As a recent college grad and long-time writer with disabilities, Emilie has managed her anxiety without medication for years.
Your brain wouldn’t let you sleep until 3 AM. When the alarm goes off four hours later, your mind goes into overdrive, and you have another day off to a rough start. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. NAAMI estimates 48 million US citizens are diagnosed with anxiety, but it’s likely there are many more who don’t seek medical help.
I’m of the latter group. I’ve grappled with anxiety for years, but although I chose not to try medication, I have discovered a few helpful techniques. Read on to find out about my top-three coping tools and see if they might help you, too.
1. Learn What Causes Your Anxiety: Then Accept It
According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can be caused by many different factors including genetics, disease, and trauma. For many of us, anxiety is a natural reaction to painful experiences and constant stress. It can be looked at as a direct result of being constantly in the “fight or flight” mindset. If you feel you’re constantly being threatened, your brain is constantly on guard, even when you’re physically safe.
Once I figured out my anxiety causes and triggers, I learned how to accept it a part of my life. I may not be able to do anything about my genetics or my past but acknowledging why I felt the way I did helped me find alternate ways of easing my mind.
Practice Gratitude and Remember Your Strength
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to counter the downward mental spiral is to stop and take stock of what I have right now. I look at my past failures and weaknesses. Then, I look past them to the lessons they’ve taught me and how I turned those weaknesses into strengths. The present is temporary, but we can use it to mold our future.
As an example, part of my college journey involved leaving before I graduated. I had failed from a vocational school and was still too mentally delicate to continue in college. After a decade in the workplace at menial jobs and dipping my toes into freelance writing, I decided to return to school.
I’ve since earned two degrees with honors. I now keep the honors cords on display at my desk. When those feelings of inadequacy, fear, and hopelessness come creeping back in, I look at them and know I am capable of far more than I realize. That helps me move on in whatever I’m doing at the time.
2. Surround Yourself With Friends and Family
Loneliness can also be an anxiety trigger. You’re struggling, and you must get work done, but it feels like there’s no one there to help you. We need to remind ourselves we’re not as alone as we think we are. There are always people in our lives who are interested in how we’re doing and what we’re going through.
In my case, I am working on expanding my writing career and hunting for a job. It’s not hard to feel alone when you’re first embarking on either of those things. Writing and research both require a quiet environment, as does researching networking contacts and potential job leads.
When I catch that feeling creeping in, I pull up contact lists, hop on one of my more cultivated social media accounts, or LinkedIn. I also keep reminders of ongoing networks readily available on my desk, like the TRIO stole I wore during my Bachelors's Degree commencement. I might also contact a friend or family member for that personal contact or go to a public place to do my work.
3. Create a Relaxing Environment
This is may be one of the most personalized steps, but it can be the most important. Our environment is vital to our mental health. I’m far from the best housekeeper, but like most people, I function best in an at least passably tidy space. Although I keep reminders of people I love and my ambitions around me, I also keep space available to work.
I also do things like wear functional jewelry or clothing that remind me to live in the moment. Two of my favorites are my “Just Focus” bracelet and a bracelet a favorite teacher gifted me which says has beads organized to say “breathe” in Morse Code. They both remind me to focus on what I’m doing instead of letting my mind flutter off into anxiety-land.
Aromatherapy has also proven useful. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but scent is one of the most powerful emotional stimulants in the human psyche. Why not put it to use?
My favorite blend is lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus. I’ve always found lavender soothing, and I associate it with the relaxed times I’ve had with my mother. Peppermint and eucalyptus remind me of relief from illness. I associate the feeling of finally being able to breathe with the clearing of my mind. Anxiety clouds my mind when it settles in, so those three oils help me clear the mental fog.
Everyone’s brain is different, and by extension, so are their struggles. Today’s culture fills our lives with ongoing stress, and not everyone can handle it well. That’s where the epidemic of anxiety comes in.
We can’t always take the breaks we need when we need them, but there are always tools we can use to help ease it a little. While these tips may not help everyone, they have been immensely useful to me. Hopefully, someone else can find value in them as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Emilie S Peck
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on January 12, 2020:
Ooh, good luck at the dentist, Cynthia! I've had issues with that, too. I hope the essential oils help!
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on January 11, 2020:
I appreciate your suggestions since i am headed to the dentist next week and still have residual anxiety to deal with. I like the essential oil combo you mention and will try it tomorrow. Great article!
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on January 10, 2020:
Thank you, Deborah!
Deborah Demander Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 10, 2020:
Great article, with some very helpful tips for managing anxiety.
Thank you for writing.