Most of this article was first published by me on Vocal, but I have done some updating and added some new information. To see the article in it’s original form, you can read it on Vocal here- “Managing Anxiety: Creating a Daily Routine”
Everyone has experienced anxiety in some form. Even if it was just as a child, when things were still new and they were forming their personalities. Generally, it’s something the average person is able to work through and overcome. Having anxiety because you have a presentation to give, or you’re going to have to do something unfamiliar, is normal, and will usually fade once the situation is resolved. If you have an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t work that way.
For someone with an anxiety disorder, that feeling of anxiousness will keep stalking you, overwhelming you with irrational thoughts and feelings. It can take over your life, and keep you from doing something as “simple” as answering the phone; or, it can have a more serious impact, such as preventing you from forming any lasting relationships. To minimize the effect anxiety has on your life, it’s necessary to find methods and tools to manage it.
I do understand that it’s much easier for me to sit here and type about managing anxiety than it is to actually do it. It can seem impossible to have any control over that panicky feeling that makes you feel like you’ll implode, but you really can. It doesn’t happen overnight, and can even take weeks just to see any progress at all, but you can take back some control.
It took me many years to figure out that I didn’t just have to be helpless and give in to the panic every time. I’ve tried just about everything you can imagine from medications to meditation, and everything in between. Some things worked for awhile, but as time went on, they became less effective. Back then, I was looking for one thing that fixed the problem. My perspective was all wrong because I looked at it as something that I had to LET control me. I had the “Well, I have an anxiety disorder so I have no choice but to be an emotional disaster,” mindset.
After several years of feeling that way, I was going through stuff with my other chronic conditions, and one day I just got fed up that everything was controlling me and decided to start fighting back as hard as I could. It was a realization that I couldn’t just accept that I had no way of improving my quality of life, I had to find a way to at least get my mind to do better, even if I can’t get my body to act right. So, I started trying all the different alternative & natural methods of helping my anxiety. There were some that were helpful, and some that were so out there I felt ridiculous even trying. What I found was that no one thing helped enough to manage my anxiety, so I started combining methods.
One of the major ways I’ve been able to manage my own anxiety is by coming up with a daily routine where I take a little bit of time to focus on myself, and do what I think of as “preventative grounding techniques.” I look at this as kind of like one of those things I have to do every day make sure l am as healthy as possible, like taking medications, eating right, and brushing my teeth. Managing my anxiety is just as important, and should be for you, too, because when left unchecked, it can severely impact your ability to have healthy relationships and a full life.
Your routine may not consist of the same things as mine, because the same things that help me, might not be what calms your mind and helps you. My “thing” is music. It helps me in ways nothing else really can. For you, it could be animals (this works for me, too), or any number of things (I go over a few further down.) Figure out the things that work for you and adjust the plan below to suit you.
For some things, you’ll need to figure out how to use them to help take you through the same type of process the routine described below does. You can choose to do this in the same place, at the same time everyday (this works better for some people,) or, for those with a more unpredictable life, you can develop methods you can do anywhere. Some people may need the environment to be very quiet, while others need music to get focused. Try different things until you find the combination that works for you. My routine is as follows:
1.I start out by listening to the same (usually) three songs that help me get control of different emotions. One is for any angry or frustrated emotions, the second is for anything that has me hurt, or sad, and the third is balanced music that leaves me feeling positive when it’s over. I won’t share the names of the songs because they probably wouldn’t seem to match up to those emotions. What matters is that the songs get those feelings out of my system and that helps me balance myself. I have other songs that bring similar emotions ready in case I need more time with a specific step, or I’ll set the songs to repeat until I feel like I’m ready to move on.
2. While listening to the first song, I either write, or do something productive, like house cleaning, when I’m capable; or, I do something anger-releasing, such as safely destroying junk, or using a punching bag. Either type of activity will help release the emotions intended. Getting them out helps. For more ideas on things to do to release anger or tension, read my article- “Battling Anxiety: Tools for Getting Your Life Back”
3. While listening to the second song, I again either write, or scroll through support groups either for support, or someone who needs a few kind words. It always helps me to focus when I have a problem that isn’t mine to focus on because of the type of person I am. For you, this may not be a good time to be online, if doing so adds to your anxiety. Be smart about the activities you choose
4. During the third song, I will usually just listen, with my eyes closed, while doing breathing techniques and my own little version of meditation.
5. At the end, because I have chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses, and my stress seems to greatly affect my body, I also do some light stretches and simple exercises designed to be easy on those with chronic pain.
Making sure I put aside the time to do these five steps helps minimize my anxiety so that it’s not sneaking up on me throughout the day. You can use whatever calming techniques work for you. Maybe you’re an artist, and drawing is cathartic; or, you love flowers, and smells help you center yourself. Perhaps you like to read. Find a few websites or books with shorter stories that you can make time for each day. Others are more into things like sports, working out, hiking, etc. Just figure out a way to make a daily routine and stick to it. It may take a few weeks or so to really notice a difference, but you’ll eventually feel the change in how you can go about your day.The more you customize your routine and consistently do it, the better it works.
You don’t have to let anxiety control your life. Find the combination of techniques that help you manage it, and be vigilant in using them. Take back some of the control that anxiety has stolen from you by controlling a period of time each day, and using that time to focus on self-care. Develop your own daily routine, use some of the techniques in my “Battling Anxiety” article (especially the Anxiety Cards,) visit my Anxiety page for outside resources, and research for even more methods to use in combination with the others. You may never be able to get rid of your anxiety disorder completely, but you can definitely minimize the impact it has on your life.