I have battled severe anxiety, panic attacks, depression, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder for many years. The anxiety and panic attacks have been around as long as I can remember, although I didn’t know what they were until I was an adult. I even went through an extremely hard time with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and an attempt not long after one of my best friends was murdered. It wasn’t a good time in my life, but I survived, and came out of it stronger than most people I know.
I dealt with depression then, and have to fight it off now, after being diagnosed with chronic illnesses that cause pain, nausea, exhaustion, and severe insomnia. Those are just some of the symptoms. Dealing with the loss of my active life hasn’t been easy on top of dealing with the medical issues, but I WILL survive. Having two kids gives me no other option. I won’t give up, for them. It’s still hard, though, and I know it’s something I have to be conscious of, and constantly work on. I’m hoping some of my tips can help some of you.
Tips for Anxiety:
1. Do your research. Learning about your anxiety, and uncovering the causes, can be very helpful in managing it. Learn all you can and acknowledge where it applies to your life, but do not obsess about it.
2. Find a technique to help you get back in control during a panic attack that works for you. I know that seems kind of impossible, but I promise, with practice, you can at least get a better handle on it. A technique I use is to find an object nearby, and list off the details of that object. I made a card for my son to carry with focusing questions to help him do the same. He says it works for him, and several others have also used them successfully. I’ve been using the technique, with and without the card, for years, and have posted the cards on my blog for others to use. I update them with new questions every once in awhile to keep them fresh. You can find them here:
3. Talk things out, or write them down. Getting it all out of your head helps even if what you’re saying or writing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When I write, it helps me figure out just exactly how I feel about whatever the topic is. It’s helpful in so many situations. Talking it out can help, too. Anything to get all those feelings, insecurities, paranoia, and overreactions out of your system. There are many times something will be on my mind obsessively until I write or talk about it in depth. As soon as I do, I can let it go. Try it, and see if it works for you.
4. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your anxiety isn’t a valid problem. It is, AND it’s very hard to learn to cope with it. You need people in your life who understand that you have this disorder, and are willing to do whatever they can to help you cope with it. No, they don’t need to “baby,” or coddle you, but they need to be reasonably understanding of how anxiety affects you, and willing to help whenever possible. We also have to recognize that our anxiety can make it difficult to understand us, and remember to not get upset when they don’t get it right away. Make sure you’re being as understanding as you’re expecting others to be.
5. If you feel the anxiety coming on, take time to do whatever you need to in order to get your anxiety under control. You can’t help anyone if you don’t have yourself in control. Sometimes the best way we can be there for those we love is take care of ourselves first if the alternative is going to be making bad decisions, or lashing out at them. Slow down when you need to.
6. It’s ok to not do it all. You know what you can handle, and what you can’t. We often feel too much pressure to “do.” Do this, do that, take the kids here, volunteer there. It can be too much, and that’s okay. Admit to yourself when it’s too much and delegate things that can’t just be cancelled. You aren’t super human. None of us are, so these crazy expectations we seem to have of ourselves, and others, really don’t make much sense.
7. Your anxiety doesn’t have to define you, but it is part of you, and people cannot know you without knowing about, and understanding how it affects you. Being open with anyone you care about is the only way to avoid it eventually being an issue. As far as those you want to get to know, being open about it (not obsessively focusing- there is a difference,) is the only way to know whether it’s someone you actually want in your life. Be careful not to slip into the trap of obsessively focusing on your anxiety. Focusing on it just creates more anxiety in you.
8. Start a routine that you make a habit everyday, putting time aside to focus yourself and do whatever techniques help keep your anxiety under control. For some, things like yoga, or just working out in general, help keep them at peace. Others meditate, do a hobby, or write. Some even have a strict regimen of therapy methods, or worksheets, they use to help manage their anxiety. Figure out what works for you. I published a piece on Vocal about creating a daily routine that you can read here:
9. Breathe. Remember to stop and take calming breathes when you start to feel the very first bits of anxiety coming. Some people even schedule times to do this throughout the day as a preventative measure. There are several different breathing techniques out there. Find one that helps you focus and relax.
10. Join support groups. I know many with anxiety have a hard time being social, but remember, a support group is filled with others experiencing the same issues you are. They understand better than anyone. Forcing yourself to become a part of one of these groups can make a significant impact on your life. If you can’t force yourself to join a physical group, there are plenty of them online. Get into one, or more, and make use of their resources. I started one that covers chronic illness, mental illness, & addiction/recovery that focuses on realistic support. You can find it here if you’d like to join:
These are all just tools to help you get through the day. I hope one or more of them are useful to you. I’ll post other tips in the future, so check back on the Anxiety Page for more
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