Anyone who has ever experienced anxiety has probably gotten some well-meaning but ‘just off the mark’ advice from a family member, friend or co-worker. It’s easy to just roll your eyes in annoyance when yet another person suggests yet another ‘miracle cure’ — because there isn’t one! But — as much as you may not want to admit it — you can make day-to-day changes that will improve your life, and help you manage your anxiety.
No, we’re not talking about a miracle cure (we just said there isn’t one). And no, we aren’t suggesting that these changes replace seeing a doctor or a therapist when you need one. These changes won’t make your problems go away, and not all of these changes will work for you. However, just because one thing didn’t work doesn’t mean that nothing will.
Even though these lifestyle shifts may help you manage your anxiety, it doesn’t mean you will never experience anxiety again. So, when anxiety charges back into your life, know that you aren’t a failure. It isn’t your fault, and it’s not that you didn’t try “hard enough”. With these tweaks in your routine or shifts in your activities, you can just add more tools to help you handle your anxiety when it pops up.
Sarah Schuster, a writer for The Mighty, reached out to readers in their mental health community. She asked them to share what small changes they made in their life that made a significant difference. This is what they came up with:
1: Make your bed every morning.
This way you’ll start everyday feeling like you’ve already accomplished something.
2: Put your phone on silent.
You might not realize how much anxiety is coming from unexpected phone calls or texts — especially when those calls/texts often cause more drama and stress.
3: Open up about your anxiety.
Be honest about what you’re going through, this will help people be more understanding when you need space.
4: Don’t spend so much time on social media.
Comparing your bloopers to someone else’s highlights is a sure-fire way to start feeling down about what you’ve got. If you delete the apps, you can still browse the sites, but it’s far more cumbersome and you’ll be way less likely to waste away the hours.
5: Just say ‘no’.
You don’t need to have a reason – and you certainly don’t need to share it. If someone asks you to do something, and it’s too much or it’s overwhelming — just say no.
6: Defend your emotions to yourself.
Try and reflect on your day objectively, and if you think you’ve had a bad day or you’ve been a failure: prove it. Anxiety will try and convince you that your day was terrible, but if you reflect on all the things you accomplished, you’ll probably find that you were more successful than you thought. This is an effective way to distinguish between a bad day and an anxious day.
7: Be mindful and grateful.
Spending time doing breathing exercises can help bring your mind back to the present moment. Since anxiety often is future focused (worrying about what might happen) meditation can help ground you and help you focus on the here and now. Whenever you find yourself dwelling on the negative, stop and think of something you’re grateful for. It’s a quick and simple way to shift your mindset.
8: Make lists.
This will help you if you’re anxious about all the things you have to get done. This will be a visual reminder of your schedule/to-do list. So that when it’s done, you KNOW it’s done. You can also include little notes of encouragement for yourself — to keep you going throughout the day!
Slow and simple workouts can help you focus on other things, elevate your mood, and give you a sense of empowerment.
10: Accept it.
Be ok with you. Easier said than done, but if you can accept that this is part of you, you can more easily set boundaries that protect you.
11: Cut out the toxic things.
Websites, feeds, and people. Anything that worms its way into your life and brings a constant weight. Hide, block, unfollow, delete. It’s as easy as hitting a button and it’ll make your life feel so much lighter.
12: Have a bedtime routine.
Prepare yourself for the upcoming day. The less thinking you have to do in the morning, the easier it’ll be to get out of bed in the morning.
13: Give yourself time in the morning.
Giving yourself ample time in the morning to get ready and collect your thoughts can help you start your day with the best mindset.
14: Write it down.
Keep a journal and write down all the things that are going on when you start to feel overwhelmed. There are even digital apps that can keep track of your mood over long periods of time. This will help you recognize your triggers and it can be a really good place to vent.
15: Drink water instead of coffee.
Not only will it help you feel less anxious, you’ll know you’re hydrated! It’ll be hard, but it’ll be so worth it.