I've struggled with anxiety since I was quite young.
When I was 2, I was well known for twirling my hair. This habit didn't go away when my pediatrician said it would; in fact, it got worse. If you know me today, you know that I still twirled my hair near constantly. Not as obviously as I did when I was 2, but still noticeably. I like braiding my hair or rubbing it between my fingers, or twisting it around my finger over and over again.
I never associated my hair twirling with anxiety, but I've learned, as I've gotten older, that I use it as a way to comfort myself when I feel anxious.
The last few years of my life have been defined by anxiety--to the point where my anxiety started to have effects on my health.
Lots of people have lots of different ways of dealing with their anxiety--and what works for some people definitely doesn't work for other people. For me, my anxiety often calms down when I'm able to spend a whole day cleaning my house and getting bits of my life in order (something I've been desperately wanting to do for ages now). For others, they feel better when they get a chance to relax or treat themselves in a way they normally do. It just depends!
When I sat down to write this post, I thought of every different way I could indicate that these are just the things that work for me and I'm sharing them only in the hope that perhaps they can help you deal with your anxiety. I'm not a doctor and I'm not being prescriptive with this list. If you're really struggling with your anxiety, the best place to turn is a doctor--not the internet, unfortunately. (It's also important to remember that acts of self-care aren't just bubblebaths and eating your favorite foods, but also include self forgiveness, acts of self-kindness, and much more--and ultimately, self-care can't replace other forms of treatment for anxiety and depression! Get the help you need!)
So, if you want to learn a few ways I've been helping my anxiety lately, keep reading!
1. Bullet Journaling
I've written about bullet journaling before and I know that for those with anxiety, bullet journals (especially as they appear on the internet) can feel really demanding and, honestly, a little anxiety-inducing. But once I gave bujo a chance (and let myself do it my way, instead of feeling like I had to have The Perfect Journal) it was really fun! I spend every evening working on my bullet journal, writing about my day, and filling out any pages that need filled.
I know this feels a little bit lame, but it's been a year since I started working out again and honestly, it's one of the best choices I ever made. For me, exercise walks a fine line between "reduces anxiety" and "causes anxiety". I have to be really mindful of how exercise is making me feel and if it starts to feel bad, I take a break. But overwhelmingly, getting myself in a routine feels really good; I love having my exercise time three days a week where I get out of the house.
3. Creating a cleaning routine
The way my surroundings look is really important for me. I have to be in a clean, organized house. This has been a sore spot for me for a while because my husband is the exact opposite. I genuinely think he could live inside an active, operating barn and be totally fine, probably not notice a thing wrong. I've started doing what I call my "5 tasks" in the evening before bed and it makes a huge difference: emptying the dish strainer, loading the dishwasher, wiping the counters, cleaning the coffee pot, and sweeping the kitchen floor have made a huge difference in my anxiety level each morning.
I've always been a reader and I read quite a lot, but for the past probably 6 months, I just haven't made time for it. But taking 10-20 minutes every day to read, instead of look at a screen, has really helped me not get my usual afternoon tension headaches.
5. Washing my face
As much as I love skincare, sometimes I'm the worst at washing my face. But I have found that washing my face and doing the skincare routine that I really, really love helps relax me in the evenings and lets me unwind much easier. Who knew!?
6. Listening to podcasts in the bathtub
I love podcasts (I've written at least three blog posts about it!) and I love taking baths. I used to primarily read in the bathtub, but I found that actually didn't help me relax as much as I wanted it to. I've started turning on my podcasts as I soak though and it's exactly what I need: something to occupy my brain, but not too much.
7. Going to bed early
I have this weird thing about "using the time I have before bed", whatever that means. After Forrest goes to sleep, I feel like I have to accomplish everything: clean the house, food prep, whatever. So I usually don't get into bed until 10pm, then I'm up at 5--and frankly, that's just not enough sleep sometimes! And some nights, I just don't feel like tackling my rapidly expanding to do list and... you know what? Sometimes I don't have to. The email can wait until the morning. The blog post can get written some other time. Crawling into bed at 7pm simply because I feel like it is the best treat I can give myself.
8. Eating breakfast
I've always really struggled with breakfast, as I'm usually not hungry right when I wake up and then I don't have time once I leave for work. But skipping breakfast also gives me a lot of anxiety: I worry about getting hungry later in the day, not having anything to eat, having to find something and spend money... you know, anxiety thoughts. I've been packing simple breakfasts for myself lately--cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, smoothies, that kind of thing--and it's made a huge difference in allowing me to focus on my work and not feel anxious about getting hungry.
9. Reducing how much coffee I drink
I love coffee. When Forrest was a newborn, I drank probably 3-4 cups a day, which is substantial for me, someone who never liked coffee before. I've gotten it down to less than 3 in recent months, but even that is quite a lot. Especially since I have pre-existing anxiety issues! I've started limiting myself to one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon. Hopefully soon I can cut out that afternoon cup!
10. Quitting if I need to
I pride myself on not being a quitter. I try not to give up on tasks I set for myself, especially if they impact other people. But lately I've realized that sometimes my insistence on "finishing things" ends up biting me in the butt, for two reasons: firstly, I tend to not do that great of a job if I end up forcing it; and secondly, it just gives me horrible anxiety. Allowing myself to quit something, or at least set it aside for a few weeks and return to it when I feel motivated and able to complete it, has been really freeing.