If you have followed me here on the blog or on my Instagram for a while, you probably know by now that I have struggled with anxiety the bigger part of my life.
Actually, I would like to say all my life, because I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t anxious as a kid. But I highly doubt I came wired that way and for me personally, I think the trigger was my parent’s very messy divorce when I was 4.
It was so bad that the next time the two of them were in the same room again was at my wedding almost 30 years later. So you can imagine…
But enough about me and my reasons for needing coping mechanisms.
Anxiety is incredibly common. I’m yet to meet someone who has not been affected by it at all. You just happen to sit at one end or the other of the scale.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t change and reduce your anxiety. This is something I’m living proof of. I have in my 30s managed to make friends with and accept my anxiety for what it is.
These days it only affects my life in very minor ways. Mainly because I don’t allow it to do any unnecessary damage.
The first step to dealing with anxiety is to understand that you have it, what it feels like and what your triggers are.
For me, it took many years before I finally found a word for that constant inner panic I felt. And by labeling the feeling, it stopped the anxiety from mastering me and I began to take over the control. I realized I wasn’t at the mercy of how I felt, I could actually change my thoughts, actions and with that my emotions to be a much happier person.
The second step was to find my triggers.
For me, it’s stress, uncertainty, bad sleep, alcohol, and hormones mainly. With stress and hormones being the big ones. The best thing I ever did for my anxiety was to come off birth control. I had been on the pill from I was 15 and I never actually knew how much it affected me.
When I came off it to start trying for a baby about 5 years ago, my life truly changed for the better (obviously in many ways). I found myself to be a much more calm and stable person than before. And my anxiety halved in a matter of months as my body was taking back control of my hormones. So if you have bad anxiety, it’s worth looking at your contraception.
Stress is, unfortunately, something we all have to deal with to some extent. But to us who are more prone to anxiety, we have to have coping mechanisms that actually work to be able to handle it without breaking down.
It’s not just about surviving, it’s about thriving and living a full life.
The third step was to find ways to cope that worked for me. And these are my 5 daily anxiety-reducing habits ;
1. I plan my day.
Every morning before I get out of bed, I plan my day. Usually in the calendar on my phone. I make a small to-do list and set any alarms I might need. It helps me feel in control and I never have to stress because I forgot something or I’m double booked. Anxiety likes uncertainty, so to put some structure down straight away makes a massive difference to how I feel.
2. I learn something new.
I know that one of my triggers is a deep-rooted fear that I’m not doing enough with my life. It all feels so short and time is moving so quickly, so I’m always pushing myself to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. And not even then am I sure I have actually done the right things, so I do some more.
Obviously, it’s not healthy. So to lower my expectations on myself, but still, feel like I’m growing as a person. I make sure to learn at least one new thing a day. Usually from a magazine, blog or book.
And when I have learned that first thing, I mentally check it off and give myself a break from pressuring myself the rest of the day. It might sound silly, but it really works.
3. I visualize.
I like to feel in control and I know it keeps my anxiety at bay. So to visualize, mood board and plan for the future is something I do daily. It keeps me on top of my goals and focuses my energy on making plans instead of stressing about them. When I can see the bigger picture, the smaller things don’t seem as scary or unpredictable anymore.
4. I get outside and move.
By now we all know exercise is good for anxiety, but it can also generate it. There is a reason why so many fail at going to the gym…it’s another pressure we put on ourselves.
So if I don’t feel like working out, I don’t. Instead, I take a walk on my own, with my son and/or the dog. The fresh air, constant change of scenery and my body moving will do the trick. It doesn’t have to be a full-on sweat session.
5. I meditate.
Every night I take at least 10 minutes to lay down on my spike mat with a meditation app. Lately, I have even started putting the mat in bed and as soon as I’m ready to drift off, I just move it out of the way. The hubby doesn’t love it, I have to admit, but at least he is staying on his side of the bed for a while (he is a massive bed-hogger!) So it’s secretly a massive win-win for me.
To empty my mind before I go to bed helps me go to sleep without over-thinking. And the spike mat makes my body release lots of lovely endorphins, so I sleep really well.
Obviously, we are all different and have our own specific triggers. But this is what works for me.
I don’t feel like my anxiety is a problem for me in my life anymore. There will always be a day here and there when I’m not at the top of my game. But as long as I can recognize that unsettled feeling and be ok with it, then I can be kind to myself and give myself a break when I need it.
It’s all about self-knowledge and self-love people.
Get to know your anxiety, understand it, and then you create your own daily anxiety-reducing habits to make sure you are not just surviving, but thriving every day.
(If you already have some daily anxiety-reducing habits that really works for you, please feel free to share them with the rest of us in the comments.)
Photo – Roz Alcazar. You can find my outfit here.