My Tricks For Easing Anxiety Of All Sorts

Since my last articles have been about grief and the process of loss, I have decided to speak of a topic that has clung to me since I was a young child. But also do so in a light hearted way because, let’s be honest, some of us get more anxious when reading about our anxiety disorders than feeling a sudden wave of calm.

I was diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorder at the age of seventeen, though my anxiety has been around for far longer. I am now twenty two years old, a caregiver, a partner, and a writer. So it has been shown to me through my own approaches to my anxiety that I have got some hang on myself. I am no expert. I am my own person who has lived with this mental illness my whole life, so I can only speak for myself and my approaches to easing the ever looming anxiety monster and hope that these tips some how aide in the anxiety of another.

Many things (and when I say many I am grossly underestimating) can spike anxiety. Many things that others who do not fight the same battles every day may fail to understand with a feeble grace and an awkward “it will get better soon” pat on the back. But in truth, nothing that triggers your anxiety is ridiculous. What you feel is valid, what is in your mind remains as such no matter how many friends or on lookers tell you different. So I will speak about some of my triggers that are personal, but also seem universally shared in others with the same affliction.

A Sudden Change Of Plans

This is one of my biggest enemies. I go from an adult to a hyper-active toddler with no supervision and a hell of a grudge. My anxiety grows when I am suddenly told that “This is no longer happening, make new plans.” My heart races, I am reduced to an academy award winning meltdown followed by a two hour nap. Now, I have been told that this is childish. But this is something I have faced since I was, in fact, a child. My reactions have matured (somewhat) and I am able to calm down enough to realize that this is a fixable problem. But when that seems above me, I do the following;

– I let myself panic. Yes, this seems counterproductive. But in truth, it isn’t. Pent up anxiety can make you, well, more anxious. If I am told that plans have changed and I am now responsible for finding a backup, I give into my hyperventilation and questions of “Why the hell is this happening now?”. If you allow yourself to feel the emotions and reactions your brain is signaling to you, you can cut panic time in half.
– Remind yourself that other plans can be formed. Reaching out in it’s self may seem anxiety inducing, but remind yourself that this is a fixable issue. That new plans can be made and that you will feel relaxed once those plans have been made.

– Punch a pillow and curse the world and the temporary  idiots that have ruined your plans. Allow yourself to do this for a few minutes. I promise, it actually works.

Sudden Social Anxiety

We have all been there. A nice day out suddenly turns into a sensory overload of people talking too loudly, people bumping you by mistake, or the fact that you’re just around too many people. It’s crushing, horrifying, and difficult to deal with in a public setting which is making you nervous enough. This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn coping mechanisms for as I consider myself a comfortable hermit in a rather comfortable semi-isolation (I am a writer, after all). But once faced with the fact of socializing, I do need to get myself comfortable and to the point where I am feeling safe.

– Bring a bag, purse, wallet, or use your pockets to bring things that are comforting to you. A square of a fabric you enjoy, a perfume cut out from a magazine, a worry stone (I use a guitar pick), loose change, or anything you can fiddle with that can ease some of the pressure of socialization.

– Breathe deeply. Yes, its the one piece of advice any therapist or pseudo therapist will tell you, and while I scoffed at the idea in my angsty teenage years, I have learned that this actually does help. I focus on one thing, an object preferably instead of a person. I inhale through my mouth deeply through my lungs for four counts, then exhale through my nose for another four. I typically do five repetitions of this breathing before I feel a calm settling in, but do as many as you are comfortable.

– If you need time to yourself, retreat to a “safe space”. I typically pick one out when I first arrive at a destination and keep it in mind just in case I need time alone. Do not feel shamed for needing a breather. Socializing is exhausting, especially for those like us who have a mental illness that throws our minds into fight or flight very quickly. It is okay, perfectly okay, to need alone time while you’re with others. Take time to recharge and to breathe.

Phone Call Anxiety (AKA the bloody devil)

This is a very real, very nerve wracking, and yes, very bloody annoying form of anxiety. The idea of making a phone call can throw some of us into an extended panic while others can make a phone call no problem. There is nothing wrong with you if you find them difficult. I have tried to pinpoint why I feel anxiety during phone calls and it is because of my social anxiety. I fear I am going to talk too fast, mumble, stutter over words, and make myself seem unprofessional. I also fear a condescending voice coming from the other end of the line. This has been one of the hardest forms of anxiety I’ve learned to cope with since I have difficulties verbalizing (as I said previously, I am a writer. My forever excuse).  But some things have helped.

– If I am calling a doctor, my place of work, or other professional calls; I write down what I am going to say before hand in big letters. I place written cues (such as “say hello” when a call might be switched). Before the phone call I do the same breathing techniques as I mentioned above. I also recite what I have written a few times to familiarize myself with the call. So I can feel more calm and comfortable before hand.

– If you slip up during the call, breathe, take a moment, and refer back to your written script of sorts. It’s okay to go a bit to fast, if you’re told to slow down, simply look back at what has been written and begin again.

– Know that your verbal skills are by no means a representation of your intellect or abilities. Verbalizing comes easily to some, and not so easily to others. And that’s okay! You’re not a lesser person if a phone call scares you half to death. It simply means you dislike making those calls. Don’t worry your head!

General Anxiety Attacks/Panic Attacks

They can strike at any time, and the can be horrendous. I have, over my twenty two years of life, obtained some very obscure tricks for handling moments like these. I come from a family where anxiety/panic disorders run rampant. And with the help of my family members, friends, etc, I have learned that these strange tricks really can do the trick.

– Eat an apple. Yes, right now you’re probably rolling your eyes while trying to figure out how in the world eating an apple could ease your anxiety. To be honest, the science of it remains somewhat of a mystery to me. But I have some basics figured out. This trick works really well if you have an oral fixation or stim orally. I sit in a chair with my feet planted flat on the ground, and take my time eating the able. I focus my energy on experiencing the  texture, the taste, the tartness or sweetness, the scent, etc. It is a great grounding routine.

– Hyperventilation is horrifying and tends to happen with anxiety/panic attacks. This tip should be used with caution as my physiology is much different than everyone elses, as is your own. I find keeping a gentle weighted object (in my case, a travel pillow sheep with beans in the feet) on my chest to be extremely soothing. It centers me and allows me to remember how to breathe properly. Remember, hyperventilation cannot kill you. But if keeping something on your chest restricts your breathing further, do not continue with this technique.

– Avoid mirrors and reflective surfaces. Looking into a mirror while in an anxiety attack can cause dissociation, further panic, and depersonalization. Remind yourself that you’re real, you’re location is real, and that this will pass.

– Stamp your feet on the ground. Be loud about it, be obnoxious, as long as it helps you, others are temporarily irrelevant.

– Make a cup of non-caffeinated tea.

– Listen to soothing, instrumental music.

 

As I said, I am no expert. But none of you are alone in this. This is a challenge, but I hope with some of my tips I can help ease some of the fears that are associated with anxiety/panic.  Share your own tips in the comments as well!

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