As I mentioned in this post, the past weeks have been met with a lot of excitement, but also significant panic and anxiety. There was a period of about three weeks when I struggled to eat, sleep, and breathe normally each day. That period of time wasn’t enjoyable by any means, but over time, my body and mind have unwound. I’m breathing normally most of the time again and my appetite is largely back. Some nights, I continue to struggle with getting a full night’s sleep, but it’s getting easier, and for that I am thankful.
Because this freakingcrazyinsane season of life brings a heavy dose of change, and thus (for me, at least), a rather heavy dosage of stress and anxiety, I’ve spent much time attempting to ground myself as well as learning ways to keep my panic in check. If you’re going through a time where you’re experiencing anxiety, here are some natural and effective ways to manage it, according to me…and I’m not a doctor! (Of course, if your anxiety is seriously affecting your day-to-day life long-term, having a conversation with a doctor may be your best choice.)
1. Get a Massage
Massage is a great way to relax and breathe for about an hour. It’s hard to let your mind spin wildly when your muscles are being worked out and your body is releasing serotonin and oxytocin, which relax you and lower your stress level. For inexpensive, high quality massages in your city, search here.
2. Drink a Cup of Tea
This is one of the most simple ways to relax your body on a stressful day–it doesn’t take but a few minutes to warm up some water, steep a bag of tea, and enjoy the way the herbal blend puts your mind at ease. (I drink a cup of tea–or two, or three–daily!) My favorite relaxing flavors are Sleepytime Vanilla, Yogi Bedtime, Honey Lavender Stress Relief, Tazo Calm, Sleepytime Extra, and Moroccan Mint. (Try this one with milk and honey…you’ll never want a sugary, caloric dessert again after you taste how yummy it is and feel how relaxed it makes you!)
3. Do Yoga (or other exercise)
Even if you don’t want to join a yoga studio or gear up for the gym, there are plenty of ways to move your body from the comfort of your home or neighborhood. Really great free yoga videos, as well as all kinds of other workouts are available here, as well as on Hulu or Netflix. Alternatively, grab your dog and take a long walk outside. Find a local middle or high school with a track and run a few laps. Heck! If it’s freezing, put on your tennis shoes and walk the aisles of Target! Spending time moving your body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers–so get moving!
4. Talk to a Therapist
Sometimes, it’s best to talk to a professional, who’s a third party in your life, as opposed to family or friends. A counselor can help you navigate through difficult seasons of life by providing you with various tools to help you cope and manage your stress, anxiety, and worry. If you’re interested in speaking with a professional, check out this site.
5. Spend Time With Jesus
A couple of weeks ago, I was really on edge. That day, when I got in the shower, I crumbled to the floor and sat there, praying, with the hot water running over me. Jesus, I can’t do this alone. Here’s everything I am, have, want, need–will You make it beautiful? As I toweled off, I felt cleansed, body and soul.
If you’re interested in partnering with Jesus to manage your anxiety, try any one of these books. (Personally, I’ve found this book to be particularly helpful.) Additionally, perhaps you could consider downloading The Bible App and working through one of the anxiety/stress devotionals.
6. Cut Out Caffeine
At the earliest sign of anxiety, I immediately stop consuming caffeine. My body is extremely sensitive to it, and I can feel the jolt, increased heart rate, and jitters almost immediately. While I love a cup of fully caffeinated coffee as much as the next girl, I know that during times of stress, the last thing I need is to stress my body out further with an extra burst of coffee-induced shakiness. If you’ve never tried this before, and are feeling stressed or anxious, I’d encourage you to give it a shot–er, a try! (Or a decaffeinated shot! 😉 )
7. Write Down Your Thoughts & Feelings
Aside from Jesus, there is nothing more calming in my life than writing. Writing keeps me grounded, it allows me to wade through my swirling thoughts, it puts abstract emotions on paper in ink. I feel validated, I feel that my emotions are legitimized, I can process the world around me with clarity. Grab a cheap journal at Michael’s or Target and start writing down your thoughts. There’s no wrong way–you can list them, doodle them, write long paragraphs, short sentences–whatever. Here’s a great article from Psychology Today explaining how journaling can combat anxiety.
8. Tell Friends What You’re Experiencing
The best way to ensure that you feel alone is to feed yourself the lie that you are alone and no one else can understand what you’re going through and that no one even cares. Even if you are walking through a uniquely dark circumstance, the people who love you will be willing to listen to your story and support you through it. Share your heartache with others, the best healing comes through vulnerability.
9. Spend Time Outside
Sweep the porch. Nap in the hammock. Mow the lawn. Walk the dog. Grill on the deck. Read a book in the grass. Do anything–just do it outside! Breathe in the fresh air, feel the sunshine on your face, notice the way the wind dances through your hair. Spending time outside is grounding and enjoyable, but not just because it feels good. There is actual science backing this claim–read this article on Spark People for more information.
10. Focus On Your Breathing
Sometimes, during a crazy day, the only thing I can control is my breathing. There are thousands of different breathing exercises that claim to help settle your mind and body. Personally, I feel like each technique works to some extent simply because it forces you to think about breath, which is calming in and of itself. This book is a great reference for simple breathing exercises that you can implement throughout your day. My favorite breathing exercise? Inhale for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds, pause for 3 seconds, repeat.
11. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great way to combat anxiety! They’re all-natural, they smell lovely, and most of all–they’re effective. When I feel anxious, after I shower (or bathe, see below!), I rub Lavender Essential Oil all over the bottom of both of my feet. It’s absorbed quickly, and I can almost immediately feel a difference. I become calm, more stable, more relaxed, and more balanced. It’s amazing, really. I’ve never tried this Unwind blend of clary sage, lavender, mandarin, frankincense, bergamot, elemi geranium, and vanilla, but it’s specifically blended for relieving stress and anxiety…once I run out of lavender, I’m going for it! (It has amazing reviews!)
12. Take a Warm Bath
I’ve taken a warm bath almost every night for the past couple of weeks…mostly because I’ve stopped watching TV and don’t know what else to do with myself in the evenings! Turns out, zoning out in the tub is a much, much better way to unwind than gluing myself to the TV screen. I love to throw in ultra-relaxing bubble bath like this before I grab a good book and spend time soaking in the warmth of the water. If you’re someone who doesn’t like baths because you don’t like “soaking in your own filth,” scrub off in the shower first, and then draw a bath.
13. Cut Things Out & Put Things Off
There is a time for everything in life (check this out for more!). Sometimes, it’s okay to allow yourself a week to take care of you, and maybe not the 25+ items on your to-do list. The laundry will get done, the floors will get vacuumed, the windows will get cleaned. There are, of course, things that you’ll need to take care of, but those things that can wait a week–let them sit. Stressing yourself out about silly, meaningless tasks will not ease your anxiety in any way.
Additionally, it may be a good time to cut one or two things out of your life all together. Perhaps you need to step away from a few responsibilities for a period of time–that’s okay. Take care of yourself, you’ll be better off in the long run for it.
14. Turn Off the Technology
Originally, this list only had 13 items. However, almost two weeks into no TV or movies, I had to add “turn off the technology” to it. You would be amazed at how loud technology can be in our lives. I had no idea until I turned it off. Our cell phones, tablets, and televisions yell at us all day: look at me! Pay attention to me! Read me! Watch me! Click me! Respond to me! If you’re anxious, turn all that noise off. You may not be able to completely unplug, but perhaps you can turn everything off each night a few hours before bedtime, or for the first few hours in the morning. Try it, you’ll be amazed!