Create a Checklist: Coping with Anxiety
What are your go-to anxiety relievers?
It’s time to make your list.
That paralyzing, chest-tightening awfulness that sits - hardening - in the pits of insides and torments all of us to various degrees. There’s no worse day-ruiner. It feels differently for all of us. For me, it almost always arrives in the form of an awful stomach ache. As I’m meditating on it, I can feel it knotting in my belly.
I usually go a month every once in a while that’s plagued by awful anxiety, and then it passes. During my most recent stint, I was desperate to know, to learn, to somehow relieve it. I was waking up every morning without an appetite and felt like a shell of myself as I walked each day to my train stop. So, like I do most things in life now, I ask for help. I put out on a question sticker on Instagram to find out what works to relieve anxiety for all of you. I was overwhelmed by the responses and I learned some new tricks!
So handing the mic over to all of you, here’s what seems to work:
Exercise - Overwhelmingly (and by no surprise, even though I struggle to drag myself into the gym while I have anxiety), so many of you said getting your body moving always helps. This includes yoga, boxing, going for a walk - anything that gets those endorphins flowing and clears your head.
Prayer, Meditation & Journaling - A very close second to exercise was prayer and meditation. Becoming aware of emotion, focusing on being present, letting go of what’s beyond our control, putting our want for control into God’s hands. As emotions and thoughts flood our systems, it’s important to remind ourselves of what’s real and what we’re making up in our heads. A number of people mentioned journaling, Clem P. noting, “Writing thoughts down to make them real and decide if they’re silly or actionable.” Similar to Clem, I find that journaling not only acts as a release but allows me to see my thoughts down on paper and determine the lies I’m believing about myself and then step back and flip those lies into truths.
“Remembering it’s a feeling (usually irrational & disproportionate) - it will pass!” - Renee
If you’re experiencing more intense, intrusive thoughts (perhaps related to anxiety disorder or postpartum anxiety) as Katelyn Son so beautifully opens up about, take comfort in your brain’s natural coping reaction to anxiety:
I've learned that these intrusive thoughts are our brain's coping mechanism for fear. They distract us from the anxiety we are feeling in real life with a fictitious event we can focus on instead. This is your brain's way of trying to help you with the anxiety you're experiencing in real life. It's as if your brain is telling you, "Look, I know you're afraid, but it could be worse, so whatever is going on isn't that bad."
Talking it out with a friend, family member or partner - Letting someone else into our isolating struggle can pull us out of that little vortex we’re living in. I think it’s key though to only entrust vulnerable parts of ourselves to someone who is capable of empathy and listening fully. It helps to have another person to put things in perspective. If someone confides in you about their anxiety, be present and listen.
Breathing through it - This one is so key for me. I find a seat where my back sits upright, I cross my legs, open my hands - palms up - on my knees and focus on my breath. I make sure that my belly fills with that deep inhalation and let it out of my mouth with a long sigh. I do this over and over and focus on placing myself in a peaceful mental place. This type of breathing (I hadn’t realized) is called Diaphragmatic breathing (chest doesn’t rise, belly expands) as one of you suggested in the comment box! Someone else said 7 breaths in and seven breaths out works for them. Another said to inhale 5 seconds, hold 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds. Find what works for you but find that quiet seated position when you’re feeling anxious.
Deep breaths, remembering the truths I know, and having a “go-to” checklist when it comes -Alexandra M.
Productivity - This quote leads me to my next tip: distraction in the form of productivity. Many of you said that making lists, getting started and not procrastinating, doing the dishes or setting your weekly schedule works to move you out of an anxious state. Maybe your mental to-do list is looming and causing anxiety, maybe you just need to distract yourself of the negative thoughts by getting busy. Maybe try to make your checklist for relieving your anxiety while you have anxiety. Two birds, one stone, my friends.
Watch your consumption - Maybe it’s time to quit your caffeine addiction. If you smoke, nicotine could be the cause so give it up! Some of you mentioned drinking more water and many said healthy eating helps. Take to list-making ,meal plan your week and commit to cooking each night around the time that your anxiety usually sets in. Sydney says, “Supporting my hormone balance and keeping my gut healthy” is key.
Relax - Pour yourself a cup of tea, run the bath and cue the soft piano music. So many of you said relaxation and sleep help to take the edge off. If relaxing translates to a walk under the sunshine, get outside. Watch a movie, spend time with your pet, pick up a book (spiritual reading, perhaps?), have a glass of red wine were all of the many relaxation tips you all shared.
Medication, Essential Oils & Other Remedies - Many of you shared that the following remedies have helped. Remember, there’s zero shame in exploring the medication route.
Essential oils (Lavender - in the bath, Peppermint/Eucalyptus - in the shower!)
Infra-Low Frequency Neurofeedback (helps w/ anxiety and migraines)
Anxiety affects us all differently. Find what works and make a “go-to” checklist! When you feel the body tells of your anxiety coming on, turn to your checklist and follow it before Anxiety can talk you out of it.