Anxiety. Even reading the word makes me feel slightly uneasy. It's a real thing, something that many people have been diagnosed with or can relate to just because they've felt anxious before. It may come in waves at certain points in your life, like before a big speech in front of a large crowd; or it may be a constant that takes up the majority of your mental and emotional state. You may prefer to stray away from socializing with a group, or you always feel like it’s expected of you to be perfect at anything and everything you do.
I personally have never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but I am most definitely familiar with the feeling of my stomach in knots, the beginning of clammy and shaky palms, and the inability of my mind to concentrate on my tasks at hand. I understand that you cannot simply shoo anxiety away, and it’s not easy to overcome an anxiety disorder as many may ignorantly assume. But I have found some things which have helped me whenever I’m feeling anxious, and I am hoping they might be effective for you, too.
1. Taking my dog for a walk.
For some reason, I like walking my dog early in the morning or really late at night. At those times of the day, my neighborhood is really quiet, allowing me to focus on my dog, as well as myself. I have time to think about what's going on in my life, without much interruption from my surroundings.
2. Keeping a journal or virtual diary.
I know writing your feelings down isn't ideal for many; but for me, since I don't usually voice my emotions a lot, a journal is exactly what I need when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I usually jot down anything that's on my mind, and it's helped me focus more on the more important things in my day. If I don't have pen and paper on hand, I'll pull up my Notes app, or Google Docs, and I'll just type my stress away.
3. Investing in a toy or gadget that relieves physically anxious behavior.
Fidget-spinners may be one of many meme-worthy novelties, but I have actually found them to be pretty useful when it comes to easing my anxiety. There's just something about them that has allowed me to find enjoyment in my restless fingers, which are always tapping or drumming when I'm feeling anxious. Fidget-spinners are the modern alternative to stress balls.
4. Ranting to a confidant who knows me best.
It's definitely good to have someone, whether it be a friend or a family member, who you can turn to in times of stress. I know sometimes I overthink and I feel like I'm bothering them too often, but I've realized that my confidant will never hold any judgment against me. They've been there for me through thick and thin, and I'm thankful that I can immediately tell them anything and everything, especially when I'm at unease.
5. Or simply just talking to friends over text.
From group chats with 10+ friends laughing over accidentally sent drunken texts, to late-night convos with that one person, texting has allowed me to take my mind off my worries for just a moment, in mere seconds. Although I definitely prefer one-on-one in-person interactions to virtual tears and laughter, I can appreciate the fact that I can just send a text when I'm feeling stressed, and receive an immediate response.
6. Taking deep breaths often.
It's weird for me to think that I'm not breathing correctly most of the time, but I've realized how much better I feel once I actually focus on my breathing pattern, and not all the things I need to take care of in my day. Breathe in, 3 seconds. Breathe out, 2 seconds. It really makes a big difference.
7. Exercise in any form.
I hate to say this, but there's never been a time where I've left the gym in a worse mood than I entered it in. I've found that cardio and yoga classes have helped me relieve a lot of my mental stress, especially right before a big test. All the exercise also helps put me to sleep a lot quicker than normal, which I'm grateful for, considering how restless I am most nights.
8. Doing chores (weird, I know).
I used to loathe doing chores (and I still kind of do) but as I grew older, chores began to help distract me from whatever I was currently stressing over. Standing in front of the sink and washing dishes, I didn't think about much besides the fact that I really needed to scrub everything clean or have my mom tell me to wash it again. I think it's just the fact that chores are procedural; they need to be done step-by-step and in a specific amount of time. There's not a lot for me to stress over.
9. Counting in my head or aloud.
When I'm feeling anxious and I need one specific thing to focus on, I count in my head. If I'm alone, I might count aloud, or I'll just mouth numbers. Kind of like counting sheep in order to fall asleep, counting when I'm not feeling completely myself is just to help me focus on one thing at a time. It gives me time to breathe as well.
10. Listening to music I love.
This is a "duh" kind of suggestion but my favorite music will always put me in a better mood. Often times you'll see me walking around with both my earphones in, blaring music so loudly you might be able to figure out what song I'm listening to. I have a habit of wanting to drown the world out when I'm feeling anxious.
11. Watching the sun set.
Pretty sure you were waiting for me to mention sunsets at some point. Well, here it is. Watching the sun set, seeing the clouds turn yellow, then orange, shadowed by pink and purple, has helped me even in my most tense of times. If you look past the fact that environmental contamination actually creates beautiful sunsets, you'll see the symbolism of sunsets–there will never be a day that the sun won't set. It is consistent, yet ever-changing; no sunset ever looks the same. This idea has helped me continue on in my life, no matter how anxious I feel throughout it.
Hopefully, this list has helped give you an idea or two of what to do whenever you feel anxious.