Most online blogs talk about anxiety in terms of an emotion you feel when something or someone in your life is making you anxious. If something in your life is making you anxious, these healthy ways to deal with anxiety are still good. But you can solve that anxious feeling by dealing with the thing that makes you anxious.
Many online blogs talk about anxiety like it’s something you can snap out of. They tell you to eat, exercise, draw, do something that makes you happy! If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, no tips or hacks will cure you. Most tips or hacks are impossible for you to do. Particularly things like exercising or painting are laughable because you’re practically immobilized due to anxiety. Especially if they are paired with depression. I hate when people tell me to work out or buck up or look on the bright side when my brain is trying to force me back into bed.
If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, your brain is what’s making you anxious. That’s not a problem you can “solve” unless you’re medicated and even then, your anxiety isn’t gone. It will come back. However, there are things you can do to soothe the anxious feelings temporarily so that you can function out in the world.
I’m not medicated, but I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My manic highs are riddled with anxiety attacks and this impending feeling that something awful is going to happen. Just this morning I woke up horribly afraid for a reason I couldn’t identify. I can’t fight it, I can’t stop it. But the stuff below helps me feel more normal.
Healthy Ways to Deal With Anxiety
Read your favorite book
For me, this is probably the hardest of all the healthy ways to deal with anxiety. As I’ve gotten older and my anxiety has gotten worse, reading – which used to be my absolute favorite thing – was gotten very hard. I can’t focus on the words, I get distracted, and the escapism makes me feel like I’m running away from my problems which make me feel guilty.
But through some experimentation, I’ve realized that finding the right thing to read is key. Read something easy and read something you’ve read before. I read either Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They are my favorites, they are simple, I’ve read them an estimated 30 times each (twice a year since I was ten years old) and they don’t require me to focus because my mind already knows the story. I fall into the familiar words, characters, and places and my mind relaxes.
Watch a cartoon
Cartoons are great for anxious days for me. Even though it seems like the bright colors and fast motion would make anxiety worse, watching cartoons for a while calms me right down. My favorites are Steven Universe, Pokemon, Phineas, and Ferb, or Avatar: The Last Airbender. Most of these are available on Netflix. I prefer cartoons over live-action comedies or dramas because of the more gentle shapes, bright colors, and the escape-y feeling of not having to look at real live human beings.
I recommend Steven Universe the most. It’s full of pastel colors, emotional moments if you feel like you need a good cry, positive messages, and characters who love each other. There isn’t a ton of fighting or action and the episodes are short and sweet. It distracts me, calms me, makes me smile, and again, sucks me into the world so I disappear from my own. (You can watch all episodes here.)
Get out of your current environment
When I get upset, my boyfriend always wants me to talk a walk around my neighborhood. I normally don’t like to, because I don’t live in the greatest neighborhood and being spoken to/approached by strangers or catcalled makes me even more anxious. But sometimes I just really need to get out of my house.
One of the most healthy ways to deal with anxiety – physically as well – is removing yourself from your current environment. This can mean anything – going to the grocery store and getting a few things, going to the gym, walking around the mall, exploring a bookstore, grabbing a cup of coffee, visiting a park or the beach. It doesn’t have to be outside and it doesn’t have to involve exercise. But both things tend to have a calming effect on the body. I know a lot of my anxiety comes from this feeling of being trapped or immobile, so getting out of the house can do wonders to ease my anxiety.
I see this around a lot for soothing anxiety and I hate it. As for advice, it’s very poor. Journaling is hard, especially when you’re feeling depressed and anxious and you either can’t figure out what to write or everything you want to write is negative. But focused writing can help with anxiety, especially if you write in a private journal instead of blogging and you don’t have to worry about whether or not what you write is “good”.
Here are some prompts I find helpful to write about when I feel anxious. It’s hard to make myself focus, but it helps a lot.
Write down things you feel grateful for – from clean drinking water to your friends. It’s not meant to point out that “other people have it worse”, but rather “your current situation could be worse”. To me, there’s a fine distinction.
Write down things you want to accomplish today, big or small. Even if you don’t accomplish them, the point is to show that you’re capable. You are a human with goals and dreams and plans.
Write down the details of a memory using all give senses. This allows you to lose yourself in the memory, isolating the senses and stimulating your imagination.
Write down a happy memory like it’s a story being told by an outsider. This gives you perspective and a happy memory will probably put you in a slightly better mood.
Write down a list of things you like about yourself. This is self-explanatory.
Simple, but so true. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but I hate drinking water. Forcing myself to do it always feels awful. But it helps. According to this article, drinking a cool glass of water fires up your metabolism, helps you feel less dehydrated, helps your kidney’s remove toxins, helps your brain operate properly and makes you feel less hungry. Remarkably, drinking a glass of water always helps me feel less anxious.