I believe in meditation over medication. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a hippy but I think that anxiety is something that we can actually control. It’s kind of a case of mind over matter. I have been on medication for anxiety, and while it helped me at the time, it is not something that I would like to go back to. Now, when I’m feeling anxious, I try to focus on my breathing and do a guided meditation. It helps me gain control of my breathing and steady my thoughts. I would highly recommend Jason Stephenson and Dr Aine Tubridy‘s meditations on YouTube as a starting point.
Meditation is something that should be practiced to strengthen the mind too. It’s not just something that I go to in my time of need. A short morning meditation or an night time meditation are enough to keep my focused and feeling in control on a day to day basis. There are many good meditation podcasts on iTunes, as well as some really good apps available. If meditation is something that you’ve never tried before then I urge you to connect with your inner Buddha and give it a go – I swear by it!
It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, once it’s something that gets your heart pumping and leaves you feeling amazing afterwards. Personally, I love to go for walks, run, and do classes such as Yoga and Boxercise. I don’t exercise for fitness reasons whatsoever; it is something I do primarily for the mental health benefits that come with it. When I’m feeling anxious, or a bit down, it is so hard to motivate myself to get up off my ass and go for a walk. But when I do, I always feel better afterwards. Getting my heart pumping and the happy hormones flowing really makes me feel good. It has often allowed me to gain some perspective on what it is that is causing me to be anxious and I then am able to deal with the situation in a much calmer way.
Again, like meditation, exercise is something that should be done regularly. By getting out and getting my body moving and heart pumping, I feel that I am releasing any adrenaline that has been building up in my system. It allows me to feel in control, and feel pro-active, giving me a sense of pride in my efforts to take care of my mental health. A brisk walk alone in the mornings before I tackle the day ahead usually works wonders for me, and then, if I still feel like my body needs that little bit extra, I’ll go for a walk or do some Yoga in the evenings. Yoga with Adriene is by far the best yoga channel on YouTube and I would recommend the Couch to 5K app for anyone interested in getting themselves running!
I find that a routine is really important for me. On days when I’m neither here nor there, you know those days where you find yourself sitting and staring aimlessly at something, or else wondering why you’re always on autopilot, those are the days that I start to get very anxious. By having a morning and night time routine I feel very much in control of myself and my day. I took inspiration for my Morning Routine from Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning and I also talk about the importance of routine in My Guide to Feeling Good.
Having a good morning routine allows me to feel totally in control of how I face the day ahead, and my night time routine allows me to destress and unwind and get set for a night of good, deep sleep. I listened to an episode of Operation Self Reset podcast recently that also discussed the importance of routine, click here to access that episode and hear what Jake Nawrocki has to say about the importance of routine in our daily lives.
Talk It Out
This can be one of the easiest, but often one of the hardest things to do. When you feel your stomach drop, your palms starting to sweat, and your heart starting to race, we often have no idea what to do next. Something that has really helped me is to be very open and honest with those I love about what I am experiencing. It isn’t very easy to put that fear into words, and there is often the added fear of ‘will they think I’m insane?’, but realistically, the people that love you will want to do anything that they can to support you.
Reach out and ask your friend to meet up to talk about whatever it is that’s making you feel overwhelmed. Tell them that you’re not expecting them to solve your problem, or even understand why it is causing you so much upset, but that you just need a listening ear. Having friends that are willing to go for that walk with you, or meet you for a coffee while you talk it out, those people are irreplaceable. If you have these people in your life make sure you hang onto them!
Something else that I’ve started doing recently is being very direct with my friends/family/boyfriend when I’m worried that I have done something wrong; I will send a message stating that I am feeling really anxious over X, Y, Z, and can they just let me know if I need to be concerned over it or not. My people are amazing and completely understand where I’m at anxiety wise, so when I’m starting to become panicky, and when they receive that text, they always reply and let me know what the story is. And, as you can probably guess, I’ve never even needed to be worried. It just makes me feel good to know that I can be straight with them and say that I’m worried about something, instead of trying to figure it all out myself and becoming even more distressed in the process.
This is something that is very new to me. I remember years ago, my mother came home and started talking to me about how she had heard about controlling your feelings/emotions by tapping on your face. I remember looking at her and thinking she might have lost the plot, but she was right. Even though at the time I don’t think she knew the exact points where you need to tap to achieve this, she was onto something that I wouldn’t really learn more about for another 10 years or so.
I came across The Tapping Solution when I discovered the podcast called Adventures in Happiness – which is amazing by the way! Tapping is a form of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) that focuses on accupressure points on the face and upper body. I don’t know enough about Tapping to explain how it works, but all I know is that every time I tap I feel at least 10 times calmer at the end of it. I’ve yet to read the book written by Nick Ortner, The Tapping Solution, but even without an understanding of the principles behind the technique, it is still very effective.
Schedule Happy Things
This is a big thing for me. I try to make sure that each and every day I do something that I enjoy. To do this you need to firstly sit down and write a list of all of the things that make you happy, the things that make you feel good. By doing this you come up with your own inventory to work from. You don’t have to actively plan including things. For example this does not always require for you to sit down and decide that Monday will be the day where you go for a walk, Tuesday will be the day that you treat yourself to your favourite meal, Wednesday the day where you meet your friend for coffee etc., just that at some point during your day that you ensure that you have done something that you know will make you feel good. Today you might feel like reading, tomorrow you might not! So just go with the flow and do whatever makes you feel good!
This is not something that I reach for often, apart from herbal tea, but when I’m feeling like I need that little bit of reassurance I often find that herbal remedies are the way to go. Sometimes that might be something like Natracalm, or it might be my most recent discovery of Valerian Relax Blend. Again, these are things that I would use as an alternative to prescription medication and they manage to take the edge off for me. Chamomile tea is also great at the end of the day or after a stressful time to help to unwind and de-stress. Never underestimate the power of a cup of Chamomile tea!
Positive Mental Attitude
This is, without a doubt, something that I would have rolled my eyes at before. But hear me out. You need to understand that anxiety is a fear based mindset. By practicing positive thinking, and by teaching yourself how to develop and maintain a positive mindset, you will be able to control your anxiety. I do this by keeping a gratitude journal, using the Happier App, making vision boards, reading personal development books, and listening to podcasts about personal development.
I’m going to assume you’ve heard the quote “Happiness is not a destination, its away of life.” This is so true and so fundamental to this practice. You can’t expect to be happy and in control when you’ve not learned how to overcome the fear mindset. I’ve been practicing this for almost eight years, and although I feel that I am pretty competent with the PMA thing, I always continue to work on it. I like to think of myself as a car. Without fuel a petrol cannot run. These tools that I mentioned above are my fuel; I require top-ups every now and then, I need my engine cleaned and my spirit reignited. I cannot do one gratitude list and expect to be happy forever because of it! Regular practices and consistency is key here! Mind you mind!
While this is something that can be done as part of meditation and yoga, breathing exercises can also be done separately too. There are many different types of breathing techniques that you can try out but these are the three that work best for me:
A) Mantra Breathing
This is when I breathe in and say to myself “I am breathing in calm”, and on the exhale I say to myself “I am breathing out fear.” I repeat this over and over and over again until I start to calm down.
B) Box Breathing
This is fairly simple to remember. Inhale through your nose for the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale through your mouth for the count of four, pause for the count of four. As your breathing starts to slow down and as you feel more in control, you can up your count to 5, then to 6, then to 7 and so on.
C) Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is by far the most complicated to explain, but it is unbelievably effective!
Extend your thumb, ring and pinky finger (as though you are miming a phone) and place your thumb over your right nostril. Exhale fully through your left nostril, then inhale deeply. Pause. Release your thumb whilst placing your pinky or ring finger on your left nostril. Exhale fully. Inhale deeply. Pause and swap. Repeat for a few rounds.
I’ll leave a video here for you to try out for yourself – I think its easier to follow on a video than a written description so check out the link below! Trust me on this one! It is amazingly beneficial!
How is this a way of dealing with Anxiety I hear you ask? I can understand your confusion, but let me explain! You might have anxiety but anxiety does not define who you are. You might suffer from Panic Attacks, but they do not make up everything that you are. You need to sit back, take a lot of time, and just consider what anxiety even is. It is an adrenaline overload. It is not a disease, it is not a label that you wear for all to see, it is only a small element of your personality.
You might be sitting there and reading this and thinking that I’m talking a load of crap, and I can appreciate that, but it’s taken me a long time to get to this point. I used to be really paranoid and embarrassed because of my anxiety. And yes, it still can have that effect on me, but I now try to to look at it in a more positive light. I am a caring person. I try to do everything to the best of my ability. I would never intentionally say or do anything to upset somebody. I am very aware of the emotions of others. Are any of those statements negative things to say about yourself? Not in the slightest. Instead they depict how you are a sensitive and caring person who is often overly worried about these things. Your anxiety does not have to define you, nor should you let it. Accept that you are a worrier, accept that you are your own worst critic, and accept that this is only one part of the beautiful person that you are! When you accept that, you can deal with your anxiety in a much more positive and productive light. It may never go away, but you can control it.