How To Give Anxiety The Smackdown
Here are 5 smart ways to turn your panic into power.
Let’s face it. We live in an anxiety-driven world.
The urgency of social media that feeds us a constant stream of negative news stories as they happen … technology designed to connect us that leaves us increasingly disconnected … traffic, bills, telemarketers, deadlines … even buying a movie ticket to veg out in front of the big screen turns into a fight to the finish since you only have a certain number of seconds to complete your order before someone else takes your seat!
Yes, anxiety is at an all-time high, and it’s easy to find yourself stressed out, overwhelmed, tensed up, and over-caffeinated just to keep up with it all. And then all the caffeine only leads to the jitters, which leads to more anxiety, until you’re on the Stress Express and there’s no turning back.
I’m going to encourage you to step away from the frappuccino and try another method: Self care. Two little words that when put together can help turn your panic to power.
As I write about in my book, You Are Enough: Heartbreak, Healing, and Becoming Whole, anxiety has been an ever-present shadow in my life; sometimes helping me, by pushing me to succeed, and sometime hurting me, by leaving me panic-stricken and wrung out. And though some of us are more prone to anxiety and panic attacks, there ARE things we can do to manage our emotions instead of allowing them to manage us. Here are five of my favorite tools for pumping the brakes on panic:
1. Stay mindful. It sounds so simple in theory, but getting out of our heads and back into our lives can sometimes feel like a game of tug-of-war. One of my favorite exercises for bringing myself back to the present moment is the Five-Thing Game. It’s so easy. You pause, take a look around you at your surroundings, and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This very simple process has a way of grounding you back into the present and getting you out of your head, where those racing and anxious thoughts occur.
2. Breathing/progressive muscle relaxation. Take a few moments and focus on your breathing. Place one hand on your belly and take deep breaths from your diaphragm, pushing your hand out when you exhale. After a few deep, cleansing breaths, try some progressive muscle relaxation. You can Google this and find very specific instructions on how to do it, but the essence of progressive muscle relaxation is to focus on tensing up and then relaxing various muscle groups. I always start at my feet and work my way up to my head. It only takes about five minutes, but by the time I’m done, I can feel the tension literally melting from my body. Out of my entire anxiety toolkit, I think this one might be my most helpful.
3. Social media detox. Take a few days or a weekend and completely unplug from your phone/social media/the outside world. People are like computers; sometimes we just need to breathe and reboot. Hitting the pause button on the constant stream of breaking news and urgent text messages and Facebook updates will do wonders for your soul. Spend that time focusing on the people right in front of you rather than the ones in your phone. After a few hours, you probably won’t miss your virtual world at all.
4. Self-care Saturday or Sunday. One of my favorite ways to practice self-care is to take one day out of the weekend and just do nothing. Read a good book. Watch movies in your PJs all day. Take a walk and get some fresh air. There is nothing more healing and restorative than spending time in nature. Take a hot bubblebath and do a hydrating face masks. Do things that feed your soul. I think you’ll find sometimes doing nothing is absolutely EVERYTHING.
5. Meditate. Guided meditations are one of my favorite ways not just to relax, but to fall asleep. Often, anxiety can wreak havoc on our sleep cycle. There’s a free app called Insight Timer that has literally thousands of free guided meditations, on any and every topic you can imagine. Mediations range from five minutes to an hour and beyond, so whether you do a quick one in the morning to start your day, or a long one at night to unwind, there’s a meditation for every purpose, topic, and schedule.
These five tips have all been hugely beneficial to me on my path to healing and wholeness. Pick the one or ones that you think will work for you and good luck! And feel free to add to this list and branch out and try other methods, as well. There is no one way to overcoming anxiety. Everyone’s path is different, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, what matters is remembering that whatever comes your way, you really ARE enough to handle it. Sometimes it just helps to have a few extra tools in your toolbox.