Coping Mechanisms to aid in dealing with anxiety are vital to taking care of yourself and your mental health! I’ve dealt with anxiety for years, here are a few things that have helped me cope with it.
1. Meditation and Mantras
I was initially pretty sceptical about trying meditation. My mind runs a mile a minute and it is hard for me to sit still for a lengthy period of time, especially if all I’m doing during that time is slowly breathing in and out. However, once I finally tried it for myself, I realized how valuable it could really be. Yes, it is hard at the start to keep your mind focused on your breathing and not all of the things you need to do that day, but once you hone in on your breathing, it gets easier to shut the world out. There are so many free, guided meditations available on Youtube, which is what I usually use. Taking the time to relax your mind and body is self-care 101, and so worth the time spent. Remember that old saying, “never knock it ’til you try it”?
Mantras were lumped into the things I said that I would never try, along with meditation. Yet again, it was proved that my assumptions about this practice were all wrong. I felt silly on my first attempt, just like my first meditation session, but I was dumbfounded at the effect it had on my mood and attitude. For example, a mantra that I use often is, “I have plenty of time and everything I have to do will get done.” It is a simple phrase, however, the impact it has is crucial in letting my mind focus on one thing at a time and lowering my anxiousness. It can literally just be as simple as telling yourself that you’re okay; figuring out what you need to hear and telling yourself that is powerful.
2. Journaling and/or To-Do Lists
This one has been something I’ve done for years, letting all of my feelings dump out onto paper. The ability to be completely transparent without the fear of someone else’s judgment is so freeing. Whenever I feel anxious, I just write down all of the factors that are heightening my anxiety, whether large or small. Just getting the thoughts down on paper and out of my head is so helpful. Compared to the times that I have let the feelings stew inside and kept my thoughts to myself to the times when I have journaled out my feelings, journaling has been the better option every single time. You don’t need a fancy notebook to write in, you can use anything you have around the house like half-used notebooks, paper from a to-do list pad, anything that you can write on will work.
If you are not the journaling type, a simple to-do list is also a great option. Writing down a few major tasks that you need to complete throughout the day or over an entire week tells your brain that you have not forgotten anything, which takes the anxiety of possibly not getting everything done out of the equation. Going back to the mantra example, it solidifies the fact that you have plenty of time to get everything finished and that you will indeed get it all done. Also, it is so satisfying to cross things off as you go, the sense of accomplishment is so motivating!
3. Talking to a Loved One
Now on the off chance that talking to yourself, either through writing or aloud, is not your thing, talking to a trusted friend or family member can also be super comforting when you feel anxious. Whether you call them on the phone or meet up in person, just letting someone in on how you are feeling, someone who understands you and loves you, is much like journaling is for me. It can be a little intimidating the first time you bring it up in conversation, but even if they have not felt the exact same emotions you are feeling, they’ll listen and comfort you. Voicing your worries, insecurities, the things that are making you feel this way, all take a little weight off of your chest. You no longer have to deal with it all on your own, someone is in it with you.
4. Diving into Fictional Worlds
Escapism is something that the entire world does on a daily basis, from music and television shows to books and film. My personal favorite form of escapism, which also doubles as one of my coping mechanisms, is reading books, fiction specifically. While it isn’t healthy to constantly live in an alternate reality, escaping real life for a little while is a fun way to keep yourself busy and not think about the things that make you anxious or anxiety in general. Reading opens the door to an endless amount of possibilities and a compelling story takes you completely out of reality and all of the responsibility and stressors fade away for a little while. Whether you are interested in history, romance, poetry, fantasy, or a combination of those genres, there is bound to be a book out there that you are interested in!
Okay, so I know that the concept of breaking a sweat and pushing through a hard workout is not one of the most appealing coping mechanisms. Nevertheless, the correlation between releasing endorphins in a workout and a good mood is undeniable. You do not have to do a crazy intense HIIT workout or run a 5K, even a relaxing yoga flow can lessen your anxiety and boost your mood. In fact, the deep breathing and calming music combined with gentle stretching is my favorite way to exercise when I am feeling more on edge than usual. It is like a more active form of meditation for those of us that have trouble sitting still. Whatever form of exercise you usually enjoy, try that next time you are anxious and see if that helps reduce it!