Let’s be real – anxiety affects all of us and it sucks. Whether we openly talk about it, or (if you’re like me) internalize it, anxiety constantly hovers around us. I feel like I’ve constantly been on edge these days, and most of the time, I can’t really explain why or what exactly I’m feeling. Sometimes the feelings are so overwhelming I have to stop everything I’m doing just to deal. Can anyone relate?
It’s not always a bad thing though – we all need some level of to motivate us. But anxiety is really good at overstaying its visit, constantly looming over us and getting into our heads.
Mental health has been discussed more of over the past year – on social media, at work, in life. If there’s been one big takeaway it’s that anxiety is much more common than I realize, and it impacts us all. It’s the manifestation of anxiety that affects us differently.
I’m no mental health expert, but I actively work on building and refining a routine that helps manage my anxiety. For many, including myself, it’s not something that will just magically go away on its own (though I wish it did). Managing anxiety has been a huge trial and error experiment for me for years, and while it’s not a perfect system, there are some things I do almost daily to help me manage the thoughts looming inside my head. I thought I’d share some ways I manage my anxiety and deal with stressors in my life, and would love to hear ways you do too!
1. Talking to someone (a voice of reason)
When I’m anxious, my thoughts scramble. Nothing in my brain makes sense and I’m not able to parse through my thoughts. Sometimes, all I need is someone to be a voice of reason – to help me rationalize my thoughts and VALIDATE my feelings. I don’t always need to hear that I’m going to be fine or that I don’t need to worry. I inherently know that. What I do need is for someone to accept that these are the thoughts and feelings I have and to navigate my stressors with me, not necessarily to get advice or opinions. I need people who support me in my times of anxiety and help me find the good in the situations I’m navigating, and not make me feel like my emotions are an impediment. I’ve had people in my life who have made me feel bad for having bad days and in retrospect, I realize they don’t deserve to be around on my good days too.
I understand it’s not always easy to open up – even if it’s a friend, family member or even a professional in the mental health field. If there’s even one person you can think of that you feel comfortable going to for anything, without judgement, that’s perfect. I feel grateful for my people.
2. Outdoor walks & sunshine
Trust me when I say a sunny day really changes my mood. It’s why summer will always be my favorite season. Living someplace where it’s overcast and rainy most of the time, I have learned to truly appreciate and take advantage of the sunny days. The sunshine calms me, even when I’m indoors. I love natural lighting inside my home. In an effort to help me manage some of the stress I’ve been having, I’ve been going on walks more frequently. Not only is a great way to get exercise, but a peaceful walk outdoors, walking by beautiful cherry blossom trees, tuned into a podcast or favorite music, really help calm me down. Unless it’s rainy, I now make a point to go on walks whenever I can- it’s something I look forward to.
3. Doing something I love
There are 2 hobbies I have that really help me get my mind off whatever it is that I’m stressed or thinking about: baking and playing guitar. When I’m anxious, I crave sweets, but what better way to channel that craving and help destress than by baking something…. and then eating it?! Not only does the actual activity of baking help calm me down, but I get excited about eating whatever it is that I’m making.
For those who don’t know, I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11 years old. It’s something I dedicated a lot of time playing in my teenage years, and something I stopped doing when I was in college. Regardless of how much I play it, it’s always with me. Currently, it’s sitting in the corner of my room, untouched for about 2 weeks. I don’t play often and I’m really rusty, but when I do play, I’m in my own headspace. It’s a hobby I go out of my way to carve out time for, so it’s not something I do regularly, but it’s like riding a bike — it just comes back to me even if I haven’t played in a while.
The greatest takeaway here is to always make time for your hobbies. Find a few things that make you feel really good and try to do them often.
I’ve always lived an active lifestyle – I’ve played sports my whole life up until college. I took that for granted because I didn’t realize how much it impacted my mental health. I was a lot more idle in college (fortunately I walked a lot to class to make up for it) and realized that took a toll on me. Of course, getting myself to work out can be a drag. But, it’s not getting myself to work out that feels better— it’s the ENDORPHINS after. After a good workout, I feel my endurance and strength increasing, empowering me to keep going. The post workout rush is what makes me feel so much better when I’m having an off day, even if it means having to push myself to actually move.
The key thing here is to find something you enjoy doing. If you don’t like it, then it’s not going to work. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout for it to work – even a walk counts! I personally enjoy HIIT or barre workouts and have been enjoying evening walks.
Writing things down in a journal has really helped me. I used to be anti-journaling. I thought I needed something worth writing about to happen in my day otherwise journaling is a waste. Journaling isn’t a one size fits all solution, I realized. I personally can’t write down what I did in a day or just brain dump my thoughts.
However, I find comfort in writing down my feelings and making my thoughts tangible on paper. Rather than the negative, anxiety inducing thoughts, I write down positive things. This grounds and reminds me of the things I’m grateful for, proud of, and excited about. I take this time to focus on the positive and shift my mindset because my anxiety always makes me think of the negative. Writing down positive affirmations helps get me in the right headspace and reduce my anxiety. I usually do this before I go to bed as part of my bedtime routine.
Again, these are the things that work for me right now. Maybe in a few months this will change or I’ll add more to this list. Managing anxiety is an individual journey and it takes a lot of trial and error, as well a developing a routine that works best for you. I find that maintaining a routine grounds my anxiety because I always know what to expect and look forward to it.
I hope you enjoyed this little piece! Hopefully there is something on here that works for you, but I’d also love to hear what you do too!