One of my 2017 blog goals was to open up more personally and discuss subjects that go beyond the pretty surface of lifestyle blogging. I already shared the story behind why I quit my PR job to work for myself full-time (best decision ever) as well as some of the struggles I encountered in 2016 from loss of friendship to deciding what direction to take with my career. Again, thank you all so much for the kind and supportive feedback.
Well today I’m back with another heavy-hitter and a subject that sadly some might consider a little taboo– clinical anxiety. I’ve briefly mentioned before that I struggle with anxiety, but I’ve never written a post solely on my personal journey. People like to throw out the word anxiety very casually. It’s one thing to have a stressful day and it’s another to carry around a debilitating pit of worry in your stomach that no matter what you do you wake up with it everyday and go to sleep with it at night. I’ve struggled with my nerves since childhood and have gone through periods where it’s been so bad I’ve had to see a psychiatrist and take a daily medication. I made the mistake my freshman year of college of revealing that I took medication to the girls I was paired to room with and ended up getting made fun of and harassed. It was really devastating and made me question if I could ever reveal something so personal to a non-family member again.
I consider myself lucky that my anxiety was never severe enough that it prevented me from finishing school, graduating and getting a full-time job— not everyone with a mental ailment is so fortunate. I don’t think I’ll ever be anxiety-free, but at 26 I feel blessed that I no longer have to take a daily medication or see a doctor on a regular basis. It’s been an evolution and I can’t pinpoint one exact solution that has helped me improve. I think part of it can be attributed to growing up– I’m way more aware of my triggers and it’s much easier for me to put situations into perspective then when I was a teenager. Falling in love and having a partner that is supportive of my mental health also has made a world of difference.
If some of these struggles sound familiar, I want you to know you are not alone and you have no reason to be ashamed. Combatting mental illness is no easy task and I very much advocate seeking professional advice from a doctor if you think it will help– believe me I’ve been there. This post is simply meant to share some of the non-medical things I do that help me cope with my anxiety on a regular basis.
10 Tips For Managing Anxiety (Without Medication)
Distance Yourself From Negative Energy. Removing yourself from situations that cause you stress and keeping distance from negative people can really make a difference in your quality of life. I really suggest taking a mindful look at everyone in your life because it’s not uncommon to have a tendency to hold on to unhealthy friendships and relationships solely out of fear of change or loss. Who uplifts and inspires you? Is there a friend or family member that constantly points out your flaws or is always complaining? Recognizing how other people’s energy affects you is really important especially when you’re prone to anxiety.
Get Moving. I always feel so much better on the days I’ve done something active. After my appendicitis in the fall I had a lot of anxiety about exercising again and really feared failing. It took me a few months to get up the courage to join my new gym, but since I have I’ve never felt more physically and mentally motivated. If you are like me and haven’t exercised in a while, don’t feel like you need to go full on gym or cycling crazy right away. Be realistic and start small by going on short walks or jogs. Even taking ten minutes to do some stretching at home can make a world of difference.
Spend Some Time Outside. I notice my anxiety tends to flare up when I spend too many hours inside. To combat this I like to block out enough time so I can walk to appointments and meetings instead of cabbing or taking the subway. I also save errands for days when I don’t have a lot on my schedule so I have an excuse to get out of my apartment. When I was still working full-time and feeling stressed, I’d force myself to take a “real” lunch break where I’d actually sit down at a restaurant and eat away from my desk.
Become A Morning Person. I can’t tell you how much my life improved for the better when I became a morning person. You can read more about my tips here— it wasn’t an instant change, but wow, it was worth the effort. I’ve learned that my mood is very easily affected by daylight and the weather and I just feel so much happier and positive the more hours I’m awake with the sun.
Do Something Physically Relaxing. Treating yourself to a calming bath, pedicure or ten minute chair massage is a great way to relieve physical tension. When I’m anxious I tend to get knots in my neck and back, so putting myself in a position where I can focus on breathing and relaxing my body always help me feel better.
Turn Off Technology. I am so grateful social media wasn’t around when I was a kid– even as an adult it’s hard to not be affected by the unrealistic lifestyles and beauty standards you see on social media and TV. When I was in college and during my first few years of blogging, I spent way too much time comparing myself to other people/ I would get really down seeing other women my age who seemed to have never-ending bank accounts and couldn’t help thinking what was I doing wrong? It was exhausting and really affected my self confidence. Fast forward to today, I only spend time on social media when I’m updating my own handles or keeping up with personal friends and family. It’s important to remember that people typically only share their highlight reels, not their daily struggles and low points.
Incorporate Healthy Foods Into Your Diet & Cut Down On Caffeine. I’ve been a picky eater my entire life and up until college I lived on a carb-heavy, fried food diet. I got away with it as a kid, but now as an adult it’s crazy just how physically and mentally “icky” I can feel after eating a unhealthy meal. I became introduced to the green juice trend when I moved to New York and now like to make my own smoothies and juices in my Vitamix. It really has changed my life because everyday I’m able to incorporate so many good nutrients into my diet that I was completely missing all in a quick and easy drink. Studies also show that excessive caffeine isn’t the best for anxiety– consider cutting down your intake or sticking to only drinking coffee in the mornings.
Socialize. Getting out and meeting new people has never come naturally to me– I’m not a social butterfly and really prefer to have a small handful of close friends. Starting my blog really helped me get out of my comfort zone and improve my networking skills. Sometimes I still have to force myself to go to events or take people up on their offers to grab coffee, but I swear I always feel so much better after I do and wonder why I ever had anxiety about going in the first place. I often find meeting new people or catching up with an acquaintance to be really motivating as well. I’ve had many instances where I’ve left conversations feeling so inspired.
Keep Busy. Keeping busy is one of the best ways to distract yourself and combat anxiety. I know that a packed schedule can be a stress trigger, but on the flip side having more free time also means more opportunities to get caught up in your own thoughts. I try to maintain a healthy balance, however when I’m busier I notice I have less anxiety versus when my schedule is really slow.
Develop A Healthy Sleep Routine. Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best ways to manage anxiety on a regular basis. Waking up fully rested can make all the difference in how your day goes. I like to try and go to bed early when I’m having a stressful day where I just can’t shake my anxiety– I always will wake up feeling a lot better than if I had tried to power through a long night of work. You can read more about my sleep rituals in this post.
How do you manage stress and anxiety? Would love to hear your tips or stories!