There are many “how not to be anxious” and “self-care” lists out there. Those titles alone are just plain ridiculous, because anyone with anxiety knows that you can’t just make it go away. Unfortunately, you can’t just “not.” Usually the absolute worst things you can say to me when I’m anxious or having a panic attack are “Calm down” or “Just breathe.” Let me tell you, I nixed those really early in the game. Dealing with anxiety is about using prevention methods, avoiding triggers, and managing symptoms to make sure that the effects of having the disorder have as little impact on your life as possible. There is no cure for mental illness, but there are my three types of management strategies.
I was recently talking to a co-worker, and she said that she has a friend who is a counsellor and they won’t treat anyone for mental health issues until they are sleeping 8 hours a night, doing 30 minutes of physical activity outside 5 times a week, eating well, and taking both vitamin D and omega 3. It’s a bit severe of a stance to take that could alienate people with severe mental health issues and could also be a barrier for people with any severity of mental health issues to getting help, but it makes an interesting point. Take care of your biological health, and there is a high chance that it will positively affect your mental health.
I went a different route — at the time that my anxiety was at its worst, I was not exercising regularly, sleeping well, or taking vitamins, but I went to see a counsellor and worked from there. I’m pro whatever method you use to try to help yourself. You do you!
Once my overwhelming anxiety began to be managed by therapy (and later meds, but that’s a story for another post), I slowly started working on the physical health aspects with exercise, yoga, and meditation. The physical/biological management strategies have definitely improved my mental health, but I still have anxiety. Many physical self-care items are included in my list because they are helpful. But I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to perpetuate the myth that you can “fix” anxiety by just “going for a walk outside” or “exercising regularly,” as I hear so often. The soundtrack of my life can sometimes seem to sound like a repeating cassette tape that says “I have anxiety,” which is responded to with, “Oh, have you tried exercise?”
Insert eye roll here.
Thankfully, there are many lists out there that are of the “here are my anxiety management strategies, maybe some of them might help you” variety. I want to add a list to that growing library of lists that I turned to when I was first crafting my own coping mechanisms.
I’m not purporting to be the be-all and end-all of “do this and your anxiety is managed,” because I know that these things are absolutely very personal. But I also know that reading other people’s lists helped me to create my own through trial and error. So I hope that at least one thing on my list is something you might not have thought of. Perhaps reading mine will inspire you to create your own! I find that it’s often helpful to read my list to remind myself of things I can easily do to make myself feel even a bit better.
Finally, after working on this post for months, I realized that it was becoming a behemoth, so I decided to simply post my list today, and then in future posts I’ll elaborate on each strategy with personal anecdotes, links, and recommendations.
So without further ado, here’s my (by no means exhaustive) list, categorized into the three types of management strategies I outlined above:
Self-Care 1: Prevention Methods
First, here are the prevention methods that I’m trying to make sure I hit regularly each week.
- Regular sleep schedule
- Meditation (yes, I had to look twice when I typed this as well)
- Talking about it
- Anxiety-reducing foods
- Eating regularly
- Fighting procrastination
Self-Care 2: Avoiding Triggers
Second, in terms of avoiding triggers, it’s important for me to note that everyone has different triggers. Hopefully you’ll feel less alone reading a (by no means exhaustive) list of some of mine.
- Messy workspace
- Messy home
- Email backlog
- Evaluations at work
- Long days
- Being cold
- Sending emails
- Running out of food at work
- Not having a plan
- Social gatherings
- Medical appointments
- Phone calls
- Being late
Self-Care 3: Managing Symptoms
Finally, a lot of the things I do to manage my symptoms (such as, if I’ve just had a panic attack or if I’m feeling particularly anxious at any given time) are the same as things I use as prevention methods. I’ll list them again.
- Anxiety-reducing foods
- Meditation (the t-one this time!)
- Talking about it
- Getting shit done
- Taking a bath
- Lighting candles
- Going for a walk or run
- Exercise in general
- Playing video games
- Listening to music
- Listening to a podcast
- Dance parties
That’s it for now! Can’t wait to share my first in-depth post on self-care, talking all about regular sleep schedules!
Peace and love,
2 thoughts on “Self-Care for Anxiety: 50 Strategies”
Hi from across the pond? ? I love your blog! I could have written your trigger list myself, as I feel myself getting agitated, breathless and overwhelmed whilst trying to do most of them. Could that be the beginnings of a panic attack? ? It’s only after that I realise I’m pumped full of adrenaline from doing a task that others would find easy (hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say, I just can’t seem to articulate it very well ? ) I’m going to try out some of your prevention methods to see what might help me. Sending you lots of love from England. Xxxx Jennifer
Yes I completely understand what you’re trying to say. Your symptoms definitely sound like the beginnings of panic, and I feel them too! Glad you’re connecting with my blog, and I hope some of my strategies help you! xoxoxox