The other day I made tentative plans with a friend to do something over the weekend. The day before, I realized I had to do some “momming” (this is my new word for running around like a decapitated chicken trying to get kids places on time), so I texted her to cancel.
I didn’t get a response. In fact, the entire weekend went by and not a word. The more time went by, the more I became certain that my friend was very, very angry with me. My chest filled with that unbearable I-want-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin feeling. And my mind starting spinning rationalizations and explanations and justifications, all leading back to that same feeling of dread.
Then my daughter had a bad day at school. The story goes like this: She was on a hike with her classmates when wasps attacked. One of her classmates was stung! Then another one was bitten! (I didn’t realize that wasps bight but whatever that’s what she said), then one attached itself to my child’s leg and her teacher told her to “Get down!!! Spread your legs!” in front of her entire class. She was mortified, certain she would be a laughingstock or even shunned the next day in class.
I tried to get her to see the funny in the situation, but she wasn’t having it. And the more she insisted she was doomed, the more I started to worry about her. The ruminations commenced. What if she is a laughingstock now? What if she is shunned? Pretty much all my own projections of junior high school trauma. Sick to stomach. Crawling out of skin. Wanting to escape the feeling.
Just a day in the life of my good pal, Anxiety.
You should know that my friend was camping and didn’t have cell reception. And my daughter is as happy as ever at her new school with the sweetest friends ever…although she swears there are wasps near our garbage cans which is why she now refuses to take out the garbage.
I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. When I was a kid it would culminate in far too frequent panic attacks. If you’re not familiar, imagine being taken over by the most extreme, most illogical, most urgent feeling of terror so consuming that you truly believe you are in danger of immanent death or you have done something so horrifying that it can never be taken back. Your body becomes frozen and you lose temporary control over your mind, you mumble irrational things, you see things that aren’t there, like the walls closing in or the ceiling spinning down on you. At least this was what it was like for me.
I have only had two – thank God – as an adult. But anxiety is still, I admit, a near constant. Sometimes it’s easy to identify the trigger. Other times it’s not so obvious.
I used to cope in not so helpful ways. Alcohol worked wonders. Cigarettes were a distant second. And I admit I still turn to sugar when things get really bad. These kinds of coping mechanisms have their place, I’m not here to judge but I don’t recommend them long term.
Sure, they will distract you temporarily, but they lead to other problems that you guessed it will surely bring on more anxiety. So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful ways to cope with anxiety. This is mostly for me (LOL) but I thought I’d better share it in case someone else finds it helpful. Feel free to list your own coping tricks because I am always looking for more.
It’s how I use my anxiety as a legit success strategy:
1. Clean things. Remember that episode of Young Sheldon when he is really pissed off at his mom and goes on a cleaning rampage? It also works for anxiety. And you’ve got a clean house at the end.
2. Organize things. This is a similar strategy, but you don’t have to go on a rampage. Pick a little nook, like your desk or a section in the garage. You can distract yourself from anxiety and feel good when you see the end result. You might even buy some cute bins (but don’t go crazy because spending money can be another one of those not so helpful coping strategies when it gets out of hand.)
3. Meditate. This is more of a long-term strategy that may not work if your monkey mind hasn’t been practicing. I do it at least five days a week because the more I learn how to be mindful, the less time I spend in mad rumination mode.
4.Yoga. Yoga, unlike any other form of movement, helps me take deep satisfying belly breaths. I love this. And they say breath work is good for anxiety.
5. Breath work. Okay I admit I often forget to do this but at times I remember to take deep breaths in and deep breaths out, counting to three each time. I picture myself breathing in good energy and breathing out bad energy. It helps.
6. Exercise. Anything. You might not want to do it at first, but I guarantee you’ll feel better after.
7. Running. Sometimes I am so filled with anxiety that my body just wants to run away. So, I do, wearing Nikes.
8. Nap.Sometimes I’m so fucking tired. And the fact that I’m so tired makes my grumpy and impatient which causes me anxiety because I am grumpy and impatient while momming which makes me feel terrible. I nap to prevent this kind of anxiety.
9. Nature. There is something about being in the woods or even working in my garden. It puts my heart into perspective like almost nothing else. I need to do this more.
10. Name that emotion. This one is so easy! You may have heard that anxiety is a cover emotion. This means that it is usually hiding some other kind of emotional discomfort underneath. All you have to do when you are feeling anxious is pause and search for the emotion you are feeling. For me it is often fear or shame. I don’t know why but naming it often defuses it. Magic.
11.Look for downstream thoughts. This is one of my favorite coaching techniques I use on myself almost every day. You can read The Astonishing Power of Emotions by Esther and Jerry Hicks. or you can hire me to coach you.
12. Morning Pages. This involves getting up early when it is quiet and free writing nonstop for three pages. My stream of consciousness writing often ends up being a conversation with god or some other form of self-coaching, but it always ends in a feeling of peace. I need to do this more too.
13. Read or watch TV. Escape into a good story. Enough said. Please choose high vibration content or your escapism is going to lead you back into anxiety real quick.
14. Take vitamins. Seriously. These help. I like doTERRA’s long life vitality line or Genius Joy.
15. Pet animals. I love to cuddle my sweet creatures. If you don’t have any animals, consider getting one. Cats are less work. Puppies are cute but it takes a special person. I have a dog and two cats and even the Koi in my pond are like emotional support animals to me.
16. Do something of service. One of my favorite quotes came from the Ricky Gervais special on Netflix called Afterlife. (Loved it!) I can’t remember how it went exactly but it was something like Happiness is so amazing that it doesn’t even matter if it’s yours. Can you make someone smile today? Works wonders.
17. Tennis. Okay this one is pretty specific. But it is a wonderful sport that requires complete concentration. Start ruminating and you will lose that point. Other forms of movement like this: Dance (Zumba is my fav) and Mountain biking (Ruminate and you will run into a tree.)
18. Gratitude. This is one of the best quick fix coping strategies. I like to name ten new things I’m grateful for. Take your time with this. Really feel into it. Another cool long-term strategy is getting yourself a 5 Minute Journal. Every night you take a few minutes to reflect on your day. Gratitude is part of the ritual along with other simple and powerful questions.
19. Do something new. You will add some adventure to your life. You may learn something new. And you will feel good about yourself. Your life may become so interesting you don’t have time for anxiety.
20.Take a shower. Sometimes I like showers better than baths because you can let the water run over you and poor down the drain. I like to do this after social interactions because I am such an empath. I absorb energy, all of it. So, I take a shower to wash it off.
21. Meet up with a friend. Talk to someone. Get it off your chest. If you don’t have a friend you can talk to, hire a coach.
22.Watch a funny move or see some comedy. I don’t think it is physically possible to be fearful or ashamed while laughing hysterically. At least not for me.
23.Take CBD oil. I started taking this for a sleep disorder. It works for anxiety too.
24. Smell essential oils. This one is so huge for me. There are a few oils I recommend, lavender, white fir, lemongrass, aromatouch blend. I own about eight diffusers!
25. Loving kindness. The other day I had a really painful interaction over social media with someone who used to be my friend. I did this meditation immediately and I(I shit you not) felt total peace afterwards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d_AA9H4z9U
26. Use your planner. I love START planner. Wish I had a referral link for this! But you can google them. Someone once said that “people are like bicycles, if they aren’t moving forward, they fall down.” Planning helps me feel more excited about life and also less anxious that I’m not missing important dates. [UPDATE: I know longer use a planner. I prefer time management strategies that don’t require them. Email me for more info]
27. Get up earlier. Sometimes I feel anxious because I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do in my day. So I get up earlier to get shit done. But I also get up earlier to meditate and self-coach before the kids are awake. It helps me get into the right non-anxious energy before the crazy begins.
My mom used to call me a “neurotic.” I looked it up. It’s a term used to describe someone who shows signs of mental disturbances but does not indicate complete psychosis.
I guess, when I’m not having a panic attack, that would be a pretty good word to describe me. But if I wasn’t half crazy, I wouldn’t have been able to compile such a complete list of coping strategies for anxiety, right?
There is always a bright side.
So there you have it. These are my favorite coping tools for anxiety. I hope it helps. And for the other “neurotics” out there, knuckle bump. Please add your coping strategies to the comments section below.
P.S. That is a picture of me in the gym after having organized the garage. My anxiety helps me get an amazing amount of stuff done!