I’ve suffered with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia for the longest time. Anxiety can be debilitating. If you’ve ever gone through it, you know what I mean. The important thing to remember is, you’re completely normal. Everybody feels some level of anxiety in their lives. You could experience it before a big test or a job interview, during public speaking or after an accident. Unluckily for me, I can feel it because of the simplest of triggers.
It’s tough, I won’t lie. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel like I can take on the world and my disorders could never hold me back. I love them days. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Some days I feel like I’m walking on broken glass with a lump the size of moon stuck in my throat. Throughout the years I have learned how to effectively identify these kind of days and help to make them a little bit better. I’d like to share some of these tips with you. I hope they can help.
Coming to terms with your anxiety is my number one tip in tackling it. There is no point in trying to ignore when you feel an episode coming on. Some mornings, I will wake up and before I even open my eyes I can feel it. It’s butterflies in my stomach and a crippling tightness in my chest. In this circumstance, I say to myself, ‘okay Sue, it’s going to be an anxious day, that’s fine.’
I’m not saying give into your anxiety, just acknowledge it. Pushing it to the back of your mind and trying to pretend it’s not there will just make it worse when it finally does hit you, and can result in a nasty panic attack.
On these days, if I have the day free, I run myself a hot bath, light candles and get into my snuggest pajamas. I drink loads of green tea, treat myself to some chocolate and cuddle up on the duvet with my kitty and watch a Disney movie. Basically, I do whatever I can to make myself happy. I give myself a break. I recognize my anxiety disorder for what it is, an illness. Treat it like you would a cold or a tummy bug. Take it easy.
Meditate don’t medicate.
When I was initially diagnosed with my anxiety disorder, the doctor gave me Xanax to treat it. Don’t get me wrong, it worked miracles and helped me to become stable. I probably wouldn’t have made it the first couple weeks in therapy without it. However, they are not a permanent solution for most. Because I was so young, my doctor did not want to keep me on them long term, she was afraid I would become reliant on them and possibly even addicted.
I needed something else to fall back on when my anxiety was getting the better of me. It was easy when I could just pop a Xanax whenever I felt the anxiety build up but that wasn’t a possibility anymore. This is how I found mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness is a huge part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is the form of therapy most often used to treat anxiety.
Mindfulness involves focusing on the present, accepting your feelings and thoughts as they are right now. I learned how to do this by using Headspace. This is an app for Android and Apple users that takes you step by step, teaching you how to practice mindfulness. I cannot recommend this app enough. It takes ten minutes out of your day and is so worth it.
I know it sounds very hippy-love-peace-harmony-esque, I was critical at first too. But it works. I urge anyone who struggles with anxiety, whether it be occasionally or a constant chronic anxiety disorder, to try it even once. It changed my life.
I mentioned above that one of my favorite things to do when I feel anxious is to light some candles and take a long hot bath. This is because it’s a really awesome way to indulge in some aroma therapy. Aromatherapy is scientifically proven to help anxiety sufferers to feel calmer and get a better night’s sleep. Sleep is such a huge issue for me. My anxiety makes it near impossible to fall asleep at night. I find a really hot bath and some scent therapy honestly helps.
Lavender is incredible for anxiety relief due to its calming and uplifting effects. Put a couple drops of essential lavender oil in the water, use a bath bomb with lavender in its formula (I recommend Twilight by Lush Cosmetics) or light a lavender scented candle. Other amazing scents for anxiety are ylang ylang, rose geranium and bergamot. Look out for these ingredients in things like shampoo and shower gel if you don’t have a bath tub. A long hot shower can work just as effectively.
Cut The Caffeine.
I love coffee as much as the next sleep deprived millennial. However, drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks are filled with anxiety inducing ingredients that can make life a nightmare for those of us with panic problems. Caffeine can significantly contribute to anxiety related symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, heart palpitations, and even full-blown panic attacks.
I’m not suggesting you quit cold turkey, I recommend maybe treating yourself to one caffeinated beverage a day until you can eventually cut them out of your life all together (I’m still not quite there.)
Some amazing alternatives that just so happen to be wonderful for calming your nerves include chamomile tea, hot milk and of course, water. Try to drink as much water as possible throughout the day as becoming dehydrated can induce anxiety and nervousness.
Any herbal tea is an excellent substitute for coffee but chamomile is one of the best. Chamomile will help to reduce anxiety, ease insomnia and calm upset stomachs – it’s also super tasty. Make yourself a hot cup just before bed to help you slip into a peaceful slumber.
Walk it off
Get up, get dressed and go outside. Now start walking. Walk anywhere. My agoraphobia inhibits how far I can go so if you can’t go for a 5k, I understand. Try to walk around your estate, walk for ten minutes, even five minutes if that’s all you can do. I cannot stress the benefits of walking enough.
Exercise is vital for reducing anxiety. Additionally, the fresh air will give you a sense of calmness that you cannot get indoors. Your anxiety could be heightened, unknowingly to you, by a degree of claustrophobia. Try not to coup yourself inside for too long, stretch your legs and your mind. Anxiety can be caused from pent up energy. It’s important that you find a way to safely release some of that energy and going for a short walk every day can do just that.
Remember, the hardest part of walking is the first couple steps out the front door. Once you’re out there, it’s easy as pie. Make yourself a playlist, bring a friend (a furry friend is favorable) and get going.
Image credit to http://vsco.co/evanahearne