I’ve dealt with clinical anxiety for most of my life (which you can read more about in my healing with health story here) and as I’m sure a lot of you know, it blloooowwwwsss. Anxiety can be uncomfortable, debilitating, restrictive and ugly and when you’ve got goals to accomplish and stuff to get done (because c’mon, we’re hustlers with big dreams), there’s just no time to feel held back by it. Emphasis on the feel held back–you are capable, and you will overcome.
I wanted to share some of my most effective tips for dealing with anxiety in the moment. As in, you’re enveloped and ya need to get out. These are the things that consistently make me feel better when those times come around, and though we are totally different and they may not work for you, I surely hope that they do.
Also before I dive in I just want to say that pursuing a whole foods-rich diet, daily movement & a healthy, happy gut have made an unbelievable difference in my anxiety levels and preventing these sort of episodes from happening. Seriously, register that because it is so important if this is something you’re dealing with. Some of these tips revolve around that, and again, I talk in detail about that in my OCD + Anxiety Journey: Healing with Health post.
Also important–if you are suffering from intense anxiety or any other mental health condition, please go seek professional health. I am no doctor, these are just little tips and not medical advice, and therapy has made a huge positive impact in my life. I hope it can for you, too.
1. Treat yourself to a real-food-based, low-sugar meal.
Though I don’t recommend using food as a consistent emotional solution, it can be a tool to treat our bodies and our minds to the things they need most. When your body is in times of stress, like when in high-anxiety mode, you can help it out by providing easy-to-use energy in the form of whole food carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, plantains, white potatoes, beets and other starchy veg, and long-term energy in the form of healthy fats. I wouldn’t personally recommend a ton of fruit in these times (or especially any added sugar in anything) because sugar increases anxiety’s wrath–at least for me–and works against calming the body, which is what you’re looking to do.
Eating can also ease the mind in that you step away from whatever is occupying your thoughts and focus on another task–preparing and eating a meal–which can be very calming and seem productive, which helps you feel like you’re taking steps forward in working through the anxiety.
2. Ease the mind + body with exercise.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but exercise stimulates endorphins which just plain makes ya happy. It gives the body and mind a chance to release built up tension and stimulate positive hormones, and to top it all off, you’re giving your body the gift of strength and movement which we were all built to have and do. There’s almost nothing more cliché than what I’m about to say, but I find that a gentle yoga practice can do wonders for an overrun mind. Sometimes I prefer something more vigorous because I feel so good after really giving my body a push, and sometimes I prefer to just walk and actually pay attention to the world around me as intentionally as I can. Taking in my actual surroundings when I’m outside is a ridiculously helpful way to take my mind off of me and my worries and onto the world as a whole, which then makes my concerns seem smaller and the world seem so big and beautiful.
3. Write it allllllll out.
My mom and dad told me once as I was growing up that when I was really, really upset with someone to write it all out in an email to them and just not send it–put it into existence, and then delete it. I’ve done that many times, and it’s solved a lot of emotional grudges and grief that I was holding up inside without putting any actual negativity in the world or on another person. In regards to my anxiety, I’ve applied sort of the same tactic–it makes all the difference in the world to release those thoughts and worries and feelings, and writing out exactly how you feel and what you’re concerned about can be an incredibly effective way to do that. It makes all the buzzing craziness tangible and realized which can then a) help you process your worries/thoughts more clearly, or b) bring to light any irrationality that may (or may not) be a part of the thought process your mind whipped up. This article is a really fantastic one, and explains in some more detail how beneficial writing can be for anxiety as well as other trauma.
4. Practice thoughtful breathing (4-7-8 technique).
I am no expert on this, which is why I will point you to this video: The 4-7-8 Breath. However, I’ve practiced this technique intermittently (which is not the way to reach the full benefits according to the philosophy, but it’s just what I’ve done) and it can be extremely helpful. Basically, in times of anxiety, you trick the body into believing it’s calm and relaxed by changing your breathing. Dr. Weil in the video above says, “The thing that’s most striking [about anxiety/panic attacks] is that breathing becomes disordered. It becomes rapid, shallow, irregular. You cannot be anxious and breath deep, slow, quiet, regularly. They don’t go together. And this is a very powerful tool for dealing with anxiety.” It’s extremely helpful in regaining yourself during a panic attack, and also as a tool to use more frequently to make yourself more mindful and calm–definitely watch the video and give it a whirl.
I really, really hope these tips are useful in some way to you and I hope you have a calm, beautiful rest of your day. If you get the chance, let me know what you thought of this post in the comments/share any tips you may have that could help others (or me!). Thank you so much for tuning in.