Whether diagnosed or not, anxiety is something a lot of us deal with on a daily basis. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in millennial culture, but those of us that have or feel anxiety know the great weight of the word, of the disorder.
Anxiety is an elephant sitting on your chest, shortening your breath, egging your sternum to break.
Anxiety is the sweat before seeing someone you’re nervous around
or have feelings for or just need to talk to.
Anxiety bites your nails, picks at your cuticles
or eyebrow hairs, grinds your teeth.
Anxiety never responds to text messages,
or tells people “I don’t feel well.”
Anxiety is procrastinating all afternoon until suddenly it’s 11 pm and there's an entire assignment to complete.
I’ve had anxiety for my entire life, whether that be socially or academically, but I wasn’t diagnosed until three years ago, in my second year of “adulting.” I always felt like I was crazy, or too sensitive. It wasn’t until I finally started going back to therapy as an adult that I realized anxiety is something that’s always been a part of me, whether or not I knew what to call it.
Going to therapy is probably the best decision I made for myself; Through therapy I learned coping strategies for dealing with my anxiety as both a graduate student and as a teacher. I came to realize that the biggest reason for my anxiety was the constant feeling of “stuff:” There’s always so much “stuff” to do, and never enough time to do it all. I felt like I was never in control of what was happening in my life.
Here are five tips I’ve learned for coping with anxiety that have helped me turn my life around and feel like I am in control:
1. Keep an agenda/planner that keeps track of everything.
Keeping an old-school agenda where you write everything down that needs to get done helps you see it all in one place. As students, we focus all day on writing down our homework, which often leads us to forgetting about other things we need to get done, making it harder to manage our time. It’s important to write down homework (or to-do lists for work), but also write down when you’ll do it. When you keep everything in one place, it’s easier to plan when you can get everything done and when you can either spend time with friends or just relaxing.
2. Make yourself to-do lists every time you’re stressed.
Like agendas, to-do lists have become translated to our phones, but this doesn’t always help in a world of iMessage and SnapChat. Having a to-do list you can cross out or check off as you complete different tasks can help you find a sense of accomplishment in getting stuff donein, even if you feel like it’s simple, menial stuff. I make a to-do list each and every day my agenda, and when I’m really stressed, I make a separate one for each different area of my life. For me, that means I usually have three to-do lists: work, school, and play. For a student, this might look like school, extracurricular, and friends.
3. Wake up early to practice self-care.
This is probably one tip that a lot of people will scroll right past or roll their eyes at. When I say wake up early, this doesn’t mean you need to get up at the crack of dawn. However, if you’re someone who, like most, has barely enough time to get up, shower, get dressed, and run out the door to school or work, you’re starting your day in a frenzy every day. The morning is the time when we could be our calmest if we let ourselves be.
Try waking up thirty minutes earlier than your usual alarm, without snoozing, and give yourself some time to drink a cup of coffee or tea, eat a healthy breakfast, and enjoy the silence before the day begins.
4. Eat healthy.
Eating healthy doesn’t always necessarily mean putting down the ice cream and candy. While this is a huge part of it, eating healthy also means eating regularly. A lot of times, anxiety can cause us to have a loss of appetite or nausea. If you’ve followed steps 1-3 already, you’ll allow yourself time to have a healthy, revitalizing breakfast in the morning. Make sure you eat lunch when given lunch-break, rather than cramming in more work. When you eat good, you feel good.
5. Put the phone down.
Phones have become a huge part of our lives. Most people wake up to the alarm on their phone, and immediately start scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., without even thinking about it. Similarly, many of us fall asleep scrolling through social media as well. Instead, save your scrolling until your morning cup of coffee and breakfast. Use your private morning of silence to catch up on the social media world. This way, you can get into the routine of getting up and out of bed and taking care of you, before you even think about your connections to everyone else.
Remember, anxiety isn’t something you can just make go away. It takes hard work to develop a routine and coping strategies that work for you. It's even harder work to stick with these routines and strategies. But you are important. Your mental health is something that you need to be mindful of, and take care of yourself because of.