Updated: Mar 8, 2020
If you have experienced anxiety then you know that it can feel overwhelming and terrifying. It can appear to come out of no where and catch us off guard when we least expect it. When other things happen in our lives such as an injury or even losing a job, we seem to know the next step. We locate the bandaids, we make a phone call and start whatever process has to happen. With anxiety we don't always have routines in place or those automatic responses. And if we do, sometimes they aren't exactly healthy. It's important to develop a tool kit for your anxiety so that instead of ignoring it, letting it build, or reaching for that unhealthy crutch, you have steps to follow to put yourself back in control.
The following are items and tasks to keep in your real or imaginary tool kit so that when anxiety hits you know where to turn.
1. Your Breath
This is something you always have available. Anxiety doesn't just show up when you are at home or trying to sleep. It also rears its head in the car, at social events, and often the worst times imaginable. When you are connected with your breath and you know how to use it to calm your mind and your heart, then you have accessed something that no one can take away from you. I'll be sharing more information on breathing, but to start, try taking 3 deep breaths. Focus on filling the belly and keeping the shoulders relaxed. Allow your attention to rest just on the breathing; the inhale, all sensations of air filling the body, then on the exhale slowly.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways, but for anxiety they can allow for a healthy distraction of sensation and they may offer a calming effect. Choose quality oils and those known to help with stressful feelings. I recommend Eden's Garden Oils such as Lavender, or one of their Anxiety Blends. Use a roller bottle to dilute the essential oils with fractionated coconut oil or almond oil and roll it on like perfume or diffuse at home or your office. I personally keep a peppermint roller bottle with me at all times for anxiety and headaches that pop on the go.
3. Your Personal Support Team
It is important to have someone to reach out to when you are feeling anxious. Just knowing you can call them is often enough. If you don't currently have that person that you can call in the middle of the night, think about if there is someone in your life that you wouldn't be bothered by if they woke you at 4 AM in a panic. They might be there for you too. The great think about technology; however; is that you can join anxiety groups and sign up for online apps that give you 24 hour access to support. Whatever you choose, just knowing you can call or reach out to someone helps calm your fears.
4. Your Therapist or Coach
Most counselors and therapists are readily available to support you, just not always in the middle of the night. If you are experiencing anxiety more frequently, having trouble sleeping, or noticing major impacts in your daily life, you can reach out to your established or new therapist to set up an appointment. Your anxiety coach can also offer support. If you don't have an upcoming appointment call and see if you can schedule one.
5. Yoga Mat - Yoga Practice
If you can't roll out our yoga mat, no worries. You can always focus on your breath whether you are standing, seated, or lying down, but if you have the ability to practice yoga poses it can help distract you for a moment to calm the anxiety. For this type of practice I encourage a short slow and mindful approach. Start in child's pose with your deep breaths. Move to cat/cow then sphinx and press back to child's pose. Hold each pose for as long as you feel comfortable or at least 10 breaths. From Child's pose press up to table top and then back to down dog. Pause for 3 deep breaths and walk to standing forward fold at the top of your mat. Inhale as you stand up, reaching your arms up overhead, exhale and drop your hand to prayer/hearts center. Close your eyes and just breathe.
6. Journal and Pen
Journaling is a powerful tool of self awareness. Take a moment to write down how you are feeling or make up a short story. You can carry your journal with you or keep it by your bedside for those anxious moments, or times of inspiration. Journaling can help you get out your feeling that you might be holding in and it helps bring things to light. You can also use your journal to make lists that can help with anxious thoughts. Write your to do list for tomorrow or the week and then let it go for now. Write down thoughts that are no longer serving you, then let them go.
7. Reading Material
When I'm feeling anxiety coming on or when it's at it's peak I use reading to help pull me out of the spiral. I'll admit I often use my phone to browse Pinterest or read an article, but a magazine or book would be even better. Having something easy on hand that isn't hard to follow or understand, but is interesting, is the best choice. Interactive reading is even better so if you can take a quiz or choose items it can help involve more areas of your brain that won't be available to focus on anxious symptoms.
8. Water and Tea
When I'm anxious and home I like to make camomile tea or on the go I carry my water. Having a healthy and soothing drink can help calm you down and provide you something to do and feel. Drinking adequate water is also known to decrease anxiety, because you are less likely to have heart palpitations, headaches, and other symptoms of dehydration. Yogi tea or loose leaf teas are my favorite, but experiment and let me know the best teas you find for anxiety.
There is something therapeutic about working with our hands and making something. Whatever it is that you do it will likely decrease stress and anxiety. If you don't have a favorite hobby like this then I encourage you to take a class. There are lots of ideas out there that don't require you to go back to college or become an expert. Just be willing to experiment and trying something new, but don't expect perfection. Focus on the doing, vs the outcome. Great options include, pottery, jewelry making, knitting/crocheting, felting, and drawing/painting.
Who doesn't light up when they hear their favorite song? Music is attached to our emotions and can make us feel happier or bring us to tears. Play music that boosts your mood. Sing and dance until all your worries are forgotten. Its okay to just enjoy and let go sometimes. We need it so we can refocus and feel better doing it. Create a happy playlist.
I hope these tools help you manage your anxiety. Let me know what you try and other ideas you have!