7 Things I Do to Help Ease My Anxiety
This post is inspired by @benjamin_foley — ‘10 Things I Had to Give Up to Heal My Anxiety’
The main difference between my post and Benjamin’s is the word ‘Heal’. I’m not there yet. You know that cut that never seems to scab? That cut that, out of nowhere, starts to bleed again? I’m like that. The wound is still fresh and occasionally still leaks a bit.
I know the exact time when I started noticing my anxiety. It was around the same time I noticed my depression — no surprise there! Depression isn’t usually far behind — breathing heavily, repulsive, clinging on and weighing you down. Depression is a bitch. Hanging around in the shadows, waiting for Anxiety to appear before swaggering over. Anxiety is even worse. And loves it.
I won’t bore you with my story. After all, you’re here to find out how I (try to) cope. Maybe you’re struggling yourself and looking for help. Maybe not. Either way, we’ll skip the sob story.
Imagine a Swiss army knife. One that fits neatly in your pocket — it doesn’t get in the way. When you need it, it’s there. Easily accessible and able to solve a whole host of problems. This is how I view these 7 steps. They are my tools. They may not work for you — after all, everyone is different.
So let’s get to it.
7 Things I Do to Help Ease My Anxiety
Now, remove that image out of your mind. You know the one — sitting on the floor, legs crossed, arms at a 90° angle, fingers touching, humming. That’s not how people meditate.
I’m not a professional in mental health. I’m not even going to pretend to know what I’m talking about. I don’t know the benefits of meditating. But I know it works for me.
At the start, I would meditate for 10 minutes every day. 10 minutes. That’s all. Now I just use it as a tool as and when I need it.
If I can feel anxiety creeping over, taunting me, I’ll find a quiet place and take a couple of minutes.
It’s so hard at first. You feel silly. You worry if you’re doing it right. ‘Is this working? I don’t feel any different’, often bounces around your head.
Anxiety has a loud voice — like the annoying kid at school or colleague at work that just never shuts up. But if you really want to shut it up, you need to be consistent and dedicated to your meditation. Dipping in and out at the beginning leaves your mind boggled and confused.
There are plenty of apps out there to help you get started. I use @Headspace. But it’s important to try a few and find what works for you.
Or should I say ‘Reduce Alcohol’. Anxiety loves a drink — the more the better! The more you drink the easier anxiety finds it to take over.
At the beginning, I stopped completely. I become scared of alcohol!
Silly I know, but it made me uncomfortable, paranoid somewhat. I was suspicious of others who were drinking and sensed unforeseen danger.
Like Benjamin says in his post, it is an eye-opening experience. The response you get when you say you’re not drinking is baffling! People seem to think you’re judging their lifestyle — like you’re better than them. Ridiculous.
But, of course, anxiety is there. Piggybacking on any judgement coming your way and making you feel worthless.
I have recently started having the occasional tipple again and enjoying it!
I’ve been limiting myself and sticking to it persistently — the benefits have been huge. I have been feeling much better when out in bars/pubs and have realised how healthy it is to maintain clarity whenever I can.
I invest more time into alcohol now — seeking out a bottle specifically, not to get drunk, but for the taste. Choosing the right one to go with a meal. Savouring it. I respect it more.
#3 Social Media
Like alcohol, I have limited my time spent on social media. I even deleted Facebook (for a while).
Like a maze, one wrong turn and you can be lost for hours. Sitting there, nonsensically scrolling through social media feeds. Starting with Facebook, over to Twitter, then on to Instagram, then back over to Facebook — just in case I missed something. It’s a sure-fire way to make yourself feel anxious and depressed.
Comparing yourself to others. Wishing you had their lives. Wishing you were out in the sun, picking strawberries like Sharon and her fella. But instead, you’re sitting inside. Silent. Judging yourself.
Facebook for me is the worst offender. These are people I know. Friends, colleagues, family — it’s too close to home. You have a connection, it’s easier to compare your lives.
With Twitter and Instagram, it’s a little different. These are people you choose to follow — sometimes inspirational. As @DevlinOfficial says;
“You just gotta do you. Don’t watch what they do. To yourself be true.”
#4 Fresh Air
For me, outside become this daunting place. The front door was an obstacle. Like a bouncer, it was big, scary and it wasn’t letting me anywhere near where I wanted to be. To get out I had to approach it with confidence and only then would it step aside.
Once I got out and breathed a deep breath in, I felt free. Free of any anxiety. Free from the jail my house had become. I didn’t have to go anywhere—the garden was far enough! The sound of birds and even traffic was a welcome change—I’d got so used to the voice in my head.
I would cut the grass or sit there with a book and for an hour or so I felt like the ‘old me’. Carefree.
Leading nicely on from Fresh Air is Exercise.
Walking. Jogging. Sprinting. Cycling. Swimming. Cardio. Weights.
Feeling your heart beat fast is a welcome reminder that you’re alive!
I try to notice the sensation of my feet thumping the ground, the rhythm of my breathing and the wind on my skin. Adding mindfulness to my routine allows me to interrupt the flow of constant worrying thoughts.
I started jogging. Only a mile or so at first but I soon become addicted. Addicted to the feeling. I was soon pushing myself further and further and it felt good. When I run I am me—there‘s no anxiety. I feel an enormous sense of well-being.
And it isn’t only whilst I’m running. For the rest of the day, I feel energetic, I sleep better (‘cause I’m shattered) and feel more relaxed and positive.
But remember, we’re all different. I like jogging, but you may only feel like going for a stroll. That’s fine! Introduce mindfulness to that stroll and before you know it half ’n’ hour has passed and you’ve not had one anxious thought.
Start small. It’s the best way.
This list is in no particular order, but if it was, talking would be at the top.
For some reason, when you suffer from mental health, you feel embarrassed. Sometimes shame. You don’t brag about it like when you break a bone. You close off from the world, thinking; if people knew about my struggles they’d laugh. They would no longer want to be my friend. They’d see me as weak.
It’s all rubbish.
Talking is the one thing I recommend more than anything.
I’ve never been one to shy away from my emotions. If something’s wrong I talk about it. Anxiety, however, has this way of silencing you.
But the more you talk about it. The more people who know about it. Anxiety seems to back off. It becomes weaker, less in control and fears showing itself.
I talked to my girlfriend at first and then my Mum. My Mum struggles with her own demons and anxiety is something she’s had to battle all of her adult life—so she knew the struggle was real. I built up a good support network of people and quite often, people who took no shit (like my girlfriend).
Anxiety is a bully and belittles you. The best way to counter this is to find a bigger bully—someone who can stand up for you. Someone who forces you to fight back.
Talk. It makes a huge difference & leads nicely onto my next tool…
If you feel like you can’t talk to anyone at home or any of your friends, then I highly recommend therapy. You have to talk, and a stranger is the perfect place to start.
I first went to group sessions which ran for 4 weeks.
Being in a room full of people, of all ages, going through the same thing as you is a great feeling. It lifts your mood and makes you realise you aren’t alone. I looked forward to going. It was my safe place where people fully understood me—I didn’t have to pretend everything was ok. We would share coping mechanisms and learn about Changes 12 Steps, which I’ve outlined below.
- Admit you’ve got a problem. (The hardest step)
- Take action.
- Trust and cooperate.
- Get the power.
- Use and develop wellness tools.
- Begin personal evaluation.
- Cultivate healthy thinking.
- Cultivate healthy behaviour.
- Realise that feelings may not be facts.
- Get on with your life.
- Give it time.
- Pass it on.
I guess I’m on no.12, but I’ll never forget the other steps.
After the 4 weeks come to an end I felt lost. I missed having that output and although I was speaking at home it somehow wasn’t the same.
I then enrolled for 1–2–1 sessions which would last for 12 weeks (or until they were satisfied with my progress). These sessions helped enormously.
Without therapy, I don’t know where I’d be. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.
The above list is mine. Feel free to use it, adapt it, ignore it, but it works for me and I’m feeling great.
It’s hard to make changes to the way you live your life and it’s even harder to stick to them. But do not be afraid to reintroduce certain things if you feel ready.
Anxiety is a battle that can be won. It’s hard and a lot of the time you feel like you’re losing but keep fighting. It will eventually start to weaken.
Finally, if you’d like to talk then please feel free to get in touch—I’m always happy to help.
Take it easy and good luck!