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17 Things I Do to Help Manage My Anxiety

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When you have an anxiety disorder, everything feels upside down, like the world has turned into a whirlwind which is going to pull you inside it. You feel like the world is going to end and that you are about to die. Having a panic attack has symptoms similar to heart attack, and sometimes the pain and tightness in your chest is so intense that you are convinced everything is going to end and there is no future ahead. It feels like something dreadful is waiting to happen, and the darkness keeps pulling you towards itself.

I have experienced anxiety almost all my life, but five and a half years back, it took a drastic turn. After struggling in silence for a few months, I was finally diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder.

Through the years, I have struggled with bad panic attacks which often left me feeling depressed. But I have also been able to practice a few things to lessen my anxiety, and I decided that I’d share them with you all.

Although, these can help you manage your anxiety to a certain extent, they definitely don’t substitute any doctor. If you struggle with any anxiety-like symptoms, please talk to your loved ones and a medical professional.

Below are some of my top tips for those struggling with anxiety disorders:

1. Deep breathing

You might have heard this a thousand times, but you know what, it’s actually true! Whenever I start feeling anxious or feel like a panic attack is going to come, I close my eyes and start taking deep breaths. Doing this calms my body and may lessen my anxiety’s impact.

2. Drink water

This is also something you get to hear often, but whenever I start feeling anxious, I slowly drink a few sips of water, and it really calms me down.

3. Distraction

This is probably the greatest comfort when it comes to anxiety. Distraction can come in a lot of different forms depending on your environment and personal interests. I have suggested a few down below, but you can really do anything that helps you and reduces your anxiety.

a) Watching something, whether it’s a video on YouTube or your favorite TV show, as long as it keeps you interested, can calm down your nerves because your brain may then focus on the TV instead of increasing your anxiety. I don’t know about others, but personally for me, watching cartoons is a great stress buster. No matter how anxious or depressed I’m, some “Tom and Jerry” or “Shinchan” always lifts me up!

b) Most of the times when I experience anxiety, I like to move around because sitting actually makes things worse. But moving without thinking will only cause me to focus more on my anxiety. Instead, I think of something. I focus on some good aspect of my life or some upcoming event I’m excited about. I think of someone I love: family, friends, neighbors, or even my favorite celebrity. Really, anyone! It can help take your thoughts away from anxiety and as a result, you may feel better.

c) Going out for a little walk is always refreshing and is good for your mental health. Whenever I get a panic attack, I feel suffocated and just want to run away somewhere. So I go for a little stroll down the road and just looking at the sky and the trees helps me calm down and makes me feel so much better. Also, if you have really bad panic attacks, it’s better and safe to take someone along with you.

4. Positive environment

Try to make sure the environment you’re in has only those things that make you feel good about yourself. If there’s any color, artifact or picture that triggers you, remove it. Keep only those things that lift you up in your visible reach. Choose soothing colors for your house, and keep some light music playing in the background to calm your nerves.

5. Learn to say no

I know it’s much easier said than done, but once you actually learn how to say no to things you don’t want to do or people who give you negative vibes, your life will become much much happier.

6. Pamper yourself

A hot bath with some scented candles lit around and positive music is an easy way to relax and soothe your nerves. Take out some time for yourself, and do things that make you feel happy and fulfilled, that motivate you to keep going.

7. Routines

For many people, not being able to complete a task is often a big cause of anxiety. I have learned from my experience that when I plan everything and stick to my routines, I feel more in control of myself and it ultimately helps my mental health. Using planners and making lists help me stay organized and hence reduces unnecessary anxiety.

8. Do what you love

When you sense a panic attack coming, do not try to keep it inside. If spending some time alone helps you, do that. If sitting with your family helps you, don’t stop yourself from going to them and letting them know how you feel. Do whatever you feel is the best for you that time (unless it involves hurting anyone, including you).

9. Create a happy journal

Make a list of things you love, things you have achieved or want to achieve. Paste pictures of your favorite places, food, TV stars, anything. Write inspirational quotes. Draw. Paste your pictures. Make this journal something which, when you look at it, makes you feel good. Make it your happy place.

10. Diary writing

If it helps, write down your feelings in a diary. Burn it or keep it, however you like. But let everything out on those papers. It is a great way to instantly feel lighter and happier.

11. Music therapy

Make a playlist of inspirational songs or songs that make you feel happy, and start playing it as soon as you feel the first signs of a panic attack. Dance to your favorite songs. Sing along. Act as if you are the star in the album. If this can make you feel better, why not?

12. Aromatherapy

Nowadays, there are so many products available at reasonable prices which help you lessen your anxiety by just inhaling their fragrance. Essential oils are great for this. Talk to your doctor before using any of these products, but if it suits you, you may find out they are indeed amazing.

13. Observe

If you have a lawn or garden, or any kind of plant, just sit down near it and observe it. Observe the patterns and colors of the flowers. Take in the fragrance and pay attention to the intricate details of the plant. After a few moments, you’ll notice you may actually start to feel better because your brain cannot focus on anxiety and attention-requiring activities at the same time. So, involving yourself in any activity that requires the use of your brain, and undiluted attention can really prove helpful when it comes to combating anxiety.

14. Read/Paint/Get creative

For me, nothing helps as much as books. Reading makes me transport myself into a different world, and every time I pick up a new book, I have the option of choosing my own world. Painting, drawing and getting involved in different types of crafts can be a very peaceful way to reduce your anxiety.

15. Meditation

While it may seem daunting to practice meditation, it is always helpful. Meditation is a great way to heal your body inside out. Even if you do not have a diagnosis, it can help to keep stay healthy, and when you do have some kind of physical or mental illness, meditation may be a savior. In the beginning, it might feel like you are not able to focus, but as you keep practicing, you’ll notice the difference. YouTube has some great meditation and relaxing videos. One example of simple meditation is to quietly lie down and listen to some nature sounds like chirping of birds or the sound of waves. It really helps in calming down my brain and in turn, reduces anxiety.

16. Awareness

Make yourself aware. This step is actually not for when you get an attack but rather when you are calm and in a state of understanding. Read good books on anxiety, talk to your doctor, talk to other people who are going through the same thing, join online forums, read medical books related to anxiety and make yourself aware about what anxiety is and what actually happens when you get an attack. Once you come to know the physical and mental process and the causes, you’ll be able to control your body better. And you might not get frightened the next time you have a racing heart or tightening of chest.

17. Get help

This is the most important step of all.

Anxiety disorders are serious mental illnesses and can lead to dangerous situations if not controlled at the right time. Talk to someone you love and who you think will understand. It would be great if it’s some adult, especially your parents but if not, talk to anyone whom you completely trust. That being said, do not take all the suggestions and advice you hear. Many people are unaware of how severe anxiety can be and might not be able to guide you properly. Some might even give advice that could be potentially harmful. So instead of blindly following what others say, use your intellect, research and talk to a professional.

Therapy may feel like a sign of weakness in many societies, but it is actually one of the strongest and wisest things you’ll ever do if you have any kind of mental illness. Medical professionals are trained, and they can help you so much. Never take medicines or supplements without consulting a doctor. Always look for suggestions, but take only those which have the potential to help you without causing any kind of harm.

Last but not the least, please remember you are never alone. There are millions of people around the world who have the same issues as you. You might not know that because, just like you, they are also struggling in silence. Mental illness can be debilitating and life-threatening, and it’s time we put a stop to all the stigma. For that, we need to come out and join hands. We need to be together and be one voice. For all those struggling behind closed doors, you are brave and you can get through this.

If you want someone to talk to, I’m always here for you no matter what. I have my Instagram account @its_little_ayra especially for the purpose of helping others because once I was also one of those lost voices who was afraid to come out, but now that I have finally begun to speak, I have found some amazing people and a wonderful community where we understand and lift each other up.

It might feel difficult and even impossible to think things will ever get better, but trust me, they do because change is the only constant thing in this world.

Keep your head up. Good things are coming!

Image by Transfuchsian

Originally published: October 27, 2016
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