As someone who has struggled with anxiety for most of my adult life, I find it annoying when I have a poor mental health day and someone asks me how I am. We have been trained in our society that the answer to “how are you” is “good” (possibly someone more polite might argue the answer should always be “good, and you?”), but what if I’m not good? Although I have managed my mental wellness more effectively and significantly decreased my anxiety in the last few years, sometimes unwanted emotions can still creep in. While I am not a licensed therapist, I have become somewhat of an expert on dealing with anxious thoughts or feelings. Don’t get me wrong, it is all a work in progress, but here are some of the best techniques that I have personally used for coping with anxiety.
Understand Your Triggers
Being able to identify your triggers might seem challenging at first, but once you know what will set your anxiety off, you can better work to avoid those places, situations, or people. Many of the stressful circumstances we find ourselves in evolve over time, and we become somewhat used to them or accustomed to the high-pressure environment. For example, I used to work a desk job so busy and intense that I would often reply to messages outside of business hours to try to retain clients and boost commission. I really did not like the job, yet I worked there for two years because I became comfortable and complacent. Finally, I had to quit the job because it made me absolutely miserable and negatively affected my life in many ways. And guess what? Once I left the soul-sucking job, I had time to work on my emotional, spiritual, and even some physical healing (a desk job adds 10 lbs), and I became a more connected, inspired, and happy person overall.
Build Healthy Routines
Once you can identify and hopefully eliminate some of the triggers from your life, you will have more time to implement healthy daily routines. There are many things that everyone should consider, including getting enough sleep, having a proper diet, and moving your body regularly. Although these are fairly obvious suggestions, you must remind yourself now and then to stay on track. For example, if you notice that you keep eating bad foods without really thinking about it, you might need to look at what’s really triggering you and try to actively make healthier choices. Or if you have trouble sticking to a proper sleeping schedule, you might make a point to get a certain amount of sleep per night, even if that means saying no to some things. In my case, I often have to remind myself to get up from my desk or off the couch and go workout or take my dogs for a walk to stay active.
One healthy habit that I love to utilize that also helps me keep my other routines on track is journaling. In the morning, one of the first things I do is grab my journal, write down five things I am grateful for, and a general list of things I want to accomplish for the day. This technique works really well for me because I get a certain amount of joy from crossing things off my list. Another thing that can really help, especially if you are feeling anxious or like you might have an anxiety attack, is a proper breathing routine. Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes just taking a moment to breathe is all you need.
Recognize False Alarms and Release What You Can’t Control
Once you rid yourself of triggers and build healthier habits, it will become easier to recognize when false alarms occur. An excellent example of false-alarming yourself would be watching a scary movie and then being nervous or anxious for the following days because you’re worried that things from the movie are going to happen to you in real life. I am bad for this, so I don’t generally watch that many scary movies. And if I do, then I usually have to follow it up with a ‘happy movie’ so that the scary content isn’t the most recent thing in my mind (LOL).
With my anxiety, I struggled for a really long time with trying to control everything. So now, a big thing for me is only focusing on what I can control (myself) and trying not to worry about the rest. This can be a hard concept for most people to master, myself included, but you need to keep in mind that you are only responsible for your own actions and nobody else’s. Once you’re able to truly understand this, you will be able to “pay them b*tches no mind,” as RuPaul famously says. In addition, by knowing that you are only responsible for your own actions and reactions, you will more easily recognize when you need to remove yourself from a situation and release what you can’t control.
Although poor mental health days are sure to happen now and again, it is important to get to a place where there are more good days than bad. You must remember that coping happens inside of you, and it is your mental strength and determination that will get you through. I also hope that you can use some of my personal techniques to your advantage so that next time someone asks “how are you,” you can say “great” and really mean it. It will take time, practice, and a commitment to bettering your mental wellness, but identifying and removing your triggers, replacing them with healthy routines, recognizing false alarms, and letting go of what you can’t control will be instrumental in helping you cope with anxiety. Implementing these strategies means we are one step closer to being able to “Fire” our “Old Self” and create “our NEW SELF” while remembering that Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!