Before I get into this post, I just want to note that everyone has different experiences of anxiety; what works for some people, may not work for others – and everyone obviously experiences different levels, triggers and causes of anxiety. I understand this, and I’m not in any way trained in dealing with this issue. I just wanted to share my own tips, that have helped me before; in the hope that even just one of them may help someone else.
Mindfulness & Meditation – There are some really fantastic apps about at the moment that guide you through the process of meditation. Calm & Headspace are the two of the best, and you can either pay for a subscription (I found Calm was slightly cheaper than Headspace, but only marginally) or you can use the free trial versions. These apps are a really good way to help calm a racing mind; and if persevered with daily – support you with bringing clarity and peace to your everyday life. They require just 10 minutes a day; but can also be used as and when you like, so if you just want to dip in and out when you feel you need them that works too. Both also have really great sleep options also, for anyone who has trouble nodding off.
Exercise – and by this, I don’t mean you have to go for a 5 mile run every day. I find that getting really sweaty in the gym does help me personally, but let’s be honest – there’s some weeks when I’m super motivated to do that, and some not so much. For me, if I do have a day when I’m feeling particularly stressed or anxious, I know that getting myself into the gym will help me – but I also appreciate that’s not for everyone. However, there are so many different activities you can try; I’ve recently discovered trampolining (you can read more about that here) and I love going that much, it doesn’t even feel like exercise, but it really helps. It took me a good while to find an activity that I really enjoyed and didn’t feel like I had to drag myself to – so keep looking around if you think it’s something that may benefit you. It’s quite hard to feel anxious when your heart is beating at 100mph from physical activity.
Take walks and get outside – So this one could actually be used for the exercise tip too… Every single week I dedicate the time to go on a really long walk with my dog and my boyfriend to our favourite place, leaving my phone either at home or in my pocket. It’s something that I again enjoy and look forward to, but something I believe really helps with anxiety too. When I went through a particularly bad stage of anxiety after my Grandma passed away earlier this year, I became obsessed with the thought that someone was going to steal my dog and I couldn’t take him for walks on my own incase I was unable to defend myself – completely irrational thoughts, but hey that’s anxiety for you… I even went to the extent of buying some attack spray incase it did happen! What I actually needed to do, was to get outside and go for a walk with him. This helped my particular situation in two ways; walking and being outside can be good for anxiety anyway, but it also helped me to face a fear head on and ultimately eliminate the anxiety around that scenario.
Social Media – Limit social media use when you start to feel anxious, or at least take it with a pinch of salt. Social media often creates this illusion of the “perfect life” and subconsciously puts a huge pressure on us to “have it all” – when in actual fact, none of us really do! We just don’t realise that, because we are only presented with the highlights of everyones life. In the same respect however, social media can be a great escape from everyday life, if you follow the right people. I frequently take the time to curate my feeds on all platforms, to ensure I’m only following people who make social media enjoyable. Anyone who shares things that don’t make me feel so great, are removed or silently unfollowed. Now don’t forget, you can also silently unfollow or mute people on social media without having to go to the drastic step of completely deleting them, if that in itself will make you feel anxious. They’ll be non the wiser. But it’s also good to remember that you can unfollow people for other reasons too… I share quite a lot of detail about items I love and have shopped on my social feeds, and I’m forever posting pictures of meals out and cocktails (this probably explains why I love blogging!) but some people could be trying hard to save money right now, or even struggling with it; and don’t want to see shopping splurges and hauls at this time in their life – therefore may choose to unfollow, that’s fine and completely understandable. Lots of people proudly share pictures of their beautiful children on social media (which is 100% a good thing by the way, and always makes me smile!) but someone else could be quietly struggling with a personal issue around children in their own life, and may not want to see that at the moment. That’s not to say we shouldn’t post the things that make us happy, but that’s why the option to curate your feed is there. So if you do find yourself unfollowed or removed, sometimes try to understand that it’s not always personal to you. Social media is such a big thing in life these days, that I’ve known friends who have had anxiety triggered by being removed or unfollowed, it’s good to try and put it into perspective sometimes.
Choose who you surround yourself with very carefully – I spent last year cutting quite a few people out of my life and it was the best thing I could have done. You really are who you spend your time with, and so you want the best of the best around you. As an example, people who constantly bitch about others start making me feel anxious myself, as I begin to wonder if they are going to be talking about me in the exact same way behind my back. Honestly, I don’t need that worry, so I now choose not to spend time with people like that. The same goes for extremely negative people. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have our moments – I’m not saying that I’m all happy, skipping and roses constantly, in fact I think spending time with someone like that would put me on edge! But a person who constantly speaks or acts in a negative manner will eventually rub off on you; and often it can lead you to start displaying those behaviours yourself, which in turn can also lead to anxiety. I surround myself with people who are supportive, encouraging, see the best in me (even when I may not be the best version of myself), people who want the best for me, and who celebrate my successes with me. That may sound selfish, but then in return, and without even realising it – I give that behaviour back to everyone else around me. Behaviour 100% breeds behaviour.
Prioritise your self care – I’m currently lucky enough to be able to work from home at the moment, and it’s therefore easy for me to just rock out of bed at 8:50am, log onto my computer and work all day in my pyjamas. That’s all well and good, but it removes any structure and meaning to the day. What I try and do now is stick to a routine and do simple things that will make me feel good about myself. So even if I don’t have to leave the house that day, taking a shower, getting changed, running a brush through my hair and cleaning my teeth just make me feel better. They add structure to my day and make me feel calmer and more together. For people that are particularly struggling with anxiety at the moment, some days these tasks may feel like the hardest thing in the world. So start off small and take achievement in completing them, celebrate that success, or at least recognise it, and use it to spur you on to complete the next task. Some really good, very simple but strangely effective tasks could be; ensuring all your electrical appliances are charged up; having a fresh glass of water / drink by your side; brushing your hair, changing out of your pyjamas; making the bed. They sound relatively simple on paper but it’s amazing how imperative they can be to your own feelings and wellbeing.
Reading – I find reading such a wonderful escape from the stresses of every day life, I love getting lost in a good book; and indulging myself in a completely different world. There are also some really great self help books out there at the moment – The Anxiety Solution is amazing, and I’d highly recommend it; however, it is aimed more at women, so do bear that in mind. Another wonderful book that really helped me to see life in a completely different way, and add some clarity was The Little Big Things. It’s written by an incredible guy called Henry Fraser, who you can read more about here; but it’s a very positive, very inspiring and very uplifting book.
Understand where you get your energy from – I’m very much an extrovert and a people person, I get my energy from spending time with others; and with working from home so often, sometimes if I’ve done it too many days in a row, I can start feeling a little fed up or anxious. Therefore, when this happens – I’ll take myself into the office, or make some plans with friends and those feelings will quickly begin to disappear. And some people gain their energy from taking a step back and being alone – it’s helpful to try and learn what works for you, so that you can take the time to gather your energy when you feel like you need to. If you don’t have those outlets yourself, there are some great groups listed at the bottom of this page which can support with that.
Understand that anxiety is completely normal and it’s something everyone experiences in life at some point. Now again, that’s not to undermine anyone’s situation; everyone experiences it in a different way… But I personally find a lot of comfort in accepting that anxiety is a feeling, such as feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling excited and that it is something that I will experience from time to time – just as I’ll experience other emotions mentioned. None of those other feelings will ever go away, they are a natural part of our human make up – they help us celebrate, help us understand, help us learn and help us grow.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – I mentioned above that earlier this year, I struggled with a particularly bad bout of anxiety. During this period, I actually bottled it all up and kept it to myself; I carried on as normal, and not a single person knew how much I was struggling apart from my lovely boyfriend (but had we not been living together, I don’t even think he would have known!). Eventually, I began speaking to my friends about it, who were bloody brilliant; albeit a bit surprised at how I had been feeling, but very supportive and at hand right away. Actually, quite a lot of people I spoke to had struggled with anxiety; and I found that quite comforting to know. I really believe that more people than you can imagine experience this in some shape or form throughout life, we just don’t always talk about it. Now it didn’t get to this point for me, but I wouldn’t have hesitated to should it have continued; if you still feel this way and other coping mechanisms aren’t working, don’t be afraid to speak to a doctor. I actually think recognising your feelings and understanding that it might be time to do that, is a very strong thing to do.
If you’ve kept reading right to the bottom of this post, I really do hope that some of these tips will help you, or that you’ve even just found some comfort in reading it. There’s a really great quote I read in The Anxiety Solution book I mentioned above, from a man called Mark Twain, it’s something that actually makes me smile, and I try to remember whenever I do begin to feel a little anxious – hopefully it may support you too – “I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened“.