Have you ever felt like your brain was becoming more and more tense by the second? Racing with thoughts, unable to concentrate on tasks, conversations, work… It’s a daily struggle for many people, including me. I have struggled with my anxiety for years, even before I knew what it was. I just thought it was completely normal, that everyone gets outbursts sometimes, everyone cries over minor things, everyone is unable to control their thoughts and worries…This happened to everyone and so I shouldn’t think anything of it. Wrong. It got too much, to a point where I couldn’t take it and I finally seeked help from my doctor. But, if you’re like me – medication doesn’t always do the trick and it can also take a very long time for it to even start working effectively. I have some key coping mechanisms that have helped me get through my days and also get through anxiety attacks that I feel coming on.
- The most important tip to remember is that your mind needs balance. How is your mind supposed to be balanced if the rest of your body isn’t? It’s time to start eating balanced and healthier meals. Eat regular meals and ensure you are taking in lots of water.
- Limit caffeine. I know this one is a total bummer especially for coffee lovers, and I still have a hard time with this too. But, instead of completely cutting it out – try to start with reducing your intake. If you drink 3 coffees per day, try 2. Caffeine is known to often aggravate anxiety and trigger anxiety/panic attacks.
- If you feel an anxiety attack coming on, take a seat, and breathe deeply and slowly. I follow a breathing rule inhaling deeply for 10 seconds and then slowly exhaling for 10 seconds then repeating if necessary. It usually takes me a few times before I start to truly calm myself.
- Change your focus. If you feel yourself getting irritable, uneasy, anxious etc. try to change your focus to something else. Watch a TV show, read a book, try exercising (which although can be hard to get yourself up and going, is very effective!!!)
- Painting or drawing (if you like to), can help ease the mind and enable your mind to focus on the act of painting, the colours, and how soothing it can be.
- Journal out your thoughts. Whenever I felt extremely overwhelmed, I would capture those thoughts and put them into poems – it’s actually where my best work came from. It’s a great way to relieve and unload your mind.
- Recognize the signs. Everyone is different which means the signs could be totally different. But, recognizing the signs before an anxiety attack can truly help you to be proactive by preventing an attack, calming down before it gets too much and noticing the signs way earlier.
- Stay in regular contact with friends and family, especially those who are close to you. Surround yourself with people you can open up to and talk with. Loneliness and isolation can be very hard on your mental health, especially anxiety and depression.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Therapy is becoming less and less stigmatized and is often talked about as being important even if you don’t have anxiety or depression. It can be helpful for everyday life, to enhance it and allow you to truly live your best, mentally. The truth is, you have to allow yourself to get the help you deserve and to talk about what is going on, even if it’s hard to explain.
- The last tip is one that I just learned recently, and it may sound silly but it works. When you are feeling anxious, grab an ice cube from your freezer and squeeze it in your hand. The coldness immediately takes your mind off of any anxious thoughts, because it is focused on the cold shock in your hands. If you don’t have ice cubes, try cold water!
It is important to take time for yourself. Your mental state is incredibly precious and self-care goes a long way. The trick is to check in with yourself every so often, ask yourself either in your head or aloud – how am I feeling? If you feel off, proceed to ask yourself what you need at the moment. Maybe it’s as simple as a tight hug or it could be more complex and having a reoccurring issue finally be solved – whatever it is, you are capable of controlling your own thoughts and feelings. We are so strong and life can throw some heavy stuff at us, but we rise up and keep on. Isn’t that amazing?