National Stress Awareness Day: How I deal with anxiety

It’s #NationalStressAwarenessDay and it’s November in Vancouver. It’s been raining for a solid month, the days are getting shorter and everyone’s mental health may be slipping out the door…

I’m a nail biter. A leg shaker. A nervously sweating type of gal. I’ve always had some anxiety and it’s something that I’ve had to learn to cope with. I’m often embarrassed to talk about, and when I do, people often shut me down with words like “No, you can’t have anxiety. You’re so normal!” And that pisses me off because it delegitamizes my experiences. What people don’t know is that it often gets worse this time of year as well.

Anxiety and other mental illnesses sometimes go hidden. Myself and many others have become chameleons and are able to blend in with the crowd. We are able to hide the dark and twisty bits of ourselves and go unnoticed. Maybe when things get a little worse, friends and family will notice that you’re more “tired” or “boring”. But tired and boring is a mask for the tsunamis that are going on in our minds.

It’s important not to ignore your stress or anxiety or depression or whatever the hell else you may be going through. It may be easier said than done, but take some steps to help yourself. This is what I have been doing in the last year and I’ve really noticed some great changes in my mental health:

  1. Acknowledge it
    • Pretty sure I’ve said this before, but know that it’s okay not to be okay. Acknowledge that you’re not feeling okay. And be okay with that. Life will never be all ups, you need to have some downs to feel the ups. Maybe write about it – check out this post I made on how to manage stress with a diary.
  2. Breathe and reflect
    • Take a step back and just breathe. Sounds stupid but just take huge, deep breathes. Count to 5 on your inhales, and try and match your exhales to 5 too (yes, I’ve become a bit of a yogi). Repeat a few times a day, even when you’re not stressed. And after you’ve had a few good breathes? Think about what is bothering you. Is it something that you can change? Then change it (see point 3). Is it something you can’t change? Then learn how to accept it. Easier said than done, but if you or someone you know isn’t going to die, then it probably isn’t the end of the world.
  3. Eliminate stressors
    • Remove things from your life that cause stress. That could be junk in your house, a friend that puts you down, a job you hate, even medication you have been taking for years. (Side note: some medications can actually increase stress *cough cough birth control pills*; talk to your doctor about that). Take some steps and clear your life out of the bad to make room for more good.
  4. Find ways to cope
    • Find yourself an outlet (no, not drugs or alcohol or cigarettes) – a healthy outlet. Mine right now is yoga. It used to be spinning. Before that? Dance. It doesn’t have to be something physical either, though something that gets your blood pumping usually helps more. Maybe you enjoy writing, or playing music. Maybe just listening to music. Maybe it’s meeting up with friends for coffee, or going to the SPCA and walking some dogs.  Find something to help you escape for a while.
  5. Stress and anxiety mean that you care
    • I came to this realization a while ago. When I’m stressed or worried, it only means that I care a whole lot (maybe too much). Even when I feel anxiety for no reason, there is usually some root cause and it is usually something I care deeply about. I truly believe those who suffer from anxiety have a whole lot of love inside their hearts. Appreciate that about yourself.

Take care of yourself on this rainy day, and everyday. <3 

– peace&loveee xoxoxoo

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