One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have anxiety. When I was younger, panic attacks would prevent me from doing things like going to class, sleepovers, or traveling. My family was always there to support me and around the age of 10 or 11 I met with a counselor for a few months to try and learn ways that I could cope so that I could be the unstoppable young girl I dreamed of being.
For me, that path didn’t solve my problems, and it wasn’t until I was about 16 that I figured out methods of dealing with stress that were effective for me. Panic attacks diminished exponentially when I learned that my feelings are exactly that, mine. Always remember that you control how you feel, and even if it’s hard, you CAN fight off an accelerated heart rate, tears, and shakiness.
These opinions are entirely my own and my experience with anxiety is unique to yours. If you are truly suffering with anxiety, talk to a friend or family member about getting help. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of the successful ways I’ve learned to cope with my anxiety...feel free to give them a try and let me know in the comments how you deal with stress, panic attacks, and everything in between.
All the love
I created the artwork at the top of this post during junior year. The amount of detail can be overwhelming to look at ((especially as I was creating this)) and all of the negative space is intentional...a place to let your eyes and mind relax. This piece is meant to be reminiscent of what anxiety can feel like...so much can be going on all around you and in order to feel calm you need to find that empty space to relax. The large text reads ‘KEEP YOUR CALM’ a mantra I had at the time and still think of today. Find your own mantra to comfort and motivate yourself during stressful times!!
The most commonly recommended cure for stress, a good concentrated 10 minutes of deep breathing can be a lifesaver. My approach is the inhale for 10 seconds then exhale for 9 seconds, inhale for 8 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds and so one and so forth until I get down to 1. Normally I then do this breathing exercise in reverse and repeat the process starting at inhaling for 1 second, exhaling for 2 seconds, etc. Not only will the breathing slow down your heart rate, but focusing on counting will slow down your thoughts.
GUIDED MEDITATION VIDEOS
The hardest time of day for me when I’m in an environment I’m not comfortable in is night. I think the pressure of falling asleep stresses me out more and because when I’m anxious over an extended period of time I have trouble sleeping and I get so frustrated when I just can’t drift off because I know that a good night’s sleep makes life a million times easier to manage. This year I discovered the most incredible tool to help me calm down and snooze. On YouTube there is a plethora of guided meditation videos to choose from. Turn the brightness of your computer or phone all the way off once you’ve clicked play, pop in your headphones, and fall asleep. My favorite video is ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE70YE6NVEA)) but with so many to choose from you can definitely find which video suits you and your needs the best!!
I’ve never been medicated for my anxiety and don’t plan to ever be. I rely entirely on natural coping mechanisms and techniques. Essential oils are a natural, healthy, and beneficial way to help you feel calm. Lavender, cedarwood, ylang ylang, and chamomile are all good for relaxation. I keep a small glass roller full of a blend of relaxing essential oils that I apply to pressure points on my wrists, as well as under my nose when I’m feeling that initial tinge of anxiety.
SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH FAMILIAR THINGS
If you get anxious when placed in unfamiliar situations keep in mind that you have the power to fill them with comfort. Whenever I’m traveling I bring my favorite pillow with me to make any hotel feel more like my room at home.
Senior year of high school I found this great website ((https://www.calm.com/)) where, for free, you can meditate to these relaxing gifs of lakes, flower fields, mountains, etc. with the soothing audio of nature to match. Personally, I like choosing a song I find relaxing on Spotify ((like No Woman by Whitney)), putting it on loop, choosing a scene and just focusing on one aspect of the gif until I feel calm again.
FINDING A PLAYLIST THAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Intuitively, it makes sense to listen to music you find calming but for me that doesn’t always quite work. You might not be in the mood to listen to your ‘Party Playlist’ but finding an album that has lyrics you can follow along and a slight happy edge will distract you more than listening to an all instrumental, but very soothing group like The Gentleman Losers. For some reason the new album by Glass Animals, How To Be A Human Being works really well for me. Let me know what songs or albums make you feel groovy again!!
If I’m in a funk the last thing I usually want to do is hang out with friends and get going but that is KEY. Make plans the night before so that you know you have something solid to do with your day and you’re not just sitting around trying to kill time. Go get brunch with a friend or take yourself to a movie. If you feel anxiety coming on late at night or at some time where you’re stuck where you are one thing I find really helpful is copying down song lyrics in a notebook...watching Netflix is too passive an activity and your thoughts just spiral back to stress, writing forces you to stop multi-tasking or multi-thinking and focus on spelling and memorization. ((Huge Secret: doing things to distract you from anxiety makes it go away!!))
WRITE DOWN WHAT'S BOTHERING YOU
A lot of times anxious thoughts are irrational. If you get anxiety going to the beach because of shark attacks write that down then do a little research to learn if that’s something to be so worried about ((it’s not)). Cross off every irrational thought and see what you’re left with. The remaining items should be easier to manage. Try to write down solutions to each rational problem and test them out!! Even if you can’t solve everything that’s getting you down, making progress is productive and will feel good.
CHANNEL DESTRUCTIVE ENERGY INTO CREATIVE ENERGY
I think one of the worst feelings is wanting to sabotage everything you’ve worked for and not caring about the consequences. Instead of neglecting to take care of yourself or straight up breaking things think about how you can channel all of that boiling negativity into something positive. When I’m in a bad mood I find it WAY easier to write and paint. Words flow from my fingertips to the computer screen and paint glides effortlessly from brush to paper. Once you’re done working on whatever creative pursuit you choose you’ll feel proud that you were able to channel those ugly feelings into a beautiful masterpiece.