So I've always battled anxious thoughts, but within the last few years it has become a problem that I've had to work to actively combat. At one point, I was having panic attacks every day. I don't mean panic attacks in the sense of "I'm super worried right now"; I mean curled up in a ball on the ground violently crying and hyperventilating. This was the absolute scariest point in my life and I had to fight to pull myself out of that hole. I took off work, stayed with my now husband, and spent the days reading self-help books, watching motivational videos, etc.

Since that point in my life I have found that I have to be significantly more proactive in my self-care than others may. I will not see the anxiety episode coming--everything will seem normal until it isn't. Until everything cracks and I can't get out of the hole. I'm in a wonderful place right now, but that has a lot to do with the amount of effort I put into taking care of my mental and physical health. I hope by giving some of the tips and explaining what I've found to be a few different phases of my anxiety regimen, someone else will be able to find their way through it. Even if it's just one person...it would be worth it.

Prevent
I try to stay in this preventative phase. Generally there's anxious thoughts still present, but not enough to severely impact my everyday life. Essentially, this is when I'm feeling my best! This preventative phase is the most important to try to keep myself out of the anxiety episodes or attacks. In this phase there are a few things I have to make sure I'm doing consistently--not just when I'm feeling a little off! If I get to that point, it's already too late.

girl, yoga, and beach image
  • Yoga
  • Occasional motivational videos/books (keeps my mind right)
  • Writing (especially writing morning pages every day to get out any thoughts onto the page)
  • Listing out the things that are in my head and planning my days
  • Showers (not necessarily for cleanliness--though that's obviously important--but to "wash off" some of the stress that accumulates throughout the day)
  • Meditation -- (just 10 - 20 minutes a day is all it seems to take)

Anxious Episode
The anxiety is bad. I'm stressed, I feel worried about absolutely everything, and any obstacle (including the smallest--like showering) gives me a sense of overwhelm. When this happens I know I've overdone it. I've spent too much time working, participating in events or activities, or I've given myself too much to others and haven't been practicing self-care as consistently as I needed to. Now I'm in a hole. This hole may go away after a day or a weekend if I "hibernate" and do a set of activities (below) or it could last longer if I'm not able to take the "hibernation" time for myself. Here are some things I need to do when this hits.

Image by Ariana Araujo
  • Low-light room (brightness tends to stress me out more when I'm in this place)
  • Watch a familiar movie (not a new one--something that is nostalgic)
  • Drink herbal tea or decaf coffee (tea because it's soothing, coffee because I feel a profound sense of calm when I have a cup of coffee in hand)
  • Anti-anxiety help -- I have a particular medication from my doctor that I will take when I feel quite anxious or particularly unable to sleep (disclaimer: This isn't a recommendation for or against medication--please see a doctor for their opinion)
  • Write, especially write all the things I feel or that I'm currently stressed about
  • Sleep -- honestly I tend to need more when I've hit this point. It's as if my entire system is extremely taxed.

Panic Attacks
I hope that this doesn't happen to you. When I hit this point I'm having panic attacks. I haven't been in this place in a while, and I hope to keep it that way! When I feel one coming on, here are the things I try to do to manage my way through it.

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  • Walk away--walk away from anything that triggered it--I leave whatever room I was occupying.
  • Get to the ground and focus on what I can touch/feel. I will concentrate on the feeling of the carpet or a blanket to help me get back to myself.
  • Try to slow my breathing as much as possible. The hyperventilation can make me dizzy and nauseous and can feel like I'm going to pass out.

Recovery
If I've been through the panic attacks, I need to recover. A lot of these are similar to my preventative state.

coffee, book, and cozy image
  • Get out--do something I enjoy--typically alone (i'm not really ready for socializing yet, but being out reminds me that the anxiety in my mind isn't all that exists)
  • Read
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Plan
  • Write

If you find yourself going through anxiety, I hope you feel less alone. Maybe you just have anxious thoughts and want to add yoga and meditation to your life. Or maybe you have panic attacks too and need to hear how some other people get through them. When I feel like the amount of effort I make to be proactive with yoga/meditation/writing/etc. seems unnecessary--that other people don't seem to need it--I remind myself that I do. These things are what keep me happy and not feeling completely overwhelmed by everything. It's taken quite a bit of trial and error but recognizing these different states, and knowing what I need in each helps me stay in a great place much more regularly. :)