MY PERSONAL TIPS FOR MANAGING ANXIETY
Anxious since 2009. Your mileage may vary.
- •Do ExternalizeRemember that anxiety is something you experience, and thus, is separate from you. For some people, that might mean assigning a persona to anxiety that they can describe like a character in a book. For me, it means reminding myself--and it--that it's not the boss of me. In other words, I see you, Anxiety, I hear you Anxiety, I am grateful that your priority is to keep me safe, but ultimately, I am the one who decides how to act on the information you're giving to me.
- •Don't feed the beastWhen anxiety tells me we have to leave the grocery store RIGHT NOW, I bargain with it and with the most dishonest of intentions: I tell it I am just going to walk down one more aisle and then, if it still wants to go home, we will. Usually, after five cycles of this, the panic subsides, I can finish the shopping and go home on my own terms. Whatever anxiety asks of me, I do the opposite, to the best of my ability.
- •Do practice mindfulnessBut I don't mean that eating an orange and experiencing every moment crap. Be your own anthropologist. Observe your anxiety as objectively as you can and take notes--a lot of notes. This is how I learned that I experience less anxiety when I am outdoors and more when I engage with television or the Internet with a clear destination or task in mind. Collect this intel and structure your time around it.
- •Don't ignore your basic needsHydration levels, blood sugar, caffeine (too much or too little), sleep/rest, over- or understimulation (sensory), body temperature--all of these can amp up your anxiety when they are out whack. Being a student of yourself in this way pays dividends. Sometimes a glass of water, a nap or a snack is all you need to turn down the volume.
- •Do use propsOne of the lies that anxiety likes to tell me is that the door isn't locked and/or shut tight (checking behaviors are my biggest challenge). Now, the first time I lock and check that it's shut properly, I write the date and time on a Post-it, stick the note on the door and take a picture with my phone. Voila: I no longer turn the car around to check one more time.
- •Don't write off meditation because it's having its moment in timeIt works. An anxious mind is a busy mind and in silence, you can teach it how to rest. Also, the breathing techniques you can experiment with are magic for your nervous system even when your thoughts are speeding like so many trains on so many tracks.
- •Do enlist helpTherapists, yes, but also friends. After my SO and I closed our business, it seemed like there was bad news coming in the mail every day. I developed crazy anxiety over what the day's mail would bring. When I mentioned this to my best friend, she offered to send random cards, letters and silly gifts to help reprogram my expectations. She did this for eight months and I don't know how I can ever re-pay her.
- •Don't judge yourselfOur brains literally have not developed to accommodate the chronic sustained stress that is part of modern life. You really are okay.
- •Do take a walk with a notepad.For me, at least, the anxiety compounds when it is hard to identify any singular or even multiple leading thing(s) weighing on me. (Of course, sometimes there may be none.) So I like to bring a small memo pad and pen and go for a brisk walk. The pumping blood and clearer head mean that sometimes I'll have an epiphany about an item I can address or realize cannot be addressed. Sometimes no ideas come up and the paper is useless, but the walk still helps.Suggested by @theranman