Learning to live with anxiety has been a process for me, but over time I've developed tools to help manage it. I struggled with anxiety and depression for the majority of my life and spent the better part of the last decade working on myself to get things to a place that's manageable. Aside from my own mental health journey, it's a topic that has always been near and dear to my heart. Prior to becoming The Confused Millennial, I studied mental health for my master's degree and briefly worked as a counselor. I know mental health issues are just one of the health issues not talked about enough today so I hope if you're living with anxiety too, these tips help you manage it and you seek help from a professional as well.
This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support. This post contains affiliate links.
If you're living with anxiety, here are my top 15 tips to help you manage it:
This was one of the biggest things that helped me reduce my anxiety. Essentially it's electronic monitoring of your nervous system response while you work through different things to learn how to control your breath, blood pressure, heart rate, and other nervous system responses. People could tell me to “breathe” all day long, but it didn't work. In fact it typically made me hyperventilate even more. Biofeedback is what actually taught me how to breathe again.
It's no secret that I love meditation. My journey with meditation started over 10 years ago and has really evolved. It's been linked to improving anxiety and sleep, reducing stress, and increasing emotional well being and self awareness. For tips on getting started with your meditation practice click here.
3. Reduce or abstain from alcohol and other mind/mood altering substances
Alcohol is a depressant. So if you're already struggling with mental health issues and try to self medicate them with alcohol or other mind/mood altering substances, there's a good chances that you're actually pushing yourself deeper into your mental health struggle. It took me years to realize how my own alcohol usage impacted my depression and anxiety. It became a vicious cycle of drinking to not feel my feelings or think my thoughts, only to think even more isolating and harmful thoughts that led me down a harmful path of contemplating suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here.
4. Look at history
If you're like me and sometimes find yourself in a cycle of negative self talk, pause. Take a deep breath, and redirect the convo in your head. Try asking yourself, “when have I gone through this or something similar in the past and overcome it?” 99.99999% of the time we've actually gone through the experience causing us anxiety at least once before, and we're still here to tell the tale. Become your own hero in the story you're telling and turn inward to draw strength.Become your own hero in the story you're telling and turn inward to draw strength.Click To Tweet
5. Time in nature
Soak in the Vitamin D, breathe the fresh air, and reconnect with Mother Earth. For me, spending time outside every day is vital for staying grounded, present, and reducing symptoms of anxiety. When we get away from the computer screens, and back into the expansiveness of our planet, it can really put things into perspective how beautiful life is and how silly some of the things we worry about are.
6. Journal [+ note any triggers]
Daily journaling can be really effective for several reasons. First it allows you to dump your thoughts and really “cleanse your mind” so to speak. Rather than keeping it all in, it acts as a release. Second, it allows you to organize and note anything that triggered you throughout the day. For example, maybe things were going great and then you saw two friends fighting and your anxiety creeped up. That insight is great to bring with you into a therapy session and your life in general. Third, it allows you to have a reflective roadmap of how far you've come and any practices that are helping you.
It's no secret that our bodies love endorphins! Getting your daily sweat on is a great way to release toxins, clear the mind, and get some good chemicals naturally flowing in your brain! If you have kids and can't seem to find the time to workout, consider getting the entire family involved with these fun family workouts.
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8. Lots of water and magnesium
We all know that water is essential in functioning optimally. So making sure you're hydrated when struggling with any mental health issue is generally a good rule of thumb. Another great thing to incorporate into your water is a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral that helps regulate the nervous system to help with feelings of anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. Back when I was in my 9-5 and my depression and anxiety levels were really high, I drank Calm (a magnesium, supplement drink) twice a day to help me get to bed at night and relax throughout the day.
“Laughter is the best medicine” has been a saying for centuries for a reason! Laughter releases mood boosting chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Try to find a laughing yoga or goat yoga class near you to get your laugh on. Another really simple trick I've used over the years is to simply sit by myself and force a laugh. Within a few seconds it almost always turns into an actual laugh that I can't control and end up crying. Plus laughter is one of the
10. Choose a guiding mantra
Finding a mantra to be your guiding light throughout the day can be really helpful. But make sure it's one that feels right for you. Don't choose one because it seems like the trendiest or most “buddha like” saying. Find one that resonates and will bring a smile to your face. Personally the two I've used over the years that have always worked are, “I laugh in your face- HA HA HA” which came from my dad when dealing with people or situations I felt uncomfortable in and “chill, it's only chaos,” as a funner reminder that whatever the situation, it's only temporary.
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11. Pay attention to what you're “downloading” daily
All day long we are “downloading” messages, images, sounds, and colors into our system. If you see two people fighting, it may download the feeling of anxiety or fear. If you hear a chipper love song on the radio you may download the feelings of joy. It's important to remember that our emotional well being is taking cues from what we are surrounding ourselves with every day.
For me, this showed up as watching a lot of emotionally heavy drama's on TV. My body and mind had become addicted to the emotional pain I'd see play out on my favorite TV shows when the characters would lose a parent, stop talking to a friend, or the like. It kept me stuck in those emotions from my own life. I eventually stopped watching most of those types of shows and turned to reading or watching comedies instead.
12-15: And of course all the usual: get enough sleep, eat a balanced meal, and take deep breaths.
I'm just going to lump the usual suspects all together here: getting a good night sleep, eating healthy balanced meals, and taking deep breaths are all great ways to cope with anxiety. But as someone who lived with anxiety and depression for about 20 years, I know that those aren't necessarily the most natural or easy starting points. So I hope you start with some of the other things on this list to manage your anxiety and then begin to incorporate these as they become easier for you.
When living with mental health issues, it's important to embrace change and the unexpected, which becomes a lot easier when you have a solid self-care practice in place. I know for my own mental health journey, incorporating all of these tips throughout my week, really allows me to become more grounded and find an inner harmony. and And if you or someone you love is struggling with depression, check out these tips for for How to Help Someone Who’s Depressed from Hancock Regional Hospital.
How to Cope with Anxiety In Real Life
The Beginner’s Guide To Meditation: 5 Tips To Get You Started
6 Ways To Practice Self Care During Chaotic Times Of The Year
Looking for even more good vibes? Grab TCM's worksheet for cultivating positive self talk!
Originally published 05/23/18; Updated 04/27/2020