I first knew I had a problem with anxiety over a decade ago. Fresh from stay-at-home Momhood, I was prompted to finish my degree after my husband had an ATV accident resulting in a hip fracture. I was in a computer class full of people, most of them younger and hipper than me, we were in the midst of some sort of activity, and I was forced to stand up and speak. With jelly knees, I stood, preparing to deliver, when my mind went completely blank. After a bit of an awkward pause, I opened my mouth to say something and my voice shook so badly, I heard someone whisper, “Oh, she’s nervous.” It wasn’t long before anxiety attacks hit on the regular – complete with shortness of breath and quivery insides. Had I any other good option, the ensuing episodes triggered by class presentations would have prompted me to drop my plans to teach.
However, that was not what God had in mind. Somehow, one of my biggest concerns at the time was appearing normal. After 10 years as a housewife, college skills were no longer part of my wheelhouse. I was so far out of my comfort zone I literally shook from the inside out. The more I tried to act “normal”, the more anxious and overwrought I became. Other than being a writer (hey, blog world), I had only ever wanted to become an educator. But, how could someone who was a basket of nerves at the mere suggestion of public speaking get up in front of others to engage on a daily basis?
I’d like to be able to tell you I did it all on my own. I did not. The truth is the only way to move forward in the set of circumstances in which I had landed was prayer and medical help; this was the best decision I’ve made regarding my mental state and career options. I have been teaching for the last 10 years! Turns out I vibe with middle school students much better than college-age adults. That said, it is far from easy. I acknowledge this to push back on the idea of being “normal.” No one should feel less than for seeking help with mental issues. It is so important to support each other and reduce stigmas regarding the difficulties of living in this fast-paced world.
Case in point: this week has not sparked joy. For reasons I choose not to divulge here, I can only say that it’s challenging to quiet my mind. In light of being genuine, I want to share some of my strategies for managing anxious days and navigating through them.
Anxiety Push Backs
- Deep breathing – try this: Name 5 things you can see, breathe. Name 4 things you can feel, breathe. Name 3 things you can hear, breathe. Name 2 things you can smell, breathe. Name 1 thing that makes you happy, breathe.
- Any form of exercise. Go for a walk, go to the gym, do some yoga. Movement is good to quiet the mind.
- Hot showers. There is nothing like a shower to reset you…it is truly therapeutic to wash the day and whatever is giving you anxiety away.
- Petting, brushing and playing with your pets. Pets are like babies – they help you forget the outside world for a bit.
- Read something. Reading books transports you; a story gets you out of your head and current mode of thinking.
- Nap. Naps are glorious and can be the cure for many things that trigger the anxious mind.
- Tidying. I become even more anxious if my space is too cluttered.
- Going outside/sitting on the porch. Guys, nature is medicine…take as often as needed.
- Disconnect – especially from the news and social media.
- Take care not to ingest too much caffeine. It will make you irritable and jumpy.
- A change of scenery. Go for a drive, take a stroll, visit someone uplifting.
- Attack the trigger. If your trigger is crowded elevators, keep taking them until you desensitize yourself and they no longer bother you. This worked for me regarding public speaking. I still don’t love it, but I can speak to an audience of adults when necessary.
What are your go-to calming methods? Please comment and share with me. The checklist below will help you reflect on how you are progressing in managing anxiety. Whether you’re naturally high strung like me or you struggle with excessive worrying, all of these strategies are key in developing a quiet mind in these trying times.