In every sense of the word, I am a planner.
I plan for vacations. I plan for holidays. I plan for girls night. I plan for fun.
The feeling I get from opening my new planner at the start of a year and reducing my day into tiny, aligned bullets is euphoric. And also strange.
Sometimes planning can be a very useful aspect of my personality. I will have everything organized, checked-off, and perfectly ready to be presented, sheet protectors and all, while some people have yet to even get out of bed.
It can also be an incredibly annoying part of my personality. I’m certain that my boyfriend will lose it if I ask him one more time if he would like a packing list so he can prepare for his trip.
It’s an asset and a curse to have a labeled pantry system but to also, simply put, have zero-chill.
I find it very difficult to relax and simply be present in the moment. To be honest, while I’m watching Family Guy reruns with you in your living room, I’m really planning out which present will be best suited for my second cousin next Christmas. My mind wanders, and it takes a lot of focus and effort to bring it back to the here and now. But there is a method to my madness, I believe that I plan as much as I do in an effort to curb my anxiety.
I face-off with anxiety daily, and I’m not the only one.
We are living in what I like to call “The Age of Anxiety.” We all have it. We all have it A LOT.
And very few of us have any real mechanisms to combat this. We just suffer through it and pretend it’s not happening.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 18% of the population, most of which is young adults, yet ⅔ of that group do not receive treatment, teenagers, even less so.
Now, I am not even venturing to say that everyone who experiences rapid breathing or nervousness should seek therapy for the possible diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, of which there are many. What I am saying, however, is that young adults, especially those in their early 20s, millennials, as they are typically coined, are facing extreme bouts of anxiety and stress and judging by my interactions with my peers, it’s heavy, all-encompassing, and it is accompanied by a bleak mentality that there is very little that can be done about it.
It has become the new normal.
As someone who has suffered from extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and intensely stressful episodes, here are a few strategies that I implemented in my daily life to combat these feelings:
I cannot stress this one enough. Preparation and success are proven to go hand-in-hand. Planning ahead and setting realistic goals can be a relevant and useful tool for any aspect of your life. Try a checklist, a bullet journal, or splurge on a really nice planner to carry with you throughout the next year.
This is where I purchased mine: http://www.passionplanner.com
Meal-prep every Sunday for the week ahead. Pick out your outfit the night before work. Buy the birthday gift a few weeks before the party. Pack a gym bag with multiple sets of workout clothes. Keep jumper cables and a first-aid kit in your car.
Whatever it may be, an enormous load of anxiety-causing stress comes from a lack of preparation and/or procrastination. Plan for what is within your control so that you can better deal with what is outside of your control.
2. Wake Up Earlier
Wake up one hour, thirty minutes, hell, ten minutes earlier. Even something that slight can make a profound difference on your outlook towards the day. Have some you-time before work. This may mean watching the news, cooking a nice breakfast, going for a run, or sitting in a pile of blankets atop your bed. You won’t have to rush. You won’t be late. You’ll be ready. Everyone wants to start the day ready.
We’ve all heard this one before and typically, it’s the first one we brush off. It’s a shame, really, because it’s quite possibly the most effective strategy on this list.
Get a gym membership. Walk around the block. Turn your speakers up, and dance around your living room. Buy a Fitbit and track your steps. Regular exercise releases feel-good endorphins in your brain and also keeps your body processing correctly and looking healthy. Good thing your gym bag will already be packed.
4. Make Time for Yourself
We live in a society where it is frowned upon to say “no.” We feel obligated to say “yes” to so many things. I think of a person spinning plates on their hands, their feet, their knees, everything is running smoothly, adding more and more plates, until, inevitably, there are too many and they all come crashing down.
Remember, everything in your life is there because you said “yes” to it in some form or fashion. Sometimes it’s okay to say “no” to attending the seminar on workforce development and writing the lesson plans and babysitting for the friend-of-a-friend and attending the dinner party. Not only is it okay, it’s important.
Make time for you, whatever that means to you. Make time for fun and adventures and sleeping in and Netflix-binging. Make time for visiting your friends and your family and the people who lift your soul up and make you laugh until your stomach hurts. Take a day off work because you simply need it and allow yourself the freedom to not feel bad about it. You owe it to yourself.
5. Therapeutic Hobbies
This does not include checking Instagram, and comparing yourself to every other person’s station in life.
In fact, this does not include anything that requires even one moment of self-defeating behavior or exhaustion.
This can range from playing guitar to painting to cooking to joining a kickball league.
I’m biased towards creating handheld items simply because when I’m done, I have a relic that I can hold and admire from afar. My most recent hobby has been hand lettering and calligraphy, and I’d highly recommend it to the crafty types.
6. Save Money
Money is a stress breeding ground. Quit being broke. Start a budget. There are so many free apps out there now strictly for money-management, such as Mint or GoodBudget.
You can also try the 50/20/30 rule for saving money. The idea is that 50% of your income is likely going to bills, student loans, and other essentials already. Your next step should be to immediately set aside 20% of your monthly income into your savings account. Pay yourself first. Then use that last 30% for personal expenses, items you fancy. It works.
7. Vitamins/Healthy Eats
I’m a huge fan of meal-prep to eat healthy, because, let’s face it, you would not be stopping at Panda Express nearly as much if you already had a cooked, healthy meal in your fridge ready to go.
Louisiana readers: I use Purposeful Prep for fresh, healthy, deliciously-prepared meals at an affordable price.
Vitamins can also be beneficial for your overall health. I’ve recently tried HUM vitamins sold on Amazon and at Sephora with positive results. Do your research and find what works best for you.
8. Cleaning Routine
I live and breathe by the “Messy Bed, Messy Head” motto. If your surroundings are messy, it is likely that you are feeling cluttered mentally, as well.
I am not suggesting that you borrow your mother’s rubber gloves and start scrubbing the walls and vacuuming the ceiling fans, unless, of course, that’s how you want to go about it.
Wash the sheets once a week. Do the dishes each night right after you eat. Take out the trash instead of creating a Jenga war with your roommate on who will make it topple over first. Seek the sanitary, and then go forward as you wish.
9. Get Out of Your Head
Distraction is a wonderful tool for dealing with anxiety. Do something to get out of your own head. This may mean meditation, journaling, meetings friends at the bar, or taking your dog to the dog park. Be active and engaged. Boredom leaves a whole lot of room for worrying to creep in.
Try the app Stop, Breathe, & Think for guided meditations.
I put this one last for a reason. It is not because I do not find it important. In fact, I think it is extremely beneficial for people to have a professional to talk to to help them work through their problems, and develop an understanding for behaviors and coping strategies for dealing with life’s demands. I have seen the fruits of this in so many.
Unfortunately, this can be expensive, time-consuming, and is not always a readily available option for a twenty-something. If you find that your anxiety is crippling and simply too much to cope with, finding an experienced therapist in your area may be the solution.
Try them out. I hope they work for you. If not, may you discover some of your own methods on your path to peace.
You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are human.