i’ve been dealing with anxiety for as long as i can remember, even as a little kid, before i knew what it was. it’s how i’m wired, the genes i’ve inherited, and something i’ve devoted my adult life to understanding and kicking directly in the face.
anxiety has always been extremely physical for me and i know exactly when it’s happening. this awful sickening feeling starts brewing in my gut, my heart races, i start sweating, and it feels like my chest is about to explode, making it hard to breathe. my arms feel like they are carrying the weight of the world, sometimes feeling physically paralyzed, and i just want to hide under the covers all day. all the while, my mind races with the worst of the worst possible outcomes, surprising myself that my mind is capable of thinking up such awful scenarios! when i’m having really long bouts of anxiety, i usually lose a lot of weight because my body gets so wound up that it forgets to eat. if anyone has ever had a panic attack, then they will tell you it feels like the world is ending and nothing you say or do will fix whatever they are dealing with, big or small. if i can sum up anxiety in one word, it would certainly be DOOM. game over.
i wrote about my journey of getting off anti-depressants, and have been blown away around the response to my anxiety tips on instagram, so i figured it was time to share my full blown list of how i deal with anxiety without medication. keep in mind that these are what i’ve found helpful, for me, but we are all different. not everything here will resonate with everyone who suffers from anxiety, but my hope is that even talking about it will help make someone feel less alone. i’ve put in years of testing and trials and want to share what truly works for me! so here we go……
little steps that make a big difference
Calling it Out – when i start to get anxious and freak out, the first thing i always do is call it for what it is, anxiety, an emotion, a thing. compartmentalizing anxiety as a separate thing from myself really puts me at ease and reminds me that this thing doesn’t define me or have power over me. it also reminds me that as awful as she is, she will always, always go away.
Meditation – meditation is trending hard right now, as it should be. it has the most amazing benefits for treating anxiety and you can literally do it anywhere, anytime you are feeling anxious. meditation focuses on breathing and being present, which is huge for calming the nerves as you focus on your physical body rather than those crazy thoughts. Headspace is a great place to get into the meditation game! i use that, Insight Timer App, and save youtube meditations to a playlist. if you’re a newbie, it might be hard at first, but they call it meditation practice for a reason – just keep at it and you’ll see major perks!
Journaling – my morning routine consists of me waking up, meditating, and then writing intentions in my journal. but when things get cray, i usually turn off my phone and get ALL my thoughts out on paper. there’s something about writing them down that is so therapeutic and releasing. i’ll follow up a vent journal sesh with a gratitude list to remind me of all the things i have going for me that are positive!
Sleep – for me, getting a good night’s sleep is imperative. if i don’t, it throws my entire week off. investing in your bed, bedding, and bedroom all help make your sleep that much better. i wrote about investing in a quality mattress here, which has helped my sleep immensely. good sleep = less anxiety. investing in your sleep by either making your bed the coziest or dedicating a time for lights out, is a huge investment for your mental health.
Saying No To Things – i. want. to. do. everything. i’ve struggled with this for years for fear of missing out on an opportunity. i’m a lover of all things in life and don’t want to miss anything! ironically, trying to do it all will just make me more anxious. i pride myself on doing quite a lot (i juggle this blog, running a business, and being a realtor), but when i over-schedule or feel like i’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, i know it’s time to start saying “no” to things. this is super hard for me, but you just can’t do everything, nor please everyone.
The News – ever since The Don was elected President, my heart cannot take reading the headlines. i took note of everything that was making me feel HEAVY during the day (see below on Energy Healing), and tried to eliminate. as someone who loves good journalism, i told myself i just had to take a break and that small change has had a huge impact. it’s incredibly easy to take 2 minutes and change your homepage to just Google, instead of a news page, so every time you open a new page, it’s just a blank canvas, with no awful headlines in your face. i also went ahead and unsubscribed from emails like change.org or other news sources that deliver email headlines that make my heart sink. of course i want to save the whales but i also needed to get rid of things that made me feel heavy. if i want the news, i go to a few trusted sources, when i’m feeling like i can handle it.
Limit Social Media – the same above goes for social media. it’s weird when my job IS social media, but even i have to tailor it to only uplift me. i only follow people who inspire me, or lift me up, and avoid Facebook rants like the plague. since when do people feel like it’s okay to harass people behind a screen? it’s gross. but it also makes me really sad for those people who are alone behind a computer screen, TYPING IN ALL CAPS, to get their very one-sided view across, which has really tested my empathy skills. hide pages that aren’t fueling you and UNFOLLOW those people who are crazy negative commenters, so you don’t see all the low vibes they are spewing online. everyone has that one crazy family member…. it’s easy and they won’t even know. limit your social media activity so you don’t get sucked in too deep and use it as a tool to inspire you, not bring you down.
Essential Oils & Crystals – gimme all the lavender oils and amethyst crystals! i carry these babies around with me everywhere. a quick little kick to anxiety! i also rock an obsidian necklace from time to time, as i’m known to take on other people’s energies – that little rock is a big protector.
big steps that have changed my life
Energy Healing – i promise to write a dedicated post just on this topic, as it’s a little harder to explain in just a paragraph, but i’ve been going to an energy healer once a week for 2.5 years and i can firmly say that she is THE reason i was able to get off anti-depressants. energy is all around us and working for us at all times. the idea of this holistic practice is probably new to a lot of people, i get it, but when you really think about how energy works in the world, it makes total sense. we learn about it in grade school that everything is made up of energy and that positive energy attracts more positive energy. my own personal discovery with energy healing has been to recognize what makes me feel light and airy, and what makes me feel heavy. the simple practice of listening to how my gut feels when presented with certain things, people, and experiences, and then choosing to lean into the light while pushing away the heavy, has made such an impact! if someone or something makes you feel heavy, kindly let. it. go. go towards those people and things that lift you up! these weekly healing sessions have taken me down a path of discovery with law of attraction, manifestation, and a stronger spirituality, which is perdy cool.
CBD Oil – okay, so i’m pretty sure i’m the only kid who went to school in Boulder who didn’t smoke weed. it just dooooooesn’t work for me….probably because it makes me so damn anxious. that being said, i have nothing against anyone smoking weed, but my point is that i personally do not like getting high and CBD Oil certainly does not make you high. i repeat, you will NOT get high with CBD oil! it has all of the benefits of the marijuana plant, minus THC, which is the strand that makes you hallucinate. soooo anyone out there nervous to try it, i’m here to report that it won’t make you all Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, mmmk? so now that we’ve gotten over that bit, i highly recommend this for anyone with anxiety issues. the benefits are absolutely incredible. i take a little bit before i go to sleep on days that were too overwhelming and i sleep like a rock, feeling so amazing in the mornings. i feel like this one deserves it’s own dedicated blog post…
Gut Health – i’m still new to learning about this but i can tell you that when i eat super healthy, avoid sugars, and limit caffeine, i’m so much more in tune with my body and mind. my mood is better, my anxiety is non-existent, and i feel overall happier. what we put into our gut directly effects everything we do, including our brain functioning. this article is helpful in explaining the science behind gut and mental health. i did the keto diet when i was coming off anti-depressants and saw a big difference in my mood.
Vitamins – like the above, vitamins play a big role in gut health. it’s really sad to say but i didn’t start taking vitamins until last year. i thought i was getting enough in my daily diet, but turns out we aren’t, and supplements are HUGE mood boosters. i wrote a post about which vitamins i take for my anxiety here but always looking for suggestions to add to the mix!
No Booze – these days, i barely drink alcohol. i may have a glass with dinner, or celebrate at a wedding, but i’ve noticed that laying off the sauce is a game changer. when i started going off my meds, i wanted a super clear head, and it was way easier than i thought to go for a lacroix over a glass of vino. to be honest, i don’t even miss it or ever really think about it anymore.
Therapy – aka the best thing ever. to me, this is a no brainer as i’ve been happily going to therapy my entire life, but i realize that making a therapy appointment is really hard or foreign for a lot of people. our society tells us this bullshit story that we are “crazy” to find a shrink, when in reality it’s one of the nicest things you can do for yourself. the first step is to pat yourself on the back for even wanting to make an appointment, because a lot of people take years to get to this point! ask people you trust for doctors or counselors they recommend, and give a few a try. in my mind, therapy for your mental health is just like trying out a new gym: you need to go a few times to really see if you like that gym (therapist) and exercise class (type of therapy). know that it might take a few sessions, or that you might need to try out different doctors to find the best fit.
Exercise – this is kind of a “duh” post because exercise is proven to increase serotonin levels in your brain BUT it wasn’t until about a year ago that i started exercising for my mind and not such much for my body. yes, a strong body is essential for overall health, but i pick things like yoga, running, hiking, or skiing because they center and calm my mind. when i need to process things, or get anxious energy out, getting outside or hitting the yoga mat is the best immediate release for me. namast-hey!
EMDR – a few years ago i dove into EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy and i highly suggest for those with severe anxiety or PTSD. for me, this was probably the hardest and most difficult thing i’ve tried on this list so i recommend you chat with a doctor before committing to it, as it forces you to relive traumas from your past. EMDR is weird, but it works. as my doctor explained it, by getting your eyes to follow an object that is going back and forth across your face, or sometimes holding buzzers that stimulate each side of your body, you allow your brain to get into a state similar to REM sleep. this was really important for me at the time because i was having chronic nightmares and night sweats that were preventing me from getting into REM sleep. REM is the most important part of your sleep cycle because it is a chance for your mind to naturally process traumas and emotions. EMDR mimics that, but while you are awake, and in a very controlled and safe environment with your doctor so you can break the blocks in your brain around these memories, emotions, and triggers. it is not hypnosis as you are fully awake, but it can be really, really painful to go back and think about those events. i found it fascinating because i would go back to events in my childhood and could even SMELL the SMELLS from those points in time – it was cray and hard, but i got through it and now those memories aren’t triggering. i recommend this to anyone who is serious about getting rid of trapped traumas but understand that this can be emotionally draining.
Friend On Speed Dial – having a friend you can text whenever, and know they will let you vent and talk you down, is key. find that person and let them know you’ll return the favor when they are dealing with things. i have a few that i know will get back to me immediately with words of wisdom to really calm me down. my mom always will, too 🙂
Nature – it’s no coincidence i live in the mountains. the main reason i chose to live here was because of how much being in nature fuels my soul and how much it helps my mental state. i’m lucky enough to be able to walk outside my door and go on a hike, but even just sitting in the sunshine, no matter where you are is so beneficial. find a place to go for a walk, leave your phone or turn on a soothing podcast, and just be outside. let nature fill you up!
Put Others First – my mom always reminds me that serving others will always, always make you feel better about yourself. if that’s volunteering, devoting time and services to others for free, or just being there for someone while they go through something, this time lifts my heart and also takes the attention off of my own problems.
i’m very committed to living my life sans anti-depressants and truly believe that it’s possible, as i’m going on 8 months with no meds! do you have any other anxiety tips that have helped you? i’d absolutely love to hear!