Do you struggle with anxiety? When we met with the specialist to talk about my diagnosis, she asked me this very question. Embarrassed, I responded that I did. She quickly assured me not to be ashamed of my anxiety because it is often a symptom that goes along with all my other health issues.
Anytime there are big changes in my routine, it often sends my anxiety into a tailspin. Big things like discovering you have a connective tissue disease definitely sent me spiraling. Little things though, like the start of each school year and doing allthethings, can also send me down the tunnels of anxiety.
An admitted perfectionist and people pleaser with anxiety?
Yep, it is often the reason why I suffer from sleepless nights and stomach aches.
This year I have really been working on my responses to things and have been finding natural remedies to curb my anxiety symptoms. I wanted to share them with you today because they have helped me so much. Here are 5 things I’ve discovered can stop my anxiety quickly.
Working through the “then what” scenario
I shared that this year I decided to see a counselor to help me get my life back on track. We talked about changing some of my routines and habits to reduce stress and help me be more productive at my job. As a people pleaser, I find it difficult to let people down in my life. He worked with me on talking through these situations and now I use this trick when talking myself through tricky conversations or scenarios I might be faced with.
For example, my body’s new limitations made working and lifting food at our food pantry hard to do. Instead of admitting that it wasn’t a good fit for me, I continued to do it and flare up an elbow issue that I had. I told my counselor how it was causing strain, but I worried that I would let the director down.
Him- Why can’t you tell her that you can’t work the food pantry?
Me- I made a commitment and I know that there aren’t a lot of people to help. I love doing it, but it is causing pain.
Him- What do you think she would say if you told her that you couldn’t work the food pantry?
Me- Well, she will probably be very disappointed in me. She will think I’m a flake. I told her I was going to do something and then I didn’t do it.
Him- Do you think she will be angry?
Me- I don’t know.
Him- What if someone told you that they had an injury and couldn’t do a job for you? What do you think you would say?
Me- I would be disappointed that I didn’t have help.
Him- Then what?
Me- I would tell them I’m sorry they are hurting and I understand.
Him- Then what?
Me- I would probably find someone else to help.
My initial reaction is everyone will be angry with me if I change a routine or have to bail on a commitment, but a lot of times these scenarios never happen. Of course, as soon as I told her that I couldn’t do it because I had an elbow issue and was starting physical therapy she told me she would miss me, but COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD. She graciously said she would be happy to have me back whenever I felt better.
It was NO BIG DEAL.
Working through the then what, then what, then what helps me guess what might happen and put away irrational fears about situations in my life, but it also helps me prepare a response ahead of time for the changes I make that are healthy for me. You can’t plan for everything, of course, but it has helped tremendously.
The stop sign trick
Joanna Goddard, from Cup of Jo, shared a really great trick that she learned from her therapist that helped her with anxiety. Her therapist told her that when her spiraling thoughts started that she should start visualizing a stop sign.
A small switch that is completely free?
Sign me up!
This week, for example, as we prepare for the new school year, my anxiety really starts to ramp up. I will lay awake thinking about the physicals I forgot to schedule, the new bus schedule, the school supplies we haven’t bought, the uniforms…. Once the floodgates are opened, the anxiety of the upcoming year starts pouring out.
Now I have started to use this tip once my mind starts going and it does, truly, help interrupt the anxiety routine.
I didn’t get the school supplies… STOP SIGN
I forgot to schedule physicals… STOP SIGN
The 7-second rule
One element of my anxiety is saying the wrong thing in social situations. I will be having a great day with friends just talking and enjoying each other’s company- all in all, a perfect day. On the drive home though, my mind starts thinking again about EVERYTHING I said. Did I say too much? Was that wrong of me to say? What if their feelings were hurt? Why did I share that?
It goes on and on.
I read about the 7-second rule though and I have started to apply it to my life. I’m generally (*ahem*) good people and I try really hard to say the right things. I would never intentionally hurt someone with my words and the things that I typically worry about, I’m pretty sure no one else is replaying over and over again in THEIR mind.
Only allowing myself 7-seconds to replay things has changed this routine of replaying the night over and over and over again in my head to a mere few seconds. I also try to extend the same grace to other people and even share the tip with them when they apologize to me for something they have worried about. Seriously, 7-seconds and moving on.
Stop looking for it
I have a BAD habit of looking for things to become anxious about- do you do this too?
For example, I had a terrible nighttime routine of checking Instagram and Facebook right before I would go to sleep. I would, essentially, look for things to be anxious about and then try to go to bed. Social media, for me, has ALWAYS been a trigger, but it is also a necessary part of my work.
Yet, let’s be honest, it is not a necessary part of my work to start scrolling at 10PM.
Now I turn off all social media in the evenings and keep normal “business hours” with my time. I also don’t go hunting for things to be upset about (another REALLY bad habit) on my feeds. In the morning, I seem to have the ability to distance myself more from things that cause me anxiety and I can apply that ol’ stop sign rule when my thoughts start spiraling.
Get involved in an anxiety interrupter
I am sure you have heard that yoga is helpful for anxiety, but it isn’t necessarily the movement that helps my anxiety. It is the fact that it is a mind interrupter.
When doing yoga, the instructor is guiding us through movement with directions and oftentimes isn’t demonstrating the movement. I have to think really hard to stay with the flow of the class and remember one pose to the next. I become so focused on moving through poses that I can’t let my mind spiral.
Anxiety interruption also happens when I go to dance class because I’m so focused on following the movement that my brain doesn’t have time to think about anything else. When all my brain cells are dedicated to one thing, there are no brain cells to contribute to my irrational worries.
I have been looking more for healthy anxiety interrupters like this in my life. Walks with husband around the neighborhood, a good book, podcasts, volunteering, a documentary, doing things (and being present) with my kids are all good examples of good things that have helped interrupt my anxiety routine.
Of course, do not be afraid to talk to your physician or a therapist about your anxiety. You don’t have to suffer alone!
Natural Products/Services That Also Help My Anxiety
Calm Now Supplement (I take this in the afternoon)
Natural Calm The Anti-Stress Drink (great bedtime routine)
L-Theanine (I used this with great success before taking the Calm Now supplement)
Calm Meditation App (the sleep stories really help me in the evenings)
What YOU Say Helps
T. says, “I read somewhere when in the middle of an anxiety/panic attack is to tell yourself I can anything for 10 minutes. It’s what got me through a 6 hour drive just hours after we were involved in a car accident that totaled my car.”
J. says, “I was on medication for anxiety/depression for years and found that while it helped the anxiety, it was affecting other areas of my life so I went off them and started looking for natural options.
I do a lot of the things you talked about in your article, especially the interrupter. I use exercise, and I was thinking that it was the exercise itself that was helpful, but I think it is also the interrupter. I often do a workout on my lunch break at work and it really helps me to shut off the stress of the morning and get back to a more neutral head space.
I am also a creature of routine and habits, which is great for organization and generally keeps the anxiety manageable, but when things throw the routine off, it is often extremely difficult to deal with. Sometimes I get worries that play on a loop in my head, like when I’ve texted my son who is out somewhere and he doesn’t text back when I think he should and I start imagining the absolute worst and it won’t stop until he either texts back or gets home. If my husband is home, I can tell him specifically what is in my head, what the specific worry is and he helps me to break it down and either get rid of it or at least lessen the anxiety a bit.”
H. says,“I replay my conversations or what I post in my head all of the time, like you! When my anxiety gets out of control I have meds, but one time I didn’t have any on me and I was having a panic attack and luckily my husband happened to be with me and he told me to get outside with him and go for a walk. That interrupter (like the yoga you mentioned) really calmed me and stopped the attack from happening. Interrupters are really good for me. I found that coloring in the adult coloring books helps a lot too. I really try and go more natural unless it gets to a point where I can’t control it. I also use Tulsi Tea and it helps, but it could probably be a placebo thing, but I don’t care!”
M. says, “I have been trying to get into a routine of meditation. Just 10 minutes a morning. I have been using the app 10% Happier. I love their logical approach and the concept of ‘just begin again.’ Since I have been doing it I’ve noticed that when my mind starts racing later in the day, or even when it wakes me up at night, if I take 30 seconds and focus on my breath it really does reset my brain. I think it is the same idea as the interrupter.”
Katie says, “I take a magnesium supplement before bed that has really helped me with sleeping. Since I started taking it, for the first time in years I am able to fall asleep easily. Another thing I’ve noticed is I get significantly fewer headaches taking magnesium. In general, getting on a vitamin routine has helped in a lot of ways. For example, I found out I tested low for vitamin D and that had a correlation with my stress too. Taking omegas and B12 has helped managing moods when I’m stressed.
Another trigger for me is if I am not drinking enough water or eat meals too late. My husband is really good at letting me know that I need to eat or drink something when he can tell I’m getting stressy and it’s a nice gentle reminder to take care of my physical needs but also “check myself” on my emotional state. It works well for us because I know he is doing it out of love and not to poke at me.
I love my essential oil diffuser with lavender or other calming blends in the evening in our bedroom.
I have moved the FB and Instagram icons off the front page of my phone and put them in a separate folder on a page I have to scroll to at times to help break the habit of getting on just because I pick up my phone.”
Another J. says, “I’ve had success in managing my anxiety with various herbal tinctures and elixirs, which I always fear makes me sound all “woo-woo crazy”, but I’m so much more consistent about taking them than sipping tea. They’re fast! My favorites are Motherwort (<– the real workhorse of the bunch!), Borage Flower elixir (calming and mellowing), Milky Oats tincture (<– also a great one for dulling intense responses), Wild Rose Elixir (awesome for brightening mood and promoting optimism), and Skullcap tincture (my go-to for stopping racing thoughts in their tracks at bedtime.)”
A. says, “One thing that my therapist worked with me on was journaling, which I use not only as a way to get my thoughts out, but as a way to keep myself organized. When things get chaotic and disorganized I can always feel the anxiety start to ramp up.”