Tree Hugging and other Hippy Things
Namaste, and welcome. I am Dee, your guide to a calmer, happier you. For those of you who know me know I have chronic anxiety, and I am here to tell you that there are effective ways to manage your stress without medication. In this article, I give you the priceless gift of learning. Only here will you find my not-so-secret tips to managing your anxiety.
Let us begin with a little deep breathing exercise.
Now, little guppy, you are ready.
What is Anxiety?
I must first start this off by describing anxiety. You walk into a large room filled with 100 people, none of whom you know.
You frantically look around for a glimmer of hope. You start to feel your throat close, your heart feels like it is pumping out of your chest, and you begin to sweat profusely. Your fingertips begin to tingle, and your eyes feel out of focus. Your mouth is dry, your stomach churns, and you’re struggling to breath. You feel as though you may pass out. This is anxiety.
The American Psychology Association (APA) defines anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.”
We Are Not Alone
If you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety is incredibly common in America’s wonderfully fast paced, competitive, individualistic society. In fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most common conditions in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults (18% of our population) every year. The next time you walk into a room of 100 people and begin to panic, you can rest assured at least 17 others have similar feelings. (They may be gathered in the same corner).
Perhaps you can break the awkward ice of meeting new people by wearing a name tape to your next networking event that says, “Hello, my name is “I WAS FORCED TO COME TO THIS EVENT.”
Treat Yo Self
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
“Dat shit is wack!”–Dee.
Why not treat yourself the way you DEEserve to be treated? Below are my top 10 ways to deal with my anxiety. Before we begin, my number one tip to managing your anxiety is this: Find something that works for you, and stick to it.
Dee’s 10 Tips for Managing Anxiety
1) Call a Spade a Spade
This is also called “mindfulness” or “naming and noticing”. When I begin feeling anxious, I acknowledge these feelings and call it what it is instead of fighting these feelings or pretending they don’t exist. The first step to any program is awareness and acceptance. Only then can you begin to heal.
If you want to decrease your anxiety, you must first notice and name this gremlin when it shows up to play.
2) Seek Professional Counseling / Coaching
A professional helps challenge us in ways we cannot. They know their career field inside and out, and they know how to help. They are not afraid to ask questions we may be apprehensive to answering. They help us reframe our story to see a different perspective, and they normalize your situation to help you understand you are not alone. Most important, they hold you accountable to your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
When you go to hire a counselor, choose one wisely. Do your research, know what you are looking for, and never settle for less. Not all counselors are created equal. It took me five different counselors before I found one I connect with and trust.
3) Learn a New Skill
My anxiety was at an all time high when I returned from Afghanistan. As a means to reduce my stress and focus on something else, I taught myself how to play guitar. Music is a great way for me to connect with my emotions, and learning a new skill allowed me to fully focus on the task at hand. C’mon, who doesn’t love a girl who can play guitar?
Focusing on learning a new skill is a form of meditation. It clears your mind and forces you to concentrate on one thing. Figure out your passions, and learn a new skill that directly relates to your passions. If you love music, learn how to play a new instrument. If you love to dance, learn some new dance moves. Pick up exercise, botany, cross stitching, sudoku, or blacksmithing in your free time. (PS: There’s no such thing as free time. You have to make time to be free). Learn different techniques to skills you already have. Youtube is a wonderful resource to learn.
I took up guided meditation as a consistent practice. When I find my anxiety raising, I take a step back and meditate. I have found guided meditations to be most effective because there is a coach on the other end helping me with instructions, allowing me to be more mindful.
Find a meditation style that works for you. I started with reading “Peace is Every Step” by Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I also fall asleep to the Meditation Oasis Podcast almost every night. What works for me may not necessarily work for you, so take some time to find your meditation style.
5) Deep Breathing
When I find myself in a pinch and my anxiety is at an all time high, I take a step back and focus on my breath. Five deep breaths is all it takes to calm my heart rate and re-ground me.
Don’t knock it until you try it. Five Minutes of Deep Breathing Can Save Your Life. It’s incredibly simple and effective.
6) Increase Dietary Magnesium
Many Americans are deficient in Magnesium, which helps increase energy, calms nerves and anxiety, and helps relieve constipation, muscle aches, and spasms among others. I started taking magnesium a couple years ago. Not only did it help my muscles recover faster from intense exercise sessions, I found it helped calm my mind at night.
Add some magnesium to your diet, or take an epsom salt bath at night. Some common sources of magnesium can be found in this article.
7) Create Your Cheer Squad
Surround yourself by positive people who support you and accept you for who you are. Make a list of your biggest cheerleaders, and make it a point to envelope yourself in this positivity. If you don’t have any, connect yourself with a group of common interests. Join a support group to help manage your anxiety.
I slowly started to surround myself around a team of people I trust fully; further, I distanced myself from those who tore me down. Social support is a large part to managing my anxiety. It forces me out of my introverted bubble and allows me to practice my awesome communication skills with some great people.
Side Note: If you want to take part in an awesome positivity movement, join my older brother’s group, The Positivity Plague on Facebook and Instagram to help them spread joy germs to everyone.
8) Hug a Tree
Being the earth child I am, my stress dissipates in nature. Northeast Ohio has an amazing park system, and I take full advantage of it. I love listening to the wind brush up against the trees, the birds chirping, and the sound of rushing water. I love the fresh smell of life and the beauty that is nature. Five minutes of walking in the woods is all it takes to leave my stresses behind.
If you are feeling stressed, go out and hug a tree today. Acknowledge how it feels in your hands, and thank it for providing life for you to live.
Expressive writing is a route to healing–emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I make a conscious effort to journal at least once a week. It helps me organize my thoughts and keeps me grounded. An additional benefit is being able to review my thought process and emotional growth over the past two decades. Who doesn’t love to see progress?
Write your thoughts down on paper. Physically pick up a pen and put it to paper. Focus on how the pen feels over the paper. Write what comes to your mind. Then, close the journal and leave your feelings there. The process is incredibly meditative.
Of course I saved the best for last. Exercise is an incredible way to manage your anxiety. Studies show that movement is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
I try to get some sort of movement in every single day. Let me tell you from personal experience, it works.
Dee’s Concluding Statement
None of these techniques are quick fixes, which is why many people take the quick and easy way out and take an “anti-anxiety” medication. Medication only masks the symptoms; it doesn’t fix the underlying issues. In order to fix the issue, you must put in the work and deal with the issue head on.
These aforementioned tips will not take away your anxiety. They are a means of managing your symptoms in a holistic manner. Consistency is the key. The more you do it, the better you become.