Most of the time I manage my anxiety well, and it does not affect my quality of life or my ability to function.
But every once and a while, I have a flare up.
As weird as it sounds, in the past, sometimes I wouldn’t even be aware that I was having an excessive amount of anxiety. All I knew was I felt more tired, or everything seemed to annoy me. As I’ve learned to tune into my body more, I have gotten quite good at realizing when I’m in a downward cycle of anxiety.
My red flags for anxiety consist of things like: feeling sluggish, wanting to sleep all the time, having a hard time staying focused on tasks, feeling overwhelmed by clutter or having the desire to clean all the time, and ceasing activities that I enjoy, such as writing or reading for fun. (You may notice I haven’t posted to my blog in almost 2 weeks.)
When I get into this pattern of anxiety, it is easy to stay stuck. I was telling my husband yesterday how overwhelmed I was feeling, and that I felt a constant presence of anxiety. He asked me what I could do to take steps to counter it. My initial thoughts were torn between: A) Nothing, and B) I don’t even remember!
That’s the thing when you’re in the middle of anxiety, it’s hard to think straight and you forget all of the strategies out there that are supposed to be helpful in overcoming your anxiety. So you feel helpless, which just adds to your anxiety.
I was, however, determined not to be stuck in the pit of anxiety, and so I sat down with a post-it note and really thought through what I steps I could take to help me during this season of heightened anxiety.
1. Headspace – I only have the free version of the app, but you can still use their “Basics” course and meditate for 5 minutes every day.
2. NO social media – I confess, I frequently check Facebook and Instagram, and I have to say I do believe that sometimes, as research has said, it does make me feel worse after looking at it. I also found I was using it as a way to waste time and avoid doing other things I needed to do, so I’m taking a break for the next week.
3. Pray/Bible – I have a goal to pray and read my Bible every day. It doesn’t always happen, but when my anxiety flares, I know I need to be more purposeful to spend time with God and meditate on His truth. I also pray for help and to have that “peace that passes understanding” (Phil 4:7)
4. Grateful Exercises (daily) – many of us have heard that practicing gratitude is so beneficial for us, and it can even help change our brain and the way we think. I bought a gratitude journal a few years ago, and only was disciplined to write in it every day for about 2 weeks before I stopped. I’m picking this up again to try to focus on positive thoughts.
5. Think Up – this is a great app, IF you get the paid version (which I have for the iPhone). This is a positive meditation app, and you create your own “playlists” of positive affirmations to listen to. I’m planning to make a new “Anxiety” playlist where I will listen to affirmations like, “I choose to fill my mind with positive, nurturing, and healing thoughts” or “I am learning that it is okay for me to feel safe, calm, and at peace.”
When I am in the middle of dealing with anxiety or depression, I find that the LAST thing I want to do is all of the good things that are supposed to help me. I roll my eyes at meditation, I don’t want to call my counselor, it seems too hard to find energy to do all of the good things I need to do. Maybe some of it is pride, I don’t like admitting that I need help. As a perfectionist, I certainly don’t like admitting that I’m not functioning at my best.
But if I’m honest with myself, these things do help if I’m careful to do them regularly. So I will try. (I’ve already stayed off of social media all day today, hooray me!)
Are you stuck in a cycle of anxiety? Do you feel anxious but aren’t sure why? I would encourage you to do the following:
- Pay attention to your mind and body and see what is really going on. Are you exhibiting some of your classic “red flags” for anxiety or depression? If you aren’t sure what your red flags are, make it a goal to find out.
- Be proactive with helpful habits. I’ve shared mine with you, but every person is different, so do what works for you. There are tons of other ways to combat anxiety, find stuff that is easy for you to do or that sounds interesting.
- Identify your anxiety triggers. Think about the days/weeks that led up to when you first noticed you were in the anxiety cycle. What happened? Was there a particularly upsetting event, or did stuff build up slowly over time?
As I think about what triggered my anxiety, I know it’s because I over-scheduled myself. I’ve gotten too busy. I have found myself longing for the days when we were stuck at home during the great COVID shutdown of 2020. I’ve been taking my son to swimming lessons every day, we had his 5-year-old birthday party at our house on Saturday (which included having 7 of his friends over), I’m leaving to go to California in 2 days… there’s just a lot going on! It’s all good and fun stuff, but as Meredith Arthur would say in her book, Get Out of My Head: Inspiration for Overthinkers in an Anxious World, my energy budget has been depleted!
If for some reason my post-it note strategies don’t seem to be helping, I know that professional help is always an option. Therapy is great, I’m a big supporter of it. Medicine is also great if that’s what is needed, whether it’s for a season or necessary long-term.
If you feel like you’re in a crisis situation or an emergency, reach out to someone for help. You can check out my Resources page for information which includes numbers for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.
Stay well friends! Thanks for reading.