My Anxiety Coping Strategies
HI YOU LOVELY LOT!
So, it’s World Mental Health Day today! I think it’s bloody awesome that slowly but surely the taboo surrounding mental health and talking about it is being broken down. The more we talk about our mental health issues, the less scary and unmanageable they will seem so it’s time to open our gobs and shout about what’s going on in our busy brains!
When I wrote this piece about my own personal Anxiety Goblin (he’s a real piece of work I tell ya), I was so overwhelmed by the response to it, and so many people asked me about my coping strategies for when that Goblin is mouthing off to me on my shoulder that I thought World Mental Health Day would be a good time to share what helps me. Hopefully you’ll find a nugget in there which helps you too, whether you suffer from anxiety or not!
1. Turn Your Phone OFF
Honestly. It’s so good for you. When I feel like my brain is all in a tangle and I can’t seem to manage all the different strands of my life, my phone constantly buzzing and demanding my attention does not help. Just turn it off and concentrate on what YOU need for a while, rather than always being at the rest of the world’s beck and call.
2. Give Social Media a Rest
Right, let’s talk briefly about social media. When your brain is beating you up and telling you you’re a failure and you’re ugly and no-one likes you (very cute of it to do that, thanks bae) the WORST you can do is log-on to Facebook and start comparing your life to your newsfeed. Remember, social media is totally misrepresentative of what’s ACTUALLY going on in people’s lives. It’s an edited, instagram-filtered existence (and we all know we look hella good with that sweet sweet Valencia filter on). It’s not real, so stop comparing yourself to people on the internet.
3. Busy Your Brain
I am of the belief that my anxiety is at its absolute worst when my brain isn’t busy in the right way. When my brain is bored, it needs to do something, and so it latches onto the most readily available thing to do, which is to worry. So, therefore, I always need to find things to keep my brain occupied in the right way. NOTE- Being busy is not the same as busying your brain. I’m talking about things that actually activate and stimulate your brain. When your brain is actively being used in the right way, you’ll find you just don’t have time or space to let that anxiety creep in. TRUST ME FAM I KNOW DIS.
One of the best way to keep that brain occupied is to have a hobby or project. When I first graduated from drama school I was like WOAH WHAT THE F DO I DO WITH ALL THIS SPARE TIME because for my whole life, performing had been a hobby, and now suddenly it was my career (and all actors will tell you there’s tonnes of spare time between jobs/auditions). I had to find something else to fill my time with, with things that weren’t performing. So, I started a Book Club (which four years later is still going strong- shout out to my Bookie Monster girls) and began blogging. Find something you love, and throw yourself into it. Creative writing, joining a sports team, crafting, photography, baking- set yourself a project and busy dat brain!
4. Quick Fixes
Sometimes when my anxiety strikes in reallllllly inconvenient moments, like having an existential crisis whilst on the Piccadilly Line (cheers brain, you really know how to treat me sometimes) I need something that’s going to occupy my brain in the right way quickly. Sudoku is really good for this but since I SUCK BALLS at sudoku, my quick fix is the Shakespeare Sonnets. I have a copy of them which I tuck into my bag, and when I start to get all scrunchy and worried, I open the book, choose one at random and start to unpick the language. And so my brain is not just occupied, I am BEING EDUCATIONAL TOO.
5. Breathing and Laughing
If you’re on the verge of a delicious panic attack, bring your attention to your breath and start to count your in and out breaths, trying to make them as deep as possible. Try and stand up as straight as you can so you can push the breath down as deep as possible (and also good posture makes you feel STRONG AS FUCK) and if you can, laugh. Even if it’s the last thing you possibly want to do and you can’t think of a single funny thing in the world, the actual action of laughing will a) help you with the breath b) fool your brain into thinking you’re okay because you’re smiling and c) really piss off the anxiety goblin. He don’t like being laughed at.
And if you need something funny to trigger it, may I heartily recommend this video:
I’ve written about the importance of treating yourself well and being a friend to yourself in times of great anxiety and stress but I cannot bang on about it enough. IT’S SO IMPORTANT! I just made myself a delicious cup of tea and this week booked a little R & R break down to Cornwall. SO CUTE TO MYSELF. Seriously, try and treat yourself like you would treat your best mate. If they were feeling stressed and blue you’d want to take care of them, make them smile and do something nice for them. So do it for you. Cos you’re a babe.
7. Mindfulness and Meditation
This is a new one for me, but recently I’ve hopped onto the Mindfulness Wagon. It’s basically taking a little nugget of time out of your day to have a bit of quiet, trying to clear your mind, focus on your breathing and create some space in your brain. I’m not a religious person, nor would I say I’m massively spiritual but this seems to be really helping me. Download the Headspace app and get stuck in with their 10 minute a day programme. ZEN AS FUCK YO.
To try and keep things in perspective and break the cycle of negative thinking, I write down things I’m thankful for every day. In the evening, I write down all the things that happened during that day that I am grateful for and that made me happy (everything from the back catalogue of Chic and jammy dodgers, to a nice chat with a barista in Pret that morning) and any compliments I received that day. It’s so easy to focus on criticism and the things that irritate us and make us feel shit and frustrated and so focusing on finding those things throughout the day helps me to keep a grip on what actually matters and how full of brilliant things the world actually is.
They say that smell is the most evocative of all the senses and has long been used in treating stress and anxiety. I am currently keeping the lavender industry in business with the amount of lavender pillow spray I’m spritzing about the place before bed. If I need comforting, then a quick sniff of my teenage perfume helps me and I keep a little pot of Lush’s Karma in my bag which always reminds me of a happy time. Find a scent that works for you and when you feel WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (technical term) then just inhale that scent. Citrus and Sandalwood are said to have anti-stress/depression qualities. BREATH IN AND SMELL THE ROSES MY HUNS.
A routine can be comforting but in the whole vein of keeping that brain occupied and busy, I find it really effective to switch up and change a routine in little ways. Tune in to a different radio station, use a new shower gel, take a different route to work, try a different order in Starbucks, go to a new cafe to buy your lunch- there are THOUSANDS of ways to just gently shake up your routine to keep things interesting and your brain will respond accordingly. Life is meant to be interesting and varied so find ways to make your days jive by with wonder, intrigue and curiosity.
I LOVE YOU ALL. BE CUTE. BE CALM. BE YOU. BAI xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx