Happy Friday! Anxiety has been a BIG topic this week so I thought it might be fun to include a self care challenge with tips and ideas for managing anxiety!
Remember that self care is truly a labor of love, the more that you love yourself, the better you feel in all areas of your life!
1. Accept anxiety. If you experience anxiety, then it is unlikely that it will completely disappear from your life entirely. Anxiety is something that peaks and wanes throughout our lives as we deal with adversity, pain, and stress. The key is accepting this and knowing that it will probably pop up when we least want it to, and we just have to be ready to manage it and ride it out. Anxiety isn’t an indicator that we are crazy or that there is something wrong with us. It is simply a response to stress. Most importantly, it isn’t a part of our identity. Try to think of anxiety as something outside yourself that comes and goes, rather than thinking of yourself as a person with anxiety, or anxiety as an inherent part of who you are!
2. Calm your mind. We have this amazing capability for abstract thinking, imagination, and visualization. What do we do with this amazing brain ability? We use it to worry of course! We are truly our own worst enemies when it comes to worry. We worry about things that haven’t happened yet, things that are happening, and then worry about being worried! As we do this, our brains send signals to our bodies that we are stressed, and our bodies respond by trying to help us escape threats by changing our hormone levels and putting us in fight-or-flight mode. To counteract this, we have to calm our minds and focus on what is going on in the moment. This is the whole point of mindfulness, when you are mindful and locked into the present, you won’t be spiraling out of control worrying about the future and feeling overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “what do I feel like right now? What do my arms feel like? My neck? My toes?” Check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “Where am I? What do I smell? What do I see? What do I hear?” Check in with your environment.
3. Question your thoughts! When you are not feeling anxiety, evaluate your thoughts to see if you are allowing yourself to get caught up in thinking that may lead to anxiety later. I’m attaching a worksheet to this exercise called, “Socratic Questioning”. Use this method to figure out if your thoughts, ideas, and perceptions are realistic. Practice weighing options before you allow yourself to get carried away. Remember that the more time and energy you put into worrying about something, the more ingrained in your brain it becomes until it is accepted as truth.
4. BREATHE! When you have reached fight-or-flight mode, breathing acts as a signal to your brain and body that you are ready to return to a “normal” state of functioning and that the threat has been resolved. It is hard to breathe when you are panicking, but remember that you are doing it to help “shut off” the anxiety. I am also attaching a mindful breathing worksheet to help practice breathing so it becomes second nature.
5. Activate yourself. Find something to do! Sitting around with your thoughts is going to create a cycle of worrying, calming, and triggering worry again. Get out and take a walk, call a friend, or get in your car and take a drive. Do what you can to get yourself out of your head. If you can’t get yourself to do those things, ask someone for help! Call a friend, watch a motivating you-tube video, or say the word walk in front of your dog so you feel guilty that now you have to take them for a walk because they are so excited.
6. Check in with your physical health! Remember, anxiety is a physical state as well as an emotional state. Sometimes emotions lead to a physical response, but often physical issues can lead to anxiety as well! Anxiety can be directly correlated to imbalanced hormone levels, thyroid issues, autoimmune disease, insomnia, and inflammation. Check in with your physician and have labs drawn to see if there are issues that could be contributing to continued anxiety and panic as well as depression. Look at your nutrition as well. How is your diet? Are you deficient in vitamins? Are you exercising enough? Make sure that you are taking the time to take care of your body!
7. Ditch Social Media. We all need a break from social media, the internet in general, and cell phones from time to time. There are more and more connections being made to the time we spend on social media and increased anxiety and depression. Try to go at least one hour a day with your cell phone turned off and no access to the internet. Use this time to practice mindfulness.
Remember, anxiety is rooted in fear. And fear is a liar! Work on managing and eventually blocking anxiety by letting go of fear. You can do it!