I come from a family that’s fairly prone to anxiety. My mom is often up all night worrying, and my grandma was the same way. We’re planners and overthinkers to the max. Anxiety is a weird thing in that it’s so common yet still fairly taboo. People with anxiety are often medicated and sent on their way or told “just calm down.”
I’m lucky enough not to deal with the truly crippling anxiety that some people experience, but from time to time I go through periods where it definitely becomes something that needs managing. For a while I tried to tell myself I wasn’t actually dealing with anxiety. “I’m just a control freak” I’d say, and while that’s true, there’s more to it than just that. Other times I’d vow to really be better about “not sweating the small stuff.” Shockingly, that mantra was also entirely ineffective. Now that I accept who I am and how my brain works, I’ve found much more helpful ways to manage my anxiety and feel better. They include:
- Actually recognizing when it’s happening: Telling yourself that your anxiety is ridiculous only makes it worse. That’s the thing about anxiety. Deep down you know you have no reason to worry, but it’s not like a faucet you can just turn on or off if you really focus on it. Recognize it and come up with a coping strategy.
- Focus just on the priorities: I generally find that I’m most anxious when I’m stretching myself too thin. I’ve taken on too many projects and now I’m totally overwhelmed. When this happens, I have to strip everything back and focus on what absolutely, positively must get done right now. Everything else can wait until I’m feeling better.
- See if you can identify triggers: I tend to get anxious when I’m overtired or dealing with large groups of people I don’t know. I also get travel-related anxiety, because I don’t do well when I don’t know the exact logistics of a trip (where I’m going and at exactly what time, etc.) Knowing this, I’m better able to anticipate when I might feel more anxious and prepare accordingly. When you know your unique triggers, you can find ways to work around them.
- Take some time to just exist: When I’m especially anxious and recognize that I’m feeling this way, I like to take some time to “get back to center” as I call it. This usually means taking a night to write in my journal, watch dumb TV, read, and then go to bed early. Sure, I might deal with some FOMO if something fun is going on and I’m at home, but it’s worth it the next day.
If you can find a group of friends or family members who know what you need when you’re feeling especially anxious, that’s great. But coming up with your own personal coping strategies is important too. What can you do to make yourself feel better and more centered? Yoga, meditation, journaling, taking a nap, and reading something that makes you laugh are all great ways to feel better. Also, Buzzfeed recently published this list of useful apps for people living with anxiety that I thought was really neat, so if you’ve got anxiety too it’s worth checking out.