I have spoken before about my struggles with anxiety; the Big Kind of anxiety that stops you in your tracks and makes everything move in slow motion. What I haven’t spoken about is coping with the day-to-day stuff; the kind of anxiety that keeps you awake at night wondering why people don’t like you. The kind that has you lying there thinking about how you’re not a good person, and you’re definitely never going to achieve everything you’ve ever dreamed of because well, you just aren’t that bright and nobody really cares what you think.
That’s the stuff I’m talking about here. Here’s how I get through those days, those days when I feel like everyone thinks I’m the worst person in the world. The days where I can’t stop thinking about the time a friend told me she thinks I’m judgemental which is why she likes so-and-so better than me. So, I sit there and think about how I’m not judgemental at all, I genuinely think people should do what makes them happy as long as it’s not hurting anyone else, but I just have a lot of opinions on things. I’m not just going to sit there and nod if I don’t agree with you, so why does that make me a bad person? And then we circle back around to how nobody likes me. Fun!
Acknowledge the feelings
First thing I do is acknowledge the feelings by talking about them or writing them down. Obviously I’d rather write them down than talk about it, as there’s only like three people in the world I’d even want to talk to about it. I have this little notebook with succulents all over it that I carry pretty much everywhere with me. It started out that it was going to just be a journal for my first year as an expat but now I just write everything in it. From Instagram hashtags I’m tracking, to blog ideas and worries about work and all the friends that hate me, it’s all in there.
It’s by Paperchase and I love it because there’s no lines on it so it gets nice and scribbly, plus it’s small enough to fit in any purse. Paperchase seems to have really cutback on their unlined notebooks, so I’m going to pretty devastated when I get through my succulent one.
Listen to something familiar
I have a playlist of songs that I’m very familiar with, and are highly instrumental – dance, rock, alternative, whatever – as long as it has a lot of instruments! When I need to distract myself I concentrate on listening underneath the lyrics. I pick out the drum beat first and imagine playing the drums myself (I can’t actually play the drums, but I pretend I can, just in my head). I’ll just listen to the drum beat and focus on nothing else. And then I’ll pick the next instrument – maybe the guitar – and do the same thing. Depending on how panicked I am at the moment, this might distract me right away or I might get all the way through the song and have to move onto another and another. But, I try not to beat myself up over it either, even if it takes a dozen songs to effectively distract me.
Read or watch something familiar
Along the same vein, but if you don’t feel like listening to music, pick something comforting that you’ve read or seen something for the 100th time (Harry Potter falls into both of these categories for me). I also find it helpful to watch my favourite sitcom (Scrubs or Parks and Recreation) and say the jokes along with them. I mock the acting and swear at them when they do something stupid.
Make yourself laugh, and lose yourself in the mindlessness of it all.
Take a Shower
It sounds stupid and / or obvious, but I’ve never liked baths really: I find soaking in skin flakes gross (don’t even get me started on hot tubs). But, I love standing under hot, hard water and just daydreaming. I let my mind wander wherever it wants without judgement, even if it means dwelling on the toxic thoughts for a little while. Even if I have to stand there for minutes, for far longer than I should, I make sure my mind travels all the way through the bad stuff and arrives at the good. Incidentally, I’ll usually come out of the shower and need to grab my notebook right away, as this is also when I get most of my ideas…
Start a Sleep Ritual
I put a lot of faith in my sleep ritual, even when it doesn’t work for me. I guess I should have said that none of these are foolproof, to be totally fair. There are some things meditation and distraction just won’t fix. But night times are the worst times, which I think a lot of people would probably relate to. I imagine it’s the stillness – the day is over and you finally have a moment to relax and reflect; so of course your brain immediately starts showing you all the things you’ve ever done wrong. I’m a night-time showerer because at least then I’ve given my brain the chance to move through some of the drama. I am also a big fan of magnesium as a sleep aid – there are a bunch of side effects (and benefits!), so make sure you do your research – but it really works for me!
When that fails I have some cheap PC speakers (these ones) set up in the hole in the wall behind my bed. What, you don’t have a hole in your wall that you hide things in? Basically, my bed is just pressed up against a wall that used to have a fireplace in it, and now it’s just a boarded off hole. So there are speakers in there! If you don’t have a hole in your wall, you could probably just have the speakers under your bed. The reason I say this, is because I like to listen to rain sounds when I can’t sleep. There are heaps of albums and playlists on Spotify that are just rain sounds, so have a browse and find one you like. Having the speakers play rain sounds from a hole in the wall makes the music kind of echo-y and it makes it sound (almost) real, so I think having them under the bed might do that same? If not, just put them on the floor next to you, it really doesn’t matter!
At the end of the day, all of these might work for you or none of them will. Mental illness isn’t a cookie cutter, nobody’s looks the same. What is important though, is that we keep talking about it. By sharing our experiences with each other and our tips for handling it, we continue to break down the stigma and the loneliness!
And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help.
So, did any of these help for you? What other tips do you have for managing anxiety daily? Tell me below!
Photo by Jean Gerber
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