Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Anxiety: 7 Tips and Tricks

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Last week was a bit of a rough one for me. I don't know if it was school starting or just the realization of yet another year starting and so much ahead of me, but it just wasn't great. I'm still a bit stuck in this stressed, unhappy bubble and I'm not quite sure how to move on from it. There are so many things that I want to do, but so many things that need to get done and all of it's causing a lot of anxiety and pressure right now. 
My biggest causes of anxiety are driving, failing or not meeting expectations, leaving for a trip, not having control or a plan for the future, too many people in one place (especially if I don't know them), and being in a rush, especially when I'm running late. I tend to start feeling all the blood rush to my head and my face gets hot and I can't focus and my heart starts pounding and I feel like I could cry, which makes it worse because I hate crying. 
I start feeling like there is no way I can do everything that needs to be done or I can't see a way to get to XYZ from/with ABC and it feels a bit like drowning in quick sand because the more you struggle the more you sink. 
In this generation, I feel like anxiety is something so many people struggle with. I think that it has a lot to do with technology and nothing being quite so simple anymore, but I thought I'd share a few things that help me when I start feeling anxious and weighted down and maybe they can help a few other people who struggle with it. 

1. Breathe
This sounds so cliche and dumb, but when you actually close your eyes, take a big deep breath, and slowly let it go, it can actually really clear your mind for a second and slow you down a bit. When my heart is racing, I can't focus on anything and I feel so fidgety. Taking a deep breath helps me re-focus and calm down. This usually helps me when I'm dealing with minor things like rushing to finish school work or running late in traffic. 
 
2. Stop/ Pull Over/ Take a Minute
I get anxiety when I'm driving fairly often and just knowing that I can stop, pull over, and wait until I'm ready is so comforting. Most of the time I tell myself that I'm being silly and there's no reason to stop, but being able to take that moment to refocus and calm down a bit definitely helps. I find that when I'm with people I don't feel like I can stop what I'm doing and don't want to freak them out, but in most cases people don't mind taking a minor break or waiting to do things until you feel a bit better. If you're worried and anxious the whole time it won't be any fun anyway, so it's best to wait a bit and go when you're ready. I do this a lot when it comes to nights out because if I go when I'm very anxious about it I will literally be wanting to leave and freaking out before I even get there. 
 
3. Chew Gum
Again, this sounds silly, but I tend to bite my nails or grind my teeth when I get anxious and chewing gum stops me from doing that, because when I start that my anxiety usually gets worse. Chewing my nails for some reason also speeds up my heart rate, which makes me feel more nervous and anxious, so just like a deep breath, chewing gum stops me from doing that and helps me slow down.
 
4. Listen to Music 
When I'm walking to class or hanging out in the student union and I start feeling anxiety coming on, I instantly find my headphones and drown everything else out. I have a special playlist especially for this and if it gets really bad I even lean back and close my eyes like a weirdo, but sometimes just tuning things out and focusing on something simple like a YouTube video helps. 
 
5. Take Some Time to be by Yourself 
Sometimes, I just need silence and calm. I don't want to explain and rationalize things to people. I often sit in my bed under my covers and close my eyes and just sit there. I don't sleep, I just quit everything for a minute and let my mind wander. I block out any outside noises with my noise maker and for me it's a bit like meditation. No interruptions and all the time in the world. 
 
6. Write it Down
You know how people say "If all the things you have to do are keeping you up at night, write them down"? They were on to something good. Half of my anxiety comes from feeling all these things swirling in my head and having no control over them. Writing them down gives me some control back. I can now visually see what needs to be and often times is it less than I imagined. For those times that it's not, I also write a detailed plan/timeline. Planning to me means control, which greatly reduces my anxiety. 
 
7. Call your mom
Well, it doesn't have to be your mom I guess. It could be your dad or your best friend…but call someone. I generally call my mom or Katie and just say "Please distract me, I don't feel okay" and they are really good about not making me feel silly or belittling what I'm worrying over. They help me to refocus, slow down, and put things into perspective, which helps about 80% of the time. 

When it comes to panic attacks, I can only recall about 4 or 5 since high school, but for the most part, stopping, breathing, refocusing, and distracting my mind tend to help me with those as well. My biggest piece of advice would just be to surround yourself with people who understand and don't push you to do things you don't feel like you can do. Sometimes I really like to go out and sometimes it absolutely makes me want to burst in to tears and hide from everyone…and my friends get that and don't bug me to go out with them or make me feel uncomfortable about feeling that way. That is probably the single most helpful thing with my anxiety. 
All in all, just don't be embarrassed about it. That makes things 10 times worse and isn't helpful. Tell people if you need them to leave you alone for a bit or if you can't do something, don't expect them to just know. Everyone has their own separate, unique issues and you don't have to apologize or feel uncomfortable about them. 

Do you have issues with panic attacks or anxiety and have any helpful tips on handling it? 
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