Anxiety is a bitch. Plain and simple. I’ve been managing my anxiety since I was 10 ish years old and I’ve tested out A LOT of things to help keep it in check. Not everyone wants therapy or medication (although I will say I utilize both of these tools without any regrets) which is why I’ve created this list. Some of these tips are simple, some take some work, and some can help you out in the midst of a panic attack.
So without further ado, here are 5 things (that actually work) to take control of your anxiety:
Move your body. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before but it’s a game changer for people with anxiety. When you move and take care of your body your mind is able to release tension. Find an exercise that you like so that it doesn’t feel like a chore. Explore classes like yoga or Zumba. Play around with weight lifting. Even going for a walk is beneficial. When you move, you feel.
Plan out your meals ahead of time. A lot of people I talk to about anxiety tell me they feel like everything is out of their control. Planning ahead for things and setting things up to be easier during a busier or more stressful time is key in managing anxiety. And just like moving your body, you need to feed your body with lots of nutrition to help your brain function at its best. The mind/body connection is strong, my friends.
Look at your environment and your daily stressors. What is keeping you awake at night and taking over your thoughts? What can you change about it now or what can you start doing now to plan to make a change in this area? Generally the people I work with have anxiety to some degree and it can be directed mostly at one area in their life. A very common trigger is your job. I myself had to quit a corporate job (one that I thought was my dream job) in order to create a life around self-care. Not everyone is this extreme of an example but making a tweak to what area of your life is keeping you awake at night can make a HUGE difference. Take a look at what that is for you and just begin to play with the idea of making a change- don’t let the to-do list stop you from playing around with the idea of making a change!
Square breathing for when shit hits the fan. There will come a time when your anxiety is through the roof and no amount of trying to manage it ahead of time will stop it. Life happens and you can’t plan for everything. But square breathing is an amazing tool to bring you back down and in a calmer mindset quickly. Here’s what you do: inhale for 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, hold for 5. Repeat this as many times as you need to.
Focusing on your breath works in 2 ways: you are forcing your mind to focus on something besides your anxiety and you are combating your body’s natural tendency to rush through breathing when you are anxious. The breath is my number one tool in getting through a panic attack or even just a mildly stressful event.
Meditate. You’ve heard about the benefits of a regular meditation practice but you probably don’t know how to do it right so you gave up after a couple of tries. I know, I’ve been there too. A lot of people think that the purpose of meditation is to be free of all thoughts and that they are failing if a thought pops into their mind. Or they think that the only way to meditate is to sit in silence for a long period of time, and who has time for that??? If you’re new to the meditation game just start with a guided meditation. I like the free app Insight Timer.