Feeling anxious? Here are a few effective ways I have tackled my own anxiety and hopefully they can help someone else as well!
Get Outside and Take a Walk
I’ve recognized a pattern of my anxiety increasing during the winter and I figured out why: during the warm months with later sunsets, I take a long walk outside nearly every day after we lay the kids down for bed. The beautiful twilight sky, the fresh air, the sound of my feet on the pavement (or the music in my earbuds), and getting my blood pumping is emotionally and physically healing in a way I can’t even properly describe in words. When it’s cold outside I can take the kids outside during the day during milder weather, but it’s just not as refreshing and resetting as my time spent alone on the road.
Use A Weighted Blanket
Do you like the feel of the heavy lead bib at the dentist office when having X-rays done? Ever wondered why, in the midst of an appointment that most find anxiety-inducing, that bib is calming? The pressure placed on the body from a weighted blanket assists in “grounding” or reducing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the brain. By lowering cortisol levels, weighted blankets can help trigger the release of both dopamine and serotonin, hormones that help control stress, anxiety, and depression. I am obsessed with relaxing with my weighted blanket, even on days I am not feeling anxious. When I sleep under the blanket I notice that I fall asleep faster and sleep deeper throughout the night. Sometimes I like to fold the blanket in half or thirds and drape it across my lap or over my shoulders for some extra relaxing pressure while reading or watching a movie. I can’t recommend these blankets enough! I have both a 15lb and a 20lb blanket. For a starter, here’s the 15lb blanket I have that comes with a removable and washable soft duvet cover.
Ask for Help
Anxiety is an often misunderstood condition for those who do not suffer from it. Even well-meaning people can make unhelpful comments such as “just think about something else” not understanding the full breadth of the mental gymnastics and resulting physical symptoms that an anxiety sufferer experiences on a daily basis. Commonly, anxiety sufferers will withdraw completely, but I’ve found that being openly communicative with the people closest to me, like my husband, can make a huge difference on “bad days”. Every person requires different things to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety – maybe distraction is your medicine of choice, and heading out for a day of normal everyday errands or a fun day at the park can get your head in a better space. Maybe being alone is how you recharge. Talk and be open about your struggles and your needs, and don’t be afraid to seek conversation with a professional – talk therapy can be life-changing if you enter into it with an open heart and mind.
Do One Thing At A Time (seriously)
My anxiety is triggered by feeling overwhelmed and like I have too much on my plate. Though it seems obvious and cliche, mapping out a path for my day can help me focus my mind, be more productive, and feel more organized. Though on the surface this looks like a “duh” thing, it takes some effort to put into practice and experience the results. I am guilty of starting one thing, noticing another thing that needs to be done, getting sidetracked, then seeing something else I need to do, repeat ad nauseum. Before I know it, I’ve done bits and pieces of several different tasks and at the end of the day haven’t accomplished visible results in anything I set out to do. That situation leaves me feeling anxious, lazy, and unproductive, even though I worked all day. My favorite way to organize my thoughts is to use Microsoft OneNote, which I can access and sync across all of my devices, so I can make changes and updates wherever I am. Sometimes, though, I’m a sucker for a pretty notebook or journal and pens in different colors. I love these pretty to-do notebooks with the tear off pages. I set obtainable goals for myself for each day or each week and then chip away at them, forcing myself to focus on one thing without thinking about everything else that also needs to get done.
Don’t Make Someone Else’s Reality Your Own
This is, by far, the biggest trigger for my anxiety. If I hear of somebody receiving bad news – a cancer diagnosis, losing a child, losing a job, getting a divorce – it starts a spiral of thinking about my own fear of those things happening to me or my family. Then once those thoughts are in my head, I start noticing things in my day-to-day life that relate to them – endless ads, headlines, and bumper stickers about cancer, news headlines warning of the many ways your child can die – and I would take those things as a “sign” which would ratchet up my panic levels higher and higher. Surely if I’m suddenly noticing these things all around me, it’s the universe’s way of trying to warn me that “I’m next.” Right? Cue anxiety attacks and days or weeks of being crushed by fear and thoughts of doom. Once I shifted my perspective of other people’s stories vs my own, I was able to redirect this behavior for the most part. I do not have to attach my life or my future to what is happening to someone else. I can be sympathetic to someone else’s situation without letting myself spiral. And all those “signs” I kept noticing? Well, of course I was noticing them, because my head was already spinning with thoughts about them! Have you ever bought a car and then suddenly you’re seeing the same make and model on the roads everywhere you go? Same thing. It’s not the universe trying to tell me anything, it’s not a sign, it Doesn’t. Mean. Anything.
There’s no one single fix for anxiety and I’ve learned that it’s an ongoing battle. Some days I need to put one or more of these methods into action, some days it’s simply a matter of staying mindful and keeping my perspective in the right place. Other days are a lost cause and I just have to get through them and move on, hoping for a better start the next day. These are my own experiences and hopefully this post can be a help for those seeking some kind of relief.