June 6, 2017
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point or another during their lives. Usually, we have anxiety about what will happen in the future, especially during stressful times like moving or starting a new career, or about what other people think of us, like during public speaking or a review at work. However, for many people, anxiety happens a lot more often than "every once in a while" and anxiety affects how they live their daily lives. Personally, it has been a struggle for me throughout my life and while I've worked quite a bit over the past few years to improve my anxiety, it's not something that simply goes away.
If you're struggling with anxiety, whether temporary or over the course of a long time, here are some practical tips to help you calm yourself down right now. When you're in the midst of an anxiety attack or feeling particularly overwhelmed, it can be easy to get caught up in your anxiety and not know what to do or how to handle it. However, keep these concepts near and the more often you can choose one of these when you're feeling anxious, the more often you'll be able to handle your anxiety in a better way.
Write it out.
Journaling can have a huge impact on how you deal with your feelings and anxiety. I'm not talking about the diary entries that I wrote in elementary school about who came to my sleepover or what boy I had a crush on, but really getting out what you’re feeling and thinking about in that moment. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start with “I’m feeling…” and let it all go. The good, the bad, everything. Just get it out of your head and onto paper. Confronting what’s happening in your head rather than numbing it away can help you move forward. And keep at it - just like with exercise or eating healthy, only journaling once every few weeks won't help.
Find a friend to talk to about it.
Some people do better talking out their feelings rather than writing them. Not only is this a good way to work through your thoughts, but talking to another person makes you feel less alone and can create a great support system. Make sure to choose someone who will just listen and not try to give you advice without you asking for it. Find someone you trust who you can connect with.
Replace your old coping mechanism.
If you're anything like me, you have a specific way of numbing your anxiety. For me, it's eating food. In the moment, it's calming and enjoyable, but not so much once you've realized just how much you've eaten when you weren't even hungry at all. Many people have other coping mechanisms like working out too much, alcohol, over-sleeping, Netflix, etc. If you find your coping mechanism to be destructive, don't just cut it out cold turkey. Try to slowly switch over to other things like taking a warm bath, fiddling with something like silly putty, doing yoga, stretching, taking a walk, or another one of these grounding techniques.
Unplug from Electronics.
Our computers and phones have become a huge part of our lives and I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. Whether you’re constantly looking at your calendar, your work email, or social media, all of these sources of communication and information can be overwhelming, especially if the calendar makes you anxious about the future or social media sends you into a comparison tailspin. Try setting aside a few hours one day as "no electronics time" and see how you feel at the end. If you love it, try a whole weekend! When I was in Keystone and didn't have my computer and could barely use my phone, I felt so present and so C A L M. It was fantastic.
Change your diet and exercise routine.
How we treat our bodies can have a huge impact on our anxiety, both what we're eating and how we move. One thing you can do is to pay attention to what you’re eating since some foods can actually cause anxiety attacks. Try to limit sugar and caffeine and go for plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you're having a particularly anxious day, choose decaf coffee rather than regular, or head outside for a walk or run.
Surround yourself with positive people.
We all have those friends, family members, or coworkers that can be incredibly negative and complain about everything. Steer clear of those people, especially when your anxiety is at its worst or you're having a bad day. Find friends who lift you up and have a real passion for life. Not only will they bring you more joy in your own life, but they’ll also serve as an example of how to view your circumstances in a positive light. If you can't find someone in the moment, grab some headphones and listen to music that will calm you down and help you feel more positive.