Note: I am not a medical professional. This post is only about my personal experience. If this is a medical emergency please seek professional help.
I have always been naturally anxious. A combination of my biology mixed with stressful life experiences has, at times, made my anxiety so powerful it feels like it takes over my life.
The interesting thing is, I didn’t even realize I had anxiety issues at first. I was convinced that it was the world around me that was making my life more difficult. I thought that as soon as my circumstances changed, I would feel better. “As soon as I get a new job I will be happy” … “As soon as I graduate I’ll be happy” … But even when I got to the “light at the end of the tunnel” moment, I didn’t feel better. It wasn’t until I started studying Psychology that I realized my thoughts and feelings may be a little off. After learning more about anxiety and depressive disorders, I realized that I had the power to create a change within myself. I decided to dedicate myself to CHOOSING HAPPINESS as much as I possibly could.
I am not saying that depression or anxiety is a choice at all. I fully believe it is an illness just like any other. What I am saying is that you need to CHOOSE to get better by seeking treatment and changing your life. If you had heart pain every day, you would probably choose to go to the doctor. If the doctor recommended a medication or a diet change, or to increase exercise, you would (hopefully) listen. It’s the same with mental health, you have to put in the work to get better.
I’ve spent a lot of years trying to better myself and become that person I felt I was deep down, underneath my anxiety, but I am nowhere near anxiety free. I’m not an expert but I hope this post can be useful for you!
Tips For Decreasing Anxiety
Here are a few things that have worked for me:
- Identify what your anxiety feels like. Everyone can experience anxiety in a different way. The first step in decreasing your anxiety is to quickly recognize when the anxiety is coming on. Realize your anxiety is only a small part of you and not all of you. By visualizing your anxiety you can stop it from taking over your whole body. Here are some ways to visualize your anxiety:
- When you get anxious, where in you body does this feeling come from? Is it in your throat, your stomach, or near your heart?
- Close your eyes and picture what your anxiety looks like. Does it have a shape or a color?
- Create a detailed picture in your mind of what your anxiety is. This sounds silly but, you can also give your anxiety a name! My anxiety is egg shaped and blue. It lives in my throat and it’s name is Fred. (HEY! NO LAUGHING AT ME!) Giving your anxiety an identity makes it easier to pinpoint your emotions as soon as you start to feel anxious. Once you do this, you can try to shrink your anxiety through breathing or meditation.
- Be in the moment! Mindfulness meditation is an amazing way to calm yourself down and bring yourself into the moment. Try not to think about things that happened in the past or things that could happen in the future. Take a few minutes to acknowledge what’s in front of you, your emotions, and thoughts. This can be as simple as hanging up the phone, turning off the radio, and acknowledging the trees while you drive by. Realize that although you may be anxious because you have so much to do and so little time, it is important to take a step back and try to clear your mind.
- Follow the anxious thought all the way through. Sometimes our mind gets so clouded with anxiety that we forget to think logically. A lot of the time we don’t even know what we are anxious about.
- For example, I used to get so anxious about going to work. I would leave an hour early for work because I was so anxious that there would be traffic or something would happen that would make me late. It got to the point where my hands would sweat the whole drive to work even when I had plenty of time. I started getting stomach aches 3 hours before my shift because I would think about needing to leave soon. I had so much anxiety but I wasn’t scared of anything specific. Until one day I took the time to think through what I was anxious about. What’s the worst that could happen? If I got fired then I would have to find another job. This would be a huge inconvenience but it is not life threatening. I realized I needed to stop caring so much about things I can’t control. No one expects you to be anything more than human, we do not have to be robots.
- I don’t recommend thinking about the worst possible scenario but ask yourself, “What am I really worried about? Do I really need to be worried about this?”
- Make a list. If you’re feeling overwhelmed write down what you need to do. Start by completing the easiest items on the list. Getting more tasks completed will make you feel more accomplished.
- Don’t be afraid of therapy or medication. Talking to a professional was the most life changing thing I have ever done! Forget the stigma about going to therapy or being on meds. It’s time to take charge of your health and your life!
- If you’re a student, your school probably has FREE therapists and/or psychiatrists you can go to. Take advantage of these resources!
- Surround yourself with a good support system. Don’t waste your time on friends who don’t support you or people that add extra stress to your life. If there is a person that makes you more anxious every time you’re around them, then distance yourself. At the end of the day, you have to put your health first.
I know these tasks are easier said then done but I hope you got something out of it!
If you’re looking for something more straight forward — one of my favorite bloggers, Mykenna Jean, wrote a post on her tips for anxiety. They are really easy to try! Check it out HERE