There is SO much you can do to manage anxiety, from things that are preventative to things that keep it in check to things that you can do after an attack to make the next one better. My personal management consists of prioritizing sleep, yoga/exercise, a weighted blanket, and sometimes therapy. You may have to experiment to find that combination of things that works for you, but there IS something that will work for you.
- Therapy. Listen. I will never, ever stop talking about how great therapy is. Having someone in your corner who is just there to listen to you and has no requirements or expectations for your relationship is amazing. I’m not in therapy right now, but I miss my therapist a lot and I know that I’ll be going back to them (if I’m still in the city) when I get married/have a kid/change careers/whenever I need it.
- Medication. I didn’t take meds for my anxiety, but that’s not because I have a problem with them(I don’t). They can do so much to improve quality of life, especially for people whose day-to-day anxiety is severe, which mine is not. I would highly encourage you to talk through meds with your therapist and/or doctor if that feels like a good solution for you.
- Meditation. So, I was meditating with Headspace for a while, and then I just kind of stopped, for two reasons: 1, I was doing it at lunch and it felt like it was taking away from my down time; and 2, I didn’t want to switch to doing it in the morning because I didn’t want to get up earlier. But now I’m back to it, and I’ve made it part of my bedtime routine. I do it while I lay on my acupressure mat, so that 10 minutes is doubly awesome for both my sleep and my state of mind.
- Sleep. Sleep is REALLY important for anxiety management. When we’re not sleeping well, we’re at a higher risk for anxiety attacks. There are some things you can do to help your body and brain get into a good sleep routine, including: a bedtime routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day(give or take no more than an hour-ish), and making sure you’re going to bed with time to get enough sleep. If you have trouble falling or stay asleep, as many with anxiety do, try the following suggestions of exercise, a weighted blanket, and/or and acupressure mat (I use all three).
- Exercise. Look, I know. Exercise is annoying. Never in my life could I have predicted that I would own a drawer full (AN ENTIRE DRAWER) of workout clothes. Anyone who knew me before I was 30 must be like what the hell?! Who are you?! But here’s the thing: exercise is one of the best ways to manage anxiety. Seriously. My advice would be to start small: start with walks, or a 15 minute yoga practice when you get up or before bed. You may have to experiment to find out how often you need to exercise for it to be impactful/manageable with your schedule. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at this list of the best exercises for anxiety and depression. If you want more of a first hand account, check out all of my posts about my yoga practice or when I was (for a summer) into weightlifting.
- A weighted blanket. I LOVE my weighted blanket. I researched the benefits and made it from scratch, and it has saved me from many a sleepless night. If you don’t want to make your own, I recommend Gravity Blankets, mostly because they’re classy(a lot of weighted blankets are geared toward kids with sensory issues an thus have funky/kid fabric). If you don’t care/don’t want to shell out for a Gravity blanket, there are plenty of brands available, and many on Amazon.
- An acupressure mat. I originally learned about acupressure mats from Bird, and we lovingly call them our “spikes” because, let’s be honest, they’re like laying on face-up golf shoes. But they’re great for anxiety because they stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is what relaxes you. They also help you sleep; I don’t think I’ve ever used it and not been basically dead to the world for the rest of the night. I tend to use mine for about 15 minutes before bed most nights, and while doing so I like to put my feet up on a chair(for more pressure on my back) and listen to podcasts.
- A support system. Admitting that you’re not ok or asking for help can be really hard. I feel you. But it’s so helpful, especially if you can find someone who knows what it feels like and/or what to say or do. I frequently turn to my sister and Bird because they know what it is to be anxious in the way I am and they’re never like “Just relax! It’ll all be ok!” They know how annoying that is and it’s often really helpful to just hear someone say “Ugh. I’m sorry. That SUCKS.” And when I’m feeling anxious at work and need someone to cheer me on, the dude is my number one.
- A tracking system. I’m a big fan of tracking my symptoms. This helps me to see relationships and patterns that I may not have noticed before and to start to be able to anticipate that I may be feeling anxious(for example, if I haven’t been sleeping well for a couple of nights). There are a lot of different ways to do this, and my preferred way is to use a Thrive Journal. You can read about why I like it here.