Stuff that works: Anxiety

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Ah, anxiety, my old friend. Except it took me a surprisingly long time to see her as that; so sure that ‘anxiety’ was something else entirely, a plague on housewives and teenage exam students – all wringing hands, jittery knees & butterflies in the stomach.
True anxiety is nothing like this; it is a swarm of hornets humming angrily around your heart. It is fingernails scraping, scraping against skin and scalp and bone in the middle of the night, searching for relief. It is standing, staring at the inside of your front door, wondering why your hand wont open it, for long, terrifying minutes.
I’ve found some things that help with my anxiety. Perhaps they’ll help you too.

  • Be kind to yourself. Say what you’d say to your best friend.
  • Eat some carbs. ‘Rest and digest’ is the opposite of ‘fight or flight’. Seriously – google it! Plus also, yum.
  • Get enough sleep. Being tired always makes everything more difficult, and that’s especially true for mental health problems. Lack of sleep can trigger psychosis and manic episodes in patients who suffer from these things; it makes perfect sense that it can also contribute to chronic anxiety & panic attacks.
  • Cut down on your caffeine. It took me a surprisingly long time to recognise this; one cup of coffee a day is pretty much my limit.
  • Be creative – a diversion like knitting, painting, or – my personal favourite – colouring in, can be just the right combination of soothing and absorbing. Choose something easy – this isn’t the time to push yourself.
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  • Identify the voice of your inner critic – mine is called Julian! You don’t have to go as far as naming yours, but it helped me to learn to separate that negative ‘who do you think you are? What did you do that for?’ voice from my own, honest beliefs. Julian’s kind of a douche, and he needs to quiet down.
  • Get outside. Fresh air + daylight + movement are all good things for your brain chemistry.
  • Accept that you will always feel anxiety. Nobody ever told me this – I thought all my interventions had failed when they didn’t completely ‘cure’ me. Instead, aim for a healthy amount of anxiety, in proportion to the situation.
  • Laugh! Watch your favourite comedians on youtube to release some tension. I also have a Pinterest board for this express purpose.
  • Self-soothe – sensory integration theory says we all have sensory preferences – roughly, things that help us to feel ok, and things that make us feel worse. These are completely individual; for me, crunching boiled sweets, lying under a heavy blanket, having a tight hug and cool fresh air all help ground me.
  • List the evidence. When I’m really certain of a terrible impending doom, I’ve learned to write down all of the cold hard facts. Inevitably I discover that most of my ‘evidence’ is stuff like, they looked at me funny, I have a bad feeling, she sounded a bit abrupt. Prooobbably wouldn’t stand up in court, but I’m not a lawyer, so that’s just a guess.
  • Get some exercise & burn off that adrenaline. A walk is fine – let’s not get carried away here.
  • Medication. It seems remiss to leave this off. Medication can really help, and doctors are generally nice people! If your anxiety interferes with your day to day life, it’s always worth having a conversation with a qualified professional. Dr Google does not count here, sadly – he can’t prescribe the good stuff 😉

What do you do when the ‘mean reds’ hit? What stuff works for you?