10 Tips For Managing Anxiety (Without Medication)

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

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.

10 Tips For Managing Anxiety Without Medication

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!

22 Comments | in Advice, Life

22 Responses to 10 Tips For Managing Anxiety (Without Medication)

  1. Jenna says:

    The second half of 2016 was the most stressful, painful, anxiety ridden time of my life, on top of 2015, most of which I spent dealing with an injury and recovering from surgery. I’ve always had anxiety over certain situations, though not general anxiety, so I had some idea of how to deal with what I was feeling.

    What I’ve found the most helpful is reminding myself to be kind – to myself. I cut out anything I could that I found stressful, took a lot of time to be alone (which I need anyway), and treated myself to small things. When it was too hard to even think about cooking dinner or preparing lunch to bring to work, I made a deal with myself to buy healthier pre-made options instead of ordering takeout all the time. I turned down invitations and made sure to not overload my week, sticking to maybe one night out during the week and one weekend day free. I made a list of things I needed to do and did one a day, maybe 2 a day, so that I continually got things done but I only had a small goal for each day, instead of trying to get everything done at once.

    Ultimately, I think cutting out negative influences – whether that’s a friendship, bad eating habits, working too many hours, etc – is one of the best things anyone can do who is dealing with anxiety or a lot of stress.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Jenna,

      I completely agree and can relate to many of the things you mentioned. I’ve personally practiced many of them myself! It’s crazy how easy it is to forget to be kind to ourselves because it’s true that we’re our toughest critics! I hope you are doing well and that 2017 ends up being much brighter 🙂

  2. Maureen says:

    One of the things that I do to help with anxiety is acupuncture. I have been doing this a time or two a month (if possible). I feel it helps and it centers me. It is not a one and done but a gradual process.
    I also do gentle yoga.
    There are a number of outside influences that come barging at me on a daily basis but I have to realize that if I am going to be of help to anyone I have to make sure that I am OK as well.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Maureen,

      I’ve heard so many people mention acupuncture but have never actually looked into it myself. Hmm maybe I need to… I also agree that to be productive at work (or home), it’s important to be in a good place yourself or else you won’t help anyone. That’s so so true!

  3. Alexis says:

    Thank you for posting this. I suffer from anxiety as well and have been able to treat it by doing most of the things on your list. I took meds for a while, but I didn’t like depending on a medication to make me not feel crazy. I go months without having any symptoms and then sometimes it hits me out of nowhere. I appreciate hearing that I am not the only one dealing with anxiety. No one in my family deals with it, so I often feel alone.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Alexis,

      You are definitely not alone! It’s hard for people that don’t have anxiety to understand how it can just come from nothing. It even surprises me sometimes how I can have a perfectly good day and still feel my nerves going crazy. It’s been a gradual process, but I find comfort in knowing that I’ve improved so much and that I’ve been able to stay off of a regular medication. Nick can’t relate to my anxiety (lucky him) but he understands it and is supportive– that’s all that matters!

  4. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve struggled with anxiety & mild depression for most of my life, finally seeking professional help when I couldn’t manage it on my own during law school. I know how hard it can be to open up about mental health issues, especially when you’ve been judged in the past. I’ve found that taking time for self-care, whether it be time doing something I enjoy or time with friends/family, & spending a little extra time keeping myself organized so I don’t worry about things falling through the cracks has helped me greatly.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Amy,

      Thank you so much for your comment! It’s true that taking a little time for yourself can totally flip a negative mood to positive or reverse an anxiety spiral. When I was a younger I definitely felt some shame about my issues, but as I’ve gotten older I’m much more open about sharing my past. It’s crazy how many people can relate themselves or have a family member that suffers from anxiety or depression. It’s much more common than we probably think!

  5. Bianca says:

    Like I mentioned in my last comment: thank you so much for sharing this. I am suffering from anxiety since childhood. Some month I go really good, and then one day from one second to the other it hits me or there’s a constant oppressive feeling.
    But i agree with you. Since I go to the gym regularly, eat healthy (no industrial sugar) and avoid special things that stir up my anxiety helps me to have a longer time of good days in my life.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Bianca,

      So happy to hear you enjoyed this post! I can relate to your feelings on many levels. It’s so true how a little gym time, a healthy dinner and avoiding negative people can completely change the outcome of a day.

  6. Arianne says:

    Meditation really does help me. 🙂

  7. Erina says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I have found acupuncture to be really helpful ever since I stopped taking medication for anxiety. I also think planning things out in advance and staying organized is helpful. Finally, exercise definitely makes a difference- I like spin classes, yoga, and pilates. 🙂

    • Katie says:

      I’ve heard a lot about acupuncture but haven’t really looked into it for myself– that’s good to know! I’m also totally with you on planning in advance. I’m a bit crazy about staying organized, but I swear it helps me avoid so many potentially stressful situations. xo

  8. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have suffered from anxiety/panic disorder for over ten years and I know how isolating and crippling it can feel. Its especially frustrating when there are all these gifs, memes, and other social media-esque things that poke fun or try to normalize anxiety…when in reality it is a very serious condition for a lot of us. Your tips are great. Especially the socializing one…my anxiety often made me want to avoid a lot of social situation out of fear of feeling awkward or having a panic attack. But, as you said, once I make the effort I usually feel 100 times better. You begin to learn which social situations you actually like and which ones may just not be your thing. Knowing yourself is the the first step at creating a healthy and mindful lifestyle! Seems like you’ve done a great job. Thank you for sharing, Katie! Love your blog.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Liz,

      Thank YOU so much for your comment and for taking the time to share your story with me. It’s taken me my entire life to learn (and still understand) what situations or things I need to avoid and on the flip side, when I need to just take a deep breath and meet something head on. As someone who also suffers from anxiety, I’m glad to hear that you agree with my tips. Hopefully others will find them helpful! xo

  9. Rachel says:

    Thanks for sharing and posting alternatives to medication. I’m a firm believer in doing everything you can in order to avoid throwing pills at every problem. I am 28 and have had pretty severe social anxiety for most of my life and it’s only getting worse. I think it stemmed from having divorced parents and constantly changing schools every year or two so I didn’t maintain friendships. I commuted during college (due to the social anxiety) so I never made friends there either. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever. I refuse to take medication or see a therapist, because, well that’s part of the anxiety. Thankfully, I have my spouse who I’ve been with since we were 17. I can’t imagine going through the dating process. That sounds like the most terrifying experience ever.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Rachel,

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this post. Everyone is different and there’s no specific way to manage or cure a mental health issue– I wish there was! Nick has been a big part of my healing process and greatly contributed to me getting the confidence to stop my medication. Sometimes all you need is an encouraging support system to take a big leap– that’s great you have your husband! PS thinking about having to date literally is enough to give me a panic attack… Right there with ya!

  10. Kimber Scannell says:

    This is such a lovely post, these sounds like great tips, I know exercise really helps me (not that I have anxiety but with stress etc)
    Keep going and stay strong!

    Kim – http://www.e-counseling.com

  11. Maria says:

    thank you . its great yours notes about anxiety.

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