How I Cope With My Best Frenemy: Anxiety

My posts about anxiety seem to have struck a cord with a lot of my readers. In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to share some stuff that helps me when I become anxious (which is often):

1. I get organized. I make lists (see: this list I’m currently writing). The creation of lists helps me ensure I am not letting anything slip through the cracks, which makes me not panic about the daily life things (and gives me ample time to panic about whether I should’ve sent that last email). My organizational skills were honed through years of balancing graduate school, work, and a baby, and I would like to thank technology for making it SO easy to be organized these days. The ability to share calendars with people who would otherwise bug you about what your plans are? The ability to turn on your location for people who always want to know where you are? Google Docs for collaborative work? Screenshots? Essentially, being organized has done wonders for making people think I’m okay simply because I am productive 🙃. I check my credit score, I balance my budget, and I answer every email in my inbox. Organization helps save time, allows me to become more efficient, and ultimately helps me not be so overwhelmed because I know I have it all taken care of.

2. I get in a really intense workout. My anxiety is why I am always doing some sort of physical activity. Working out is the most basic threshold I know I must retain to keep my sanity in check. If I am not working out in some capacity at least six days a week, there is a problem and someone should check on me. When I think I’m going to lose it, I go to the mountains and run sprints for a few hours (yes, hours). The last time this happened, I sobbed during the sprints and threw rocks off of the mountain as hard as I could during the rests. There is nothing quite so therapeutic as a good run/cry session that takes you out of your head and places you squarely into your body. Rhythmic breathing that you have to focus on in order not to pass out forces you to connect fully with your body and what it is feeling. Plus, endorphins.

3. I make sure I am drinking enough water. A dehydrated me is a cranky me. A good amount is at least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. For me, I drink at least my body weight in water a day, and I can tell when I don’t hit that 130 ounce mark. How can I tell? I get a headache, I am distracted by the thirst and can’t concentrate on anything but a desire for water, and my digestion slows immensely.

4. I make sure I am not ignoring my stomach or forcing it to process a bunch of sugar. If I don’t eat, or if I don’t eat healthy, my body gets thrown into an unbalanced mess and my anxiety gets worse. I don’t sleep as well, I don’t move as well, and I don’t feel as well. Like making sure I am hydrated, making sure I am fueling my body properly only aids my mind.

5. I clean and clean. Similar to being organized, I think cleaning allows me to feel I have some sort of control over my environment because I can’t seem to control my own brain. I throw on some loud music (Motown or anything I can sing loudly to) and start scrubbing.

6. I remove my Apple Watch, and maybe delete social media. This is a tricky one because 60% of my social interactions are through social media and maintaining the balance between isolation and disconnection requires some deft skills. Removing my watch though? That always allows me to bring my anxiety down a little. Deleting my social media happens under dire circumstances and while it completely works to reduce anxiety, I have to have an extremely reliable in-person support network because maybe three people have my phone number and would check up on me if I hadn’t spoken to them in a week.

7. I grab some Diet Cokes, fill up my car, and take a solo drive…for ten hours. With the radio up, I cruise at about 90 miles an hour through the middle of nowhere and just reconnect with the flow state that my mind gets into when it’s driving open roads. This allows me to form plot lines that I’m developing for short stories or the two novellas I have partially formed and talk to myself about them, to have audible arguments with myself, to sing, to sit in silence… driving is a form of meditation for me. I do this on the motorcycle too but my chronic neck issues don’t allow for such long rides as a car ride.

8. Depending on the severity of my anxiety, I try to be alone. The last thing I want is to try and entertain/maintain someone else’s state of mind when I can’t handle my own.

9. I write. I write enormous emails to people, I write in my phone’s notes that I may or may not turn into posts on here, and I write in my notebook which causes my wussy hand to cramp up. I word vomit to ease my mind.

10. Rarely do I entertain this last bullet because I don’t want to create bad habits. But sometimes, I have a glass of wine (or two) and put an entire sheet cake (tiger cake from Vons) on my lap and just watch smut TV all night while looking at memes when I occasionally put down the fork. While this one feels the best in the most instantaneously gratifying way, I feel disgusting the next day.

Other things I have tried and do not recommend? Getting a drastic haircut, dying your hair, contacting an ex, moving across the country, quitting your job, “just visiting” the Rottweilers at the animal shelter, and trying “risky” behavior.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed by anxiety?