“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Recently, a few people have messaged me about my anxiety. One person asked: “How do you deal with anxiety and what kind do you have?” and another asked me on Twitter: “Can you point me to some links about how to do that? What helps? I could use more info!” She was responding to my tweet: “I am good, just working through a bout of anxiety now”. These prompted me to write about what tools I use to get through my anxiety and depression, and maybe this can help others going through stress or similar situations.
1st, for those who do not know me, I am diagnosed with generalized anxiety, panic disorder and clinical depression with agoraphobia. If you want to know more about my journey with mental illness, you can sift through my series of posts by clicking here.
If you look at your Facebook daily, you can see many memes and posts about “How to deal with depression and anxiety” however, let me tell you a truth: It is VERY personal. I have discovered over the past 2 years, that one thing can work for someone, yet not work for me. Just like the medications I take, mine are different from the ones, of lets say, my friend next door. So the point I am trying to make is you must find what works for you. Listen to what you want to do. A big part of my therapy is really listening to my body, and my intuition. I go with what my gut tells me works.
My toolbox: take some and leave some:
Breathe: This is number 1. A few times a day, even if you are not feeling anxiety, breathe. Take 3 or 4 deep breaths through your nose, and exhale gently through your mouth. Fred Krazeise owner and practitioner over at Empowering Wellness calls these McMeditation breaks. This allows you to practice when deep panic arises, or when your solar plexus (stomach) is buzzing with fear.
On a side note, I tell my loved ones: “Please don’t tell me to breathe during a panic attack” (there is nothing more challenging than trying to breathe through one of these monsters) I do ask: “Please breathe with me”. Having someone by my side just breathing with me, is more effective than telling me to breathe.
Relax: Relax!? Right!
I know I know, again this may be difficult for some when anxiety comes. However, there are ways we can trick our body into relaxing. 1 is breathing, and the others can be a load of things. So lets move to the next few, because these may help you relax
Be present, be honest, and let the emotion out!
“If you could really accept that you weren’t ok, you could stop proving you were ok. If you could stop proving that you were ok, you could get that it was ok not to be ok. If you could get that it was ok not to be ok you could get that you were ok the way you are. You’re ok, get it?” Werner Erhard
The best way to ease anxiety for me, is to admit there is something wrong. Wearing a mask, saying “I’m fine’ when am not fine. Just makes me more restless and sad. Being with what I am feeling allows the feeling to come. I cannot deny anymore when I am feeling sad, lonely, scared, overwhelmed, happy, joyful, and calm.
When we feel uncomfortable, all we want in that moment is to feel comfortable again, however, like the Princess and the Pea, nothing will make her more comfortable unless she takes the pea out from under the mattress. You can sit for hours in an uncomfortable chair trying to “pretend” you are ok, yet, no matter how many times you cross your legs differently, or sit in another position, you will still be uncomfortable… surrendering to this (feeling) will make life easier, and maybe, if you can you may even change chairs. However, sometimes the sadness is there, suppressing it will only make it stronger. What I usually do when I feel something today, is to accept it being there. I notice what feelings I have in my body, I may cry, scream, or just sit with the feeling, yet I know eventually it will subside because I chose to surf with it.
Find an activity to channel your anxious energy:
Do yoga, take a walk, exercise, run, jump, laugh. These are many of the suggestions you will find online, and they do work for many. For me, it all started with photography. Last year, I re-discovered my love for photography. I realized when I was immersed in taking pictures, downloading them, and then fixing them up on Picmonkey, I was anxiety free, at least for a while. Doing something I love, and listening to the creative me, really jump started my artist life.
Just recently, I discovered doodling. I would sit and make spirals after spirals after spirals. Eventually the spirals turned into pictures, and my pictures turned into art! WOW. All this over a few weeks. I didn’t even know I had it in me. So if ever you feel anxiety coming on, and you have a pen near, just make spirals or doodles galore. My Syda from KreativeNotions sent me 2 Zentangle beginners books. You do not even have to know how to draw, just doodling is fine. No books on hand? Just google Zentangle templates.
Many people I know who suffer from anxiety and panic, channel their feelings through art. Kate makes amazing jewelry (see her website here), and Ame does brilliant art (see her site here). Both of them have issues with anxiety, panic and or depression. If it works for them.. well.. maybe it will work for me.. and it DOES! In the past 3 weeks, I have drastically reduced the amount of anti-anxiety medication I take since I started doodling.
There are many things one can do to cut anxiety. To list a few more: some of these worked for me:
- Drink a tall glass of water or 2;
- Find distraction, a tv show, or an online game;
- Play with your child or pet;
- Take a bath or shower;
- Talk to a friend on the phone, on Facebook, on Twitter or on Skype (I love Skype because I can see my mom or friend while we talk);
- Write a thank you note, or a letter to a friend, or best yet, write a letter to yourself;
- Keep a journal of your feelings, or write for writing’s sake;
- Smile real big (yes you may look silly) or even laugh really hard (pretend).
- Music, make it or listen to it!
Tool boxes come in many shapes and sizes. When it comes to anxiety, there are many MANY ways one can channel it. Yet, remember, the point here is not to suppress the anxiety, but to give it an outlet to live somewhere else. Letting it be, instead of fighting it, works best for me. Because the more I fight it, the faster it comes.
What are your methods of relieving stress or anxiety. Comment below and maybe I’ll add those to my tool box.