Anxiety check list

One of the things I’m really struggling with is remembering – while I’m in the middle of a storm of anxiety – that I actually know a lot of things that I should be doing. It’s so hard to move past that initial self-talk of this is horrible I hate this this needs to stop and put into practice some of the things I’ve learned.

The dude and I were talking today about anxiety a little bit, and I was so thankful that I’m not feeling today the way I was a week ago. As we talked, I said something to the effect of what I wrote in the previous paragraph, and then I had an idea: what if I made a checklist for myself? I do that with work and it helps me stay on top of things, so why not with anxiety? So, here it is:

Anxiety Check List

  1. Take an anti-nausea pill
  2. Do the Headspace SOS meditation
  3. Read the notes below (see the end of this post)
  4. Reach out to my sister, the dude, the bird (a friend who also deals with anxiety), and/or my mom
  5. Drink some water
  6. Eat
  7. Yoga
  8. Shower
  9. Color
  10. Read

 

I think a key thing is that I made this list while not in the middle of an intense period of anxiety. This way, I can be clear about all of the different tools I have, and I can really think about what order will be the most helpful. Also key is the note I wrote to myself, which is below. This is a way for me to practice the self talk that I know will help the anxiety, but to not have to remember how to do that when I’m feeling gross. It also helps with the feelings of depersonalization; it reminds me that the anxiety is not who I am, and it doesn’t define me. I’ve included the text of my note below so that if you want to do something similar, you have a model. I encourage you to try this: you will learn so much about how you talk to yourself. At the very least, I encourage you to make a list of all of the things that help alleviate or manage your anxiety, and keep it somewhere that’s easy for you to access when you’re feeling anxious.

 

My Letter to Myself

You’re probably feeling a lot of things right now: panicky, like
you’re not yourself, that your heart is about to explode, you want to
sob uncontrollably and throw up and go to the bathroom. It’s ok. It’s
totally ok to feel all of that. It’s not something that you’re doing
to yourself or to others, or that you can control. This is something
that’s happening to you that you don’t have any control over and you
are not responsible for. You are not in any physical danger. The worst
that can happen is that you cry or throw up in front of people. You
learned this year that showing vulnerability is a good thing, a
desirable thing. If you do throw up or cry in front of people, it’s
ok. You can handle that. You gotta do what you gotta do, and screw
anyone who is going to judge you for practicing self-care.

You want to feel these things, because you want to practice handling them, because practice will help you lessen anxiety. Even though you feel like you’re not yourself or like you’re not strong enough, you’ve been
through this multiple times and every time you’ve made it. You can do
this, and this is your opportunity to show that you can handle this.
You want this. This is a good thing. You are doing everything you can:
you’re managing it with yoga, meditation, and sleep, and you’re talking
about it with people you trust and with people who love you and are
not judging you. You have made a commitment to dealing with this, to
tolerating possible outcomes, and you’re doing great. You have been
through much worse, and you are resilient.

Try to welcome the feelings with and open mind and embrace them: it means your body is responding to danger correctly (even thought there is no danger). Try saying “thank you” to your anxiety, and then asking it to get stronger. It’s proving to you that you are strong, that you can handle challenges, and that you feel things deeply.

It’s ok if you still feel anxious. Trust that your body will automatically calm you down. You don’t need to avoid what’s happening, because it will pass. This is like a vaccine: letting some of it in will make it easier next time. Each challenge holds within it the opportunity to learn and practice.
Practice not resisting. Stand in mountain pose if you can, lay in
corpse pose, or simply open your hands if you don’t have much freedom
of movement. Run toward the roar. It’s ok. Welcome it. Thank it for
being part of your life. You can do this.

It’s ok if you still feel anxious. You want to be anxious. You want to practice. This is scary and overwhelming and it feels isolating, but you are not alone. You probably feel very vulnerable and like you don’t trust yourself or the people and environment around you. It’s ok. You don’t like to feel vulnerable, especially when you haven’t made the choice to be so, and that is totally understandable. You are stronger than you feel right
now. Remember that allowing yourself to go through this is a form of
strength; it is so hard to be vulnerable, to admit that there’s
something happening to you that you can’t control, and to ask for
help. You are doing something very brave and very hard for you. You
are facing something that terrifies you and you are doing it ON PURPOSE. You are being courageous. The only way to build something strong is to acknowledge and deal with the issues, and that’s the place you’re in right now.
It’s ok if you still feel anxious. You can do this. I’m so proud of
you. The dude is proud of you. So is your sister. You are going through some very difficult things right now, and it feels awful, but it will be so
worth it. You will figure this out and you will be better for the
experience. You will have a stronger sense of empathy, more
compassion, and you will be more attuned to yourself. You will
strengthen your gratitude practice and you will inure yourself to being
uncomfortable. You will be able to exist in that space. You ARE able
to exist in that place. You may not feel like you right now, and that
is scary. It’s ok if you still feel anxious. But you ARE you, and you
will return to feeling like yourself soon. This experience is awful,
but it is finite. It will end, and you will feel better, and it will
be ok. It is ok.

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19 thoughts on “Anxiety check list”

  1. I really loved this! I suffer from extreme anxiety and everything that you wrote I can relate to. I am fortunate enough to have people in my life that know the signs when I start to feel anxious or even know when certain situations will trigger an attack and help me through it before it gets bad. Thank you for sharing, this is very helpful.

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  2. This is the second time I’ve come back to this post, but now I’m actually doing something similar for myself. Thank you for writing and sharing it!

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  3. I’ve read this post a few times now, but I’m finally taking the steps to do something similar. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

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  4. I came across this and am so grateful right now. This is exactly what I think I need to try. Your letter to yourself really felt like me talking to myself & the things I need to remember to say/think when I’m in my panic/anxious state of mind. Unfortunately the holidays are a big trigger for me but hopefully this will help. Thank you again for being so open and honest because you’re definitely helping people like myself.

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  5. Loved your writing, the book tips and the letter to yourself. I can see these things help me when I’m spinning out of control with anxiety. How did you find a good therapist that was familiar with anxiety?

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    1. I just searched on Psychologytoday.com for therapists in my city, then looked through their profiles for someone who seemed like they’d be a good fit. I got really lucky in that the first person I found was someone I really connected with. (I also wrote a post about this.)

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