How I Cope with my Anxiety
I have an anxiety disorder; I don't mean the cute kind you see in movies or the kind where I occasionally get nervous before things that should make you nervous like tests or roller coasters. I have the kind where you have debilitating panic attacks, increased paranoia, body shakes, and have a really difficult time sleeping through the night. It's really really hard to make any sort of decision, I cry at everything, and my brain tends to be hyper vigilant all the time, even in the safety of my own house.
I didn't really deal with a lot of anxiety during quarantine; I more so dealt with my depression and just being generally stressed out. There was a little bit of anxiety, but not enough to really really focus too much on it. That being said, I've had some pretty big life events happen in the last month and my anxiety is alive and thriving right now. My PTSD triggers are prominent and in my face, and I'm discovering new triggers I didn't even knew I had.
That being said, I have been in and out of therapy/counseling since 2016 and between that and just coping skills I've discovered on my own, I've managed to use different tools and distractions to make my anxiety a less terrifying event.
Disclaimer: Somedays the anxiety wins and these don't work, but at least I feel like I'm making some sort of attempt to take care of myself lol
So I say coloring, but tbh, I find most coloring books nowadays, especially the adult coloring books, really stressful. I don't know why, but I do. I actually color on my phone with an app called Happy Color, which is a paint by number app. I find it really calming because all I have to do is pick a photo, pick a color at the bottom of the screen, and then tap away. It's all pre-planned, and sometimes when I'm having a hard time breathing or making decisions, it's really nice to have a mindless yet calming thing to distract myself with.
Take a Bath
When I was a kid, my mom took baths all the time to relax and get away from the world. She'd fill up the tub, grab a glass of ice water, maybe call someone, and just escape, well, kind of escape, for a little bit from all of her kids.
This is one of the habits I took from my mother because I find that whether I'm having a bad, emotional, or a really mentally hard day, taking a bath helps me feel more grounded and calm. I like to be a little bit more extra than my mom when I take a bath though. I get out the bath bombs or epson salt, some candles, some white wine, and then turn off the lights and turn on some classical and soothing music. It's a nice little pampering/self-care moment and it helps my anxiety go away a little faster.
I clean whenever I feel really intense emotions (if you ask my husband, he says I'm an angry cleaner), and tend to use cleaning and organizing as distractions from whats going on in the current moment around me. Same goes whenever I have a really bad anxiety attack.
A good example of this is a couple weeks ago, my husband forgot to lock the door behind him on his way out the door leaving for work in the morning. My brain freaked out hardcore. I started shaking really badly, feeling really sick to my stomach, and I had a hard time breathing.
My first thought beside "If I don't get up and lock the door, someone is going to break in and kill me" was "Let's go take a bath and see if that helps us calm down." So after I locked the door, I went into the bathroom to fill up the tub. My bathtub was disgusting, like I can't even remember how it got so bad. So instead of taking a bath with some bubbles and a glass of wine, I filled the tub up with cleaner and bleach and scrubbed the shit out of our bathtub at 6:45 in the morning. It looked amazing when I was finished with it and I managed to get myself through a panic attack by distracting myself while getting the soap scum off the side of the tub.
I don't remember when these came out, but I do remember seeing the commercial for the first time and thinking, "That would be a really cool product if it actually works." They're supposed to have a calming effect and help with anxiety. I really love mine; I got it from Target. I find that it almost forces me to take deeper breaths, helps me feel more grounded and stable, and helps me sleep longer.
The only downside I can really think of to the blanket is that it gets really toasty underneath it and then I throw it off in the middle of the night, hence why I'm still not sleeping all of the way through the night. I think they have cooling weighted blankets, but I just have a regular one. I had to ban my husband from sharing it with me because it just got so stinking hot.
When I was a kid, I had what I called a "sad panda," which was really just a giant stuffed panda I would cuddle with whenever I felt depressed, anxious, or just plain or sad. It was about the same size as me until I was about thirteen; I still have it, but now it's half my size and just sits on the love seat in our study.
In my present life, I'm married with two very needy cats. There is always something to cuddle with at my house. My husband Ryan is my go to if he's at home. He radiates so much heat and he's almost a foot taller than me so whenever I'm feeling anxious and he wraps his arms around me, I just feel warm and safe and comforted.
In the off chance that my husband is not home, our two cats Dobey and Ember love to cuddle and sit on laps and be given attention. They're very empathetic so if I'm crying or having a panic attack, they're in my face or on my lap trying to comfort me. They're also so soft so it's amazing.
Lay on the Ground
This might be weird, but sometimes when I get really anxious or start having a panic attack, if I lay down on the floor, it helps me feel grounded. I could not explain why it helps, but feeling grounded helps me calm down, feel safe, and be able to breathe easier.
Music has been proven to be good for stress and anxiety, and can literally change your mood depending on what type of music you're listening to. I have a playlist on my Spotify called Chillin' that I like to listen whenever I want easy going music to clean to or write to, but I also put it on when I start feeling anxious. It's all music I can move to without getting too crazy. Its good head bopping/toe tapping music, but not quite dance music.
Take a Nap
I feel like I put this in every single advice post I write, but like, naps are magical. If I'm having a really bad mental day, a nap 1) helps the day move along faster and 2) gives my brain some rest from being hyper vigilant. Whenever I take a nap when I'm feeling anxious, I tend to wake up calmer and feeling more rested. However, if I'm having a lot of panic attacks, I tend to avoid taking naps because then I just have nightmares and that does not help at all.
Asking for Help
I've always struggled with asking for help, but I am slowly coming to grips with the idea that there is nothing wrong with getting help when dealing with your brain becomes too much for you to handle on your own. Your friends and family would rather you ask for help and get help then you being miserable or taking your life because your mental health became too much for you to handle by yourself.
I am going back into therapy soon because at the end of the day, the methods in this blog post, while they do help, at the end of the day they're just distractions and aren't dealing with the actual triggers and root of my anxiety. My anxiety is probably the worse it's ever been and while I would love to sit here and write about how well I'm handling it, I'm really not. I'm just distracting myself to get through the day.
I'm a firm believer that everyone should be in therapy because everyone has shit they deal with mentally, but if you're not ready for that kind of commitment yet, be willing to reach out to your friends when things get hard. I guarantee they will be more than willing to come over and love on you until you feel better.
I hope some of these methods help you out if you also have anxiety. If you take anything away from today's blog post, I hope it's the fact that you should never be afraid to ask for help. Everyone deals with some form of anxiety, and some people have it way worse than others and that's okay. Don't feel like you have to tough it out. Each and every one of you reading this are loved and cared for by so many people around you. Don't be afraid to reach out.
Take a shot for those who lost their fight with their anxiety and toast to those who are finally reaching out and getting help.