Please remember that all mental health experiences are different and experienced in their own unique ways. If you feel in any way triggered, or are struggling with mental illness, please speak to a professional and seek the help you need.
We are approaching the – for now – last post in this series about anxiety. In the first one – we covered everything about Anxiety – what it is, the different forms it comes in, and how to recognize it if you potentially have it. The second one how to combat anxiety – part 1, dealt with conventional treatment methods and what foods you may want to avoid. In last week’s how to combat anxiety – part 2 we discussed all the good-for-you foods that help you feel your optimal best.
The feedback on this series has been overwhelmingly positive. I want to thank each and every one of you who reached out, expressed feeling heard, less alone, and supported 💚. Sincerely, I was so nervous about putting this series out there. I never want to misspeak or misrepresent anyone, and – especially – the subject of mental health is so complex, difficult, and different for everyone. I was not sure I could speak eligibly on this topic. But here we are… I guess it is true what they say in terms of when you are being your most vulnerable it comes back with the strongest/greatest reaction of positivity, feedback, and support.
And speaking on the topic of vulnerability, this post may be the most vulnerable out of all of them…. today I will share with you how I manage my anxiety. Now, just to be clear – I have never worked with a psychiatrist, therapist, or anything like this to treat my anxiety. I also do not claim to be one. Some of the strategies below have scientific backing up. Some are simply my “coping” mechanisms. And those may sound weird to other people (heck – they sometimes sound weird to my friends and family). As always, take away what serves, inspires, or helps you and leave what does not 💕.
Mental Health is Not Like a Sore Throat
First off, and possibly one of the biggest learning curves for me was that mental health is not like a sore throat (bear with me 😅). If you feel a sore throat coming on, you may start eating or taking some additional vitamins. If the sore throat is in full swing you will likely also take some lozenges or medicine in order to manage the pain until it passes.
Mental health does not work like that (for me). There have been so many times where I thought: “I feel good – let me live my life” not taking proper care of it and then *boom*. I cannot “neglect” myself because I am having a good day / days / week. It is easy to step away from routine and what I know makes me feel good. Unfortunately, it then takes that much longer to pick my mind back up again. This is a true (for me life-long) marathon. Not a sprint. But, it also means that if you are having a bad day or week, it will not be like this forever. To come back to the sore throat example, you basically need to take your vitamins and lozenges pre-emptively to feel your absolute best and have less of a sore throat once it does come.
The Things That Help Me Manage My Anxiety
My anxiety is so much more easily triggered if I am tired or not sleeping enough. Sleep is a very big priority for me. I try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Not everyone sleeps well every night (I certainly do not!) but below are some further tips that will also contribute to you sleeping well. I am so passionate about this subject that I have also written an entire blog post about how to establish a good sleeping routine if you want to check that out.
There are so many benefits to exercising!! From increasing mobility to improving your heart and digestive health, this topic warrants an entire blog post in and on itself. For me, the release of endorphins and getting a sweat on hugely helps me to clear my mind. If my mind is particularly jumpy and all over the place, I can usually tell – coming towards the end of a workout – it is calming down. Exercising during the day also has proven to improve the quality of your sleep, so a total win-win in/for my mind.
Just FYI – movement and exercise can look different for everyone. It does not mean a “structured” workout. It can also mean walking your dog, cleaning the house, dancing around the living room, gardening… you get the picture. Anything that gets the heart pumping is great for us as human beings 🥰.
Again, there is loads of research to support the calming benefits of meditation. I’ve had so many people tell me: “That is totally not for me”. Without every trying. And truth be told that was me too. Until I did try it. And the mental calm that settled over me was so, so relieving that I could not turn back. There are many great apps out there that guide you through a meditation, like Headspace or Calm, or free meditations on Youtube. This has, hands down, been one of the biggest game-changers in managing my anxiety (next to giving up caffeine). Even 5 or 10 minutes make such a difference. If you only want to try one thing from this list – make it this one. You will be amazed as to what is possible.
Next to meditating, this is likely the second biggest game-changer for me. If I am not having a good day, going out in nature or seeing nature instantly calms me. I have found great comfort in seeing the sunrise and set lately – no matter what this cycle does continue 🌻. Do give this one a go, especially if you are having a particularly bad day (even if not – fresh air is great for our wellbeing!!).
How I manage my Anxiety – Knowing my Trigger Points
I have come to learn the hard way what my trigger points are 🤯. You know, the ones that make my anxiety particularly bad. These may be completely different for you. I encourage you to listen to your mind and body, learn what they are, and then try to avoid them going forward. I will lay mine out below, so you get a “sense” of what I mean.
I Turn My Laptop Off
I make a point to not work forever into the evening and I also turn off my laptop. Why? Because I have noticed that if I do not decompress or do something different than work my mind is constantly thinking about it, it affects my sleep, and I am back in this cycle of anxiety. The next day, my mind is likely more sluggish and I am not as productive in “normal” working hours, which then leads me to work longer again…. you get the picture. Bottom line: I know I perform better, more focussed with a clearer mind if I am not always “switched on”.
“No” on News For Me
There are a lot of people (including my dear granny) who find me incredibly ignorant with regards to this point. I do not watch the news. Ever. I sometimes, very rarely, read a newspaper. I do not want to know. Honestly, I likely am being ignorant, because I know less of what is going on in the world and there are horrible things happening around us. BUT, I know this is a huge trigger point for me. I genuinely think that if something is important enough I will likely hear about it from friends / family / social media. If I then want to learn more I can still follow up. I would also argue that, especially in current times, you are just being spoon-fed the same news time and time again. The bottom line is, it does not help my anxiety. And I honestly never truly feel that I have no clue what is going on when talking to someone. So, I am sticking with this approach.
I Don’t Check My Phone In The Evenings
I learned this after I had a particularly bad incident where one of my friends wrote me something super upsetting and I could not sleep all night (and it had nothing to do with either my friend or her wellbeing!). I usually try to not look at my phone after 8 pm and tend to get back to messages in the morning. My phone also “sleeps” in the kitchen so that I do not look at it before going to bed or first thing in the morning. This has also hugely helped my sleep, which in turn makes me feel less anxious. You get the cycle 😉.
I Do Not Watch “Thriller” TV In The Evening
I thought this was a totally random one, only applicable to me, but I learned that a lot of people with anxiety tend to do this! I have noticed that I cannot sleep at night after “upsetting” TV. So I watch something light-hearted (Friends – anyone?!) / cooking shows / things I already know that could not in any way, shape, or form, be upsetting to my mind.
I Try To Do Things That Bring Me Joy
If you are in a joyful, happy state there is no room for anxiety. There is nothing better than enjoying yourself and having fun in order to truly put yourself in the present moment. So, it can be small (like being excited about a new podcast episode and listening to it) but I try to fill my day with as much fun as possible.
I Am Very Intentional About My Friends
I do not have an awful lot of acquaintances and I am very much fine with that approach. If I am being surrounded by people, I want them to know me well, to be able to tell them should I have an anxious day and – perhaps not be understood (it is always difficult to understand something you are not personally going through or have experienced) – but certainly accepted. In general, I have come to the conclusion that life – for me – is too short to do things you do not truly enjoy. It is also too short to spend it with people I do not really like 🙏🏻.
What If Anxiety Hits You Unexpectedly?
Sometimes – no matter what – anxiety grabs you and keeps you in a tight lock. One of my friends send me something he thought was funny the other day and it sent me into a spiral. Now obviously, he did not do this on purpose, but I needed some instant relief in order to not have my mind be messing with me the entire day. One thing I do is to sit down, feel the earth under my feet, and tell myself (yep – also sometimes aloud) that this is my anxiety messing with me and that it will pass and that it is not as bad as my non-rational mind is trying to make it out to be.
I also love breathwork in order to relieve my anxiety. This is a completely new topic that I am getting into myself. If you google “breathwork for anxiety”, I am sure there will be loads of awesome options. Another great option is to list out all the things I am grateful for. This boosts my mood and gives me something else to focus on.
And that concludes this series on anxiety. I hope you enjoyed this series and were able to take some “nuggets” away from it. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or any other mental health condition, I am wishing that you find what works for you – whether it is food, lifestyle, medication, and/or therapy – so that you can live your optimal and best life 💜. Thank you for sticking with me through this series.