Nightmares claw at the fringes of daylight and walk alongside me down the street, at the grocery store, while I’m working. Oxygen becomes a precious gift and not an every day commodity. This is what anxiety feels like to me. Just like many other disorders, anxiety is an invisible ailment. While someone may not advertise their daily struggle, it does not make the mental, emotional, and physical side effects any less severe.
Everyone experiences their anxiety differently. My own experience is personal and I share it to try and convey what anxiety could mean to someone. While I was in college, there was a time when anxiety almost exclusively controlled my life. I was ill, I was undiagnosed, I was scared, and somewhere between midterms and my mother’s heart attack anxiety crept into my life and never left. But over the years I’ve learned a couple of tricks that have helped me cope and maybe, just maybe, they’ll help you too.
1. Lists- If you haven’t noticed from my blog, I have a thing for lists (2014 booklist, Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Bride, etc.) I find that there is something calming about laying everything out there and then slowly checking it off. There are tons of ways to create and organize lists. Find what works for you! As I finish tasks, I feel some control over my world returning. It gives me agency and agency is power.
2. Dive into a Good Book- Books are not for everyone but for me they are magical, and if you haven’t tried it I strongly recommend it. I have lived hundreds of lives without ever leaving the comfort of my couch. It’s amazing and incredible. Words paint and build new, strange, and familiar places the reader can touch, smell, and see. While in the middle of an attack it may be hard to focus at first–don’t give up. Breathe in the moment and continue to concentrate on the words. With a bit of time they may come into focus and allow you to escape.
3. Friends & Family are Key- Don’t keep it bottled up inside. If you’re scared, angry, depressed, confused tell someone. You don’t need to know the why, where, or what of your emotions. By confiding in someone you trust, you’re giving them insight into the crazy clockwork going on in your head. And they might just have something wise to say that will make you feel better.
4. Create a Go-To Habit- Sometimes I chew gum, like a cow, really hard. And it really helps. It annoys people around me, but it helps. Now, obviously, I can’t really do that at work. It looks a tad unprofessional, so I substitute by sucking on sunflower seeds. I’ve picked up these habits trying to avoid the more detrimental anxious habits like butchering my cuticles. My poor nails just don’t deserve it. Also, the comfort of a habit helps me to relax and focus on “the moment” that cookie monster mentions. I’d beware of making cookies your go-to, though. In all seriousness, food crutches can be just as destructive for your mental and physical well-being as other anxious habits. While cookies might give you that happy sugar rush in the moment, you might wind up feeling sloth-like later, which probably won’t help your anxiety when you need to get things done.
Have your own tips for dealing with anxiety? Share them!