate for self-care. Taking the time to take a bath, meditate, or do a skincare routine has helped way more than I ever imagined. Light some candles and slow things down. Plus, taking the time to care for yourself will increase your confidence and lessen your anxiety. This also includes eating as healthy as you can and drinking enough water.
Prioritize a good night’s rest
Going off of self-care, it’s also important to get a good night’s sleep. This can be really hard when you have anxiety since anxiety often causes insomnia and other sleeping issues. Do things like take a warm bath, use lavender essential oils, put your phone down 30 minutes before bed, read a book, meditate, drink tea, and make sure you’re not doing anything mentally taxing (read: work) immediately before bed.
Slow down and do things with intention
Our world has become so fast-paced that if you’re moving slowly, you’re in the way and left behind. Well, this doesn’t help anxiety. Instead of feeling like you have to do everything quickly, from making the bed to typing an email, try slowing down a bit. Walk more slowly, drink your coffee more slowly, and just take some more time to be in the present moment. Anxiety feeds off that hyper, tense energy. When you slow down and make things calm around you, it will help.
Talk to somebody
Talking about your feelings is very important and I’ve yet to still master it. I feel all the feels (water sign), but I often find it hard to talk about them because I don’t want to appear weak. Well, set aside that pride. Just like talking about your feelings helps, so does talking about your anxiety. Whether it’s a family member, friend, significant other, or a mental health professional, verbalizing your anxious feelings can help you feel much better. Get it out of your head and into the open.
Remember that anxiety doesn’t define you
Anxiety can feel like it’s totally consumed your life. It’s easy to feel like, no matter what, you’ll always just be a ball of anxiety and it’s who you are. But remember that it doesn’t define you. What does define you is your empathy, kindness, love, and actions. You are so much more than your anxiety, and it is possible to get a handle on it and live your best life.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope that these tips help you if you’re experiencing anxiety, and my inbox is always open if you ever want to talk.