Helpful Tips for Living with Anxiety
While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.
The most common mental illness is anxiety. Close to half of the adult population have anxiety, though many people either don’t realize it or don’t take it seriously.
Here are some things to understand about anxiety and some tips for managing it.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ANXIETY
Like many things, anxiety is a disorder that only people with anxiety can truly understand. This makes it really hard for others to empathize with you, because they have not experienced it themselves.
It also means a lot of common misconceptions get thrown around. Here are some things that are often said about anxiety that are simply not true. It helps to understand them when you are on the path to improving your own mental health or if you know someone else struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety is Just Worrying Too Much – Anxiety and worry can often happen at the same time, but they are not the same thing. Having anxiety is NOT just being worried about something and definitely not something you can just will away by “not worrying as much”. Being worried about something and having anxiety are not the same thing, though you can definitely experience both simultaneously.
You Can “Get Over” Anxiety – Anxiety is a mental illness, just like depression and bipolar disorder. While there are many different facets of anxiety disorders, and not everyone needs professional help for anxiety, it is not something you can just get rid of by thinking positively or going for a run.
This is also a bit of a gray area, since it is possible to reduce the effects of anxiety or reduce panic attacks with daily routines, therapy, medication, and many other treatments. But that doesn’t mean you cure your anxiety or get rid of it completely.
Anxiety Isn’t a Serious Mental Illness – According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness people deal with in the U.S. It affects over 40 million adults in the U.S. alone, even though less than 40% of these people get treatment for it.
Why is that? Because the general consensus is that it isn’t that serious. People assume anxiety is just stress or worrying or worse, that they’re just overreacting. But if you think you have anxiety, you should think about getting help for it. There are many different forms, each with different affects on your mind and body.
Avoidance is the Answer – You can’t avoid anxiety and hope it will get better on its own, just like you can’t avoid stress, depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue you are facing. Just pretending your anxiety doesn’t exist is only going to exacerbate it because you aren’t learning coping techniques for dealing with anxiety attacks.
JOURNALING IDEAS FOR ANXIETY
If there is one thing that is recommended above all else when it comes to living with anxiety, it is using a journal. But it gets complicated and confusing when you aren’t sure how to actually use a journal. Do you write whatever you are thinking? Is it meant to be used as a diary? Do you write about gratitude or use writing prompts?
The answer is: yes to all of it! One thing that can help you decide is to figure out what kind of anxiety you have and how it is affecting you. Certain forms of journaling can help a lot with different issues relating to your anxiety.
Brain Dump for Generalized Anxiety – The first way to use journaling for anxiety is if you have generalized anxiety disorder. It might not be diagnosed officially, but if you tend to have an overwhelming amount of worry and anxiety that pops up out of nowhere and you can’t identify a trigger, you might have generalized anxiety.
For this form of anxiety, doing a brain dump or stream of consciousness style of journaling is a great place to start. This is where you get out your journal or notebook and just write about whatever is on your mind. Let your thoughts flow to the paper, bouncing around to different topics as often as you want to.
For many people, their generalized anxiety is worsened by anxious thoughts, so when you write them down, it can provide a relaxing and freeing feeling.
Scripting for Anxiety About Your Future Plans – If your anxiety or panic has a specific trigger, especially when it comes to what you’re doing with your life and achieving your goals, then scripting is a great way to write in your journal. This is often used in conjunction with the law of attraction and manifesting, but you don’t need to have that as a goal or be spiritual to benefit from scripting.
Scripting is a type of writing where you write down what you want to achieve, but use verbiage as if you already have it. If you want to buy a house, you don’t write that you want to buy a house, but write a journal entry as if you already bought your dream home. Where is it? What is it like? How big is it? How do you feel now that you have it?
Daily Journaling for All Forms of Anxiety – Regardless of what type of anxiety you have, daily journaling is wonderful. This can be a little broad, but I’m talking more about the diary-style of journaling where you write about all your thoughts and feelings. Some days this might be a brain dump and other days you might write about a specific experience you had that day.
FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET TO DEAL WITH ANXIETY
Having a creative outlet benefits you in a number of ways, both with anxiety and just your general mood and outlook on life. Creative activities often have a calming effect on the body and mind. And don’t worry – you don’t need to be artistic or have a special skill for this to benefit you and help with your anxiety.
Something You Used to Enjoy Doing as a Kid – If you aren’t quite sure how to start, an easy way to transition into finding a creative outlet is thinking about what you enjoyed doing as a kid. Think of it first as a broad generalization, like drawing, painting, playing music, dancing, really anything that uses that creative part of your brain. From there, you can then figure out the specifics. Maybe you liked learning new forms of art rather than sticking to one thing, or perhaps you enjoyed writing poetry or short stories or loved coloring.
Anything you enjoyed as a kid could be a sign of what you might enjoy as an adult, even if it’s slightly different. Take it to the next level and give it a try right now. You will reduce your stress and may find your anxiety suddenly feels somewhat easier to manage.
Meditate Through Music and Dance – People often think of being creative as having to be artistic and create something like art or crafts, but music and dance can also be part of the creative arts. Music and dance both get you into a type of meditative state. Not one where you’re sitting in a quiet room with your eyes closed, but where all your thoughts float away into the melody. From listening to music during your daily self-care routine to dancing it out in your living room, it’s definitely worth exploring if you have anxiety.
Learn Something New – This is also a great time to learn something new, whether it’s a form of art you’ve always been curious about, or taking a photography class to brush up on your skills. Make a list of the different creative activities you’ve been curious about. Maybe you have a fancy camera but you don’t know about all the settings, or you’ve always wanted to try making pottery or ceramics. There are classes online and in person for just about anything, so let your imagination run wild!
Being Creative Doesn’t Require Being Artistic – Don’t shy away from finding a creative outlet just because you aren’t artistic. First of all, art is subjective, so what you personally love might not be what someone else loves and vice versa. And most people who create things that others deem appealing practiced a lot at it. But when it comes to anxiety, you aren’t trying to be perfect. You’re simply finding a hobby or activity that uses a different part of your brain, helps distract you, and gives you something to do just for you.
Take Charge of Your Mental Health
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