Anxiety is a beast. It can control your life, stop you from doing things that you love and can isolate you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. To help you live your BEST life, despite anxiety, I have cultivated the 23 best tips and tricks for controlling anxiety. ‘coz let’s face it, you deserve to take your life back.
A wee story,
Monday was my first roller derby training. I used to play years ago but put it the side while I was overseas. It has been calling me back over the few months so I decided to give it another crack. This is a new team with new people so as the day loomed closer I got more and more anxious about going. On the day, I woke up with a feeling of dread in my stomach that grew and grew as the day went on. By evening I had worked myself up and it consumed all my thoughts. Meeting new people, people who already knew each other, in an environment outside of my comfort zone.
I got in my car after work and headed over anyway. I parked my car outside the hall and sat there. My breathing grew shallower and my mind raced through all sorts of scenarios that I knew at the time were unrealistic and silly but I couldn’t help myself.
I couldn’t breathe and my hands were shaking.
Tears started forming behind my eyes and I tried to blink them away. If I went in with tears then everyone would look at me even more than they would anyway. In dribs and drabs, they all arrived, greeting each other with familiarity. The feeling of being an outsider grew. Tears leaked out. I tried to get my breathing under control but it was coming fast and shallow. My throat felt like it had closed over and I started to enter a full panic attack. I didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t want them to see me. To judge me, to talk about me behind my back.
I turned the key in the car ignition on, put it in gear and drove away. As the lights of the hall grew fainter, my anxiety lessened. But I felt really shitty that I couldn’t go in. I felt weak. Pathetic. Silly.
I know that if I had gone in, it would have been fine. I would have chucked the skates on and felt that freeing feeling that only skating gives me. The feeling of flying and of conquering the world. But my anxious mind put a roadblock up that stopped me. I will try again next week. Anxiety won’t take this away from me.
If I had taken my own advice and used some of the tips and tricks for controlling anxiety, I would have been able to go in. I would have felt proud of myself. Not disappointed in myself.
If you want to know more about anxiety, I wrote a post detailing the low down on anxiety (check it out here). The Depression.org website also has some great resources if you need them. All free and easily accessible.
Anywho, without further ado, I present to you:
23 of the BEST tips and tricks for controlling anxiety
“Your mind is your prison when you focus on your fear.”
Take deep breaths
Deep breaths allow us to ground ourselves and focuses our energy on something concrete. When we don’t have time to meditate, taking deep breaths helps to lower blood pressure and increases feelings of calm and relaxation. Inhale through your nose, count to 10, and exhale from your mouth. Each time you take deep, slow breaths inhale positivity and exhale negativity.
Accept and acknowledge that you are feeling anxious
Sometimes all we need is an acknowledgement, it can help us to accept that what we are feeling is anxiety rather than trying to wrestle All the Feelings. Remember, anxiety is a feeling and an emotional reaction by reminding yourself of this you can start to accept it.
Mediation is a mindful practice that helps train your brain to stay in the moment. It can help eliminate worries and concerns. Practising meditation is much like deep breathing, only you are trying to quiet your mind by stretching, breathing deep and slow breaths, and focusing your mind on one thought or idea for a set time period.
Realise that your brain is playing tricks on you
Your brain is a tricky ole thing. It can make you really feel like you are dying, it can make you imagine scenarios that will never come to fruition, it can make you believe wholeheartedly in the lies it can tell. Once you realise that your brain is telling you big ole lies it is easier to calm down and see the truth in what is actually happening.
Question your thoughts
Are your thoughts truthful? Will you really die if you give that speech (or go into that roller derby hall)? By questioning your thoughts, you are giving yourself power over them. You can allow yourself to readjust them.
Listen to music
Take yourself away, put on some calming music (or dancey music) and get lost in it. It will take your thoughts away and allow you to refocus your energy. Check out some Spotify playlists for calming music, there are hundreds of playlists you can listen to or make your own Anxiety Playlist ready for when you need it.
Visualise your happy place
Is your happy place the beach? The forest? Your best friends house? Visualise it in detail. Think about how your happy place makes you feel. What emotions does your happy place evoke? Get lost in it.
Hugging someone is proven to reduce your blood pressure and heart rate. Just make sure that they want to be hugged first. A big bear hug can make you feel safe, warm and secure.
Produce those natural endorphins and have a laugh, whether it is at yourself or watching a funny video on YouTube. Laughing immediately reduces stress levels and anxiety.
Use positive self-talk
You are capable and you can do it. Be kind to yourself. For every bad thing that runs through your mind, think of one happy or positive thought. It can distract you and lift your mood. Using this method also helps you to naturally seek out the positive rather than the negative.
Drink some herbal tea
Make sure the tea is decaffeinated or else you could actually increase, rather than decrease your anxiety. Sipping on teas with lavender or chamomile in them helps relax your blood vessels and smoothes your muscle fibers. Plus you can get some pretty tasty ones. The ritual of making a cup of tea can be soothing as well.
Go for a walk
Clear your head, get some fresh air and go for a walk. Even if it is just around the block. Going for a walk can be just as effective for anxiety as a gym session. It produces endorphins and allows you to clear your head. There are many benefits of using physical exercise for your mental well-being.
Light some candles
Scented candles can create a soothing atmosphere. Who else loves watching the flickering of the flame shadow around a dark room? There is something calming about candles.
Focus on right now
Don’t think too far ahead, place yourself in the ‘right now moment’. Often with anxiety, we are thinking of something that is happening (or might happen) in the future. Instead of thinking about this, think about what is happening right now. Ground yourself.
Take one step at a time
This is something that I find helps me. If I am feeling overwhelmed with All the Things, I just focus on one step at a time, conquer that then move on to the next one. Sometimes when I look at the whole picture and all the steps that are needed to get there, it can feel overwhelming. By focusing on one step at a time, we are concentrating on that one step then we can worry about the next step as it arises, but not before.
Write in a journal
Journalling is proven to help mental illness. Write down why you are feeling anxious, just get it all out your head. Sometimes just getting something out your head can feel like a weight has lifted. If you feel up to it, come back to your journal later and examine why you were feeling anxious, what your triggers were and how you came out of your feelings. You can also challenge your thoughts in your journal, for example, ‘I wrote that I was feeling … but actually, this is wrong because … ‘ Another trick is to write down the worst possible scenario. Is this likely to happen? If it did by chance happen, what would you do? Come up with a plan of attack. Be like a boy scout and be prepared. Just feeling prepared can help lessen feelings of anxiety.
Gratitude is so important. Practice a daily gratitude journal. The more you train yourself to see the positives, the less room for negativity you have in your mind.
Reading takes you away to many a far away place. Get lost in a book and leave your anxieties behind.
Remove yourself from the situation
Ok, I don’t recommend making this a habit, this isn’t productive to helping you control your anxiety in the long term. But if a situation is making you feel so anxious you just can’t handle it, get yourself out and try again. Make sure you do try again though or else it is always going to be there.
Talk to a friend
Often, we just need to get things off our chests so we can start to tackle them. When the thoughts are floating through your mind, crashing into each other, not making sense, it can worsen the feelings. Expressing your feelings can help you come to terms with your thoughts, feelings and anxiety. I expressed my feelings about roller derby to my friend and she has offered to come along with me for the first one, just so I have a safe person. They may just throw you a lifeline or be a listening ear, but either way, it might be what you need.
Anchor yourself in the now. If you are feeling anxious, focus on one specific thing. For example, a building, the clouds in the sky or the trees.
Take some time away from the screen and enjoy the peace and quiet. I recently went on a Facebook Ban, it was just going to be temporary but I am enjoying it so much, I am going to make it indefinite. I am not tied to my phone, worried about ‘likes’ or showing a version of me that I feel has to be ‘perfect’. Unplug, go wander in the bush or the beach and get lost in the moment.
Know that feelings are not facts
Feelings are not facts, often they feel that way, but usually, it is our mind convincing us that something is true when it isn’t. Learn to examine your feelings so you can see the difference between fact and untruths.
So there you have my 23 of the BEST tips and tricks for controlling anxiety. If only I used them on Monday… But that’s the thing about life, we aren’t always perfect. Every now and then the moment will cloud us of our sensibilities. Try to be mindful when you are feeling anxious about what helps you. Don’t let anxiety rule your mind and your life. It does take a bit of practice, trial and error, but I know you can get there.
For more stories about anxiety check out:
- How Shaquille’s holistic lifestyle changed her anxiety prognosis
- What it is really like to live with anxiety from AllyEveryday
If you have a story to share you can check out how to submit one here.
What would you add to the list? What helps you control your anxiety?
Leave a comment so others can try your tricks as well.
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