Monday, February 24, 2014

A few ways I deal with Anxiety

This past week, I've posted a few videos on YouTube-something I've wanted to do for a long time. But when I watched the first one, I noticed myself say that I've blogged about anxiety. And I think that I have mentioned that I deal with anxiety, but I don't know that I've ever really done a full post on the subject. So I thought now would be a good time, and I want to talk about a few ways that I have learned to deal with anxiety.

Just to clarify, the level of anxiety that I experience is not extreme. I go through bouts where it gets harder to deal with, but I am not on any medication and it doesn't severly affect my ability to live my life. If you experience anxiety that is preventing you from enjoying and fully participating in life, I strongly urge you to seek help-there's no shame in that.  

But if you think you might be like me-the chronic worrier, always thinking that everything is going to go wrong, Type-A personality, all your friends tell you you need to learn to chill out type, then here are a few things that might help you, as they have helped me.

 Remind yourself that the world doesn't revolve around you- I know, that's a hard pill to swallow- I like to think that I am a very important person. I just think sometimes we get too far inside our own heads, and our problems feel like they are bigger and more important than they actually are. The world is going to end if the things that we worry are going to happen actually do happen. Like if I say or do something stupid I obsess over how anyone who witnessed it MUST think I'm a total loser. They're at home thinking about it right now. And I beat myself up, oh god, why did I do that, I suck. Now everyone is going to hate me because they all care so much about everything I do and every little mistake that I make. But I think the truth is that most people are thinking about their own problems. And their problems are probably pretty similar to your problems. Talk to other people about their problems, you might realize that oh, your problems are literally the exact same as everyone else's and the universe is not punishing you, that's just life. I mean, it sucks sometimes, but it doesn't uniquely suck just for you.

Ask yourself, what can I do about this right now?- Sometimes when you're in an anxiety spiral, you feel totally overwhelmed and unable to do anything about your problems. I tend think about everything at once and go worst-case-scenario. Like oh my god, I have so much going on right now there's no way that I'm going to be able to finish writing this paper, I'm so behind in my reading, I work the next few days, I've barely slept, I don't know how I'm going to even get through my shift tomorrow, I'm going to fail the class and get fired from my job and everyone is going to hate me(in my head, all bad situations end with everyone hating me).
But instead of focusing on the enormity of EVERYTHING, I find that I can often halt my anxiety simply by taking a little step towards remedying the issue. Like, if it's a school thing, ok maybe I'm not going to finish my paper tonight, but instead of laying in bed freaking out about it, I could use that time to figure out which sources I'll use for the paper I'm working on, and maybe get a few rough notes done. Instead of focusing on everything that's out of your control and everything you can't do, just ask yourself what can I do right now towards fixing this problem? I know that anxiety can feel really crippling, but you can't let it paralyze you. Even taking a small step towards fixing a problem can be a huge relief.

Be present in the moments that you aren't feeling anxious- When I am experiencing anxiety, my entire body is tuned into feeling it. My stomach, my chest, my head-they are all very aware of what I'm feeling when I'm in an anxious state. But when I'm not feeling anxious, I don't even notice what I'm feeling. Lately I have been trying to stop and pay attention, and actually say to myself "I am not worried about anything right now" and really experience what that feels like. Not only does it help to enjoy and be thankful for the good times, but I find it also helps when I'm back in my basket case state. Sometimes when you're experiencing anxiety-or any negative emotion-it kind of feels like you always have, and always will feel that way. But if you take notice of the times that you feel good, you can remember those feelings when you aren't in the best head space. Like, I know you're freaking out right now, but remember just yesterday you felt calm, and you will be calm again.

Try a few traditional relaxation techniques, even if they seem a little cheesy- I don't really think of myself as a spiritual or hippie type person. I tend to be pretty skeptical of a lot of the sort of traditional, natural relaxation methods that I associate with people like Alanis Morissette(no disrepect). But right now I'm chilling in my room that's filled with the scent of lavender oil, which I purchased for its' calming effect-and it is doing a damn fine job. I think people say that type of shit works because it WORKS. Deep breathing, meditation(you can find guided meditation videos on YouTube)-I've found a lot of that stuff legitimately helpful in calming my worrying and anxiety. And maybe a lot of these things work by the power of suggestion-you believe it's going to work, so it does. But so what? I believed that lavender oil and deep breathing would help me feel better, and they did. Mind tricks or not, I'm down with the result.

If all else fails, look at some pictures of cats. Here's my cat to help you out.

Why ya stressin boo?
  I'm gonna go get my pajamas out of the dryer and crank this relaxation party up a notch. If you like this post let me know. I've been dealing with anxiety for a long time, and have learned a lot of ways to help myself through it-I could easily do a second installment on the topic.

[UPDATE: I accidentally set the dryer to delicates/cool air so my pajamas aren't even warm. Why is life so terrible and hard????]

Thanks for reading!

Link to my YouTube channel

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