It seems like there is a never ending collection of different ways to take care of yourself on the internet. For obvious reasons, we call this “self care.” Aaaaaand I’m shamelessly about to add to that list.
I’m hoping this will be a little different than a lot of the other posts you might find in the void.
Earlier this year, my personal life was not the best. My anxiety was through the roof. Intrusive thoughts were taking hold of my subconscious and my self esteem plummeted more than it ever had before. That was a giant red flag that it was time to reevaluate how I was taking care of myself and to FIX IT!
So I dove into that same void that I mentioned earlier. There’s so many different posts on self care, so there had to be one that could help me with what I’m struggling with, right? How could I best care for myself when anxiety is driving me deeper and deeper into the darkness?
But I came up short. Through Pinterest, Bloglovin’, Instagram, even Tumblr, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
So, I made a decision. As tough as it was going through my own struggles at the time, I decided to make that resource myself.
A self care routine to help with my anxiety.
Obviously this is not going to be the end-all be all for most people. I 100% recommend seeking out a professional mental health professional if you are struggling with any mental disorder, even anxiety (which for some reason society has decided to paint as some noRMAL THING??)
This post outlines what worked for me.
But first, let’s start with what DIDN’T.
Every single self care list out there seemed to focus on the physical. You know I am always down for a good face mask, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.
Self care doesn’t need to be something that you spend a lot of money on. Hell, it doesn’t need to be something that you spend ANY money on. These techniques that I worked on for myself actually cost me NO money whatsoever because I already had the materials needed.
You will often see self care painted as this fluffy, glamorous, and fun thing — even by me at times — that will instantly make you feel better. And while yes, a quality face mask or a day at the spa will obviously lift your spirits for a brief period, it’s not entirely sustainable. That high feeling of happiness will end and you’ll end up back where you started: your anxiety will still exist and you’ll want that feeling again. Wow, that sounds like AN ADDICTION DOESN’T IT? (Oh hi there retail therapy of my college years!)
These methods I’ve been using don’t give me that sense of euphoria, no. But they give me tools to get there without much external help. These are things I do for myself to improve myself. Nothing more. Nothing less.
1 – Acknowledge Your Anxiety
The hardest thing for me dealing with my anxiety is recognizing that it’s anxiety at first. Sometimes I go into this spiral (ala Turtles All The Way Down) of how bad things can get. It usually starts with an intrusive thought. Sometimes it’s as simple as “You’re doing a horrible job, you’re going to get fired.” Sometimes it’s as absolutely ridiculous and out of the blue as, “A car is going to round that corner right now and hit and kill Rory.”
Like WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, BRAIN?
Instead of latching onto that thought and letting it lead me down into darkness, I greet it. Like I actually GREET IT: “Oh hi there, intrusive thought.”
By acknowledging the anxiety, I am recognizing it for what it is: not real
2 – Take Action
Once I’ve acknowledged my anxiety and greeted it, it’s time for the next stage. I try to figure out if there was a catalyst. Was there anything recently that could have placed this thought at the forefront of my mind. Things like, “Have I been slacking off at work lately?” and “Has Rory been more difficult on the leash?”
These are things I can control. These are things I can fix.
So it’s time to make a decision: Will completing this step get me closer to the person I want to be? Does it help me reach my goals?
Get Shit Done
If the answer is yes, it gets added to my todo list! Perhaps I need to talk with my manager about areas I can improve. Or maybe I need to reevaluate how many projects I’m working on. Easy things that can be accomplished and help put the anxiety at bay.
But what if there was no catalyst? What if the thought just came from nowhere? Well in that case, there is nothing for me to fix. There is no step I can take. Which leads us into our final stage of my self care for anxiety:
3 – Let It Go
If I acknowledge the anxiety and there is no actionable step I can take, I let it go. If there is a step but completing it does not contribute to my grand plan, I let it go. Yeah, that’s a lot harder than it sounds, but here’s how I’ve been doing it recently.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Konmari method. Who hasn’t with the recent Netflix show, right? I sort of adapted a piece of her method — but inside my mind.
Once I’ve acknowledged the anxiety and figured out if I can do anything about it, I thank it. “Thank you for helping me realize what I need to work on,” or maybe “Thank you for bringing awareness to this situation.”
Thank you and goodbye, Intrusive Thought.
I’ve been quite fond of practicing this physically. If my anxiety has really taken hold of me one day, I will write the thoughts down on a scrap piece of paper. I will read it out loud and perform the first stages — acknowledge and take action . Once I head into stage 3, I’ll hold the paper to my heart and thank it. To say goodbye, I’ll use a match to light the paper on fire. This way I have a physical representation of the anxiety disappearing.
Of course BE VERY CAREFUL if you choose to practice this way. I use very small pieces of paper and light them over my empty kitchen sink.
Differing Types of Anxiety
I specifically use this self care method for dealing with intrusive thoughts, but it’s something that could work for other facets of anxiety, as well.
Social anxiety? Acknowledge what you’re feeling. Maybe your heart is pounding and you’re a little sweaty and nervous in a crowded room. If there’s something that prompted the feeling of anxiety (being in a crowded room of people you don’t know,) figure out if there is a solution. Can you leave the room for a quick breath outside? Maybe even find a bathroom and just do some breathing exercises in private. Now, thank the anxiety — it turned on your fight or flight response because it sensed you were in danger — and let it know you are okay. Let it go and start over.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Seeking Help
These steps in no way take the place of a professional mental health advisor. I am 100% in support of counselors and therapists and psychiatrists. If you have the resources, please seek one out. I personally like the PsychologyToday tool for this.
I do hope these tips help you out, though! Next time you find yourself fighting with your anxiety, give these tips a try! I’d love to hear your experience with this.
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