7 Ways to Deal With Anxiety from Someone Who Has Been There
You can read a lot of articles and see YouTube videos that give you all kinds of advice on how to deal with anxiety. Most of them are written by people who are simply regurgitating information culled from other articles or even professional training. Even if the writer suffers from anxiety, the articles are often written from a third-party perspective. This article is written by someone who has experienced anxiety and happened upon things that worked—well, they worked for me, anyway. Maybe they can work for you, too. At the very least, maybe they can open up ideas that will help you to find what works for you.
I don’t have any cures. There are none. You don’t fix anxiety; you just get past the worst moments and learn to live with the rest. I do have some suggestions for getting through those rough patches, though.
Some Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety manifests in many ways.
- Panic attacks? Sure, I’ve had them. I guess I’ve been lucky. Some people feel like they are going to die. I only feel like I am going to throw up.
- Excessive worry? Yes, been there. Trying to figure out how to deal with a problem and every answer just feels wrong. Or each solution might sound great for a minute and then the more you think about it, the more opportunity doubt has to creep in and turn everything upside down and sideways. And then maybe you don’t want to tell anyone about it or ask for advice because you know you will just sound crazy. Or, maybe you feel you have already pushed your friends and loved ones to the limit with hashing and rehashing the issue. Everyone is wondering why you don’t just move on already. Worrying that something bad is going to happen. Worrying about what others are thinking— usually about you. Worrying that things are getting or going to get out of control.
- How about obsessing over things that have happened in the past or some incident that you keep replaying and can’t stop? It is especially awful when it is something that most people can get past pretty easily or just accept as a matter of course but for some reason, you just can’t seem to shake. Then you feel like an idiot or a lunatic because something is keeping this crazy train running its circles in your head and you can’t get off or find the breaks. Yeah, that’s awesome.
1. Go Outside
I’ve read, as you probably have, that being outside can help to improve mood. Nobody can really say why this is. I have my own theories. I didn’t decide to go outside because an article or counselor told me I should. I go outside because it is part of my life. I have chickens to care for. I have dogs to walk. I have a garden that mostly gets ignored, but I genuinely do want to give it some attention. Anyway, being outside really does feel better.
The most dramatic story I can offer to illustrate this point is a particular morning a few years ago when I was going through a serious bout of depression. While I may be anxious, depression isn’t usually my bag. But I was going through a pretty serious rough patch. And anxiety helped to feed it with those obsessive thoughts that run in circles in your head.
It was morning—not long after I got up. When you sleep, you get a bit of a break from yourself. But once you are up and moving, it doesn’t take the crazy train long to begin making its rounds. I took the dog to the kitchen door to let him out. And as soon as I hit the air, there was this instantaneous chemical reaction. I just felt this incredible sense of relief. I can’t explain it. Usually, the results are not that dramatic. But there is no denying that being outside does just feels good most of the time. At least, it feels better than being inside.
Yes, another one of those trite suggestions from people who have no clue. But I wouldn’t present it here if I didn’t know.
Maybe, those articles seem so trite because they present their suggestions as if they will fix something. I am not going to lie to you. Journaling doesn’t fix anything. Not a darn thing. But it does give you an outlet. It may be a very small release valve. Sometimes it just takes enough edge off the pressure that you can fight another day.
With journaling, you just release it all onto a page and then you shut the book. It doesn’t solve anything, but it does help.
And one further suggestion on this subject, if I may be so bold: End each entry with three good things about that day. It could be as stupid as having Fruit Loops for breakfast or seeing a butterfly—whatever you saw, heard, or in some way experienced on that day that was good. Something you saw someone do, something someone said to you. Whatever. I can’t tell you whether this does any good or not, but we have to have something good to look forward to (hope), and it is easier to find if you are looking for it.
3. Be Around People
Basically, this means spending time around other humans. I know there will be plenty of times when you don’t feel like being around others. There will likely be times when being around other people is a burden, frustrating, or exhausting. But if you get enough activity going on with these other humans, you can give your brain something to do other than eat you. It is amazing how having another human to interact with can very quickly calm a panic attack or quell an anxiety spiral.
Everyone’s experiences may be different, but in my own experience, it works best if the other person has no idea that you are having a problem at that moment. I try really hard not to broadcast the fact when I’m sweating something out. When people know that you are having an anxious moment they either want to pet you or roll their eyes. Sometimes, depending on the situation, they may just look alarmed. In my experience, none of these responses is helpful. What you really want is someone who just “gets it,” but so few people ever really do.
I know what you are experiencing feels very real. You know it too. If the person you are engaging with has no idea that you are going through anything, they will just engage with you like you are normal, because somewhere in there, you are normal and it helps to be reminded of what that feels like.
4. Talk to Someone
If you are ready to harm yourself or someone else, then tell someone. You definitely need help. If you are just grinding on something so big you can’t see around it, then try a slightly different approach.
It may look hopeless to you. It may even feel like life or death. But take the issue and break it down to its simplest and least complicated form and present it to someone else. Do not go into all of those details that you want to spew forth. Only give the details that are asked for. The trick is not to let the person you are telling your concern to know how concerned you are. Just try to break it down like this: I have this problem and as far as I can see, there is only option A or option B. What do you think?
You may be surprised by the suggestion they offer. Because they are not toiling in the middle of the crisis-level dilemma that you are, they are more likely to see the very simple solution that you are missing. And when you hear that very simple solution, you will feel incredible relief—or at least a sliver of hope. Of course, you may feel nothing, but if their suggestion makes any sense at all, then give it a try. You will also be relieved that you didn’t broadcast the magnitude of the weight this problem has carried for you. It can be distracting for them and just drag you down farther. Remember what I said earlier about getting people to treat you like you are normal?
5. Find a Quiet Place
It may not be the most obvious place. I found mine by accident. I am a genealogist and there is a cemetery about 20 miles from my house where I have been to do research. It is far enough away from my home that I do not visit the area often. It is off of the road, by an old, old church. It is in a nearly rural setting. It has great views. One day, in the thick of something, I just thought I would go there. One of those thoughts that you have no rational excuse to follow, but you don’t have any reason not to. I went. It is not just that the place was quiet. Being there made my head quiet. It was a relief— a brief respite from myself.
There is another cemetery much closer to my house. I have since tried to replicate this experience there. It is outdoors, which as previously mentioned, is helpful. But it does not offer the same solace and the same respite from myself.
I think it may have something to do with being away from the things I see every day or part of my usual routine, but I can’t say for sure. I just know when I go to the cemetery that is farther away, it is always quiet.
6. Take a Mini Vacation
It may sound ridiculous to try to leave town when you are feeling anxious. What difference will it make? Your problems will not go away. And, of course, wherever you go, there you are.
And that is true: Your problems will not go away just because you do. But getting out of town does help change your perspective. I know that I have felt tremendous relief at times by just getting away for the weekend. It made me seriously consider the possibility of moving. If I had to hazard a guess, it is likely the change of scenery. I think your brain is just so busy processing new stuff, it doesn’t have time to grind on the old stuff. Just a guess, though. All I can say for sure is that it helps.
Yes, when you get home, you will be surrounded by the familiarity that is likely to trigger the anxious thoughts but having had that break can at least give you room to breathe. Maybe it will remind you that you don’t always feel this way and and give you hope that eventually you won’t feel this way. Sometimes it can give you perspective. And in the best of cases, you may even have figured out a solution because you weren’t thinking about the problem or made a decision based on much clearer thinking while you were away.
If you have a connection or relationship with any sort of a deity or higher power, go for it. Most people—myself included—will tell you that when they are going through a real crisis, they feel unheard. They can't seem to find the comfort they are seeking. Some will tell you they feel unheard until they reach some sort of epiphany. And sometimes, the answer does come. I hope you are so lucky.
I've never had that light bulb moment. I kept looking for it, but it never appeared. What I did get, from time to time, was just a reminder that someone was listening. Someone in my surroundings, at a moment when I wasn’t looking for it, would say or do something that could only have come from God. It generally wasn’t an answer or a solution, just an acknowledgment that someone was listening. I suppose everyone’s experience is different.
God is said to speak in a still, small voice. I think when you are in the middle of something and your head is just constantly filled with noise, it can be difficult to hear a voice that is still and small. And maybe, sometimes, the answer just isn’t there. But you might find that you are surrounded by people who do hear that still, small voice— whether they realize that’s what it is or not—and rush to do it’s bidding. Often they have no idea why or what they are doing. That's been my experience, anyway.
Constantly begging for your own relief can bring you back to the thing that is dragging you down. Instead, try praying for someone else. You might be surprised what a relief it is. And, if you are lucky, maybe somebody else will be praying for you.
Side note: Now that I am not in crisis mode and my footing is a little more even, it is easier to see God working in my life. So, hold on. It does get better.
So, those are my best suggestions. I hope they are not too smarmy and know-it-all. They are from someone who has been there and has done these things and still battles with anxiety sometimes. Best wishes and I will say a little prayer for you because if you are reading this, you probably need it.
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.