How do you feel when you are anxious (aside from feeling anxious that is!)?
Heart racing. Stomach churning. Sweating from places you didn’t know you could sweat from. Wanting the ground to swallow me up.
That’s what anxiety feels like to me.
If you live with anxiety like I do, it’s important to learn how to manage your anxiety so that you can get through the days and live your best life.
Here’s 14 tips to help manage anxiety, tips that have helped me live a less-stressful and more fulfilling life.
1. Listen to music good for your soul
Have you got a favourite ‘happy’ song or something that brings good memories to mind? Or something that manages to shift you from whatever mood you are in into something better?
I have a few, including some classic rock ballads!
Do yourself a favour and create an anxiety playlist for yourself.
An anxiety playlist is a great resource to help you manage your anxiety, in the moment! Look at it as ‘calming the savage beast’, which is what I see my anxiety as sometimes.
So if you sense anxiety coming on, plug-in your earphones, switch on your anxiety playlist and tune out for as long as it takes.
2. Learn to Breathe
Okay, breathing is easier said than done.
However, breathing is one of the most important things we can all learn to do.
If you’re like me, I tend to be a shallow breather OR I just don’t breathe, which is why I sigh a lot. Or realise that I’m holding my breath and then … I breathe.
It’s also one of the reasons I got this.
When anxiety hits, focus on the simple process of breathing only and nothing else.
Yes, it’s hard.
However, breathing to relieve anxiety is something that can be learned with practice.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise you can try out to help manage your anxiety:
- Close your eyes and allow yourself to breathe.
- Don’t stress about how you are breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Focus on the process of breathing.
- Once again, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Notice your breath – how does the air feel entering your body? Is it warm or cool? Hurried, shallow or deep?
- And on leaving your body – how different does the air feel ? Is it warmer? Is it rushed, or is it slower?
- Focus on your body and on the rise and fall of your chest and stomach as you breathe in and out.
- With each new breath take the air in deep into your abdomen and release.
- As you continue to breathe exhale slower and slower.
- And with each breath visualise exhaling out your stressors.
Anxiety tip: Guided meditation sessions and Dharma talks by Tara Brach are my favourite way to relax whilst also opening my mind to a more mindful way of thinking.
3. Quit coffee
Caffeine can be the worst enemy of those prone to anxiety.
Coffee gives me heart palpitations, nausea and panic attacks. It makes my skin crawl and my mind race. However, I love it.
I’ve now quit coffee (you can read more about that here), and it was bloody hard, but after a lot of soul searching and weighing up the pros and cons, I ditched the coffee bean and haven’t looked back.
These days I substitute my daily coffee with tea – English Breakfast, Lemongrass and Ginger or Fennel being my preferences.
4. Go Easy on Yourself
You’ll also benefit from learning to go easy on yourself.
Aka – giving yourself a break!
This is one of the most important things you can learn to do.
After all, we are all simply doing the best we can at any moment in time.
This thought gives me permission to give myself a break when things go pear shaped, when I’m beating myself up, when I’m feeling tired and down.
This thought also gives me comfort, because I really do believe it’s true.
5. Embrace Mindfulness
A few years ago I did an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR), and it was more than worthwhile.
This course helped me identify stressors in my life.
It also helped me to identify the baggage I had been carrying around for years, as well as the impacts this had had on my physical and mental health.
Furthermore, it taught me techniques to heal myself.
Long story short, I resolved years of stomach and other health issues. I also completed the program with an arsenal of stress management tools for life.
6. Rediscover Hugs
Hugs are a wonderful temporary cure for anxiety, so don’t be afraid to ask one.
There’s nothing like a big bear hug!
Try to hold your hug for 12 seconds and feel the connection between your hearts. Grab someone you feel comfortable with (and who feels comfy with hugging) and give them a big bear hug OR let them hold you.
Yoga is great for stretching out the body whilst allowing you to breathe easier, gain clarity of mind and help you relax, and I find it one of the best tools in my arsenal to help me manage my anxiety.
Every morning I allow myself at least 10 minutes for yoga stretching.
By doing so, I’ve found that it helps me to wake up, clear my head for the morning and centre me for the day.
Stretching also helps me stretch out any kinks in my body from sleeping. I follow this up most evenings with a gentle 15-30 minute yoga session with Yoga With Adriene.
Meditation can be challenging.
Be comforted by the thought that even long-term meditators have their moments where they struggle. The key is not to pass judgment on yourself and to find what works best for you.
So go easy on yourself and delve into mediation gently.
I first started meditating by enrolling in a community mindfulness meditation class. I then continued by loading meditation podcasts and Apps onto my phone to take wherever I went.
And slowly but surely, I developed my meditation practice from there.
Anxiety tip: Carry a pair of headphones with you at all time so you can immerse yourself in a guided meditation when needed.
9. See Someone
It’s good to see a councillor now and then to get things off of your chest.
I started seeing someone again after recognising that my overall mood was dipping and I wasn’t coping with things. I’d been feeling anxious a lot, and had been suffering from panic attacks. These had also started preventing me from living life normally (driving to work every day was becoming a real issue).
Seeing a professional was the best thing for me, as my anxiety and stress levels were really high and my depression was threatening to make a comeback. I’m feeling a lot better, am continuing with my counselling, and am making lasting changes in my life – both big and small – to help manage my stress and anxiety levels.
10. Take a break
Allow yourself to take REGULAR breaks from whatever it is you are doing.
And I don’t mean just once a day.
GET UP out of your chair or step away your desk or whatever it is you are doing and take a 10-minute break (at least – it should really be longer).
11. Head outdoors
A new study has revealed that two hours a week in nature is the ‘dose’ you need to increase health and happiness.
Spending time in nature doesn’t mean you should be heading out into pristine wilderness or spectacular national parks. City parks, community gardens, or farmland are all natural environments. Even more of a reason for communities to incorporate green spaces to ensure ‘nature’ is inclusive to all.
The next time you are feeling anxious, head outside and go for a slow walk somewhere – to the local park, along the beach or even just around the block. The movement and fresh air will do you the world of good.
12. Write Your Thoughts Free
Grab yourself a notebook, some colourful pens and spend time writing down how you are feeling.
Writing down your thoughts helps to stop the cycle of repetitive thoughts and to get everything out of your head.
When I’m feeling anxious, I love writing lists as they act as a good reminder to myself about what’s most important in my life. Here’s some ideas to try:
- What are you grateful for?
- List 10 things you love
- Write down your to-do list – get everything out of your head and onto paper!
13. Talk to Someone
If you’re freaking out, instead of turning inwards (a natural response) turn outwards.
Reach out and talk to someone.
It could be someone you know or someone you don’t know.
If you are around people, tap your friend, colleague or partner on the shoulder and ask them to go for a little walk – and then either talk to them about how you are feeling or about mindless randomness. There are also some amazing, confidential help lines and support groups worldwide.
14. Remember you are not alone
Everyone feels anxious at some stage of their life, so don’t feel ashamed as you are not alone!
This is important.
Acknowledge that you do have the strength within you to overcome any challenge and that your anxiety will pass, even if it doesn’t feel like it ever will.
Do you have anxiety?
What are the ways you’ve used to manage anxiety?
Is there anything that jumps out at you from this list you can use in your life?