Since my previous post about my time in hospital went live, I’ve had quite a few questions regarding my anxiety and how I manage it on a day-to-day basis.
Now, anxiety is a fickle thing. As hard as it is to say, I don’t believe anxiety ever really leaves. Anxiety recovery is more so anxiety management – that is to say, you can manage it to a point where it does not effect you and becomes second nature. But like all recovery, it is something you have to put the time, energy, and practice into working through.
And that’s where I’m at now. I manage it almost like I manage breathing. It gets easier and easier as each day comes and goes. Sure, some days are more challenging than others, but that’s okay, and I don’t berate myself for that. I accept it. I breathe. And I show myself extra compassion by taking a step back from my day and giving myself a break.
Anyway. There are lots of different tips and tricks that help, and by no means am I a professional in this matter, but the following is just a handful of what works for me. Listen to your body, practice, and go with what works for you. But before I get to the tips, I need to stress that it is a learning curve. These are habits, and like any good habit, they take a while to form. So don’t put yourself under pressure to get it right the first, second, or even fifth go! These took me months to really get down, almost a year! But they help, and it’s because of these that I am able to (maybe) give myself a few less ‘grey’ years 😉
So without further ado, let’s get to these tips!
I like to start my day between 6 and 6:30am. I don’t get into my day immediately though. I get up, make myself either a green tea, or a mug of hot water with lemon and ginger, and I sit down (either on my couch or front balcony) and slowly drink. I don’t check notifications on my phone. I don’t reply to emails, or watch TV. I just sit, breathe, and focus on the warming liquid flowing throughout my body. It’s kind of like my own brand of meditation. Only once that’s done do I then go about everything else – the next thing usually being breakfast. Which is another thing. I ALWAYS have breakfast. It’s the best and most important meal of the day, for me. I can’t function without it!
Always be prepared:
Something I personally struggle with is having options. What if I pick the “wrong” one? What if I change my mind? What if things change and I can’t go about my day as I planned? No dramas! I allow myself the room to be fussy. If I’m packing for a short trip somewhere, I will generally pack some extra clothes just in case I feel like wearing something different while away. If I’m out for part of the day and don’t get home in time for lunch? No worries! I make sure I leave the house with plenty of snacks. I also often lay out everything I need for the following day, and prepare anything I may need, so it’s good to go come morning. Being prepared and being organised is the best thing for me. With this, I’ve also learned that the world does not end if plans change! In fact, I now often make plans with the intent of something changing! I prepare myself for changes. Anything to lessen anxiety or stress if things don’t go how I envision.
We often underestimate the power of a good nights sleep. We take it for granted, not seeing its true worth. I am notoriously bad at saying I’ll go to bed early, only to be sidetracked by a zillion things and going to bed much later than intended. So this is something I’m definitely still working on! But I aim for between 7 and 9 hours a night. Any more than 9 and I feel drowsy and lethargic. Any less than 6, and I feel… Well, very similar! With the addition of being insanely grumpy. Sleep is incredible. Not only is it a time machine to breakfast, but it helps our brain process our thoughts and feelings, and it helps heal our entire body reset, restore and replenish so it can function at its optimum the next day.
See the sun:
Good old vitamin D. Amazing for improving mood, and improving calcium absorption (hello, strong bones!), and immune system support. But for me, I find the sun and being outside very grounding. Surrounded myself with nature, feeling the fresh air on my skin, it really centres me and draws me out of my mind, bringing me into the present moment. I either sit on my front balcony, or go for a simple stroll through the park and just take it all in!
Yep. Breathing. Simple, but bloody effective! If I find my thoughts starting to get away from me, I pause, and just take 3 big breaths. Sometimes I close my eyes and lift my hands up as I breathe in and push down as I breathe out, but that’s only if I’m getting really worked up. This helps me vision thoughts of ease coming in, and excessive, over-bearing thoughts being pushed out. Very soothing, and definitely helps me regroup.
First instinct is usually right:
Go with your gut. I am a big believer in that. Your first instinct is usually the best. Woke up feeling like one thing for breakfast, but as you go about your morning beforehand, you think you want something different? Always go with the first option. Go with your gut, because your body truly is smarter than we often give it credit for. I also live by the rule of “if you don’t know, don’t do it”. Your heart isn’t in it.
Talk to yourself:
No, I don’t necessarily mean out loud, although sometimes it does help. I do it a lot more than I’d like to admit! But I mostly mean inward talking. Talk through your thoughts. Challenge them. Are they reasonable? I bet you almost 100% of the time, they will not be reasonable. So sit with them. Imagine them beside you, and recognise that they are not you! So acknowledge that they’re there, but turn away from them, and imagine yourself moving towards reason, towards something better and brighter.
Daily dedicated “me” time:
Everyone needs to have time to themselves, but I find people with anxiety often need a bit more than the ‘norm’. Which is fine! And so I make sure I get that. Look, I try dedicate some extra time every day to myself where I don’t do anything, but that doesn’t always happen. If I can at least get some down time to myself 3 times a week, I’m a happy camper.
Learn to say “no”:
This was a big one for me. I was a chronic “yes”. I had to do everything, please everyone. That’s not realistic and will cause serious burnout. It will also mean you have no time for number 1, aka, YOU. So it’s okay to say no if you need a break. Your mental health and well-being is incredibly important, and if you have an event, or catch up, or just feel like you have too much planned for that week in particular, this is me giving you permission to say no. Reschedule and rest, Only then will you be able to give your best self.
Ask for help:
Why do we live in a world where it’s deemed weak to need help? Everyone needs help at various points throughout their life. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s normal! So don’t be afraid to ask for help. For me, this mostly lies in decision making. I struggle. I’m getting better, but some days I just need someone to come in and make the decisions for me. I need the choice taken away. Which is weird, because usually my anxiety manifests itself in the need for control!
Small acts of bravery:
Battling anxiety and mental illness is an inward struggle, and it really feels like you’re fighting against yourself. But with small acts of bravery, small actions that help you overcome your fears, you really can gain confidence and get back on the horse, so to speak. It just takes practice. Social anxiety was a huge one for me, but I practiced. I pushed myself to go to social gatherings, making sure there was at least one other person I knew there. I wouldn’t always say much, but I would be present, listen, try make more eye contact, and just breathe. It got easier, and now I’m at a stage where I can easily go out to brunch with multiple strangers and enjoy myself! Another example, I’m 25 and do not have my drivers license! I wasn’t confident. I was anxious. I didn’t trust other drivers. I didn’t trust myself driving other people. I was afraid. But I practiced. It was hard, but with the weekly help of my step-dad, I gained confidence, slowly but surely. A few months on and it’s like second nature to me. I’m even going for my license next week! So practice. Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t make perfect, because nothing is perfect, but it does make better. So gather your courage, and remember that life starts outside your comfort zone.
And lastly, another thing that really helped was spending time with my beautiful family. I understand people have differing family situations, but even just the people you consider to be family. But for me, this was my actual family. I spent time with them. I relied on them. I made time for them, and aside from myself, I put them as a top priority. Surrounding myself with their undying love, kindness, and support was of huge influence. Whether they realise it or not, they helped me return to my roots. They reminded me of my core values, of who I am, and what’s really important to me. I could not be more grateful for them, and the help they gave me.
As I mentioned previously, these are the main things I find that work for me. Other ways could be yoga and meditation, listening to music, daily diary entries, or doing a certain task – for me, I like to get creative in the kitchen! But whatever your thing may be, make sure you take the time you need to implement it, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for needing that time and space. But above all else, be kind to yourself. You are not your anxiety, and you are not inferior or weak. And you, like everyone else, deserve a chance at a happy, peaceful existence.