Managing an anxiety disorder certainly is an art. An anxiety disorder is when your brain doesn’t shut off anxiety; it’s not the same thing as feeling anxious. I personally was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) back in 2014, which is when you experience excessive and sometimes unnatural worry. Basically, my brain automatically sees the worst case scenario, and I work hard to ignore that worst case mentality. GAD is not the only anxiety disorder; others include social anxiety, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and more. Since I’ve been living with GAD for 4+ years (I don’t know exactly my brain went from anxiety non-GAD patients experience to GAD) and I’ve mostly been able to manage it in recent years, I thought I would share some of my tools. Additionally, I’m including tools that others recommend, especially from sources that know what tools are out there (psychologists, etc.).
I am NOT a mental health expert; these are tools my therapists over the years have shared with me and what I have found works for me. Additionally, I have researched other tools from sources like Psychology Today and include the links down below. If you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack, please speak to a professional. If you think that you are living with an anxiety disorder, please speak to a professional. Basically, I’m not a professional, so you should speak to someone else if you came here looking for one.
Managing anxiety is about finding the tools the work for you. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.
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How I Manage My Anxiety
Therapy – It helps so much to be able to talk to a professional about everything, especially the things that bring me the most anxiety, which can change from day to day or week to week. The biggest help to me has been having a place where I can talk about all the things that I know are ridiculous for me to be anxious about. Because my loved ones can only hear me talk about something small that I’m still anxious about for so long, it helps knowing that I can talk about these things with someone who can help. There are different types of therapy, and it’s probably best for the therapists to decide what type you should do. Additionally, you might need to meet with several different people before you find someone who is best for you, so if you’re having a hard time clicking with someone, move on.
Medication for Anxiety Attacks – There are a bunch of things that I do when I feel an anxiety or panic attack come on – which I will get to in a minute – but sometimes those things don’t work enough and I need to take a medication. And that’s okay! It’s a mental illness – sometimes you need to take medication for it. In my personal experience, I only take anxiety medication as needed, so I might not need any for 2 weeks and then need it. If you think you might need a medication, talk to your psychiatrist or primary care physician (PCP). My therapist is a psychologist, so he doesn’t prescribe medication, and my PCP prescribes my as-needed medication.
Yoga and Meditation – This is something that I try to do most days. I started doing yoga for my fibromyalgia, and while that has helped, it has also helped my anxiety. Yoga and shavasana (corpse post) with meditation that follows help also my anxiety. For everyone, it’s important to do yoga poses correctly or you can hurt yourself, and this is especially so for people with health histories like me. The yoga itself is a great because you have to focus on doing the poses correctly. Shavasana is great because you’re already in the time-out-from-life zone from the yoga, so you just continue that with meditation. I like to think of meditation as a reset button for your brain. It doesn’t always work that way, but it can help, and it definitely helps your anxiety if you do it regularly.Tools to help you manage your anxiety. Click To Tweet
Self-Care & Taking Time for Myself – Self-care has been a big topic of conversation over the past year, but it’s so much than doing a face mask and staying in (although that’s a big one if you’re an introvert beauty lover like me). As Psych Central says, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (x). That article I link to explains a lot of ways you can figure out what self-care means to you. It might include cutting someone out of your life who is too selfish and doesn’t take your needs seriously. It might include getting off of social media if it is making you too anxious. You get the idea; it’s different for everyone.
Keeping a Tidy Area – I personally am really affected by clutter. One day of clutter doesn’t really affect me. But more than that, it really does. I try to keep things clean as much as possible.
Playlist for Bad Moods and/or Anxiety – So I have this Spotify playlist that includes a lot of my favorite songs at the moment. Basically, it’s the stuff that I want to listen to over and over (and daydream about singing in public, let’s be honest). This doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily happy music. It’s just the songs that tend to take me out of whatever mindset I’m in because I like them so much. On the days when I feel the anxiety revving up, I put in my headphones and play this music.
Regular Check-Ins with Myself – It’s also really important to be honest with myself about where I am mentally. Is my anxiety getting better or worse? Is there anything in my life making it better or worse? Do I need to see my therapist more often, less often, or stay the same? Do I need to talk to him and my PCP about a daily anxiety medication? Basically, I need to be aware of how things are and anything that is making it that way.
Other Tools for Managing Anxiety
Daily Medication – You might need to take a medication every day to help you manage your anxiety And that’s okay! Mental illnesses like anxiety involve chemical imbalances in the brain, so it makes sense that you might need to take medication to help fight that. I have to take daily medications because I have an autoimmune disease, so it makes total sense that I might need to take daily medications for my anxiety at some point in my life because they’re both illnesses. (Note: It’s totally okay if you really don’t want to go on daily medication! I’m not saying that you have to go on daily medication. I’m just saying that it’s a tool.)
Limit Caffeine – Sadly, this IS something that will probably help your anxiety. (We all know how I feel about coffee, hence the “sadly”.) As to what limiting means for you, that’s another thing that really depends on your anxiety. If you can’t figure out why your anxiety is so strong, it might be worth cutting out caffeine and seeing if that does anything. If it does but you really love caffeine, maybe spend some time figuring out what amount of caffeine is too much caffeine for your anxiety. For example, maybe you can have one cup of coffee or one caffeinated soda, but you can’t have more than that.
Coloring – I know that you’re thinking. How is this a tool for anxiety? Well, according to Psychology Today, “When engaged in their hobby, “colorists,” as they call themselves, say their worries temporarily fade away. This isn’t totally shocking when you consider that all arts and crafts hobbies have the power to focus the brain in a way that’s similar to meditation.” (x) Check out this adult coloring book of animals, flowers, and more as well as this one titled Calm the F*ck Down.
Exercise – We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also good for our mind. (Yes, I know the mind is technically a part of the body, but we as people generally speak of them as separate.) Exercise releasing endorphins, and those are good for you mentally. Plus, happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t! (Name that movie.)
Eating Well – Eating well helps you feel your absolute best and provide your body with the best preparation to deal with anxiety. The Anxiety And Depression Association of America say that you shouldn’t skip any meals and keep energy boosting snacks available if you have an anxiety disorder (x).
Sleeping Well – This can honestly be SO difficult when you live with anxiety, but it’s important. If you’re stressed, your body needs more sleep than if you’re not, and if you live with anxiety, you’re usually stressed. Of course, if you’re stressed, you probably have trouble falling asleep, but that’s another issue.
My Sources & Where You Can Learn More
What are your tips for managing anxiety?
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