We all have anxiety from time to time. Maybe we are about to take an important test or start a difficult conversation with someone, and we get those “butterflies”. This is normal. However, if you are someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD), like me, the symptoms can plague you on a daily basis and start to interfere with your life.
Hopefully you can recognize the signs that anxiety is creeping up on you. It can feel different for everyone. For me, my thoughts start racing a million miles a minute, and I may start feeling short of breath. Here are the top six ways I have learned to calm myself, and I hope you can use them too.
If you can’t get a full breath don’t try to force it. What is more important is focusing your mind on breathing. Close your eyes and listen to your breath, feel your chest going up and down. This brings you back to the present moment, not in whatever thoughts your anxiety wants you to dwell on. If the thoughts are still there that’s ok, just accept them and keep breathing.
2. Write stuff down.
If you are frustrated with someone, write down your thoughts, then you won’t have to keep going over and over it in your head. When you are ready, throw it away and let the frustration go. If you feel desperation, journal your thoughts and feelings. My favorite thing to write down is a gratitude list at the end of each day. Every day try to focus on simple things like “I love when my dog puts his head in my lap.”
3. Walk outside.
Exercise in general does wonders for anxiety, no matter how you do it. I think something extra soothing happens when we take walks outside, however. Focus on the fresh air and nature around you, even if it’s just the grass outside your office building or school. As a safety precaution, stay alert and bring a friend with you if you can.
4. Talk to someone.
Just a simple conversation with a classmate, friend, coworker, or family member can take your mind off of whatever is bothering you.
5. Savor the little things.
This goes back to the gratitude list. Try to think of something simple that makes you really content. For me, on rainy days I love to have a clean house and light candles and open the windows so I can listen to and smell the rain. I may read a book or cuddle with my pets or watch a movie and just savor the day. Nothing could be simpler, but nothing could make me happier in those moments.
6. Blast a feel-good song and belt it.
If you see me in my car rocking it to Katy Perry’s “Roar” you’ll know why.
There are as many coping strategies for anxiety as there are people with the disorder (that’s a lot!). The important part is recognizing your anxiety and your own methods for dealing with it that work for you. Just acknowledging these patterns and defenses is a tremendous step in the right direction. Just keep going.
Danielle, 25, is a lifelong Redding resident. She loves reading, anything creative, and spending time with family. A people person with a compassionate heart, Danielle has always held jobs involving kids and teens, although now she’s trying something new by working with the elderly at River Oaks Retirement Living. After battling with depression, anxiety, health issues, and surviving the loss of her cousin to suicide, she is ready to talk about her experiences and help others who may be struggling too. You can follow her on Twitter @danielleddore.