Living With Anxiety Is Hard, but These Habits Have Helped Me Feel More in Control
For people who struggle with anxiety like I do, every day can feel like a series of challenges you just have to get through. Compounding my anxiety is the fear that I'll somehow "miss it" — no matter what that moment is — because I'm distracted by my racing heart, shallow breathing, and an unrelenting feeling of doom. Given that I've been living with anxiety for a while now, I've developed some techniques for limiting how much it takes over. That effort starts with conscious breathing and reminding myself to be here, in the now, and not let my mind focus on past concerns or future worries. Of course, this is often easier said than done, but it doesn't hurt to try.
Feeling more clear-headed takes work beyond that, though, so I use these anxiety-busting habits daily to feel calmer and more in control. I hope they'll work for you, too.
Get Off Social Media
Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram only adds to my anxiety. Suddenly I'm comparing myself to friends and strangers, and if I'm already feeling edgy, their perfectly curated images feed into my false narrative that I'm struggling, while others are breezing through life. This isn't true, of course, but it's easy to fall into that way of thinking. I find that it's healthier for me to focus on myself, and not what others are doing, so social media is no longer a part of my daily life. Instead, I'll visit these sites once in a while, and only for a short period of time. If I start feeling icky, I shut it down.
Practice Yoga and Meditation
Any exercise is good for the mind and body. A serious sweat session helps get your mind off things, so whatever you're into — be it kickboxing, running, or Pilates — squeezing a workout into your day will help limit anxiety. My go-to form of stress-reducing physical activity is yoga. Between the focus on the breath and the empowering postures, the practice benefits my state of mind both on and off the mat. I also try to meditate for at least a few minutes at the end of my practice. I tell myself my anxieties can wait, while I listen to just the sound of my deep breathing, and nothing else.
Surround Yourself With Positive Mantras
Over time, I have curated several empowering phrases that I repeat when I'm feeling anxious. "You are strong," and "This is temporary" are the mantras I employ in a particularly challenging moment. For example, recently one of my kids was sick with the flu, and I could feel my worries that she'd get much worse begin to cripple my ability to deal with the situation. Reminding myself "You are strong" and "This is temporary" helped me spiral back into reality, instead of allowing my worries to win.
Hang With People Who Make You Feel Good About Yourself
In the course of dealing with my anxiety, I started to notice how I felt when I was around different people. I realized it's important to limit my contact with those who ultimately stress me out, for whatever reason, whether it's that they are overly competitive with me, have a tendency to be super-negative, or don't seem to really care about how I'm feeling, or what's happening in my life. Instead, I actively seek out people who get me, or leave me feeling warm and fuzzy after we spend time together or chat on the phone.
Of course, you can't always control who you come in contact with on a daily basis, but I sure try! Here's something you can do today to this end: if you are having an upsetting conversation with a family member or friend, change the subject, or simply get off the phone (say someone's at the door!) or leave the encounter (politely) ASAP. Then call a proven positive person, and change the course of your experience.
Take an Anxiety Mini-Break
After a particularly anxiety-filled day, I'll tell myself, "It's time for a break." I force my mind to focus on a TV show or dive into a book, and tell my worries, "I'll get back to you later." Try it! Even if you get a little space from your stresses for just 10 minutes, that's better than nothing.
Stop Negative Self-Talk
"This is so hard," "Something is wrong with me," and, "I hate my life." It's far too easy to buy into these types of thoughts, which can become self-fulfilling prophecies. I'm guilty of negative self-talk, and it's something I'm working to limit in my life. I've recently made a deal with myself: every time I say something negative about myself, I have to also say something positive. So if I think, "I'm a mess," I'll then remind myself, "You handled everything really well this morning."
Set a Time Limit on Anxiety
Here's a new trick that is really helping me limit my anxiety. I'll allow myself 20 minutes to worry and then stop. It seriously works! Giving my mind a set amount of time to focus 100 percent on feeling anxious is better than worrying all day, while also trying to do everything else. Once my 20 minutes is up (I usually do this before bedtime), I force myself to move on. If a worry pops up, I'll remind myself that I already worried — I call it reaching my worry quota — and that I can get back to stressing out tomorrow.
Know Your Triggers
It can be hard to understand why certain situations cause anxiety to spike. I find that grocery shopping is hard for me; maybe it's that I'm being forced to make so many decisions! To limit my time in the store, I have started ordering more things online. Similarly, I don't do well driving. Luckily there are a lot of places I can walk where I live, so I'll leave my car in the garage as much as possible.
The next time you feel anxious, take note of what you are doing at that time. If you find a pattern emerging, consider how you can change or limit the situation that is causing you to panic.