Disclaimer: Let me first start off by saying that those struggling with severe anxiety should probably be working one-on-one with a therapist. While these tips have been helpful for me or others and I am happy to share them, anxiety is highly individualized, and a trained professional who knows you and can give you tailored advice to your particular situation is the best resource.
I have always been ridiculously happy, the kind of happy where overwhelming joy would just hit me in the face at the most random times when some small pretty thing happened in my day. But when I moved to NYC, I began to notice a shift in my mood during the winter months. For the first time ever, I found myself battling depression and anxiety.
As someone who goes to school to help people combat mental health issues, I was lucky to have some tools in my toolbox that I knew might help me regain my former level of happiness. Coupled with medication, these resources have really helped me take control of my mental health so that I’m able to fully access the joy of living once again. Now anxiety and depression play little role in my daily life.
There are far more resources than just the ones I’ll outline today, but these are the ones I’ve found to be particularly helpful for myself or my clients. Not all of these are beneficial for me but I know they are useful for others, so I’ll share them with you today:
1) Practice mindfulness exercises with an app or written task.
I have heard dramatically rave reviews about mindfulness exercises from my peers who use them to calm down. They find mindfulness to be relaxing and helpful in finding an equilibrium as they go about their day. There are numerous audio-equipped mindfulness apps that people have downloaded on their phones so they can practice mindfulness as they take the train to work or prepare to fall asleep at night. If you’re not audio-oriented and would prefer to read about the mindfulness exercise you’ll do before you do it, here’s a few written tasks you can do. (Side note: I personally do not find mindfulness helpful, and while mindfulness works for the vast majority people, some will experience heightened anxiety after an exercise. It just means mindfulness isn’t for you!)
2) Pick up some adult coloring books.
I had never considered this option before until Glenny at Confessions of a Scorpio wrote about her use of coloring books to combat her anxiety. More and more, people are recognizing the benefits of coloring books and how they can help people get through stressful times and situations. Plus, adult coloring books are practically lining the shelves at bookstores everywhere! Shouldn’t be hard to find one. 🙂
3) Set aside “worry time.”
For people who struggle with severe anxiety, the act of setting aside time to worry can be useful. In this practice, the individuals marks out 20 to 30 minutes of the day to worry. If a worrisome thought comes up outside worry time, the individual makes a conscious decision to put it aside until worry time, when they will properly think about and deal with the issue. Some even say, “Stop!” aloud to get their mind off the thoughts. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how worry time can work.
4) Make a “worry list.”
There are various methods to making a worry list, but many people who use this method notice when they are becoming worried about something, write down what is worrying them, and then proceed to answer a few questions about the worry. How likely is it to be the case? Is it in their control? What actions can be taken right away? Going through this helps empower the worrier and lessen the anxiety. Here’s a furthered outline of creating a worry list.
5) Practice yoga or another form of exercise.
Many people swear by yoga. It’s all the rage now because it’s a form of mindfulness with benefits for your body. And you don’t need to join a gym to do it, either. YouTube has plenty of yoga videos you can follow in your own home, like this one geared specifically for anxiety. Personally, yoga is one of those few things that increases my anxiety (but again, this is only true for a small portion of the population, so don’t be dissuaded!). Instead I prefer to do other forms of exercises. Typically I use an cardio machine and during my workout I focus on one object nearby. I pretend I’m putting the things I’m worried about inside that object with how hard I’m pushing my body. It sounds silly, but it helps me get my sweat on, and I feel so much better afterwards.
I hope these tools are helpful to you! Anything you’ve found that works to combat anxiety or worry? Anything on this list you’re hoping to try or you’ve tried before?