** check notes at the end for a free printable checklist 🙂
Unfortunately, anxiety has become more of a “when” rather than an “if”. Because these days it seems that so many people suffer from it at one point or another.
Usually it is also more than a once in a lifetime thing… Anxiety is a battle that comes and goes, is sometimes even a constant. It can be triggered by traumatic events, huge life changes, while facing the unknown or our fears and etc. It is also very difficult to deal with, especially since it is not very easy to talk about and is hard to explain. For me, as silly as it is, I’m also scared to talk about it out of fear it will “rub off” on the person I’m talking to, as if it is a contagious disease.
Over the years I’ve found for myself different things that help me cope, relieve and overcome the anxiety. I think it starts by trying to figure out the source… The things in our lives that are not good for us; toxic people, jobs or habits. If possible I try to eliminate those people and things, or at least minimize my interaction with them. Then I instill my life with positive and strengthening people and activities. I’ve made a list of things that help me with my anxiety relief (in no particular order)… And would like to share it with you, in hope that it helps to relieve you as well.
1. Running / Working Out
I’ve always been a “sporty person”. Not very extreme or fanatic, but it was always present in my life in some form. I’ve never been much of a runner (sprinting and fast pace sports were more of my thing). But a few years ago, after Bob and I broke up, I started running in the Wadi behind our house. And it was like magic, together with the break-up it had an amazing impact on my life. Especially since I’m an introvert and don’t like talking or sharing. It helps me release all the tension, stress and anxiety.
Not to mention how addicting that after-run feeling is. And of course there are also the actual physiological aspects – while running, our brain releases endorphins which helps reduce our stress, and even helps us sleep better. And for me at least, lack of sleep intensifies my anxiety. If you’re not into running, it can also be other forms of sports that you are into… Hiking and walking through nature. Going to the gym. Or even just putting on the stereo in your room and dancing around.
2. Going Out / Hanging With Friends
After the break up with Bob, I was feeling repressed and in desperate need to just do and live my life without restrictions. So I started going out more, drinking and smoking a bit with friends, just having a good, lightweight time. Of course, drinking and smoking needs to be moderated and not turned into an addiction or habit. But if done correctly, it can really help to let go and create new and positive vibes.
Spending too much time alone, or locked up in your house can also have a dampening effect on your life… So going out and surrounding yourself with people can distract you and reduce the pressure. I know that for some people, going out can elicit and increase the anxiety. So perhaps a quieter, more casual hangout would be better. But I think avoiding leaving the house because of that, will boost and sustain the anxiety. It is never good to encourage your anxiety to prevent you from doing things. It’s hard at first, but with time it will get easier.
3. Puzzles / Board Games
This is something I’ve discovered recently, while staying at my mum’s house and having trouble coping with the anxiety. I found a puzzle of 1000 pieces and started putting it together. I had to have a TV show or music playing in the background, because I was going crazy with the silence. But it was very calming and therapeutic.
When I arrived back at my apartment, one of the first things I did was head out and buy a new puzzle. It allowed me to focus my attention on solving the puzzle. And for my brain to just let go of the overthinking. It gave me a great distraction, not to mention how fun it is. But if you’re not into puzzles, it can also be other games… Such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, board games, etc. Anything that will redirect your attention and brain’s function to solving the puzzle, rather than the anxiety.
4. TV Shows / Movies
This option is more of a “plaster solution”, it is good for a momentary relief, if you desperately need to keep distracted – you can just sit and watch episode after episode of your favorites shows or movies, for me I prefer comedies with no triggers. Recently I started watching Gilmore Girls again, and boy is it helpful. I really forgot how good and hilarious it is. And it’s a great show to have in the background while building a puzzle, cooking or anything else.
Friends, the Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn 99 and more – they’re all great shows to watch while doing other activities, and you need something to break the silence. They’re easy-breezy shows that don’t need your full focus and attention, but can also consume you if you do want to escape into them for a moment without doing anything else. Best of all – they can really get great laughs out of you when you need it the most.
5. Books / Audio Books
Books have always been a great escape for me, an opportunity for my brain and attention to focus on a whole new world and get lost in it. You would need to choose a book you know can consume you, a book that can capture and distract that brain of yours and divert it away from all the cluster going on in your head. For me it is usually a Jodi Picoult book, or Nicholas Sparks if I am in the mood for something lighter and sweet. If you have a hard time reading, you can also try audio book. I think they’re great, and you can also do other things while listening. Or listen while trying to fall asleep.
While cooking might not be for everyone, it really is a great way to distract yourself and feel productive. Personally I like cooking mainly Indian food, Shepherds Pie, stir-fry, etc. because they are interesting, yummy and entail quite a few steps, so they keep me busy and entertained. You can find almost any recipe online, or watch tutorials on YouTube – the choices are endless. If I follow a recipe, I also like to add my own tweaks and changes to it.
I truly believe in the power of art in all its sorts and formats. Even if you aren’t a natural or you don’t have a knack for it… I think you should always have some form of art in your life, even if it is just a hobby. For me it is mainly writing – either just writing out what I’m feeling and going through – emptying out all the racing thoughts onto a blank page – which can help me release all the jumbled mess. Or writing a new story that can help me escape and let go of my own troubles and thoughts – it allows my imagination to take over the driving seat in my brain, and refocus it on my creative senses.
8. Arts & Crafts
In addition to writing, I also enjoy drawing or different art projects (like the Nespresso lamp I made – which you can see on my Instagram account). For a lot of people it can also be painting, sculpting, photography, etc. In general, I also believe that anything that is not screen related will do you good. Because constantly being on your phone or computer can also harm you. A lot of people think that they’re not any good, that they don’t have the talent, so they can’t do it. But that doesn’t matter, you don’t have to be good at it to do it and for it to help you. Not to mention that it is a muscle, and you can improve with time and practice.
Unfortunately I cannot play any instruments (even though I’ve always dreamed of playing the drums), but if you can play, it is also very therapeutic. Either just playing them alone, with friends or even writing music. For me though, I’ve always loved listening to music… As a teen I almost constantly had earphones on, listening to punk music in full volume. It is a coping mechanism that’s always been prominent in my life. Helping me keep my feelings in check and my brain from exploding.
10. Being Productive
One of the things that can make all my nerves go wild, is having nothing to do and feeling unproductive. I love keeping my days full and busy… And during my regular routine, I like maintaining a proper schedule, and I really believe that it helps against anxiety. However, it has been hard to do that during the Corona-virus, and I needed to be more creative to stay sane – and it wasn’t easy because I seriously felt like a caged lion. So I forced myself to create a makeshift schedule, and stick to it. When you have things to do, a reason to get out of bed and you keep yourself busy and distracted, it helps ease the overwhelming pressure in the chest, and foggy, overthinking brain.
Each person may find different things helpful. Perhaps it is a matter of finding the right combination of things that will balance out our lives. I know that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, and vice versa… But hopefully some of these will help bring some relief. I also think that experiencing and trying something new, can also be very good for us – not to mention distracting, which is key to coping with anxiety.
Please let me know if you’ve tried any of these and if they’ve helped. Also I would love to hear from you how you cope with anxiety.
“You don’t have to control your thoughts.
You just have to stop letting them control you.”
— Dan Millman
Stay safe and well,
CLICK HERE for a free printable and pin-able Anxiety Relief checklist and affirmations list!