Since it’s #MentalHealthAwareness month, I thought it would be a good time to share ways I help reduce my anxiety.
But first let’s talk about mental health for a sec. There’s such a misconception about it, right?
“She doesn’t look anxious or depressed…”
“What reason does he have to be anxious? He has everything.”
You see friend, anxiety doesn’t care what you look like, how much money you have, or how big you smile. People are often shocked to find out I have anxiety…like actual anxiety where your heart races and you feel jittery for no apparent reason, even when things in your life are going right. Which disclaimer, you can avoid caffeine, use essential oils, take your vitamins, and exercise and STILL have anxiety. Been there done that.
I live with anxiety every day. I don’t get a say when it makes an appearance. Since I can remember, I’ve had signs of anxiety, but at the time, I didn’t know what it was. Three years ago my anxiety was ruining me and my relationships. I didn’t know how to communicate what I was going through, and I definitely didn’t want people to know I had anxiety. The way I was raised, anxiety & meds either meant you were crazy, didn’t pray enough, or you were just simply weak.
Luckily, I now have Jered. He’s full of grace and tries to be supportive in the best way he knows h9ow. But sometimes he still doesn’t get it when I tell him my “anxiety is bad today”. Like…I can see the confusion on his face that reads, “Why today? You were fine yesterday and everything is going great?”. He tries to understand and also tries to give me a solution to the problem. Although they come from a good place- the solutions make me feel misunderstood and isolated. I plan on sharing with Jered this awesome blog post my lovely, and wise friend Lili wrote on better understanding mental health and the myths surrounding it. I encourage you to share with others too, because it provides insight that will help us be more compassionate to ourselves and others. Check it out here.
Below I’ll be sharing 9 tools I use to cope with anxiety. How ironic is it that as I type this post, my anxiety decided to make an appearance…FOR. NO. REASON. Anxiety is a biotch folks, but you are not alone.
What I’m going to share below is NOT a one-size-fits-all approach. Because, hello…mental health is not one-size-fits-all. I do a combo of these things, some daily, some not. Without these tools, I would not be the person I am today.
9 Tools for Coping with Anxiety
- Therapy: This has been the greatest thing I’ve done for my mental health. My therapist has been my biggest confidant, supporter, believer, and advocate. I just want to note- there’s a difference between seeing a psychiatrist for your meds and going to therapy. I have a psychiatrist, but my therapist is separate. I see her weekly and in those 1 hr sessions, she helps me with decisions, challenges, changing thoughts, setting boundaries, fostering healthy relationships, and provides many other tools. It is by far the best hour of my week. Even when I don’t feel like I’m making progress, I know that I am. Although challenging, I’ve grown more than I have in my entire life in these last 8 months, and it is 100% a result of therapy. I’m thinking about writing a blog post on “How to Find a Good Therapist”. If you’re interested in this, please DM me or comment on this post <3.
- Meditation: This is not a hippie, voodoo thing. It’s simply a way to slow down and step away from the noise. I love guided meditations, ones that prompt me and give my brain somewhere to go. I don’t do these every day, but try to incorporate them into my weekly routine.
- Mindfulness: I studied mindfulness in grad school, but still didn’t fully understand it. Lately, my therapist has taught me that mindfulness is simply acknowledging the thought in my head (some negative, some positive) and not passing judgment. One big way I practice mindfulness is to replace negative self talk with positive self talk. For instance yesterday, I saw rolls in the mirror when I bent over at the gym. I immediately thought “Ew, you need to get rid of that.” Instead of judging it and beating myself up for having negative self talk, I immediately changed it to: “You are strong and your body does so many great things for you.” Then I apologized to myself, and moved on. The whole point is to avoid lingering on the negative thought and quickly move on. Even if you don’t believe it at first, you’ll start to.
- Strong Support System: Family and friends. If your family sucks, friends can be family. Some of our loved ones don’t get mental health just yet, and that’s totally fine. Pass along Lili’s blog. It’s too good not to share, plus communicating about mental health is the best way to illicit change.
- Filtering Social Media: I constantly keep this in check. What am I filling my mind with today? I try to fill my IG feed with people like @thewellnecessities, @lizaherlands_, @ambitiouskitchen, and @restoring_radiance. These ladies shed light on healthy relationships with food, body positivity, mental health, and learning to love yourself.
- Journaling: I recently started this. Yesterday actually. It can be a sentence a day, a word, or even a doodle of your dog. It’s a way for me to process emotions, change, and thoughts.
- Medication: NO SHAME. Therapy + medication has been the greatest combination for me. My anti-anxiety meds took away the mild depression I had a few years ago. It gave me energy I didn’t know existed. I’ve never struggled to get out of bed, but I have felt tired, hopeless, and a lack of motivation. A gentle reminder that depression/anxiety do not look the same in everyone. Medication brought me out of this cycle. It’s been much easier to cope with anxiety now that I’m not fighting depression & anxiety. The meds also help my anxiety, but I find that coping tools help the most.
- Reading Before Bed: Seems silly, but I get my best night’s sleep when I read as opposed to being glued to the TV or my cellphone. I feel like there’s a research article on this somewhere LOL, but I won’t bore you with it. I try to read even if it’s for 5 minutes. I turn on my essential oil diffuser (btw…I’m still unsure if essential oils work or if it’s placebo, but either way…it’s relaxing, so I’ll take it).
- Self Care Acts: Spending extra time in the shower, walking the dogs, going by the water, taking yourself to coffee, or getting your nails done. There’s small acts of self-care that we can do every day. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be glamorous. It can be as simple as giving yourself a hug. Try that right now btw. My therapist made me… and although I felt awkward at first, it was actually kind of nice. I do it occasionally because it makes me feel safe, loved, warm, and releases tension depending on how hard you squeeze ;).