I don’t know about you, but when my anxiety gets triggered, it can get bad. Like, can’t leave the house, mind going a million miles a minute, bad.
Sometimes it can be set off by something nonchalant like someone taking a parking spot I’d been waiting ages for, or a stomach grumble that may or may not turn into a flare. Sometimes it can be an uncomfortable interaction with a stranger, or just a weird vibe from a situation (like this one time I was at the gym and this guy was obviously tweaking out on something and I didn’t feel safe with the way he was throwing weights on the ground and growling at the three women who were in the gym).
ANYWHOO, lately I’ve been feeling really off and have had a more than normal (for me) number of days with higher than normal anxiety levels. It doesn’t have to be anything major to kickstart my anxiety…sometimes it’s just waking up with a flare and the rest of the day will just feel a little (or a lot) off. I’ve also been struggling with the direction and identity for this blog.
I’m in this awkward phase of fun-employment, where I’ve had some job offers, but they haven’t felt right. I don’t want to settle for the first job that lands in my lap, so to say, but I also know that it’s my first job post-grad, so I can’t be terribly picky.
The last time I felt this way was right before I started law school, when I took a year off after undergrad to deal with an incident that snowballed into major trauma and a PTSD diagnosis. I was in and out of the hospital with so many different symptoms, and it wasn’t until almost two years later, when I took a medical leave from law school that I started to get some answers.
This time around my health is in much better shape, but it’s still this limbo of not working, sitting at home, and trying to feel like I have purpose. SO, instead of letting my anxiety take hold, I want to share some of the practices I use to quickly calm anxiety down.
1. MAKE LISTS – now, if you’re the kind of person who will freak out at the sight of a to-do list, break it up into short & long-term tasks. For me, long lists only stress me out if I think I have to get it all done in one day…but I usually pull out a calendar and space out the tasks with check boxes to fill in when they’re accomplished.
2. MUSIC & TEA – put on a playlist and sip on something warm. There’s something about distracting your other senses that can help calm your brain down. I’d probably recommend something without caffeine (because if you’re dealing with anxiety, that can sometimes make it worse). As far as music, pick something that, as Marie Kondo would say, “sparks joy.” For me, that’s anything from classical jazz to country; maybe for you that’s grunge and heavy metal. Do what works for you.
3. GET OUTSIDE – sometimes a change of scenery can make a big difference in how you process a situation. If you’ve been sitting all day inside at work, take a break and do a walk around the parking lot. If you’re at home, go outside or to a coffee shop or a bookstore. Bookstores are a personal favorite of mine because you don’t have to talk to a barista or strangers…just peruse through the words on the shelves and maybe even pick one up and sit in a corner and start reading.
4. PHONE A FRIEND – talk to someone, whether it be about what’s stressing you out or not, just get that human interaction going. Now when I say talk, I mean pick up the damn cellular device and phone a friend; don’t text or send memes, actually talk. If that person isn’t free, maybe try someone else. If your anxiety is spiraling into something more serious in the real of depression or self harm, there is a 24/7 dedicated phone and chat line at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the USA, there are other organizations that do this elsewhere around the world): 1-800-273-8255 or the chat line here.
5. SQUARE BREATHING – I learned about this at the Nourished Festival while listening to a talk by Desiree Nielsen, who is a registered dietician (and brilliant mind when it comes to gut health). Click here for a how-to, but basically it’s alternating breathing in and out with pauses, with the end goal of being more calm than when you started the activity.
As always, I’m not a doctor (well, of the law, yes, but not medical), so definitely consult one (or more than one) of those if you think you’re dealing with serious anxiety and/or other health problems. Coming from someone who deals with this shiz on a frequent basis, my anxiety is more than a fleeting feeling; it can be debilitating and frankly quite consuming if I don’t acknowledge it and take strides to deal with it from its onset.
That’s not to say I’m 100% successful dealing with it every time it creeps up, but the more often you practice ways to redirect anxious feelings into something positive (like lists you can chip away at, or breathing techniques to scale it down from a full-blown panic attack to a blip in your day) can really make all the difference.
I hope some of these tips help, and if you have other ones that you’ve found successful, share away!
OH, and I just realized, after I wrote this (lol) that I wrote this post last month. Go figure! I guess stress has been on my mind quite a bit lately; that being said, I’m unplugging and going to do something relaxing offline.