Did you know anxiety is the most common mental health concern in the United States? Almost 20% of adults are diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder. That is almost a quarter of US adults – how wild! Despite this, it’s still such a taboo subject for so many of us. We don’t talk about it and we don’t seek out constructive coping mechanisms. We just wander through life, full of anxiety and full of confusion.
Anxiety is something completely normal to feel in our everyday lives. Think of it sort of like our fight or flight response: your body is warning you something might be wrong and it’s trying to help you escape. Sure, this is helpful in some situations, but it becomes a huge problem when it’s excessive and starts messing with how you get by every day. And that, my friends, is how we classify anxiety disorders!
But what do we do about it?
There are tons of techniques used to manage and treat anxiety. Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are popular methods and I absolutely recommend reaching out to your physician or therapist to discuss those options. But sometimes you need something else. That’s why learning to manage and cope with your anxiety is so important.
It takes a lot of time and practice to get to a point where you can effectively manage your symptoms of anxiety. I have the groundwork laid out for you to create your own plan based on my methods, but as I always say: everyone is different, so your plan might be different. Try out new things, catalog how you feel, and figure out what works for you.
Sometimes all you need is a breath of fresh air.
I know that sounds cliche, but for me and many others, it has been overwhelmingly true. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go on a full hiking extravaganza to reap the benefits. Just 10 minutes outdoors has been shown to reduce anxiety. Simply taking a quick walk around the block when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your anxiety can help.
More than just treating immediate symptoms, regular outdoor exercise can lower your general feelings of anxiety. For me, that’s when hiking comes into play! I love taking my dog, Rory, out on adventures. I live in a metropolitan area, so I try to get out into nature at least once a month — more if I can help it! If you’re new to hiking it can be a bit daunting when you first get started. Just take it slow, err on the side of caution, and use resources to help you. My blog buddy, The Fat Backpacker, has some amazing tips for hikers no matter your experience level!
Take a deep breath. Breathing exercises are a hugely popular technique for managing anxiety and I’m a big fan of adding aromatherapy to the mix. Regular practice of aromatherapy has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and stress!
There’s something especially calming about just closing your eyes, relaxing, and breathing in incredible scents. The fact that it can help with anxiety? Just an added little bonus!
I use an essential oil diffuser in my room regularly — especially when I’m trying to meditate. I also keep a few oil blends on hand when I’m out and about in case I start to feel some symptoms of anxiety when I’m not at home. It’s easy to roll on a favorite oil and take some deep breaths no matter where I am.
Of course, aromatherapy alone isn’t going to make your anxiety go away. But it is an amazing resource when you need it. Pair it with therapy and other items on this list for optimal results. It’s also extremely important that you’re using products safe for you, so I recommend seeking out a certified Aromatherapist. Personally, I cannot recommend Pamela’s Apothecary enough!
We’ve got our essential oils, now it’s time to meditate! I don’t think it’s news to hear that meditation has been proven to help reduce stress and manage anxiety. Since I have implemented meditation into my daily routine, I have seen incredible results in how I feel.
There are so many different ways that you can meditate and make this practice work for you. I’m not particularly good at keeping still or staying focused, so for me a few minutes of deep breathing is my favorite method! I set a 5-minute timer, turn on my diffuser, and focus on my breathing.
That’s not for everyone, and I know a lot of people love using apps like Headspace or Calm for guided meditations, instead. Guided meditation uses a narrator to help you stay focused and understand the practice better.
And of course, there is always yoga! You might think more exercise and less meditative practice when you hear yoga, but the truth is: it’s both! With a focus on your movements and your breathing, yoga is an amazing meditative technique that tons of people benefit from.
Y’all had to know this one was going to be on the list at some point. I could go on and on about how video games can help your mental health so I won’t dive too deep right now. Just know that forming a special practice where you can relax and detach from the real world on occasion is a wonderful way to reduce stress and anxiety. There are a variety of games themed on mental health and many with the sole purpose of helping you remain calm.
You can also head over to my Twitch channel where we discuss mental health and I rate games based on how mental health friendly they are!
Do you ever talk to yourself? I know I do. Often. That’s why I knew I had to find a way to make it work for me. Every so often — a lot less often now than before — my brain will start telling me how bad I am at everything. Not very cool of it, honestly.
So I decided to switch the script. When my brain starts talking negatively, I counter with positives. I find this works easiest when I pretend I’m talking to a friend instead of myself. I start by typing out all of the horrible things my brain is saying, then I respond as if I had received a message from a friend. I let this “friend” know that their thoughts are not their feelings and remind them of all of the wonderful things they have accomplished. Once I’m all done, I read it back to myself — I am the friend in this scenario, after all!
It can be really hard for me to talk kindly to myself at times, so going at it from this angle has been a huge help for me. I am a PRO at hyping my friends up, so now I’m using that as a workaround to hype myself up as well!
Sometimes you just need to get it out. That’s why journaling is such a popular method of managing anxiety. I know it can seem daunting to take up journaling. It seems like a lot of work, right? Well, do I have some great news for you! All it takes is 15 minutes a day 3 days a week to show an improvement in your anxiety.
I personally struggle most with what exactly to write. Sometimes it’s hard to put all of those feelings into words. Luckily, there are a ton of resources for journal prompts. Most of the time, I just head over to Pinterest and search — I know I’ll find plenty to choose from! Otherwise, I find myself just jotting down my thoughts — everything from my worries to my hopes and dreams. Sometimes it just feels good to empty your head a little and make space.
No matter what you choose to practice to help manage your anxiety, there is one thing I cannot recommend enough and that is therapy!
You go to the doctor when you’re sick, so why not see someone when your mind is “sick” too? Our brain is a part of our body — the most important part if you ask me!!! — so it’s important to take care of it.
It’s best if you can see a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, so I always recommend getting a referral from your general practitioner if you can. There are also some amazing online platforms like BetterHelp and Cerebral that can provide you with therapy over video!
I know it’s not always possible to see a licensed professional, whether for financial reasons or otherwise. Believe me, I’ve been there. Because of that, I cannot recommend 7Cups enough! Though not usually licensed, they can connect you with someone to talk to. I also have some free mental health resources here on the site if you’d like to look into them.
This post certainly is not a conclusive list of all things to help manage anxiety. There’s an unlimited number of ways you can help yourself and it’s going to be different for every person. What’s important is to do what is best for you!
I would love to hear if you try out any of these resources or would like to add some recommendations of your own. Let me know in the comments below or talk to me on Twitter!