Anxiety is a tricky beast. It’s the monster under the bed that no one else can see. It’s the constant buzz in your ear that never seems to relent. It’s the thing that has you convinced that your life will shatter into a million pieces at a moment’s notice.
There are a lot of articles that share ways you can begin to cope with anxiety. Many will tell you to try deep breathing, exercise, or even to practice visualizations. So what happens when you’ve done all that and you still feel like you’re on an anxiety hamster wheel? You realize that overcoming your anxiety is more than a breathing technique, it’s a way of life.
It’s time to shake things up and take a closer look at some out-of-the-box ideas to help that anxiety shrink into oblivion. Use these tips to expand your anxiety butt-kicking arsenal.
1. Create a Personal Mantra
Sometimes when it feels like you’re drowning, you need something to pull you back to the surface. Create a personal mantra to help guide you. My mantra sort of fell into my lap years ago. My anxiety had really started to control me and stopped me from doing the things I loved. While listening to the radio, I heard the song Kill Your Heroes by AWOLNATION. One lyric hit me and just wouldn’t let go: “Never let your fear decide your fate.” I began to repeat over and over that I would never let fear decide. I wrote it down in the margins of my paper like a love sick school girl. I stamped it on a piece of jewelry that I wear around my neck to this day. I even give it a little squeeze when I need an extra boost of confidence. I may have even contemplated a tattoo (so far not a reality).
“Never let fear decide” is my mantra. Whenever confronted with a stressful situation, I try and evaluate it against my mantra. Am I deciding what to do out of fear? If so, I do my best to change my attitude about the situation.
You’re mantra could be inspired by anything, a favorite quote, a song lyric, a religious verse, you’re even welcome to mine if you’d like. This site has a lot of good ones as well. Search until you find something that truly speaks to you.
2. Create a Close-Knit Network
Before this blog I was very vague about my anxiety with my friends. In fact, I’d hide any trace of my anxiety for as long as I could. I only gave half truths to the people I felt I had to: my boyfriend, my parents, my best friend. I felt like if I sat down and told someone what made my brain tick they would look at me like I was a complete mental case. I was sure they would laugh at me or judge me or even never want to speak to me again.
Then I wrote this post about my emetophobia and tentatively shared it with a small group of my close friends. And then, the most amazing thing happened, support and acceptance poured out of them. I can still remember my friend texting me saying how some of my actions seemed to suddenly make sense and that she was so happy that I had opened up because now she could be there to help.
While it may not be for everyone to share on such a public forum, it is worth it to create a small network of your close friends who you can be totally honest with, who when they ask you to do something you can honestly say “That makes me a little anxious.” Do you know how amazing that feels? Just to tell someone that today is a tough day for you and you are working through it the best you can. It will be a very tough conversation and there might not always be that “right time” to have it, but do yourself a favor and make the time. Your new close-knit network can be a great support system, especially for when you decide to push your boundaries.
3. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The more you are exposed to the situations that make you anxious, the more you will come to realize that your fears can be unfounded. For example, pushing boundaries can especially be helpful with social anxieties. When you’re confronted with an outing that makes you anxious, ask yourself one simple question, “If my anxiety wasn’t a factor, would I want to partake in this outing?” If the answer is yes, that would be a great place to start at pushing your boundaries.
Call up a friend from your network, tell them that you’d like to try going to this outing, but you’re not sure if you will be able to stay long because you are anxious about it. Most of the time they will be up for the adventure with you and will leave when you need/want to. This will give you some comfort and control in the situation, making it easier to handle.
The goal of stepping outside your comfort zone is to show you that you can survive a situation that made you anxious. After you have that experience where you come out unscathed, the next time it will be easier to say yes, and even easier time and time after that.
That being said, let’s not go crazy. We all have limits.
4. Know your limits
As you try to beat your anxiety, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it will win some of the battles. Knowing your personal limits can help ensure that you win the war.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you have a fear of spiders and even thinking about one sends you into a panic, it might not be the best idea to go out and touch a tarantula tomorrow. Take small manageable steps. When imagining the spider no longer terrifies you to the extent it did, then maybe it’s time to see pictures of spiders. Once those pictures don’t strike fear into you, it could be time to go look at spiders at the zoo behind glass. Finally, after a few trips to the zoo, it may be time to see and touch one in person. By taking these small steps, you’re helping to solidify your success.
Even with all your preparation, there are going to be times when you are past the point of no return. I hit one of those points at a company party last year. I had a full blown panic attack and just couldn’t calm down. No amount of deep breathing or peaceful thoughts were going to pull me out of it. There was only one course of action to my anxiety ridden brain. Run. Away.
And you know what? That’s totally okay. I left the party and took some time away from the situation to calm down and was able to eventually return and enjoy myself. I had reached my limit and did what I had to do to manage. Small victories are still victories and deserve to be celebrated.
5. Accept Yourself
This is probably the hardest tip, but the most worthwhile. Anxiety can make you feel alone, like you don’t belong, and that you never will. There have been many hours where I’ve sat by myself and wondered why I’m like this. Wondered why I can’t shake off these thoughts that I know are irrational. While having these thoughts on occasion may be unavoidable, these types of thoughts can bring you to even lower to feelings of being unworthy.
You are not your anxiety; it is just one part of the great person that is you. We may forget that sometimes, but it’s important to remind ourselves of it every chance we get.
I feel my best when I accept who I am.
So, who am I? My name is Karissa. I have anxiety that follows me around every minute of every day. I’m doing everything I can to not let my anxiety control me and wonderfully enough, sometimes I succeed. I do my best to never let fear decide. With every new experience I take on, it becomes easier and easier to push my anxiety out of my mind, even if it is only for an hour or two at a time. While my anxiety may never fully go away, I know that I have the power to live a great life, and I plan to do just that.
Do you know someone struggling with anxiety? Share this article with them. Have struggles of your own? What did you think of these tips? Comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to get exclusive content just for you!