I’ve posted several intense posts previously about the anxiety symptoms I have experienced (insomnia, intrusive thoughts, derealisation to name a few) so I decided now might be a good time to list in one place the techniques that I find helpful to manage these, and all, anxiety symptoms.
Before we start, I should confess I’m not free of anxiety. I’m still a work-in-progress. But I have learnt an awful lot and come a long way so I hope that sharing how I handle these feelings can help others who aren’t as far along in their journey yet.
1. Look after your physical health
I know this is tough. When you’re feeling low or anxious the last thing you feel like doing is worrying about what you eat. Generally, I love my food, as evidenced by my ample dress size, which is why it was such a shock when anxiety robbed me of my appetite. When I stopped wanting to stuff my face I think my husband really knew there was something wrong! Thankfully, it was one of the first things to come back which was very reassuring.
Try to eat small, regular meals and limit sugar and caffeine (you have enough adrenalin pumping around without making yourself more alert). Alcohol isn’t the best plan, as it’s a depressant, plus it can interfere with medication during the first few weeks you are taking it. No way am I going to pretend I didn’t eat sugar or have a few glasses of wine though, but it doesn’t always help in the long-term.
Excess anxiety made me want to exercise (again, not the norm for me!). I didn’t like to be indoors either so went for very long walks every day with the pram. I also joined an Active Mums aerobics class run at my local children’s centre where you can bring your babies along. This helped to burn off some of the adrenalin and raise endorphins, and I always felt a slight relief from the anxiety and depression after a class.
2. Medication & supplements
Antidepressants and other medications are a very personal choice and some feel they aren’t right for them. For me, they help a great deal. On the advice of the PEWS team, I also began taking several supplements – Vitamin B Complex and Omega 3, and I also took Evening Primrose for PMS (which can cause anxiety to spike for me). I can’t really say how much these supplements helped me as I was trying so many other things alongside them, but I figure everything is worth a shot. Find out more about natural supplements at HealthRanks. Please consult a doctor first as some supplements should not be taken alongside certain medications.
I use the methods I learned from CBT all the time. It’s incredibly useful for changing negative thought patterns. It takes a lot of practice and time but it’s worth it as it can not only aid recovery but also provide you with good tools for dealing with life’s challenges in general. There are lots of books and online resources about CBT but really the best way to learn is from a qualified therapist if at all possible.
4. Mindfulness/being present
Mindfulness is a real buzzword at the moment but I do find it very useful. Taking notice of the small things around you and keeping yourself in the present moment, if only for a short while, can really help to reduce panic. You can find out more about mindfulness here.
5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
I simply cannot promote this one enough. Talking about Paul David’s book feels like a broken record by now but his simple approach to facing anxiety, to sitting with it and giving up the fight against it, has helped me more than anything else. Your natural instinct is to rally against anxious thoughts, feelings and symptoms but all that does is feed the anxiety and give it more power. My mantra when anxiety comes is “Don’t run. Don’t fight. Let it be there, then watch it go.”
6. Don’t be limited by your fear – do it anyway.
This is a little related to the above. Try to face up to the things that most worry you if you can. For some it’s leaving the house but for me it was staying in the house, alone with my son. This has always been the biggest trigger for me. When I felt my recovery was going quite well I made a point of spending more time alone at home. It was horrible, and is sometimes still a challenge, but for each day I did it and survived I felt that much stronger. Nothing is ever as bad as your anxious mind will convince you it is and the sense of achievement you feel after facing a fear is a great boost to your mood.
7. Recognise triggers
Learn what your triggers are. Don’t necessarily avoid them, as this could be a short-term coping mechanism that isn’t helpful in the long-term, but recognise them and allow yourself the space to be affected by them. Forgive yourself.
New babies are bloody hard work. Being diagnosed with PND is very distressing. Don’t expect to recover overnight but know that every day following that diagnosis, every day after you’ve reached out for help, is one step closer to feeling well again.
Try to take a small moment each day entirely for yourself to do something you love to do. Even if you’re struggling to find joy in the things you used to love find a small space of time to do them anyway. For me it’s when my husband comes home, I hand Caterpillar over and he does his bath while I read, watch my favourite programme, play Candy Crush, colour or make loom bracelets (silly I know, but I find the repetitive nature of it really calms me). Or even just lie quietly on the bed. Whatever it takes to get some peaceful alone time.
Family, friends, online peers, local support groups, medical professionals – wherever you can find support please take it. Accepting help can be really difficult but let go of that guilt or discomfort and focus on getting better. My family is extremely supportive and I figure if I take their support when I need it I can, in turn, offer them support when I’m stronger and they are going through a difficult time, and that eases the guilt I feel.
11. Be as positive as you can
Being negative is my default setting and always has been, I’m a pessimist by nature. But if experiencing depression and anxiety has taught me anything it’s that negative thinking gets you nowhere and, in fact, only makes you spiral deeper into despair or fear. I try to counteract every negative thought I have with a positive – sometimes this is fairly simple and other times it feels like I’m climbing a mountain but I keep going as it usually helps me feel better in the short-term, as well as a great long-term tool. Sometimes it feels like all you have is blind faith, but that’s okay, blind faith is better than dwelling on the darkness.
At the same time, don’t hide from your feelings or bury your negativity either. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you need to and forgive yourself but just try not to dwell on self-pity, guilt or fear too long before finding something positive to counter it.
Striking this delicate balance is still a big challenge for me but seeing the positive results inspires me.
Practically, planning small treats or trips to look forward to can help you to stay upbeat too. I’m not talking about anything big or costly, I like to plan a few enjoyable things into my week; meeting a friend for coffee, taking Caterpillar to a toddler class, meeting my parents for a picnic etc. It helps to have small things to look forward to.
12. “Three things”
I have done this for two years now, maybe not every day but often. Each morning write down three things you are grateful for, even if PND doesn’t let you feel that grateful right now. And each night write down three good moments from that day. This can seem like an impossible task when you’re in despair but there is almost always something that brings a brief moment of relief or happiness. For example, during my worst days one thing I wrote was “enjoying the taste of salmon at dinner time.” This seems odd I’m sure but I had been too anxious to have any appetite for days so enjoying the taste of something again felt like a breakthrough. Another was “my Godson asking me to play with him.” I likely didn’t have the energy or inclination to do it at the time but the mere fact that he wanted me to was my highlight that day. As I felt better, the joyful moments on my list became bigger. I found this technique gives me so much hope.
This isn’t a definitive list by any means. As I learn more and get stronger I’m sure I’ll find other methods too. Having tools in your pocket for dealing with anxiety and depression can empower you and give you confidence, which I personally believe is half the battle. Please feel free to share in the comments any other techniques that help you.
42 comments on “12 Tools For Managing Anxiety”
I too suffer from anxiety, and I think you’ve offered some very wonderful tips! At this time in my life, I’m working on #4. I’m trying to keep my mind on exactly what I’m doing in moment instead of thinking ahead to everything that’s on my to-do list. It’s definitely helping. A LOT! #AnythingGoes
Yeah that one is so incredibly important, it’s helping me a lot too. Thanks for reading and commenting xxx
This is really good advice, especially the CBT. I don’t think anxiety ever fully goes away but learning to manage it can have symptoms virtually non-existent 🙂
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
Lovely post! Particularly like no.11, as you can’t underestimate the power of positivity. Thank you for sharing! #TheList
Thanks for reading and commenting x
Great tips – I do suffer from anxiety when my hormones are in their bad place…the above definitely works and I have found two other things – supplements namely – really help – taking magnesium powder (in water) and HTP 5…thanks for sharing #TheList
Thanks for reading and sharing your tips 🙂
These all are fab techniques. I agree with you that acceptance is a very important one. Knowing that these feelings are normal, and wont harm you is a big step towards dealing with it.
Thanks! Yeah that’s a biggie x
Such great tips! I am going through some stuff at the moment and a tip from me would be to not bottle things up. I bottle everything up and then one day it all just bursts wide open and seems a million times worse! Thank you for sharing some tools for managing anxiety #picknmix
This is a great tip! Thanks for commenting x
Some really helpful tips here. I don’t suffer from anxiety but I am sure these tips are all useful in different ways at different points in our lives. In particular, I sometimes find it really difficult to be positive and I think mindfulness can really help improve positivity. I think your list would be really useful for people to use as coping strategies when they are having difficult times, whatever they may be. Thanks for sharing #PicknMix
I am finding it increasingly difficult to write about the Republicans without resorting to explicitly elnminatioiist rhetoric. I no longer only want them defeated at the ballot box, I want them to suffer. I want them bankrupted, dissolute, homeless, imprisoned, dependent on the mercy of the people at whom they now sneer.
Great post and tips. I too suffer from anxiety and it really is the most debilitating thing, so this post really resonated with me. Getting to know your triggers is so important, and for me physical activity really helps to alleviate it. It’s something that is always there but knowing how to minimise it makes such a difference (although getting to that point certainly takes time). #PicknMix
Thanks for your reply. Yes, physical activity can be really great for anxiety x
Some great tips and I’m glad you’ve found some good coping mechanisms I hope things continue to improve!
Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix
Really great post! I struggle with anxiety and have found practicing some of the advice on your list helpful, and some things I haven’t tried before. Thanks!
Thank you – glad it’s helpful 🙂
so glad I’ve read this. I’m going to follow these. I suffer a great deal with anxiety and have been trying to work out what I can do to cope better with it. thank you for this. #abitofeverything
No problem, I hope you find it helpful. Thanks for commenting 🙂
Hi, im back from #abitofeverything. I have been reading through your list again and one ot the things I really am not good at doing is facing my fears.
I dont like going out the house on my own, and becuase my fella only works 2 or 3 days a week (long shifts) I can manage appointments and things aroind him being home which is great but doesnt tackle my problems.
Thank you for linking up, Tracey xx
It is so difficult to overcome those fears. When T was a small baby I actually had the opposite problem – I hated being alone in the house with just me and him. I filled my days with visitors and activities but after having no choice eventually and forcing myself to stay in I felt a little better. Every time I faced something I was afraid of I felt a tiny bit stronger and triumphant. Eventually I kinda got addicted to that feeling and kept pushing myself – it helped hugely with the anxiety.
I still don’t love to be home alone all day with T as I get a little bored and frustrated (as does he!) and that makes my thoughts a little too loud and negative but I know now that I CAN and that nothing terrible happens, and sometimes awesome stuff happens, and that helps to reinforce my confidence. Thanks for commenting again, lovely x
I have been so beeledirwd in the past but now it all makes sense!
This is a great read. It’s only recently that I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety – its always been out down to plain old depression. But accepting myself and how I am meant I finally got a proper diagnosis. Am still working on things, some are better than others – e.g meds are going well, but could do with CBT. I will no doubt come back to this again and again x
Thank you, I’m so glad you found it helpful. CBT has worked wonders for me I must say, but it does take a lot of hard work. And just getting access to it can be a big challenge! I ended up going private in the end which I know isn’t an option for everyone, sadly. Thanks so much for reading 🙂 x
There’s some really thoughtful advice here. Someone close to me suffers mild depression, and I’ll be passing this along to them.
Thanks, I hope they find it helpful x
Great list! I struggle with being present a lot. I function in the future as a planner professionally and then that just being part of my personality. Bad part of that is it is all hypothetical which means I spend 99% of my time thinking about all the scenarios, stressing about all the things that can go wrong. I forget to be thankful and present in the moment I am in. Such a great reminder! #anythingBut
Thanks 🙂 That’s very much how I used to be. I was completely obsessed with the future – whether that be planning or worrying. After struggling with Anxiety I found I HAD to change my ways. It’s a slow process but it certainly helps to be more present. Thanks for commenting x
Excellent advice. I suffer from anxiety that has got much worse since my son’s diagnosis of autism. I am on the waiting list for cbt so this has some great stuff to try in the meantime #BloggersClubUK #abitofeverything #AnythingGoes
I hope it helps. And I must say CBT helped me enormously, I still use those techniques in my daily life x
These are fantastic tips. I especially like the one about accepting the anxiety rather than fearing it or fighting it – then watching it go. That’s a really great way to look at it! And, keeping positive. This is a really useful post, hun! Thanks so much for linking up to the first #BloggerClubUK, we really appreciate your support & hope to see you again this week x
That method has helped me to manage anxiety more than anything else. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂 Xxx
This is such a great list. I suffer from stress and anxiety and I have also learnt how to manage myself. Self care is a big one for me; looking after my health and not over-committing myself hugely help me keep on top of my mental health. I’m going through a stressful time at the moment and I’m finding that alcohol is a trigger so I’m going to stay away from it for a while. I’ve also just booked a holiday! Thanks for sharing your tips. Tor xx #thelist
I love his post. I have anxiety and depression as well. I love #6. It really does help to see that just because something scares you doesn’t mean you can’t. It really is empowering. Thank you for your advice 🙂
Great tips on managing anxiety – I especially like the idea of being comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s inevitable in life that we’ll experience moments that we’d rather not (like the experiences anxiety) and so it makes sense that the more we become used to this happening, the easier these moments can be for us. I think this also ties in with mindfulness practices by allowing thoughts and feelings to come and accepting them rather than pushing them away. Great post!
This is such a fantastic post! I’ve had depression and anxiety for over a decade now, and it really spiked when I had my son 20 months ago. It’s a hard road isn’t it? As unhelpful as it sounds, I must admit I am jealous of number 1 – when mine spikes, I can’t stop eating! Anything salty or sugary, which really isn’t helping my health, waistline or weight loss goals. But a drastic change in appetite is difficult no matter which way it goes. I am thinking I might give number 12 a go though! 3 things. Sounds like something I might find helpful right now.
Thank you for linking up with #MHLinky, hope to see you next week!