Tools You Can Use To Overcome Anxiety Right Now

I’m an anxious person by nature. You?
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UPDATED April 13, 2017: new video at the bottom of the post! I’m an anxious person by nature. I recently suffered from a period of depression and anxiety that stemmed from serious vitamin deficiencies (you can read that article here), but anxiety is part of the framework of who I am. I’ve always worried about something bad happening to my loved ones when they leave the house, I can send obsessive text messages to make sure someone is okay, and facing my own day is a challenge in and of itself. I sometimes think of anxiety as different kinds of monsters that follow me around the house and down the street.

Being paralyzed by fear, or the unknown, or a physical discomfort is so debilitating – it makes normal things, like taking a walk, or grabbing dinner with friends difficult at times. Not every day is bad, that’s for certain, but go through a period of stress, and the inflamed mind can take its own vacation into a land of discomfort, a place it knows very well.

I’ve been learning and practicing different tools to help me overcome my moments of anxiety for a while now. The following list is certainly not extensive or complete, but simply my go-to toolbox when my mind starts to race and I’m feeling like I could use support beyond just a tight squeeze from my Mom. Some of these things are quite obvious, and some I’ve picked up in therapy.

Stop “What IF-ing”

My fabulous therapist told me a long time ago that I do a lot of “what if-ing”. Thinking about anything that is not the here and now is essentially that. Say the words “what if” out loud followed by some thoughts and you’re doing it. In essence, this is anxious worrying about things that have not materialized and are simply conceptual. It can apply to literally anything: finances, sleep, picking your kids up from school, relationship woes, etc. Instead of “what if-ing” all you have to do is replace the “if” with “is”. Say the words “what is” out loud now and follow them up with exactly the position you’re in. What is real, what is now, what is around you. For example, if I can’t sleep and my mind begins to wander into what my schedule looks like the next day, essentially turning on my brain power and putting sleepiness to the side, I try to get into the headspace of “what is” instead of “what if”. What is really happening right now is simple: I’m just laying in bed. The moment is now. Being present, and not worrying about the future or fantasies does something to stem the anxious thoughts that flood through a stressed-out mind.

Create a Scheduling Pattern That Works For You

Whether it’s by journaling, using a to-do list app like Evernote, or leaving a Post-It next to your bed, create a small to-do list for the next day. As someone who works from home and has a fairly open schedule, just tackling the day is one of the hardest things for me to do. It sounds really simple – just go be a human, but for someone with anxiety and free-time on their hands, it’s a problem. I’ve found that creating just a small list of things I’d like to accomplish the next day can be incredibly powerful in releasing your mind from thoughts about what’s to come (essentially “what if-ing”), allowing you instead to ease into a nice book, TV show, or the attention of your partner. 

This list does not have to be stuck to. The exercise of getting your thoughts out, and providing yourself with some structure to follow, is what’s really helpful here. I’ve woken up plenty of mornings without a clear feeling on what to do with myself. It can be pretty painful to be honest. It should be easy to get up and get moving, but it isn’t for everyone.

For me, taking my dog to the dog park for a morning romp, followed by exercise and a steam bath are how I like to start my days. Creating behavioral patterns helps me to get up and go like most people do. Knowing I have a responsibility to my pet to get out the door and face the day is a great way to avoid morning thoughts of discomfort.

Do One Thing Every Day You Don’t Want To Do

This exercise is new to me, but lets face it, there are of course things in our daily routines we don’t want to do. Recently the lightbulb went off in my mind, allowing me to see that the things that I don’t want to do are generally tied into some sort of social anxiety. I don’t love the idea of going to the gym, because being around a bunch of strangers I’m not brave enough to speak to can feel daunting. However, I recognize now that when I get that feeling of “no” I must, at least once a day, turn it into a feeling of “yes”. I don’t want to go out to the dinner with friends that’s been on the books for weeks? It would be easier to sit at home alone? Bingo, but I MUST do it. Getting into the habit of driving yourself through your discomfort to your destination, at least once a day, can provide relief on the other end. Being able to recognize that feeling of “no” as anxiety, instead of just sitting in it, can help lead you to make positive changes for positive change.

Meditate

Feeling anxious? Not feeling anxious? Cool, either way. Have you started meditating yet? I learned the practice of transcendental meditation 3 years ago, and though I don’t do it everyday, I certainly rely on it when times are tough. There are a few apps I like for guided meditation – my favorite being Headspace – that take the hard part out of focusing inward and releasing your body of stress. That’s what meditation does – the stress literally seeps out of your brain and your body, leaving you feeling much more aware, in control of your emotions, and in control of your thoughts. Meditation requires you to train your thoughts to a certain degree, so you can connect the dots with how it helps with anxiety as well.

This is just a short list of things that help me. Do you have anxiety? What helps you when you’re feeling stressed out? Leaving your thoughts in the comments!

xx

L

Image via CargoCollective

12 comments
  1. As someone who has suffered with stress and anxiety almost my entire existence, I’ve started researching ways to decompress and reduce those feelings of overwhelm. I stumbled across a fabulous technique called Emotinal Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping! I can not express just how much this has helped me. From the very first session of Tapping Meditation I experienced an incredible emotional shift that left me feeling calm and relief and I’m now happy to say that I’m an advid user of EFT. Please please please research and see for yourself just how life changing and life altering EFT is.
    ❤️

  2. i am someone that struggles with anxiety daily. I am a college student and at times it becomes crippling. Just reading this article made me feel better, knowing someone like you has similar what if thinking that I do. This was greatly appreciated along with the tips.
    L&L
    Courtney

  3. It is so comforting to read something so honest like this. I have suffered from anxiety for my entire teen and adult life, and sometimes its just overwhelming and paralyzing. The description you gave of wanting to stay home and not socialize, is totally me. Sometimes just getting out the door is all I need to get the ball rolling. I’m currently going through a period of huge anxiety, having recently suffered my second miscarriage in six months. I’m paralyzed, I’m overwhelmed. I have so many feelings, I don’t know how to express them. Thanks for the tips. Hopefully I can utilize some of them to help.

  4. Meditation saved me from myself, and allowed me to completely turn my life around when I was going through a period of crippling anxiety.
    The mind is a very powerful thing!

    This post is amazing on so many levels.

  5. Hi Lo- I love this post and commend you for raising the topic of anxiety and depression against the stigma of ‘mental illness’. You are so right in the fact that so many people struggle with this and yet, it’s a subject that remains in the dark. Your post a few weeks ago on your 2016 Depression was truly inspiring as well and I have had additional lab work done to try and find the root cause of my anxiety. As someone who has just recently experienced continued crippling anxiety and panic attacks for the first time, I’m extremely overwhelmed and often feel hopeless that this is something that will live on within me forever. I would be interested to know any books, people, doctors, etc. that inspired you through your healing process. Hoping that this topic turns into a series as I think it would be so beneficial for your followers and anyone suffering from anxiety and depression. Keep going- you are great!

  6. This post is so great along with your recent honest post about your struggles in 2016. I am on a very similar journey to trying to feel better and doing it naturally. In the past 6 months my anxiety woke up with avengence including terrifying panic attacks. Many people just said go to your doctor they will prescribe you something, but I have been set on trying to find natural ways to help myself fell better. I have gotten blood tests and found a doctor to work with one balancing things out. I have gotten back into yoga, started meditating, and am looking into what good may be causing symptoms as well. I am so excited to be on this journey and get some answers, although at times it is very overwhelming. It is so nice to see people speaking out regarding these issues and finding success in natural remedies rather than just medicating. Our bodies are so powerful if we can balance them and fuel them correctly! Thank you for being so open and honest.

  7. Hola , estoy pasando algo similar a lo tuyo , la ansiedad , tuve una serie de problemas familiares lo cual mi ansiedad despertó , ya que anteriormente ya era ansiosa.
    Estaba muy cerrada y no estaba consciente del tema , comencé a averiguar e ir a terapias, el deporte ya era parte de mi vida , pero pienso que el yoga aporto mucho en mis peores momentos y mi profesora de yoga que estaba ahí para desahogarme.
    La auriculoterapia (parches con semillas traidas de china ) , servia para diferentes funciones , incluso para dormir. Despues de unas vacaciones al extranjero ,las cuales me ayudaron , me refrescaron la mente , tuve que dejar mi vida estresada y rutinaria de lado. Me preocupe de mi salud , de estar tranquila , de concentrarme en otros puntos entre esos retomes una especializacion de mis estudios. Aquello me ha ayudado como una terapia mas , aparte de aprender e conocido gente grata. Para mi futuro tengo otros planes, puedo decir que estoy mejor que hace un año y medio.
    Conoci a mucha gente que estaba viviendo lo mio , incluso tu , te veia en el programa the Hills . Comprendi que a a cualquiera no solo a mi. Me gusto mucho tu articulo , ayudaras a mucha gente que el dia de hoy sufre esta horrible sensacion. saludos desde Chile.

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