Anxiety is something that I believe manifests itself differently for everyone. Whether it's that you get really in your head, your hands start to sweat, your heart starts to race, you feel jittery, you get panic attacks, flushed, or experience many of these or any other symptoms, I think we can all agree that it sucks. Although it can seem like you're in it alone and that it'll never get better, I can promise you it will and it is totally normal to feel these things; common even. Whether someone decides to tell you they deal with anxiety or not, chances are someone you know is struggling with it.
When it comes to mental health, I don't believe in drugs or western medication because I don't agree with temporarily masking symptoms and messing with your brain chemistry. Now before you get upset with me, that doesn't mean that I will not support you if that's what you choose to do! I understand that that is a common option for people and it has actually been beneficial for some. I'm just letting you know that the way I approach my mental health is holistically, with the intent to recognize it, treat it, and learn to live with it confidently. And another PSA, I am not a doctor! I am just here to share with you my personal experience with anxiety and the steps I take daily to help me combat it.
Step 1: Accepting your anxious mind.
Like any situation, issue, and struggle, the first step to overcoming it is to recognize it. Acknowledging the fact that I am an anxious person and accepting that this is how my mind works actually helped to put my mind at ease. It's kind of like when you have a headache and you realize you're dehydrated. When you know why you're feeling badly, it's relieving because it means you found a starting point. Acceptance is the starting point and you can't climb to the top of the tree without starting at the root.
Step 2: Find something that let's your mind be chaotic.
If meditation is your jam, good on you mate. However, meditation is something that's extremely hard for me. The concept of it is something that I'm on board with, but the approach just doesn't resonate with me. Sitting down and becoming still while I let my mind wonder makes me feel trapped. It's too calm of an act for the chaos that is my mind. Instead, I like to do something that mimics my always moving & chaotic mind. For me, it's running or going for a long walk. Physically moving makes me feel so much less antsy and I really believe it helps to facilitate my mind in working through my thoughts and my worries/anxieties. It doesn't have to be through exercise, though. Another way I do this is by going on a long drive and listening to music or rolling the windows down! Anything that allows both my mind and body to move I've found works so much better in alleviating my anxiety!
Step 3: Take care of your mind and body.
Even though I just said that it doesn't have to be exercise, it's still a really great tool for relieving anxiety. I've attached a link here from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that explains the relationship between endorphins and exercise a little more in depth than I'm about to. But basically, I'm sure you've all heard that exercising releases endorphins which make you feel happy. That is because endorphins, like serotonin, acts as the body's natural pain killer! That being said, if you increase your exercise by literally just going for a 30 minute walk, run, or doing yoga, you can lower your stress and anxiety, ! and improve your sleep !, through the production of endorphins. That leads me into the next part of taking care of your mind and body: give it a rest. Sleep is so so so important to how well we function and if you're not giving your body enough sleep, your hormones will get all screwed up! Serotonin is what releases melatonin in order for us to sleep, but if you don't have enough serotonin, you won't sleep as well. So, exercise and sleep is directly linked and it is super important for your mental health.
Step 4: CBD.
CBD has been a hot topic as of late; and with good reason. Here is another link that explains the benefits of CBD for anxiety because again, I am not an expert! However, I will say that over the last few months, I've dabbled with CBD gummies and droplets and have experienced a positive effect! Just speaking from personal experience, I think it can kind of act as a placebo. Honestly, whenever I've taken it I've experienced a very mild sense of relief. It's not like you're completely and totally eliminating any anxiety, it's more that it just mellows you out. On the other hand, I do know many people who use it and swear by it! And that's why I'm mentioning it! It can't do any harm, so if you're really struggling with your anxiety and you are looking for some form of medication, I say give it a go.
Step 5: Say no to fear.
Once you've accepted your anxiety and found tools that help control it, you must take action to overcome it. One of my favorite quotes ever is "a comfort zone is beautiful, but nothing ever grows there." Anxiety used to seriously hold me back from doing the things I love and it still makes me hesitant from time to time. However, I started to realize that that's not a way to live and yes, comfort is the home of anxiety, but it doesn't facilitate growth. Once I realized this, I started to say no to fear and yes to opportunity. If I was invited to a party where I didn't know anyone, I would go. If I was asked on a date, I went. You see, it's not that all of these things didn't make me anxious anymore, it's just that I was tired of my anxiety controlling my decisions. After a while, I noticed that the thing I was anxious about wasn't all that bad. I would find that I would just anticipate a situation, get anxious about it, and then when it really happened, I was completely fine. What would have happened if I let my anxiety rule me? I would have stayed home and never known what I do now: that nothing is really ever as bad as your mind makes you think. If a situation gets uncomfortable or you get embarrassed or feel anxious, I promise you, it only lasts for like 5 minutes tops and then everyone forgets about it. Life is too short to let anxiety define you, so if you struggle with it, I strongly encourage you to do something that fears you often. Live and make decisions by love, not by fear.
Step 6: Talk it out.
In case I didn't stress this enough, let me reiterate: I am not a doctor. And neither is your mom (unless she is, lol), or your friend, or the internet. It is so so so so SO important that if you are struggling to get help. Talking it out is seriously one of the best ways to work through your anxiety, but you will find that it is even MORE helpful when you're talking to someone who is well versed in mental health. Seeing a therapist also allows you to say whatever you want, sound as crazy as you want, and feel whatever you want without the fear of judgement or a lack of confidentiality. Sometimes it just takes talking to a person who doesn't know you well and getting an outside perspective for your mental health to come full circle. I promise, you are only bettering yourself!