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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

what to do when you're anxious


I couldn't sleep at all last night. While I typically have insomnia, last night was something different. I laid awake after putting Waverly to bed and I wondered what today would be like. Would there be unrest, protests, a call to arms? I started reading articles about election predictions and I had to stop. My mind reeled and I felt my heart racing. I stared at the ceiling for most of the night. 

I've always had anxiety and I can usually manage it well by rationalizing best and worst case scenarios. Some days (or nights) though, I need to really focus on my coping mechanisms. This morning I wrote down the things that I do to help me achieve a calmness or at least what brings me to a state where my heart isn't pounding. If you're feeling anxious today too, here are some things you can do to help calm your anxiety. (If you do have anxiety that is not event driven, I highly recommend seeing a therapist. Some of these coping techniques below are courtesy of my own therapist.)

If you are having debilitating thoughts or extreme anxiety, call or text someone. Don't do this by yourself. I checked in on a friend this weekend who was in the midst of an anxiety crisis but she was afraid of reaching out because she didn't want to burden people who were already worried about the pandemic and their own issues. Please don''t do this. Reach out. You aren't a burden. You are loved and this is a time of extreme stress. It will get better. If you are having thoughts that scare you, call 800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

How to Stop Anxious Thoughts From Taking Over

1. Stay away from social media. Delete the apps if you have to. I have had SO many conversations with friends lately who tell me that social media makes them feel emotionally empty. One friend who has been in the house with her kids and husband for months on end broke down on a call last week. She said she thought something was wrong with her because some of the influencers she follows on Instagram look happy and well rested in their posts about happily quarantining with their families when she feels like she is barely hanging on. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. You're the star of your own show. 

2. Write down what is making you feel anxious. What is the worst that could happen? What is the best outcome? Leave it in your notebook. Stop thinking about it. The more you run through the what if's and ruminate how awful a situation may be, will just cause those neuropathways to become stronger. Running a situation over and over in your mind will make any strong person break.

3. Get outside. Change your environment. Go for a walk.

4. Pet an animal. 

5. Get under a weighted blanket. 

6. Write down five things you are grateful for.

7. Take a shower. (Showers bring me such clarity. I find that a good cry in a hot shower is cathartic. I come out of the shower feeling like my anxiety has swirled down the drain.)

8. Watch videos that make you laugh. I love watching videos of my toddler when she was a baby and just waking up from a nap. She was so dopey and sleepy that I can't help but be happy in those moments. 

9. Avoid television shows that don't make you happy.  When we were in the midst of our fertility treatments, my doctor actually said to me "Watch happy things on TV. Watch comedies. Don't watch the news or dramas."

10. Bake something. I made an apple pie last week that made me so happy. 

11. Learn the Navy Seal Box Breathing Technique which allows your system to calm the fight or flight response and gain back composure. 

Breathe in for four seconds from your diaphragm. 
Hold that breath for four seconds while focusing on a mantra "The universe is working for me/ I am resilient / I am in control"
Exhale for four seconds
Hold your breath for four seconds without air in your lungs. 
Start again for a total of five counts. 

12. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and while you may achieve the numbness you're looking for, it could backfire on you and exacerbate the anxious feelings you are having. 

13. Shut your phone off or leave your phone in another room and do anything else. Color, rearrange your closet in ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), do a puzzle but shut down your addiction to your phone. What will shock you is how often you will reach for your phone when it isn't by your side. 

14. Try the plank pose. I love this yoga pose lately because it takes all of my focus and I feel like I accomplish something when I complete a two minute hold. If you do this pose, nothing will occupy your mind other than focusing on the fact that every single muscle in your body feels engaged in this move.

15. Prepare your favorite meal from childhood. For me, that means tuna noodle casserole. There is no food on this earth that could make me happier. 

16. Engage your sense of smell. Burn a candle or turn on a diffuser with a calming scent. I am currently running our diffuser with a balsam scent that reminds me of the Four Seasons Spa in Los Angeles. 

17. Call someone and ask how they are doing.  Really listen without talking about yourself. 

18. Do something nice for someone else. Donate to a cause. Send someone a dinner delivered to their door. 

19. If you can, change your sheets, crack open a window, take a shower and climb into a cool bed. Go to  sleep earlier than usual. Turn on a sound soother and practice the Navy Seal Box Breathing technique. 

20. Whether it's to God or the universe, hand your troubles, your worries and your thoughts over to someone else. In my therapy sessions, my therapist would walk me through a technique where I close my eyes and imagine a bubble above my head. In this shimmering bubble, I was to put my thoughts, my fears and my worries. Then this bubble rose into the sky and floated away. I still do this technique when my. mind jumps from one negative thing to another. It works. 

I hope that whatever is causing your anxiety dissipates soon. 

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