I know I am not alone in my dances with anxiety. My Scary Mommy post was scary for me to post to the world because it talked openly about something I’ve found hard to talk about: anxiety.
But the feedback has been phenomenal. The stories others have shared has been comforting. As I found more and more people raising their hands and saying me too, I felt less scared to talk about it.
In different posts I’ve mentioned some of the tactics I’ve used to control my anxiety, but I’ve never aggregated them into one post.
So here they are. I see them in two categories. The first three are Acute Coping methods; these are the tactics I use in the moment. The second three are Management Coping; tactics I incorporate into my life to keep everything copacetic.
(Disclosure: I am not a medical professional. Just a girl who has found some ways to self-soothe that doesn’t require sucking my thumb or toting a lovie around in public. But if you want to talk to a medical professional, go for it! After my divorce, I kept seeing my therapist. I still go back occasionally for tweaks. I have so much respect for people with an open mind who are willing to ask for help.)
Deep breaths. This one is said so often that it might appear cliché, but that’s because it’s effective.
There are medical reasons to support its efficacy. When we breathe rapidly, it’s often caused by our “fight or flight” system (sympathetic nervous system) sensing a threat. When we breathe out and intentionally slow our breath, our bodies’ parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. Those “nerves” that I was previously feeling start to fade away.
I have long used music to cope: from heartbreak to disappointment. My iPhone plus earbuds are to me as my son’s Lovie is to him.
They are my security blanket. As long as they are on me, I know I can drown out any situation and focus.
I also use this one preemptively. If I am about to walk onto a plane (a trigger for me), I’ll start the music in the boarding area. Dual purpose: this not only works to calm anxiety but works to focus me on projects at work (pre-work days it was my best study buddy for both bar exams.)
Repeating words in my mind serves two purposes: 1) it gives me something to focus on and 2) the words provide strength. One of my favorites is this quote which reminds me that my mind has power over fear. “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
Work It Out
I often joke that running is my therapy. Except you know when people say things “jokingly” they really mean it, right? That’s me here. Running is my therapy.
The dose of endorphins, plus the chance to disconnect not only provides natural remedies for my body’s needs, but allows my mind to work through things and file them accordingly. I think of a run (or yoga or barre – whatever your activity is) as a method of cleaning up a dirty room (that dirty room being my mind).
As I’ve become more comfortable talking more openly about my anxiety others have begun to share their stories with me. The stories are from vice presidents, to working mothers, to paralegals, to CEOs to ridiculously successful alpha sales guys that appear to have an unchinkable armor.
If you’re uncomfortable talking openly about it – that’s ok. But take comfort that you are not alone. It does not define or control you.
Face the fears that drives the anxiety. This might seem counterintuitive but it’s actually the best cure for me. I take the first three aforementioned methods (breathing, music and mantra) and march straight into the face of it (i.e. onto a plane).
Sometimes I enlist a friend to accompany me the first time I am facing something that’s giving me anxiety. Sometimes I do it solo. Either way, I know that I am stronger than the fear and the anxiety.
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