Anxiety is an increasingly common ailment among people of all ages and economic backgrounds – from the non-stop negative self-talk about every mistake, perceived or real, and the overwhelming sense of doom about nothing in particular to the gnawing at the pit of your stomach that may or may not be accompanied by the need to cry or vomit or both at the same time.
The pumping of so much cortisol through our bodies may serve a great purpose in a time of truly high stress. For instance, it is helpful when we need to be able to come up with amazing and intricate ways to pay our bills on a nothing paycheck or to escape bears. However, when your cortisol levels are chronically high, it can do much more harm than good.
There are many ways to approach dealing with anxiety, ranging from red wine to Miller High Life. There are obvious pitfalls to self-medicating with alcohol and other addictive substances. And, there is also a limit to their functionality if you choose to keep a job, drive a car, or not be “that guy”. Here are some other tips for getting ahead of your own head.
Finding a way to get the thoughts that are circling around your noggin out and onto a medium can help you let go of them. Seek out writing activities that help you identify what is stressing you out and focus on what you can control. This will give you a sense of where to place your thoughts when you start fixating on future problems.
There are approximately one metric million things on Pinterest about Bullet Journaling, and a nice Moleskine Classic Colored Notebook can help you put all the thoughts and feels and planning and worrying in one place that isn’t internal. If physical paper stuff isn’t your thing, putting your thoughts into a note on your phone can also do the trick. For more on journaling, check out this blog.
A common source of anxiety is money. There is literally an infinite amount of it in the world but never enough in anyone’s checking account, savings, or retirement. Creating a budget (and sticking to it) can give you the control that can soothe those late night worries while making positive steps toward your overall financial well-being.
Budgeting can seem overwhelming or even constrictive if you’re trying to follow someone else’s plan. So, don’t follow their plan. Track what you are spending your money on for a month, then build a budget from there. If you need guidance, your local credit union will have resources that can help (I should know: I work at one.)
Being anxious is exhausting! It’s hard to motivate yourself to go out and do anything after a day of worrying about everything. Going to the gym is also terrifying if you’re concerned about how you look in normal clothes with normal amounts of sweaty huffing and puffing.
Making choices like taking the stairs, going for a lunch-break walk, or taking a hike in the evening instead of watching another America’s Next Top Model marathon can be small but meaningful. Finding fun ways to get out and get active – like backpacking, joining a local kickball or roller derby league, or becoming a birder -can even have positive social side effects besides just sweating the stress out.
This one is a bit of a gimme but can seem hokey and unappetizing if you’re envisioning someone sitting cross legged and chanting “Ohhhmmmmmm”. However, there are many apps out there for your phone that offer guided meditations that are not only free but also fun. Headspace has a great introduction to meditation that includes animated videos and a basics course that starts off with just three minutes of centering your mind a day. Taking a few minutes each day to stop and just focus on breathing can do wonders for helping to prioritize tasks and become more productive and less anxious.
Eat the Frog
Having something hanging over your head can really give the negative thought monster free reign to wreak havoc. There are more than a few folks who have written books about avoiding procrastination based on a quote from Mark Twain, like Eat That Frog! Basically, if you do the tasks you are dreading the most, you’ll get the things done that need to be done. Plus, you’ll feel a little more invincible because you’ve gotten the most difficult work out of the way, and all the other projects will be easier to do.
Making changes to your everyday behaviors isn’t easy, especially when you are struggling with all the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. Being kind to yourself and trying one thing at a time with an open mind can help. What else have you tried to help ease anxiety?