The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Anxiety + Resources

October 12th, 2017 @ Amber

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It was just Mental Health Awareness Day. I think it’s really important to talk about mental health, because there is still so much stigma and taboo about the subject. Which is absolutely wrong, because we all have mental health, some just have illnesses due to their mental health and others have good mental halth without any sort of problems. No matter which of these you fall into, it’s okay! It okay to be okay, and it’s okay not to be okay. But if you’re not okay, as someone who has lived with mental health issues since they were young, it’s important to remember that help is out there. Even if we sometimes don’t feel like it is. It’s very lonely when you live with a mental illness. I myself live with clinical OCD (not the quirky label everyone loves to toss on anyone with a good sense of organization), C-PTSD, PTSD, and Anxiety/Panic Disorder, as well as I have also dealt with Agoraphobia throughout my life.

My post for today is about anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Two things I deal with daily. Sometimes I wish there were a handbook or manual for maneuvering through life when you have clinical anxiety, but since thats not how life works, I’ve complied a list of tips and tricks from me to you. This is a re-post from an anxiety blog I had started on the side called ‘Waves of Drain’, but then I never did much with it. I thought the post deserved to be seen though, so I’m publishing it here on my main blog.

If you need a few tips and tricks for dealing with your anxiety, here are just a few resources that have been helpful for me in one way or another.

Smartphone Apps (iPhone and Android compatible)
– Mindshift

This app is free and cool! It has inspiration quotes about fear, an explanation of anxiety disorders and the ins and outs of what happens when we panic. It also offers a anxiety checklist and journaling area to write down your thoughts when you’re anxious. It also has mindful exercises that you can listen to, which help with breathing exercises and calming exercises.

Other apps and games, such as Coloring Pages, Interactive games like Sims or Candy Crush or Oregon Trail, games that use concentration such as mystery games like Agent Alice. Basically any app that you can open up and keep your mind busy. I also may or may not play Smurfs The Lost Village app…ahem. Great way to keep your mind active though.

Music
– Make a playlist of your favorite calming songs

Make yourself a playlist of songs on your computer or phone or tablet, give it a fun name like “Songs for When I Feel Whack” or “Anxiety Sucks” or “Music to Calm Me”. Fill it full of songs that you enjoy that make you feel good. Maybe some relaxing tunes like classical or opera, baby music or calming nature sound tracks, some softer music, anything that will take your mind off of your worries and help you to unwind. Add some of your favorite songs that you know by heart, so you can sing along and keep your mind distracted. Apps like iTunes, Spotify and Pandora are some free and easy music apps to try.

Audiobooks
– Audible, iTunes, Scribd

Sign up for a audiobook program like Audible or Scribd, they usually have a free-trial that allows you to test it out and see how you like the program. Find books that you find calming, and listen! Having a story read to you while you just lay back and relax can be calming. I do this a lot when I’m waiting for my anxiety attack to CTFD (calm the fuck down). A lot of times you can stream them or download the audiobooks. Or, you can buy audiobooks through iTunes and buy titles whenever you like rather than having a subscription service so they’re read when you need them. Let them play as you fall asleep. Don’t want them on your phone? Stream or play your audiobooks from your laptop or ipod.

Netflix/Prime/Hulu
Binge the hell out of some tv shows or movies

Having a subscription service comes in handy when you’re of the anxious variety. There is so much to choose from, and a lot of times there are full seasons of tv shows, and new movies added all of the time. Having access to watching things can keep your mind busy when you need it to be. Also, with a service like this you can watch it anywhere – from your smartphone, Apple or Amazon Fire TV, or on your Kindle Fire or iPad. If you already pay for cable service, you can often find apps that offer free movies and tv too, such as FX Now, TBS, TNT. Or if you have premium channels on your cable subscription, you can download the apps like Showtime and HBO Go to your device for easy watching on the go, or even while in bed.

The Anxiety Coach
– My favorite anxiety source

I was super anxious one night and feeling at the end of my very short (and quickly fraying) rope, so I googled for anxiety attack help, and I found Dave’s website, Anxiety Coach. He’s worked with many people who have anxiety. He explains anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues in the anxiety disorder umbrella. He even has a book you can order! I have it, and it’s been a good read and helpful. He also has a YouTube channel with a very helpful video showing how to do deep belly breathing exercises for anxiety/panic attacks. Bookmark his page! It’s a great source.

Someone to Talk To
– This might be hard for some people, which makes me sad, but it’s important.

Therapy is important. Find a therapist or psychologist in your area. Sometimes the process of signing up can be annoying, sometimes they even make you do a “screener” process before making an appointment. Don’t get discouraged! Stick to it. Talking and letting it all out will help you. Make sure you find a mental health professional who has expertise in anxiety. If you have problem with kidney stones, you go to a urologist not a foot doctor. So when you have anxiety, you need to go to a mental health doctor who understands and treats anxiety as a specialty.

It’s also helpful to have friends or family you can confide in. A support system can be hard to find. Those who don’t suffer with anxiety can have a hard time understanding it. It’s a process. As much as your anxiety might confuse you, it can confuse others too. Give them some time, but educate them and share resources. Talk to them, make yourself heard. Whether it is a close friend or family member, being able to share your feelings with a someone in your life can really be helpful.

If you don’t have anyone in your life who you can talk to. Reach out online! There are anxiety forums, and mental health forums online. There are also anxiety blogs you can read online, as well as anxiety groups you can attend in person in your area. You can also find helpful spots online like on Instagram. One of my favorite Instagram pages Naked with Anxiety is run by Danielle, and she suffers from anxiety herself and she posts a lot of great uplifting and helpful reminders as well as her own stories. A lot of her followers have anxiety, so you can talk with others through comments as well.

Hugs
– I send you a big fat comforting hug, but you need a in-person hug too

If you’re feeling anxious hugging for 20-30 seconds helps to release the hormone oxytocin, which is a natural chemical in our body that creates feelings of calm and love and safety. Hug someone you love and allow your body to relax, just be in the moment of the hug, and see if you feel any better after a nice long embrace. Some people don’t like being touch when they are panicking, I myself don’t like being touch when I am having an anxiety attack, but when I am just feeling anxiety and stressed, a huge really can help.

Use All of your Senses
– Utilize your senses. aromatherapy, weighted blankets, etc.

Sensory therapy is great when you deal with anxiety based disorders. Try some silly putty, kinetic sand or slime to play with. Light some candles that smell good to you, check for fragrances that use scent notes that can be calming like peppermint, lavender, citrus, and more. I really like the fragrance oil called 31 by Swiss Just. It is calming to smell, and can also help with a headache of nausea. I often add a few drops to some tissue or paper towel and sniff away. Add your favorite bath bomb to the tub and sit on the edge and just soak your feet (or use a plastic container with a towel underneath and soak your feet anywhere, in the living room, kitchen, etc). Have a favorite pair of pajamas, or robe? Wear it! Change clothes and put on something that comforts you like a favorite sweater or your fav t-shirt. Weighted blankets are a great way to feel hugged or wrapped up. Though sometimes with anxiety, some people don’t like to be touched and the thought of being weighed down is more triggering than anything else. So go with what makes you feel most comfortable. Try a fidget spinner or puzzle, anything that might distract you. 

Art Therapy
Drawing, coloring, writing music, playing piano, etc.

Art has been considered a great type of therapy for years and years. Creating and making something allows you to express how you’re feeling, and can captivate your mind with the power of creation. Write a poem, get some colored pencils and a coloring book. Try some finger paints or acrylic paints and a sketchpad. If you’re musical, play piano or guitar, write a song. Write a short story. Make friendship bracelets, learn to cross stitch or learn embroidery. Use your sewing machine. Just create something using your hands or your mind. It’s a great way to express yourself and get out some of the stressful or anxious feelings, and also, you’ve added a piece of art to the world. I’m a firm believer that artists tend to feel things deeper, and in this most of my favorite artists had mental illnesses of some sort. Make some art, no matter what your skill level may be. 

Commune with Nature
– Take a walk, sit on your porch, play with your dog in the backyard.

Being in nature makes me feel so much better when I’m anxious. Also, exercise even from walking can help to regulate your breathing, lower your blood pressure, and release endorphins to relax you and make you feel better spiritually and mentally. Take a walk around the block, grab a bike and head to the park, just hang out in your backyard and take in the smell of the grass, look at the flowers. Play catch with your dog, go to the lake, go to the beach, feel the sand between your toes. Go for a hike with a friend. Anything that gets you outside in the fresh air is a good idea.

Medication
– If you need it, you need it. No shame.

Some people choose to use anti-depressants which can help with anxiety. I myself cannot use anti-depressants due to almost dying from a rare but series reaction that can come from taking an anti-depressant for the first time or having your dose increased. However, if these medications work for you, then please don’t feel shame for using them. Everyone needs help sometimes, and sometimes what our brains need is some help in the form of a medication. There are also homeopathic medications you can try like over the counter supplements that are aimed that relaxation. There are also a type of medician called benzodiazepines. Also known as benzos. These medications are used for anxiety and panic attacks (you’ve probably heard their brand names, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc). I use them. No shame. If I didn’t have the chance to take these medications as I need them, I would probably end up in the ER a lot from having such bad panic attacks. While you won’t want to use them all the time, they aren’t like an anti-depressant where they work over time and are taken regularly, they can be very useful in times of great anxiety or during a panic attack. If you’re curious about seeing if these medications help, ask your doctor or psychiatrist about trying them. I know a lot of people who love to tell people what they should and should not do, so some folks don’t believe in taking medications or benzos, and to them I say, that is your choice and kindly take a seat. You do not make that choice for other people. You should never ever police what is best for someone else’s health, be it mental or physical. And sometimes what is better for someone else is to take medication and to not be judged for it.

Watch this Gif
– Check out this gif that someone made for those with anxiety

This gif is great for watching while you do a  breathing exercise. Inhale slowly through your nose as the graphic opens up, and then exhale slowly through your mouth as the graphic folds down. Keep doing this in reps until you feel yourself become calmer. It’s a easy way to work on breathing exercises without having to count, and it gives an added visual which can be helpful. Save the gif to your computer or ipad or phone or bookmark the gif to your favorites so you can find it whenever you need it.

Food & Exercise & Sleep, oh my!
– All important physical things that can affect us mentally

Make sure you get a full nights sleep. If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stress over it. Just let your body give into sleep. Try some soft music, rock yourself gently in bed, snuggle with your favorite pillow. If you know you have trouble falling asleep, try going to bed a little earlier than usual so you have enough time to fall asleep. Having a good nights rest lets our mind relax and calm down after a long day of anxiety.

Getting good healthy food can help. Stay away from caffeine and lot of sugar, both can make you jittery and cause a rise in your cortisol levels which can make you feel even more anxious. Caffeine that is in tea and coffee and soda pop can make your heeart raise and make your blood pressure go up as well, which in turns is not good for those with anxiety. Try drinking water, or adding some lemon or lime to your drinking water. Or make a pitcher of water, add sliced cucumber and a few fresh mint leaves and leave it in the fridge, for a refreshing lightly flavored water (they serve this at spas a lot). Try a sugar-free flavored bottled water like Hint (which is my favorite). Try to stay away from super sugary foods and high-carb foods, as carbs turn to sugar, and sugar tastes goooood but is bad for our anxiety. Try snacking on plain yogurt, almond butter on top of a banana, a handful of almonds or your favorite nuts, string cheese, fresh veggies, a piece of fruit, a green smoothie (try 1/2 cup water, half a banana – you can freeze the other half for tomorrow’s smoothie, 1/2 blueberries – frozen works well, and a big handful of fresh greens like kale, baby spinach, and swiss chard, blend until smooth). Plus, when we eat healthy, and we feel like were making better food choices, it can make us feel better both physically and mentally. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a cookie or piece of chocolate when you need it though! Go for it.

I’m not a huge fan of exercising, unless it’s something fun like dancing or doing something outdoors like surfing or hiking, but any kind of physical activity can be good (yes, even sex or masturbation). It can make you feel good, and it releases endorphins the love/happy chemical in your body. Do something simple! Even if it’s just walking, or a few sit ups, or just do something active at least once a day if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. I know, sometimes we just don’t have the energy! I hear you. I often feel that way too. But even doing something small can be a big help. Even just walking around the block a few times, or walking for a little bit on the treadmill or even stretching and doing a few push-ups! No need to do a full workout – simple steps, one at a time.

 

Simple steps. One. At. A. Time. Getting through one day at a time. Let’s do this. And I’m here for you, if you need me. Just hit me up via email or social media.

 

 

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