This post was originally published last year, but since it's been an especially anxiety-inducing week, I thought we could all use a refresher.
Anxiety is a tricky thing. One minute you can be completely fine, and the next you can't breathe and you feel like the world just wants to swallow you whole. It can be triggered by stressful events, but for a lot of us, it's just something we have to deal with-- with no rhyme or reason as to why.
Over the years I've learned to manage my anxiety with the help of supportive and understanding friends, a wonderful partner, therapy, and yes-- occasionally medication. I've also found the following tips to be very helpful. Hopefully you'll see them that way, as well.
1. Take a Time Out
When my anxiety gets really bad, I need to go into a little bit of a hidey-hole. It doesn't mean I shut people out for a long period of time, it just means I shut people out temporarily. And I disconnect-- from my phone, social media, everything (minus my dog Cardinal, he's actually quite soothing). Give yourself a time limit-- mine's usually an hour, and then get back out there.
If I sense a panic attack coming on, the first thing I do is close my eyes and breathe. I like to use a simple breathing technique of breathing in for four counts, holding for four counts, and then exhaling for eight counts. I tend to prefer doing a breathing exercise over meditation because when my mind is going a mile a minute, I can't center myself. Breathing allows me to calm down and simply focus on the breath.
3. Get Physical
Go for a walk. Jump up and down. Shake yourself. Have sex. Masturbate. Run. Whatever you need to do to get that heart rate up and your body moving. I think Tom Robbins starts every day by jumping on a trampoline. That may be part of the reason he's so wise. Getting physical shocks your body, and thus shocks your system.
4. Call a Calming Person
Make a list of 3 people in your life who are a calming presence. Bonus points if you can call them without having to talk about why you're calling them (i.e. the thing that's making you feel anxious). I'm very lucky that my husband is one of those people for me, but he works a lot and can't always be there to answer my beck and call. So, have reserves.
5. Take a Bath (or whatever is your go-to stress relief)
This one is entirely up to you, but the point is to do something that brings you joy and is your go-to stress relief. For me, it's often taking a bath. Other suggestions: baking, eating, lighting a candle, shopping, putting on makeup, listening to music. Something that can take your mind off things and make you happy.