You might have seen my video about having generalized anxiety disorder. I don’t have it anymore, since I was able to tackle it with cognitive therapy. For years I thought I was just really, really stressed. Until I discovered stress is something very different and I went to the doctor to ask for help. I personally find mental health just as important as physical health. So please don’t be afraid to work on that aspect of yourself. That’s why I’ve let my story get published in last week’s Viva magazine, whoohoo! Ask for help or get started with my practical tips on how to deal with anxiety, let’s go!
Don’t fight it
I learned that having anxiety means you often overthink things, more than necessary. I also made up a million worst case scenarios, thinking it would help me be prepared for whatever. Instead it made me feel anxious about things that weren’t even happening. That made me feel very inadequate and I would try and fight my thought process all the time. And no, that didn’t help at all! Because that would make me even more anxious about being anxious.
I quickly learned not to fight anxiety, but to let it happen and understand how your brain works. I personally see having anxiety as having a nightmare. I know I’m having one, but my brain has taken over and I can’t wake up. But some people learn how to pinch themselves in their sleep to wake up from a bad dream. They’ve learned how their brains work and how to stop the brain from taking over. This is what helped me get rid of generalized anxiety. No, not by physically pinching myself, haha! I learned not to fight it, but how to run it.
Writing things down
Whenever your mind starts to spin out of control, it can be hard to see what is actually happening in front of you. One of the exercises my therapist gave me was writing down my ‘problem.’ For instance: I’m worried my date is going to be horrible and he doesn’t want to see me ever again.’ The goal is to dissect what is actually going on, so you start writing down all the things that pop into your head. All the reasons why this date might go horrible. After writing that down, it’s time to write another list with what is actually happening.
Which might look like this: ‘He already likes me because he asked me on a date. We are going to a restaurant we both like, which is fun! I have an amazing outfit to wear and I look great. He texted me he’s excited to see me and he’s actually super relaxed about the whole thing. This calms me down too and I really want to enjoy my time with him.’ Seeing the unrealistic scenarios your brain makes up next to what’s actually going on, will help you set those scenarios aside really fast. Especially when you see the ‘ridiculousness’ of it right in front of you.
Distracting your brain
I quickly learned that distracting my brain is one of the best tricks ever. When I feel anxious or about to have an actual panic attack, I try to trick my brain. I do this by physically moving myself from one place to another. I take my dog for a walk, I start doing the dishes or I start dancing to my favorite tunes. Moving your body acquires your brain to think about something else than the thing you’re panicking about. When you start dancing for example, your brain needs to be aware and make sure you’re not bumping into things.
I often felt most anxious and panicked at night. Which is very natural, since you don’t have any distractions when you’re in bed. It’s too quiet and you’re just left alone with all your thoughts. That’s why I’ve starting using the app Calm, which has some amazing meditation programs and short audio books. Now I’m not someone who likes meditating, it often makes me feel even more anxious being alone with my thoughts. But listening or being able to focus on a voice and a story while I try to sleep, has been the best way to deal with anxiety at night for me. It’s definitely worth a try, if you ask me.
What went well today?
When I used to have generalized anxiety disorder, I would focus on everything that didn’t work. I still do that sometimes, old habits die hard right!? That’s why I’ve been writing down what went well today. Sometimes you just need to provide yourself with some perspective and actually see on paper that your thoughts don’t always match reality. So, I try to write down all the things that went well that day or week. It forces you to see what is actually happening in front of you, and that your brain isn’t always right.
You could also journal every day of pick three highlights of the day, whatever you like! Just make sure you can’t get around the fact that your life isn’t as bad as it feels during anxiety. Writing down what went well also helped me rewire and understanding how my brain works. Seeing what happens in my life on paper helps me stick with the facts, something you don’t do while feeling anxious or during a panic attack. You can do this on your phone, but I strongly recommend writing it down on paper. Distract and rewire your brain by physically doing something positive.
How to deal with anxiety?
Well, I hope these four tips will help you and let me know if they do. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk about it with people you trust. Understanding how your brain works and what triggers your anxiety will really help you deal with it. Remember that a strong and responsible person takes things like this head on. Don’t suffer in silence, thinking it will go away or that you’re stupid for not being able to deal with this yourself. No, take care of yourself because that will help you deal with anxiety much faster and more adequate.
P.S. Follow me on Youtube for more tips on mental health.
Grab yourself a new journal