Now, I do not want to claim that I have experienced anxiety to the extent of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder because I know that I cannot begin to imagine anxiety at that level and at that degree of persistence, but it has been a force that I have had to deal with in my life. Unfortunately, it is a force that many people have to deal with in their lives. As much as I wish I had a sure-fire trick or answer for conquering anxiety, it’s just not that easy. However, there are a number of things and activities that I turn to when anxiety is taking over.
Stay off of social media
This one is important, but may require a lot of self-control. It has become a natural habit for myself (and a lot of other people, I’m sure) to constantly check different social media sites and apps in a constant loop in order to feel as if I have something to do. But checking social media to keep busy is an unhealthy cycle with negative effects. It results in a lot of comparisons to other people and leads to a lack of productivity – both of which feed anxiety. So when anxiety is surfacing, take a step back from social media for a while.
Leave your phone in another room
In addition to staying off of social media, plugging your phone in to its charger and leaving the room for a while can help you to detach from a lot of negative thoughts. It also allows you to detach from the need to constantly check-in on other people and on what’s going on.
Moving your body and keeping active can help to calm anxiety (at least a little bit) and dancing is an easy and fun way to get yourself moving. Putting on some music and dancing for a while (you don’t have to be good) can take you out of your thoughts for a period of time and can help clear your head.
Continuing with the idea of getting active, working out is another option to look into. I know – it’s not necessarily ideal. But working out will keep you moving and will get your blood flowing to a greater extent than dancing will. (Or you can take a dance class as a work out.) Even walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes while listening to music or to a podcast can do wonders.
Watch a comfort movie or TV show
A lot of people have either a movie or a TV show that feels comfortable, like everything is right in the world and in balance for an hour and a half. For me that movie is Legally blonde – it never gets old. Some other options I turn to include Boy Meets World and Gilmore Girls.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant – I’m not exactly one to make gourmet dinners. It just has to be something that you can focus on putting together, whether that be putting a salad together, baking chicken, or baking some muffins. Putting yourself to work with an easy task (or to a task where you can follow simple instructions) focuses your attention and, at least for me, helps keep my thoughts from moving at 100 mph.
Cleaning is another task that helps to focus your attention and concentrate your thoughts. Picking up clothes and things around your house or room and putting them back in their right place can be a positive distraction from anxiety. Picking up clothes, doing laundry, and doing the dishes works best for me.
Watch ASMR Videos
Now, ASMR videos tend to have a strange reputation online. A lot of people don’t really understand them – but certain categories of ASMR videos can be quite calming. ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, causes a static-like sensation on the body that helps people with relaxation. I personally like to watch ASMR makeup videos or nail painting videos. (You can find a ton of ASMR videos on Youtube.) This idea is helpful if you don’t feel like getting up and moving around the house.
Take a walk, or sit in nature
Breathing in fresh air and being outdoors is a good way to clear your head. Walking around your neighborhood, a park nearby, or just sitting outside can help you reflect on, and appreciate, simpler things. When I studied abroad I took a walk in the nearby park almost everyday – it kept me anchored.All of these things help to lessen my anxiety for a short time or helps me to focus my attention on something else, but I also know that different levels of anxiety are harder to ignore than others. In addition to trying some of these things it is always helpful to talk to other people. ( And even if you don’t want to talk about your anxiety, just having a friendly conversation with someone can help.) Breathing exercises are helpful too – really. Focus on taking deep, rhythmic, breaths.–And if there is anything specific that you’ve ever turned to to help with anxiety, I’d love to hear about it.–xDana–