Anxiety invades my very soul.
It might seem strange to talk about anxiety as having strength or power but that’s exactly what it feels like. It feels as though it has power over me, seemingly controlling my every thought or action. It’s a part of who I am on many days, and while I hate it with a passion and want to wish it away, over the years I’ve learned that it’s something I need to figure out and not fight.
It may feel like there’s no reason for it, and in many ways that’s true. I have anxiety as a medical condition so I’m more prone to having it, but there are certainly environmental or life factors that increase it’s power.
Not enough alone time.
The good news is that there are self care practices that help decrease its strength too. And since today kicks off Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to share some great tips to help improve mental health and combat stress and anxiety.
Self Care to Decrease Anxiety
#1 Consider what is making you anxious today.
You may be diagnosed as having anxiety but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something specific increasing your own anxiety in this very moment. Think about what’s been going on in your life. Are you getting less sleep than usual? Have you been eating too many carbs and sugar? Are you filled with stress from a change in life: a move, the start of school, a work deadline, etc.
Knowledge is power, and knowing what is happening to increase your anxiety can help you start to take steps to improve it.
#2 Write it down or say it out loud.
When things get extra stressful, it’s therapeutic to write down or tell someone what’s affecting your life. Write down or tell a trusted friend what has been causing your stress. Say exactly how you’re feeling out loud. Putting things into words can often take away their power over you. When I get to a point where I’m stressed or anxious, I tend to tell myself first or write before sharing with someone else. But eventually I know that reaching out to others will help me.
If you don’t have someone in your life who you’re willing to share with, check out these mental health resources. There are even text chat options with some of the crisis lines out there today (like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), which I think can be so helpful to those of us afraid or unwilling to use the phone.
#3 Focus on calm.
There are many ways to focus on calming yourself, like taking a bath, doing deep breathing techniques, reading a frivolous book, sweating it out with the exercise you love, or listening to relaxing music. Taking a step away from the daily grind and doing something relaxing, if even for only 15 minutes, will have a positive impact on your anxiety level.
With the kids still home from school, I’m seeing that my anxiety level has been increasing. I know that for me alone time is so important. I need my space and it’s SO hard to get that space with kids, especially if you have young kids. It’s not as simple as “walking away” some days. They need you, right? But as I mentioned in this post about working from home, I’ve found one little solution that actually helps: Headphones. I don’t necessarily have to walk away or leave the room, but I do need to decrease the sounds that are triggering my anxiety, and wearing headphones reduces those stressful sounds. I don’t just do this while I’m working. I actually use them in the in-between times when their bickering or other stressful sounds get to me.
#4 Focus on sleep.
When it’s time for rest, take it. Often times anxiety will affect sleep quality but bad sleep also increases anxiety. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. So it’s so very important to focus on finding a way to get good sleep. Talk to your doctor about a sleep aid. Try a natural remedy. Use blackout curtains. Turn off electronic devices. Those relaxing things you’ve been doing in #3 should help with this one too. But once it’s time to get up, be sure to get up. See #6.
#5 Focus on eating.
Healthy eating is the key here, and staying hydrated. I’ve somewhat surprisingly discovered that the way I eat affects my anxiety. When I eat a high protein/low carb diet I feel the best I’ve ever felt. My psychiatrist actually agrees that this is a great type of diet for those with mental health struggles because the protein supports an even blood sugar level, while sugar and carbs lead to spikes.
#6 Change location.
When I’m feeling stressed, my instinct is to curl in a ball and stay in bed. As comforting as that sounds, I try to force myself to get up and change my location. Simply changing the scenery really helps. Go into the kitchen and have tea. Go for a short walk. Get out to a local cafe. Try something different. Switch up your routine just a bit. It doesn’t have to be big, even changing it up in your own home will have an impact.
#7 Realize that this is temporary. (Well, this episode is.)
The power of positive thinking comes into play here. Yes, you may have chronic anxiety, but this particular episode will not last forever. It can feel paralyzing wondering if your stress and anxiety will ever end. In the moment, it feels so permanent. It’s hard to imagine feeling “normal” again. But even if you have a diagnosed mental illness, there are ways to improve your state of being. It may not be perfect, but it can get improve and you can be happy.
Once you realize this is temporary, change your internal dialog.
I am not my illness.
My anxiety does not have power over me.
I have power over my anxiety … and I will feel better soon.