I’ve lived with anxiety all my life, but I’m not a professional. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 29, but once diagnosed it changed my life. Here is my personal guide to coping with anxiety.
My medical team found medication that worked for me and I began seeing a therapist weekly to learn how to cope and how to thrive. Here are the tips that worked for me, but please remember if you are suffering from mental illness or think you might be please contact a professional.
Don’t try to wish your diagnosis away, it won’t work. Instead, lean in, learn about anxiety and what you can do to live with it. Acknowledging you need help is a great first step because things can only get better once you act.
I use humor to cope with the hardest parts of life. I’m open about going to therapy. When someone asks if I’m ok, I don’t say I’m fine. Instead, I say my anxiety is acting up today. At first, people look at you side-eyed, but the more open I am, the more people ask how they can help. Crazy right?
Once I felt comfortable opening up to co-workers, they would come up to me privately asking advice or if I had a therapist recommendation. Others told me they have been on meds for anxiety for years but were too ashamed. It’s amazing how many people started a dialogue when they aren’t alone.
Have a Heart-to-Heart with Loved Ones
Before you even set boundaries, tell your spouse, mother or even your kids that you are working on yourself. And then explain what you are hoping to accomplish. People without anxiety often don’t get it, so have them read up on how they can help you cope with anxiety.
I sent the article to my husband after I was having a mild anxiety attack. And it helped him a lot in understanding my needs.
Make Yourself a Priority
Before you say I don’t have time because of family, your job, life, etc. Make time to learn what your triggers are and ask for help. Go in the bathroom for a minute to take a few deep breaths or go on a walk. Find time for self-care because it will make you a better employee, spouse, parent, etc. I don’t use anxiety as an excuse for things, instead, I use it to motivate myself to do new things and do them well.
If you are the one that always helps everyone, always appears strong, never tells anyone No…this section is for you. Work with your therapist on setting limits for others who are overstepping. Start small and work your way up to the big issues. At first, people will be confused because you always say yes. But I promise you they will get over it. And with fewer commitments, you will find more time for self-care.
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Let Go of Guilt
If you broke your arm and had to ask for help would you feel guilty? No of course not. Think of anxiety like this, you were broken and you are mending yourself. You’ve essentially been walking around a little broken but now you are doing what you need to do to mend. Let go of the guilt, sometimes you must put your oxygen mask on first.
Write in a Journal
Start a private journal just for you. Writing out your feelings is therapeutic. It helps to get the anxiousness out on the page. During my high anxiety moments, I usually rage write for 20 minutes and sometimes I shred the pages when I’ve finished.
Here are some triggers my therapist helped me identify
- Stressful work environment
- Large Crowds
- Meeting new people
- Being alone or single
- Significant Other
- Toxic Friends
- Social Media
- Work Emails
Write in your journal about the things that cause you the most stress. Jot down some ideas on how to limit those triggers if possible. Then once you have a list, start working on one of the items on the list. You’ll start to have ‘ah-ha’ moments when you start working on solutions.
Dim the Anxiousness
As you continue to work on yourself, you’ll start to recognize warning signs of your anxiety building up. Here are a few of the techniques I use when I feel anxious:
- Take deep breaths. If you are worried about looking silly head to the bathroom stall and take deep breaths in there and stretch a little.
- Go for a walk
- Play Music you find calming
- Go to the Gym
- Watch your favorite movie
- Create some art
- Call a friend/spouse
If you fear being alone but meeting new people triggers you too; you may have to push yourself a little on this coping still. Start small, maybe there is a post-work event or happy hour, go to it. Even if you stay for a half an hour, it’s important to throw yourself in the deep end. At the very least you’ll make stronger connections with your co-workers.
Bring your spouse or friend along to try new things, maybe a cooking class or a new yoga studio, you don’t have to do things alone.
Create New Friendships
Meet new people at work or that new yoga class you started taking. Also, keep the friends you have, if they are supportive. Negative people aren’t going to bring you a positive life. You are working on yourself now, so you are changing a little bit. Meet new people and try new things, I know it can be scary at first so start small and then work your way up.
Tip: If you aren’t sure where to start, there are usually woman’s groups on Facebook that have meetups. I find that a lot of women are looking for friendship connections. If your city doesn’t have one, why not start one?
Download an Anxiety App
I manage my anxiety well now, but a few times a year I still get anxiety attacks, sometimes I don’t even know why. My brain is like, “we haven’t freaked out in a while lets do that now”. Here are a few apps that help me when I am triggered.
- End Anxiety Hypnosis
- Sanvello – Stress and Anxiety Help
Take Your Medication
If you are prescribed medicine take it! Follow up with your doctor if you feel the medicine isn’t working after a few months. In addition, don’t stop taking your meds if you feel better.
I tried 2 different meds that didn’t work, then we found a great medication and I’ve been on it for 7 years. Sometimes a doctor will tweak your dosage or change medication altogether, this is normal until you find the one that works for you.
Don’t stop taking your medicine unless a doctor tells you to, some mental health drugs can’t be stopped cold turkey.
A lot of studies are coming out about using CBD to treat anxiety. My best friend swears by it, but I didn’t see a difference. If you do want to try it, make sure you talk to your doctors and get the Ok first.
Learn the difference between CBD, THC and Hemp Oil.
Even if you start to feel amazing make sure you keep talking to your therapist. Sure, you can reduce the frequency, but make sure you check in a couple of times a month. Think of your therapist as a mechanic. Your car is running fine but you still have to take it in to get the oil changed every once and a while. Same with therapy, you need maintenance to make sure you stay running.
We’d love to hear some of your tips for coping with mental illness, so feel free to let us know in the comment section below.