“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I was drinking a lot I was very anxious; overcoming anxiety seemed an impossible task. I’m not sure which came first the anxiety or the drinking. It was a chicken and egg situation. Drinking to medicate my social anxiety, paired with the anxiety that came with the morning after made me a nervous wreck a lot of the time.
I thought that when I stopped drinking, my anxiety would get better immediately. This wasn’t the case. But in stopping drinking I took away two of my major anxiety triggers: hangovers and shame brought upon by the night before. I also learnt that I didn’t need alcohol to manage my social anxiety; that I could wait it out at an event and 9 times out of 10 my nervous energy would dissipate with time.
Stopping drinking gave me an even playing field to begin to overcome anxiety.
Two or so years ago, I was trapped in never-ending fear spirals, I would often stay at home because I couldn’t get past the worry and I was “managing” my anxiety with booze and/or diazepam.
I’m in a different place now. I still struggle with anxiety sometimes but I am happy that it is now episodic, rather than a daily condition I live with.
Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, is a serious health condition. So if you are feeling trapped or overwhelmed daily, I highly recommend you go to your GP to ask for help. Tell them what is going on and they can help you through medication or referring you to a therapist or both.
Overcoming Anxiety: 5 Tools that Help Me Manage My Anxiety
When I first went to my GP about my anxiety in 2014; he suggested CBT therapy – and I was lucky enough to have access to this through a charity body aligned with work. CBT helped me see distance between myself and my anxious thoughts.
I have also found talking therapy in helping me work through my anxiety triggers, and giving me a safe space to discuss my worries without fear of judgement. Therapy is often thought to be expensive, but there are lots of ways to access it in the UK. Sanctus put together a directory of mental health professionals and services and within it is a section on low cost and free services. I highly recommend reading this and getting in touch with someone; as well as contacting your GP and seeing what is available to you on the NHS.
2. Meditation / Yoga Nidra
I cannot sit in silence and meditate when I’m feeling anxious. And in fact one of my anxiety tips to myself is to not try and do this. It just makes me worse, going around in circles trying to get rid of my thoughts but ending up deeper in them. What does help my anxiety though is guided meditation and yoga nidra. Lying down and listening to another calm voice really helps me get grounded and can also work to distract myself from those thoughts.
Movement for Modern Life have a number of guided meditations, relaxations and yoga nidras you can access and I come back to these often to make the most of my membership.
You can also download Insight Timer, an app for iPhone and iPad, which offers many free guided meditations for you to listen too.
3. Essential Oils (Lavender)
Lavender essential oil has been a game changer for me in terms of managing the physical symptoms of my anxiety. I get a very tight sensation in my chest when I’m feeling anxious and I can struggle to brief. I find these symptoms very hard to shift when I’m in them and they used to stay with me all day.
I was pretty sceptical when a friend suggested I try essential oils. But then my anxiety was getting worse and I thought what have I got to lose. So I bought a few different oils and experimented with them. I like them all and diffusing bergamot in my study definitely helps me feel less stressed. BUT the standout has been lavender. When I have the tight chest, shortness of breath anxiety, I put a few drops of lavender essential oil in a glass of water and drink it. Within about 30 minutes I have found the physical symptoms dissipate. I don’t know if there is any science behind it but it works and I would HIGHLY recommend trying it if you struggle with physical symptoms caused by your anxiety. In fact if you only take one anxiety tip from this, let it be buy some lavender essential oil and drink it when you feel anxious.
I buy my essential oils from Doterra, because that was what my friend recommended and I have been impressed with the quality and potency but there are also other reputable brands so do your research (and probably don’t buy the £3 bottle off Amazon if you’re planning on drinking it).
Getting out of my head and into my body really helps me work through an anxious time and out of the otherside. In honesty going to a yoga class helps me best with this, as it gets me out of the house, around people and gives me structure to follow.
As I now live in the middle of the Norfolk countryside, this isn’t always accessible to me and so I use Movement for Modern Life (yep again, it’s well worth the subscription price in my opinion) and pick a gentle class to practice along too.
It doesn’t have to be yoga – although I find the combination of body and mind work yoga offers particularly helpful – any practice that enables you to get out of your body will do.
Sometimes running does this for me too; but I find it more difficult to motivate myself to go for a run when I’m in an anxiety spiral than to do a yoga class.
5. Writing/ Journaling
Taking 5 minutes to sit and write down exactly how I am feeling can help me to shift my mood. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I still feel anxious afterwards but getting it on paper gives me the distance away from my thoughts. Anxious thoughts don’t define me and writing how I’m feeling down is really helpful in getting this point across in my head.
There is no quick fix for good mental health. Like diets that claim to help you lose 10 pounds in two weeks, so called miracle cures don’t work to create lasting change. But change is possible, and you don’t have to be stuck in an anxiety spiral forever.
Try these tools to help you in overcoming anxiety and let me know how you get on. If you have any tips that have helped you, let me know on instagram or in the comments below.
Lots of love, L xx
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This blog post has been lovingly linked to: Triumphant Tales