Whenever I've had a hard day and things start getting to me more than normal, it's so very easy for me to shut down and let myself fall deeper and deeper into a hole - a hole where I overthink, cry constantly, and think negatively to the point where panic attacks occur. The things I used to do that I thought were "combating" my anxiety, I now see where enforcing my anxiety. I used to stay on my phone and scroll through social media, calling it a "healthy distraction" to get my mind off of the thoughts that turned over and over in my head like windmills. I used to confine myself to the four walls of my room, closing the door, and telling everyone to "Leave me alone. I'm having a bad day". And if that wasn't enough destruction, I would stay in bed all day, claiming I was too anxious to leave. This is not the way to handle anxiety.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety disorder and Social Anxiety disorder in August of 2015. I kept these unhealthy coping mechanisms until 2018. Yes, until last year. It took me this long to learn that I have anxiety, but anxiety doesn't have me. These are a few things that I find helpful when I'm having one of those unexpected anxious days.
1. Listening to Calming Music
This is one of my favorite coping mechanisms, if not my favorite. Listening to calming music with really good lyrics is a great way to combat anxiety - it's scientifically proven! Multiple studies have proven that listening to music lowers the levels of an endorphin called cortisol, which is associated with feelings of anxiety and stress.
Listening to music with a slow rhythm and pace has the same effects on your brain as meditation! It affects your brain waves, making them move in a slower and steadier pace, almost like you're in a trance, which makes you relax more. One of my favorite songs to listen to when I'm anxious is Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Listening to Art Garfunkel's soft whisper of a voice is so calming to me. Let me know if you guys want me to make an Anxiety Combat Playlist!
2. Watching a Favorite Show
Watching TV, Netflix, or Hulu can help, but only if you do it the right way. We all have favorite shows and if you're like me, you have a lot of favorites in a lot of different genres. I find watching funny or uplifting shows works a lot better than watching dramatic and climatic shows. Some of my favorite go-to TV shows are "The Office", "Glee", "Jane the Virgin" (I got hooked before Gina Rodriguez started shading black people, don't judge me), and "Gilmore Girls". One time, I resorted to watching "Grey's Anatomy" when I was anxious and ran into the shooting episode. Y'all, I almost died.
3. Let a Loved One Take Care of You
This is something that is so hard for me, because if I'm going through something, I like to go through it alone and deal with things alone, because I hate showing myself in dark places. I learned this more when I got to college and was away from home to where I couldn't just walk to my Mom. I have to mentally convince myself to let my friends or my boyfriend take care of me when I'm in this state. It's easy to want to be left alone and to isolate yourself, but having someone there in your corner to tell you everything is okay and that you're handling yourself okay makes all the difference. And when I say "take care of you", I don't mean let them do everything for you. I mean let them be there for you and let them help you get through it.
4. Keep a Journal
Everyone who knows me, knows that I swear by this! I've always kept a journal, ever since I was in elementary school. I was that little kid who brought her notebook to recess and wrote about my day and how Haley hid my "Twistable" crayons because she wanted them (that really happened, and I'm still bitter about it. Fight me, Haley). Journaling has always been apart of my life and has always resonated with me. It helps to have prompts to start your journal off, like, "What was the greatest part of your day?" Writing your thoughts and feelings helps you sort them out and recognize your feelings, which is so important when understanding your mental health.
5. Go Out and Do Something
Now, this right here is a chore for me. I absolutely love to throw myself a pity party. It's something that I'm working on now, and I'm not ashamed to admit it because I know there's others like me out there. If I'm anxious, I just sit in my anxiousness and let it fester and get worse and worse until it's to a point where I feel completely helpless and call myself helpless. I've gotten to the point now, to where if I even start to feel like an attack is coming on, I'll leave my dorm and just start walking. Do yoga, go out and grab a bite to eat, or just walk. Just make sure you're not staying stagnant. The key to combating anxiety is to be proactive. Know your triggers and know the feelings you get when it's coming on, and do what's best for you to get yourself out of that state. I hope these coping mechanisms help you as much as they help me.