I have problems with anxiety and have had for many years. Large crowds. Driving. The holidays. Many things contribute to my anxiety. And what does that anxiety feel like? It feels like fear, but it is like being scared of something you can’t see. It’s that “fight or flight” feeling you’ve heard about and probably, at one time or another, experienced. And it is strange because there is a rational part of my brain and an emotional part which are often in conflict with one another. In a large crowd, the emotional part of my brain is yelling “DANGER!” while the rational part knows that there is nothing to be fearful of, but I BELIEVE in the danger. Over the years I have learned some strategies and found some things that help to calm my anxiety.
Every morning I eat a little something and go to the leather beauty pouch where I store my ‘drugs.’ I take medication to help manage my anxiety as well as my bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive. Personally, I hate taking medication every day just to survive, but it the only way to fight my anxiety and keep my head above water, so I do it.
It seems simple. Heck, I’ve been breathing since the moment I entered this world, but there is a special way of breathing that helps to calm me. I call it the “Ten Technique.” I breathe in through my nose, imagining my lungs filling up as I mentally count to ten. Then I slowly breathe out through my mouth, again counting to ten. I repeat this until my heart starts to slow its frenetic pace. Sometimes, if possible, it helps to close my eyes so I can focus on my breathing.
3. Taking a walk
Taking a walk is a stress reliever for me. Even if it’s short, it usually helps. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but often times when I am out of town, I will take half an hour to walk alone around the neighborhood I am visiting to calm myself.
Now, this doesn’t always work because, as I’ve said, sometimes the emotional part of my brain is the boss. But for example, with my fear of driving sometimes, I rationalize that I have never been in a wreck so the likelihood of actually being in one is marginal. Or if I am having a panic attack I try to remember that I have never died because of a panic attack and will, most likely, not die because of this particular episode.
It stands to reason that if you can just get your mind to go somewhere else – off that feeling of panic – then you can calm down. Often times when I am feeling anxious I call a friend or family member. I don’t have to talk about my anxiety, it’s actually better if I don’t talk about it but focus on some other topic of conversation. Soon I am wrapped up in the conversation and forget about my anxiety.
Like talking to a friend, laughing provides immediate relief from anxiety. I like to watch a funny movie or check out cute YouTube videos. Laughing puts me at ease almost instantly.
7. Finding a “safe” spot
I have a room of my own at home. Like a man has his “Man Cave,” I’ve got my own spot. I feel safe and comfortable in there, surrounded by my things. It’s a place to getaway. You don’t need a whole room. Being in bed offers me the same type of relief. And when I am not home, sometimes just getting away to a bathroom and practicing some deep breathing helps. The key is to find a place where I don’t feel so overwhelmed and can take a few minutes to try some of the above techniques.
Anxiety is a beast. Though the above tips often help, sometimes my feeling of panic is too overwhelming. Some days I just can’t leave the house and I recognize that that is okay. I don’t have to win every battle as long as I am winning the war. I understand that I have a mental illness and some things are out of my control. But I try my best and that is all I can expect.