This is a generalized look at what you should do to manage your anxiety, and what you should not do. I hope this provides new tips and insights for you. 🙂
What To Do When You Have Anxiety
1. Have outlets and inlets: The human mind is a consumer of different energies, both negative and positive. Anxiety is considered by most a negative emotion, therefore it’s important to have an outlet where you can expel the negative energy, and fuel more positive energy. For example, personal outlets and inlets for me include yoga, writing, and playing piano. I invite you to explore what yours are. Sources of outlets and inlets include (I use them interchangeably here because this list can both expel negative energy and fuel positive):
- Journaling (writing)
- Solitude and socialization (remember; balance).
- Positive affirmations
- Working out (this can include walking, elliptical, swimming, jogging, kickboxing or even a sport such as soccer, football, etc. Anything to engage your mind and body in a positive way).
- Engaging in a hobby such as writing, painting, playing an instrument, etc. (ask yourself, what are your favourite hobbies, more specifically, what hobbies do you enjoy that help you to unwind and distress? And if you don’t have one, what new hobbies can you explore?)
- Talking/venting on a video camera
- Spending time with animals
Can you list anymore? Comment down below! 🙂
2. Tend to your breath: My breath is my lifeline in times when I’m experiencing panic. Our breathing is connected to our parasympathetic nervous system which works to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, prepares the body for rest, and more – all of which helps contribute to calming your anxiety. Understanding your breathing and learning breathing techniques is an amazing place to start on your calm journey.
3. Respond with compassion: This one hits home for me because at the height of my anxiety, I didn’t know how to treat, talk, or comfort myself. A lot of what I said was negative without even realizing it, and this is the case for a lot of us. I see this a lot with my friends and family, and even people in the mental health community. When anxiety hits we tend to put ourselves down, feel guilty, shameful, angry, dreadful, when we really need to be nurturing ourselves during hard times. We’re just further harming our mental and emotional state by being hateful towards ourselves. Instead, when anxiety hits we need to be there for ourselves. We need to comfort and tell ourselves we’ll be okay, it’s okay to have bad days, and that it doesn’t mean the next day will be as bad. We need to respond compassionately to our problems. This is very constructive for our mental and emotional health, if not necessary.
4. Accept and go with the flow: When I used to get panic attacks I would try to fight them in order to gain control. This is a big no no. We need to learn to accept our anxiety for what it is, allow it to come to the surface, give it a hug, watch it pass as if watching TV, and then let it fade away (also known as; mindfulness). Fighting against it only fuels it. This way, you’re showing your anxiety you don’t want control, and it stops fighting as well.
5. Change where your energy flows: When you’re told to not make a big deal out of a mental health problems, or to just relax, I understand the feeling of how frustrating it can be. I used to always reply it’s not that easy, and I can’t just relax and stop thinking about it, because I was consumed by it at the time. But that was just it. Anxiety was all I thought about so that’s what my life had become. I had to learn to accept my anxiety for what it was and the outcome of all negative situations (for example, when I had panic attacks), to then be able to trust myself to do things without my panic getting in the way, to stop over analyzing and thinking about it, and just relax. It’s a process, it really is.
Those with anxiety disorders, myself included, we focus on it way too much. We obsess over it to the point where that’s all we are. We need to stop focusing on it so much, we need to stop blowing it out of proportion, and we need to instead put our focus into relaxing and keeping ourselves calm. That’s the truth. And it’s not easy to do that cold turkey because the fear keeps us from doing so. We feel like we need to focus on our anxiety and constantly be on edge so we feel prepared when the next attack happens. But the problem with that is we’re expecting anxiety, we’re anticipating it, which only creates more of it. Ask yourself: What if I never knew anxiety existed? There’s no such thing, no such feeling. If I can only feel calm, because calm is all there is and calm is all I can be. That is the mindset you need to strive for. And if there is a day your anxiety acts up, that’s okay, tell yourself it’s okay, give your anxiety a hug, then go on with your day and continue to strive for calm.
What Not To Do When You Have Anxiety
1. Research about it online: If you are experiencing symptoms, do not, I repeat, do not go searching on the internet about what they are and what you have because your psychology is a powerful thing. I have nothing against searching ways to get better and improve, I encourage it if anything, but don’t search in depth about what you have because it’s a breeding ground for making your anxiety worse. As soon as you label yourself as someone with something (ex., social anxiety), we automatically associate ourselves as someone with all the symptoms a person with social anxiety experiences, even if we experienced only two or three of the symptoms before. Your mind will believe what ever you tell it. Be mindful of what you’re thinking.
2. Use online automated anxiety tests to self-diagnose: These things should not even exist, honestly. These texts and quizzes do not have the capability to examine your genetic history, your health history, your thoughts, your behaviours, your past experiences, and your present experiences. It is much too complex an examination and process for a five minute online quiz to know exactly what you have and the severity of it. I recommend this time and time again, DO NOT USE AUTOMATED TESTS AND QUIZZES. This goes beyond anxiety quizzes as well. Don’t use them to diagnose any mental illness. If you think you have something, you need to talk to a professional.
3. Ignore your emotions (anxiety) in hope they’ll go away: This fuels your anxiety. If you ignore your negative emotions, where do they go? They sit in your mind and stay there. Ignoring the problem does not get rid of it, you’re just leaving it to fester and grow into a larger problem for later. Please respect your emotions and give yourself time to get to know them and understand them. They make up how you feel, which determines your behaviour, which ultimately makes up who you are. Pay attention to them and have a relationship with your emotions, don’t ignore them.
4. Have a negative mindset: I find one thing a lot of blogs skip over is the fact that anxiety is psychological. Yes we have our environmental influences that help ease anxiety such as taking a bath or essential oil diffusers (love those), but in the grand scheme of mental health it starts with our brains. If you want to see real change in your mental health, even just a little, you have to look at the psychology of it. The human brain is plastic, meaning it’s flexible and changes all the time. It’s not always easy to do at first, but it’s a habit. I remember I began striving for a more positive and optimistic mindset back in 2013, and throughout all of it it certainly wasn’t all roses and peaches. It’s a daily, lifelong practice. Reaching a perfect positive mindset is not the goal – the goal is to make the most of it and do what you can to the best of your ability.
5. Keep pushing yourself: During the height of my panic attacks, I didn’t realize at the time but I was basically just driving into them. I wanted to convince myself “I no longer had anxiety” (which is a highly unrealistic ideal to strive for), so I’d push and push and push. And when it got worse, I’d just push even more. When you start doing this you need to stop. Stop pushing. Just stop altogether. Realize you have a problem and it’s not going to go away until you sit down and shake hands with it. Pushing yourself to burnout will not make it go away. It’s like blowing on a flame to put it out – you’re only making it bigger.
Before I go, I’d also like to thank the mental health community I’ve gotten to know over the past month on Twitter. You guys are all so supportive and empathetic, and it blows my mind everyday how many caring people there are in the world. People who want you to be open with them and hear what you have to say. Who want to see you do better and give support. You guys are all so amazing and inspire me in so many ways. There are people in the world who truly care. Thank you so much guys. If you’d like to join the community, feel free to follow me. I can ensure you many internet hugs will be passed around along with mentions of pizza haha. Thank you for reading! x
Now what? Here’s a few of my other posts to checkout if you’d like: