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If you’re suffering from anxiety then you know that overcoming it isn’t easy. I suffered from anxiety for years and I felt like panic attacks controlled my whole life. I would avoid any and all situations that might make me have a panic attack but after years of avoiding situations, I found that my world had gotten very small and was continuing to shrink. I couldn’t go certain places, ride in certain vehicles or even go into specific buildings. I realized if I didn’t start overcoming my anxiety my life would continue to become more and more limited. I started making small changes and then bigger and bigger changes until my anxiety was manageable. I don’t avoid situations to control my anxiety anymore and most days I’m fortunate enough that it doesn’t affect me at all. Here are some of the things I did to address my anxiety and manage the symptoms, I hope they help you on your own journey to overcome anxiety.
Stop “What Ifs”
This is my weakness and I have lost many nights sleep laying in bed wondering “what if this bad thing happens?” or “what if this OTHER bad thing happens?!”. If I let my thoughts go I can be caught in this loop for hours and it sucks a ton of my time and energy. When I start doing this I will write out everything that is concerning me in my journal. Once I have everything written out I will go back through and highlight or circle the things that I can’t control. Once I have my list I will free journal for a couple of pages about why I don’t need to worry about things beyond my control. I’ll take the things on the list that I can control and schedule them into my planner and make a plan for taking care of them. If I’m still feeling worried I will free journal another page about how I can trust myself to get everything taken care of and there is no reason to worry. If I’m really stuck in the loop I’ll write out a few lists of everything I am thankful for and shift my focus to all the blessings I have in my life. If you’ve never journaled before I have a post of journal prompts for anxiety you should check out.
Challenge Your Thoughts
The other way I deal with my “what if” thoughts is to challenge them and turn them into positives. Instead of letting myself think “what if this bad thing happens?” I’ll try to redirect my thoughts into a positive by thinking “what if this really awesome thing happens?”. Lots of people don’t like to let themselves daydream about an amazing future because they don’t want to be disappointed. Overcome this fear and when you start worrying focus on what it would be like if everything worked out absolutely perfect for you all of the time. Choosing to imagine the perfect situation will feel a lot better than fantasizing about the worst case scenario. If you’re having a hard time thinking positive thoughts focus on the good things that have already happened to you “I know good things happen to me because this happened and this happened”. I also have a post of affirmations for anxiety you can use if you’re having a hard time thinking positive. Psychology Today has a great article about challenging your thoughts here.
A lot of people that have anxiety also have trouble sleeping. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to irritability, depression and make your anxiety worse. I have a post about sleep hacks for mental health you can check out for all my tips on sleeping better. When I’m feeling really anxious I make sure to wake up at the same time every morning and try to get a long workout in. If you wake up at 6 am every day it’s a lot easier to sleep at night. I have found getting in exercise has really helped too and if I start to notice I’m feeling anxious I will double up my time at the gym. Being tired has a drastic effect on my mood and mental health so as soon as that always motivates me to take sleeping very seriously. It’s hard to get the motivation to get up at 6 am and get my ass to the gym but knowing how quickly my mental health can decline if I don’t sleep motivates me to make it happen.
Disclaimer: I’m not a freaking Doctor and you should consult your physician before making major dietary changes. This is a huge one for my anxiety. One of the biggest things I did when my anxiety was really bad was cut out alcohol, caffeine and sugar. I also focused on eating a cleaner diet and stopped eating processed food, I started eating lots of vegetables, fruit and nuts. I also started taking some supplements that have been shown to help relieve anxiety. To get more information about what foods to eat check out this article from Harvard. Now that my anxiety is under control I don’t worry about nutrition as much as I used to. Plus I eat fairly healthy overall so most of the time I’m not that far off track. Changing my diet made a HUGE difference in my anxiety and if I start to feel anxious one of the first things I do is completely cut out alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Check out this article about how sugar impacts your mental health and this article about how to quit sugar.
Record all of the things that trigger your anxiety and brainstorm ways to start slowly exposing yourself to them so you can overcome them. Knowing your triggers is great because once you know what is causing your anxiety you can work on addressing it. You don’t want to use the list of triggers to start avoiding certain situations or scenarios. Use it so you can be prepared if a situation is going to make you anxious and to start working your way towards overcoming the fear of those situations. For example, if crowds trigger your anxiety you would want to find somewhere with people that would make you feel a little anxious but that you could cope with. Make sure to celebrate all of your victories and to keep challenging yourself. I know how hard this is because I was claustrophobic and couldn’t go into elevators for years. I had to expose myself to smaller and smaller spaces until I could go into an elevator. Now I go into elevators all the time with pretty minimal anxiety. If your triggers are really bad you should find a therapist that can work with you through this process. Find someone in your area that specializes in anxiety and panic attacks.
Breathing exercises can help counteract the effect of anxiety by slowing your heart rate and making you feel calmer. Some people can even prevent panic attacks by using breathing exercises. Practice breathing techniques before you feel anxious so your body is used to them and you will be able to do them correctly. Make them part of your morning and night routine so you remember to do them regularly. I have a post of different breathing techniques you can do here. Try out a few different techniques and figure out which ones are the most helpful for you and then start practicing those regularly.
Some people have found meditation really helpful for managing their anxiety and helping their overall sense of wellbeing. I suck at meditating because I can’t sit still in silence for more than about five seconds. I’ve been practicing meditating but I’m still not great at it. I prefer guided meditation and you can find my favorites here (they are free). Dr. Siegal, who is a professor at Harvard also has a page of free meditations you can try here. Learning how to meditate can help you learn how to be more disciplined with your thoughts and help you learn how to keep them from running wild. If you’re interested in starting a meditation practice check out this article.
It can be difficult to exercise when you have anxiety because exercise raises your heart rate and for some people, it can make anxiety worse. However, exercise is great for your physical and mental health. If you find that you can’t do cardio because of your anxiety try these yoga routines for anxiety. If you can exercise but you just hate trying out some different exercise classes until you find something you like doing. Take a dance class or try cycling or pole fitness. I have a post of free ten minute workouts you can do even if you feel really crappy. Investing time and money into your physical fitness is a great investment to make. You’re contributing to your long-term health and in the short term it gives you feel good endorphins and takes your mind off of your anxiety and stressful thoughts.
Grounding techniques help you get out of your head and into the present moment. People have been able to successfully use them to help them manage panic attacks, anxiety and flashbacks. Anxiety happens when you let your mind dwell on the past or worry about what might happen in the future. You can use grounding techniques to take you out of your mind and into the present moment. The goal is to focus on where you are and what is happening right now to help you break the anxious thought pattern you are in. Here is a list of techniques you can use to ground yourself when you start to feel anxious. You can also check out my post on how to create an anxiety coping kit that can help ground you when you’re anxious.
If you’re suffering from anxiety I urge you to reach out to a therapist. They are professionally trained to help you overcome your anxiety and stop letting it play a major role in your life. I wasted so much time trying to manage my anxiety by myself instead of getting the professional help I desperately needed. My anxiety controlled my life for years and it took so much of my energy that I was barely able to do anything else. Don’t let anxiety continue to waste your time and energy. You deserve to live your best and most fulfilling life and you can’t do that if every waking moment is spent trying to manage your anxiety. If you’re interested in finding a therapist you can use this therapist finder here or you could try online therapy. I use BetterHelp and get all of my therapy online but it’s important to know that online therapists can’t prescribe medication and all of my medication is currently prescribed by my Doctor.
The more information I get about anxiety the better I understand it and am able to manage it. My favorite way to get information right now is from podcasts and you can check out all my favorite mental health podcasts here. I also love to read books about social anxiety and mental health blogs to help me get ideas to help manage my anxiety and live a happier life. There are also tons of awesome TED talks about anxiety you should check out. Consuming information about mental health and personal development helps me stay inspired to keep growing and working on myself. You can find a list of all my favorite anxiety related websites and apps here if you’re looking for even more information to help you overcome anxiety.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, you’re not alone. I hope you’ll come join my free mental health support group on Facebook. It is full of other bad ass babes working on their mental health and they regularly share great tips and advice. I have a ton of other blog posts about depression and anxiety and I would love it if you checked them out. I hope some of this information will help you on your journey to overcome anxiety and live your best life.
I am not a licensed therapist. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. You can download a free printable list of hotlines here and join the free mental health support group on Facebook here. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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