Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Quick Fixes for Anxiety

Anxiety is the worst. We all deal with it at some point in our lives. For some, it’s just a bit of stress that takes a little longer to shake than usual. For others, it’s clinical and needs medical and therapeutic attention. I am on anxiety medication, so the scary bouts I've had in the past are now few and far between. However, I still have moments where I have to face something unknown at work, or I’m worried I've screwed something up with a friend, or I just had too much caffeine and now my heart is pounding, I’m sweating, and I’m extra-sensitive to my surroundings. I thought I’d share some of the ways I try to cope with and quell my anxiety*.


1. Take a moment to think.
So, maybe your anxiety stems from something that happened. I am very easily upset about the unknown or the potential fallout of something that might not even occur. My go-to thought comes from the late, great Richard Carlson, Ph. D., author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (y’all, I cannot recommend this book enough): “Ask yourself the question, ‘Will this matter a year from now?’” Stepping outside of the situation, taking past incidents into account, and asking yourself this question can truly be a game changer. An example of how I use it: I get anxious about returning to work after a sick day. I worry that people will question me too much, that I won’t look sick enough, that they won’t believe me, or they will talk crap about me behind my back. I ask myself, will they care about this in a year? Or, even better, in a month? A week? Something else always pops up, and my situations are certainly not important in comparison to the other thoughts in everyone else’s heads. Remembering that it’s temporary, that my worries might not even occur or that they might not last past my first hour back at work, gets me through.

2. Get outside.
When I worked at the credit union, it was important to me that I leave the building and take a walk around the block during each break (usually 30 minutes total every day). I needed to step away from the stress, to get fresh air, and to be reminded that there is a world outside of the little boxes we trap ourselves in. Even if you’re in the comfiest spot on your couch, going for a walk/run/jog/bike ride/whatever method of transportation you prefer is immensely helpful. The combo of exercise and fresh air will do wonders. This is honestly great year round. They used to tease me (nicely) about walking in the snow or rain. I had an umbrella. I had a hat and gloves. No matter what, it helped. Listen to music if you want, but sometimes I just like to focus on the world around me. Or use it as time to rationally solve a problem or sort your thoughts out.

3. Window Shop
This one is a personal preference but it is fun, nonetheless. I’m not rollin’ in the dough over here, so I like to go to one of my favorite stores (Target, usually) and just walk around, perusing everything. A) You’re getting out of the house and B) You’re distracting yourself with things you like. If anxiety is hitting you late at night, do some internet window shopping. I like to make pinboards of things I see that I like (for future treat yo’self moments) or things that I would love to get for others for their upcoming birthdays or holidays. I have fun thinking about things like that, so it’s a helpful distraction that makes me feel good.
(If the source of your anxiety is money, maybe don’t do this one. But if you want to peruse websites for decor ideas for your dream home or look at style blogs for inspiration of a dream wardrobe, maybe that will help you look at it differently.)

4. Treat Yo’self
Okay, so say you do the above and you do have a little extra cash on hand. Treat yourself! Buy one of the items on your Amazon Wishlist. Pick up those new shoes you tried on and really like. Heck, even grab a pack of new underwear if that’s something you could use. (New underwear is a game-changer.) If you’re not a shopper, go get one of your favorite snacks. Doughnuts, ice cream cones, a small bag of potato chips, or maybe even some Chinese takeout for dinner (these are the things I enjoy). Gettin’ yourself a little something will surely put a smile on your face.

5. Be Hands-On
Working with your hands is an excellent way to relieve anxiety and to distract your mind. By picking up an activity – knitting, weaving, painting, friendship bracelet-making, woodwork, etc. – that requires handiwork and focus, you’re putting your mind toward something that doesn't just help you forget what was bothering you, but that satisfies a feeling of accomplishment. Throw on an episode of your favorite sitcom as background noise, and you've found yourself a great way to unwind.

*These are my little tips and tricks for preventing anxiety or calming a small episode. Sometimes, anxiety is bigger than a few simple steps can manage. Check out this page on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website for even more tips and ways to find professional help if necessary.