Living With Anxiety: 9 Ways to Deal With Your Anxious Mind

Living With Anxiety: 9 Ways to Deal With Anxious Mind

Raise your hand if you’ve ever told yourself “stop it!” in hopes that your racing thoughts would slow down.

*raises hand*

I’ve had anxiety since I was about 15 years old. There were some bad times, some better times, some horrible times when my anxiety was paired up with a crippling depression, and then there were some more good times. For a few solid years, I really felt like my anxiety was under control and I loved NOT being constantly afraid or worried. I made so many changes in my life- I cut everything and everyone out of my life that didn’t make me happy. Things were going great.

Then, after losing my grandmother right before Christmas in 2016, I was drowning in grief and nothing’s been the same since. I think that I lost a huge chunk of who I was that day. Suddenly everything, life, became real. Almost too real for me to handle. More things to worry about. Not having enough time in my lifetime. Not being able to say the things I want to say to the people I love. Sickness. Losing loved ones. Not getting to bring all my dreams to life.

Fear followed me everywhere.

There was one night when I had a nightmare in which I lost my husband. I remember screaming and sobbing, and then him shaking me, trying to get me to wake up. My pillow was drenched with tears and when I realized it was just a nightmare, I started crying even harder. I didn’t go back to sleep that night, I just held his hand and watched him sleep (not as creepy as it sounds, I actually do that a lot, hehe. ok now I sound creepy).

After about six months, I was ready to try to go back to my old routine, to try and pick up the pieces. And then the whole car accident thing happened, and my life was turned upside down, again. All of a sudden there were new things to worry about: my health, constant pain, not being able to work or even stay on my feet for too long, constant doctor’s appointments, interviews with my insurance, all the phone calls and letters,  medical exams, MRIs, me being unable to sleep. I remember one day being on my way home, thinking that something bad is about to happen, again. Out of nowhere, this heavy and scary feeling comes over me and I thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I honestly thought I’d end up checking myself into a hospital that day.

I then remembered that even though there are many things that are beyond my control at the moment, my response is the only thing I can control. The tools needed to deal with this were the tools I was already equipped with.

ANXIETY: 9 WAYS TO DEAL WITH ANXIOUS MIND

Living With Anxiety: 9 Ways to Deal With Anxious Mind

BE STILL

“Everything that is created comes out of silence.
Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence.
Your words come out of this void.
Your very essence emerged from emptiness.
All creativity requires some stillness.”
~ Wayne Dyer

One of the ways I’ve always tried to deal with anxiety was by distracting myself from my racing thoughts and trying to stay as busy as possible. Trying to be still was extremely difficult for me at first, because I was terrified of silence and stillness.

Being alone with all these thoughts and feels?

No, thanks.

I couldn’t stand to be alone with my thoughts and constantly searched for a distraction. I’ll never forget the very first time I tried meditation, which happened to be right after I had a bad anxiety attack. It was just a simple guided meditation and once it was over, I felt so good, so happy, so calm and relaxed that I started to cry and thought to myself “wow, I want to feel like this all the time.

It was such a strange, unfamiliar feeling, but at the same time, it felt so good. Ever since then, when I start feeling anxious, I do my best to become still. Burn your favorite candle, put on some soothing music, close your eyes and take a few minutes to be still. Relax your body, quiet your mind. You can also try one of these 5-Minute Meditations (backpack meditation is my favorite- I practice it at work a lot when sometimes dealing with difficult clients, or whenever I start feeling stressed) although I usually like to meditate for about 20 minutes.

REGULAR EXERCISE

Anxiety doesn’t affect only your mind- it can be felt throughout your entire body. Stiffness, tense muscles, chest pains, tingling in your fingers and hands- these are some of the physical symptoms I usually experience. A regular workout routine can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms over time. Exercise promotes new activity patterns in your brain that produce feelings of calmness and wellness and, of course, there are those warm and fuzzy endorphins.

To me, exercising is also a great way to practice self-care; it’s a great feeling knowing that you’re doing something for yourself, something that will keep you strong and healthy. All you need is 20-30 minutes a day.

MEDITATE 

With apps like Calm and so many guided meditations out there, meditating has never been easier to get into. The more you think you’re too busy and can’t fit meditation into your daily routine, the more you can benefit from a regular practice.


THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Yes, well, speaking of apps, I have a few favorites that I like to call my *anxiety pack*. I love anything that Andrew Johnson puts out. Some of my favorite apps of his are: Build Confidence, Don’t Panic and Stress Free. There is something magical about his voice and whenever I can’t sleep due to anxiety and my regular remedies do not work and I don’t want to reach for medication, I launch one of his apps and select to end with “sleep.” Works like magic.

REFRAMING

Reframing is all about working with your thoughts and emotions, rather than working against them. Anxiety reframing is a pretty simple concept. Many symptoms of anxiety are the same as those of excitement. Since your body’s response to stress and excitement is so similar, you will find it much easier to go from “anxious” to “excited” than to go from “anxious” to “calm.”

If you’re feeling anxious about a work meeting, a get-together with some new friends, or an interview, rather than telling yourself to “calm down” do the opposite and embrace your feelings. The only difference is that rather than thinking about how anxious you are, reframe your anxiety as excitement. Your mindset shifts from “threat” or “fear” to “opportunity” and you begin to think of all the good things that could come from that experience. This is something that might help with event/experience-related anxiety.

You can also try writing your feelings on a piece of paper and break them down. Say you suffer from social anxiety and are going out to a friend’s birthday party. You might think to yourself: “I hate parties, there will be so many people, what will I talk to them about? No one is going to like me!” Write it down and try to challenge your thoughts:

What’s the worst that can happen?

Why do you assume no one is going to like you, are you a horrible person?

By performing this short exercise, you can soon discover that your original thought or feelings can’t be validated.

WATCH YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE

Caffeine can exacerbate your anxiety- I learned this the hard way. Some of my worst anxiety attacks happened to me after I consumed a huge amount of caffeine- this also explains while anxiety was such a huge problem for me in college as I used to go through a case of Redbull a week (yikes!)

Large quantities of caffeine increase stress hormones, cause rapid or irregular heartbeat and it can also cause sleep problems. You might find yourself feeling jittery, nervous and restless, which is similar to what happens when you feel anxious. Limit your caffeine intake throughout the day, consider substituting your second cup of coffee with herbal tea. Also, remember to hydrate throughout the day- for every cup of coffee, drink one cup of water (also, cute water bottles make hydrating a little more fun and you won’t have to waste plastic.)

MINDFULNESS

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti
Practicing mindfulness daily is one of the things that helped me change the way I deal with emotions. Mindfulness is all about being aware of your surroundings, your thoughts, your feelings.

It’s about recognizing that whenever those racing thoughts “attack” the things you tell yourself aren’t always true or real.

Those of us who struggled with or have a history of anxiety, tend to over-worry and our mind often automatically goes into that “worst case scenario.” Practicing mindfulness is all about observing your thoughts, without judgment. Mindfulness is the energy of awareness. Awareness of what’s around you. Sort of like observing yourself, without judgment or criticism. You can read more about practicing mindfulness in this post.

Living With Anxiety: 9 Ways to Deal With Anxious Mind

BREATHE

When I feel an anxiety attack coming, this is the first thing I do: take a few full, deep breaths. Mindful breathing can be the quickest way to make yourself feel calm when you find yourself feeling suddenly anxious. Close your eyes, make every breath count and try practicing yogic breathing. You can also use positive reaffirmations while practicing deep breathing at the same time.

SEEK HELP

If you feel like your anxiety is becoming difficult to manage and it’s beginning to really affect your life, consider therapy. There is no shame in getting some help and it can change everything for you. Therapy can help you find the source (or sources) of your anxiety, your worries, and fears. You can consider group therapy, with people who have similar anxiety issues, or you can go with individual therapy. Through therapy, you can learn more about your anxiety and discover different ways to approach it. It’s okay to admit that you need help, it’s okay to seek treatment.

This is a little hard for me to admit because it felt a bit like a personal failure, but the day after I had that fear of a nervous breakdown I described at the beginning of this post, I went to see my doctor. I broke down in front of her, telling her that I don’t feel like myself anymore. This happened about two months after my car accident and I was just overwhelmed and lost, I barely slept. She decided to put me on a low-dose anti-anxiety medication. I sat in my kitchen with that small orange bottle clutched in my hand and I just felt like such a failure. Weeks into the treatment I found myself in a situation where normally, I’d probably have to try and stop myself from going into a full-on panic attack. Instead, my heart somehow wasn’t racing, my palms weren’t sweaty, and I was able to remain calm.

I wrote, deleted, wrote again and then deleted the above paragraph again, at least three times. In a world where there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, and especially for someone like me, who is a control freak and doesn’t like to depend on anyone or anything- even things like medication- admitting that I had to get help, wasn’t easy. I finally decided that I have to share my experience, because while all the things listed in this post helped me deal with and power through life with my anxiety, sometimes that’s just not enough. So, if you feel like you need to reach out for help, please do, and don’t think any less of yourself for doing so.

Making changes isn’t always easy, but without them, things remain the same. Your life will remain the same. Giving up and giving in, on the other hand, that is easy. Sometimes in life, you have to be willing to put up a fight. You deserve to have an amazing life, you deserve to do the things you’ve always dreamed of, to build a wonderful life for yourself. Does that mean that your life should be perfect, free of flaws, negative emotions or disappointments? 

No. 

The goal isn’t to have a perfect life, the goal is to grow, explore and know yourself. You will then be able to recognize some of those old patterns or behaviors as they happen. You will know what your triggers are, what to avoid and have an entire set of tools that will help you better deal with your feelings, thoughts, and emotions. 

Living With Anxiety: 9 Ways to Deal With Anxious Mind #wellness #anxiety #selfcare #life happiness, mental wellbeing