Do you remember a time when certain songs or items of clothing were the “in” thing? Well, nowadays it seems as though anxiety has become just as, if not more, popular. Everyone has experienced it at some stage, some have found ways to live with it, and others are desperately trying to figure out how to make it through the day. I used to fit into the last category, but have successfully moved on to cope with it. Being anxious isn’t fun when prolonged – if you have experienced it, you know how debilitating it can be. If you read my previous post of what anxiety feels like to me, then you know that I also get physical symptoms if I don’t address the underlying problems.
However, there are ways to conquer that feeling and use it to your benefit. Here are some ways that I have been able to overcome the challenges and live a normal life.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and can only give advice based on my personal experience. Make sure to speak to a professional if you are experiencing long bouts of anxiety.
Breathe until you aren’t as anxious
Do you have an apple watch that keeps reminding you each hour to breathe? Why on earth would a living being need such a reminder? Don’t we do it naturally already? Well, it’s silly to say just stop and breathe, but sometimes we need that reminder.
In isolation, certain tasks are simple, but when bunched together and muddled, each task can feel impossible. When I am anxious, even the simplest things like needing to take a shower can feel so daunting.
Studies have shown that anxiety has a direct impact on your breathing. Some people feel breathlessness while others experience increased breathing and may start hyperventilating. Of course, this isn’t a “one size fits all” sort of reaction, but breathing exercises can be applied regardless of which end of the spectrum you fit into. My husband was the one who introduced triangle breathing to me, and it has worked wonders. This is basically breathing in deeply for ten seconds, holding your breath for ten seconds followed by exhaling for ten seconds. Rinse and repeat.
Write down what is making you anxious
Writing your problems down doesn’t have to be poetic, or grammatically correct. You can start off by simply scribble a few words on paper to understand just what you are feeling. Usually, when I start out writing how I feel, I will have words like “scared”, “worried” “unconfident”, etc on the page in front of me. Once all of the emotions are on the paper, I will then move on to write sentences.
“I feel worried about the exam because I didn’t study”.
“I don’t feel confident about the new job”.
“I’m scared to confront my colleague”.
As a writer, of course, this is one of the best ways for me to get any weight off my chest. It helps me quantify the problem and look at it as something straightforward. Even if you aren’t a writer, I would urge you to do this too because it can definitely be therapeutic. When you put your problems on paper, it reduces them from mountains to just a few words. Also, once they are sorted in sentences, you can then move on to writing solutions to each problem/ feeling.
This is usually the next (and most crucial) step after identifying what is bothering you. It isn’t enough to just state that you are nervous about an exam. What will you do to install confidence in yourself? If you are anxious because you are overwhelmed with all the things you need to get done, this will definitely help. When I write my lists, they are usually “to do” lists that help me rank things in order of priority. My list could look like this:
1. Study for the exam
2. Write a new blog post to schedule for Saturday
3. Take the dog to the vet for vaccines
Anxiety from having too much on your plate is usually caused by chaos. Putting everything in a list and ranking them according to priority can definitely help you feel more in control. Also, as you go along, crossing things off your list will definitely give you a sense of accomplishment.
Give yourself a pep talk
Ok this one is good – stand in front of the mirror, clear out your throat and say “hey, you sexy beast!” three times. Now click your heels together and blow yourself a kiss. There, anxiety gone! Isn’t that what they say we should do? Well, affirmations or a pep talk don’t quite look or sound that way.
Giving yourself a pep talk doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stand in front of a mirror chanting positive words. The point is to tell yourself you can, instead of entertaining the negative thoughts that convince you otherwise. If you are struggling to understand something in your coursework, you won’t learn it any faster if you tell yourself that you can’t. Believing in yourself is already half the battle. Getting into the right mindset will definitely change your ability to perform.
Cut back on the caffeine
It’s caffeine, I get it, and it’s my lifeline too… until it isn’t. If you suffer from anxiety, the worst thing you can do is to compound that feeling with a good old dose of caffeine. Like everything else, there is a time and a place for caffeine… Didn’t get enough sleep? Have a coffee. Catching up with friends? Have a coffee date. It’s cold outside? Have some green tea… But when you are going through a stressful period, I would not recommend consuming a lot of caffeine.
When it boils down to it, caffeine is found in more places than just your daily coffee. If you consume energy drinks, you are most likely consuming way too much caffeine than is recommended. Instead, have some dark chocolate, eat fruits or treat yourself to something sweet so you can get that extra boost of energy. Of course, sweets don’t provide lasting energy, but as someone with anxiety, I would pick that over caffeine any day!