I’m feeling anxious today. Sometimes anxiety is internal; I feel it bubble up from inside and it vibrates me, starting in my chest, with a physical quality. Sometimes it’s external, and I can pin it to something happening in my life. Sometimes I just don’t know. It might feel existential, or rooted in the world and entirely justified. Recent public mass violence and hateful, divisive rhetoric is definitely stoking anxiety for a lot of people, myself included. Knowing and naming it helps a little— makes it “I’m feeling” rather than “I am”— but in some ways that doesn’t feel better at all.
Whether or not this is an anxiety disorder, or sometimes is, or never was, anxiety can still be crippling and painful. Nearly everyone feels it sometimes, though our triggers are diverse. It doesn’t matter why. What makes it better? Sometimes, the clear answer is medication, and/or therapy with a professional. Never be shamed out of these things if they are what helps you! There are people with opinions on the internet who will tell you that you can manage anything with good old fashioned will power, with aromatherapy, with particular diets, with CBD. They will imply or state outright that medication is a crutch for the weak. This is utter bullshit and you should unfollow and/or block those people who are poisoning the air and creating shame.
So, Anxiety. It’s real. It’s not fun. When it’s there, but you still have your footing, what helps? Having a personal list can be a great strategy for when you feel yourself approaching that edge where functioning normally is hard. Here are some things that have helped me and people I love:
- Exercise. For some, it’s gentle stretching. For others, it’s kicking the crap out of a heavy bag. For some, it’s a super-intense class that you have to focus on 100%. Sometimes it’s a long, solitary run. Try some stuff out and see what makes you feel better. Then remember that it made you feel better.
- Deep breathing. There are lots of patterns and tools to try— 4-7-8 breath, box breathing, many others. There are also many pranayama practices taught in yoga that might be helpful.
- Meditation. Even 5 minutes can help. There are lots of free and cheap tools now, like Headspace and Calm. But at its most basic, set a timer, sit, close your eyes, and watch your breath. When you realize you’re thinking, just notice it and go back to your breath.
- Medication. Yup. Whether this is a prescription or an herbal med, sometimes that’s what can help keep you on your feet. Just. . . .please don’t take someone else’s meds. Health care pros consider a lot of info when we’re deciding what’s appropriate for whom. Some are meant for every-day use, some are meant to be rescues for a crisis. Some don’t mix with others. Some work fast, some last a long time.
- Another person, just being a rock for you. Who can you call? Maybe you have a friend who you can agree to be buddies with— you call me, I’ll call you— and we’ll answer.
- Make stuff. Drawings, poems, paintings, music. . . hearing your own voice can combat some of the alienation that comes with anxiety.
- Act. If your anxiety is rooted in a worldly reality, can you take a step to combat it? Whether it’s something in your life that you can address head-on, or a political event that you can call your senator or demonstrate about, sometimes doing something, anything, helps.
Do you have a list to draw on when you need it? Is there something else you’d add to mine?