Strategies for Coping With Anxiety
By: Desi Rottman
Strategizing your self-care plan prepares you for mental health emergencies.
If you’re interested contributing to our project in any capacity, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
if me is our mental health communication app that provides users with useful tools to track and share your moments with loved ones, manage your medications, and strategize ways to deal with crises. This post focuses on the Strategies section of your if me account. It’s a great place to turn to when you’re having a tough time and need ideas on practicing self-care. Think of it as your “in case of emergency” toolkit for mental health!
Think about the activities or actions that help you when you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or angry, and add them to your if me account. By setting up these Strategies beforehand, you don’t have to think about what will make you feel better in the moment — you can just consult your list and start working to feel better.
If you are having a mental health emergency or are feeling suicidal, please call your local emergency hotline.
Phone a friend
Connecting with others can be helpful in a variety of ways. Whether you’re talking about your feelings or just catching up, the action of reaching out to someone else can make you feel less alone or isolated. Talking through an anxiety or stress can help put some perspective on the situation, making it easier to cope. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone in your life, if me has a list of hotlines and services worldwide to help, as well as Groups you can form with your allies.
It’s always at the top of these kinds of lists, but with good reason. Bringing awareness into your body can really help to center both your brain and your body. For those who are new to meditation, the Stop. Breathe. Think. app is a free resource that will walk you through guided meditations and prompts you to check in with your mind and body both before and after the meditation so you can see how you respond. It’s available for Android and iOS, as a desktop-based website, and even a Slack integration.
Watch a Calming TV Show
When I’m having a hard time calming down or falling asleep, I’ll turn on The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross. The quiet, repetitive brush strokes along with Ross’ soothing voice is exactly what I need when I’m having a tough time and my brain won’t slow down.
Whether you’re using a bullet journal, sketching on your own, or using a guided creativity book like Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, illustrating your feelings can be easier than talking about them. It’s an effective way of releasing things you don’t feel comfortable saying out loud.
Physical activity is a great way to distract yourself as well. Whether it’s something as simple as dancing in your bedroom or heading outside for a run, the endorphins generated will help you perk up. Kickboxing or a similar type of workout is also a great way to get out aggression if you struggle with anger.
Read a Book
Putting your mind in another world is a great way to get out of the anxiety loop in your head. Reading a book also allows you to take a break from social media, which often has negative effects on your mental health.
Knitting or crocheting is a great way to keep your mind and hands busy. The focus required to follow a pattern is distracting, or even if you just want to knit without thinking, you could whip up a scarf before you even realize. You can even learn a simple hat pattern and donate them to cancer patients, which boosts self-esteem as well. Start learning how to knit with this free video from KnittingHelp.com.
If you like animals, Penguin Watch might be your ticket. Scientists have cameras throughout the “Zooniverse” and rely on users to click to let them know if there’s a penguin in the photo or not. It can be mindless, but still rewarding knowing that you’re contributing to research, and take your mind off your feelings for awhile.
Play an Instrument
Whether you’re already proficient or learning for the first time, this is another creative outlet to help you express your feelings. It’s also a great distraction — since it uses a lot of brainpower, it will force your brain to shift its focus out of the negative or destructive feelings. If you’re not a musician, don’t let that stop you — there are apps that let you create music without any instruments or formal training. Try Looplabs or Ambient Mixer to flex your musical muscle.
Drink Some Tea
Not only do a lot of herbal teas have ingredients like menthol, chamomile, and kava that can help you calm down, the ritual of brewing tea can also be very calming. One of my Strategies is a tea meditation — while making a cup of tea, I focus only on those steps. Brewing the water, measuring out the loose leaf, selecting a mug. While the tea steeps, I do a quick guided meditation. When it’s time to remove the tea, I focus on my five senses as I drink the tea: the sound of the kettle, what it feels like in my hands, how it tastes and smells, and the color of it.
Make an Action Plan so You Know What to Do
When all else fails and you feel like you’re at the end of the rope, it can help to have a very specific list of steps to take to get extra help. This Buzzfeed article provides a great start to know where to plan your own strategy for some additional help.
You can keep track of how these Strategies are working for you or share new ones, identify the circumstances that make for difficult and positive Moments, make Groups to share your mental health experiences in a safe setting, and much more of what makes for a healthy life with our web app at if-me.org