The first time I ever felt feelings of anxiousness was around the time I was a freshman in college. Something about having to pack up my childhood room and now having to live 3+ hours away from my family and friends threw me for a complete loop. I lost a lot of weight, my thoughts paralyzed me from leaving my door room, I couldn’t focus in class, my grades suffered (which had never happened to me ever in my life) and I cried once a day for about 6 months. It was one of the toughest times in my life. From the time I realized there was an issue, I made some lifestyle adjustments like transferring schools and learned to cope with feelings of anxiousness the best way I could for those 4 years. Since then, I’ve been so much better, but my anxiety still comes to visit like a long-distance relative.
Now, I am no doctor by any means. I have no clinical definition of anxiety and I have never officially been diagnosed with anxiety, but to me, I experience feelings of anxiousness whenever I am faced with a situation or life decision that is uncontrollable or unpredictable. I have intense feelings whenever I think about if I made a bad decision in the past, how I am going to cope with what’s happening to me in the present or the uncertainty of what may happen in the future. I am pretty Type A for all intents and purposes of the definition. I love and crave control. I like things a certain way and if it doesn’t happen as such, anxiety comes. It’s when I experience the ability to control a situation being robbed from me that anxiety comes. It’s when I don’t know how to crawl my way out of an undesirable fate that life often throws at us that anxiety comes. There come slices of time in any given day where my mind often wanders and hypothesizes all these different scenarios. It completely throws me off track in that moment. I feel shortness of breath, very emotional, my heart races, I lose sleep and sometimes my line of vision can even become blurred. It can be debilitating and from what it seems, from personal stories and articles online, that my “case” is very mild. I can’t imagine what some others have to go through.
As my day job is very analytical, I find my critical thinking also becoming very analytical. I often ask myself why I am experiencing this feeling or what has happened to catapult me into this state. But rather than trying to pick apart the intricacies in what’s happening inside my head, over the years I have found coping mechanisms that ultimately bring me back down to Earth so to speak. Everybody’s experience with anxiety is so different and should be handled as so, but sometimes I think when we share stories of the practices that have helped us to cope, we can feel less alone and work towards the root of the cause.
Tip #1: It may sound crazy, but classical music has helped with my anxiety SO much. I used to be very musical in my childhood. I was in every school play, I could read music, I played the piano and I played the flute in my school’s symphony orchestra. I love music with purpose and that changes direction to take you on a magical journey. Whenever I feel anxious, one of the ways I try to relieve myself from those feelings is to play some of my favorite classical pieces. I take time to remove my thoughts from what’s currently going on and immerse myself into the sounds. I try to decipher each musical instrument being played and focus my mind on the tempo, crescendos and decrescendos to shift my focus on only what I am hearing at that moment. It removes me from life for just a few minutes, enough time for the anxiousness to pass, and by the time the song has ended, I feel better. Here are some of the playlists I listen to on Spotify:
Tip #2: Another way I’ve learned to cope with anxiety is to clean. I know it may sound odd but tidying up my room or even the files on my computer have helped alleviate feelings of anxiousness. There’s something about cleaning up the physical aspects of your life that help you feel more in control of the psychological ones. When you are clear in one area, the physical space around you, you have more time to clear the space in your head and work through your feelings.
Tip #3: The 5,4,3,2,1 rule has also helped me tremendously with fighting anxious feelings. You have probably seen this circulated on all social channels, but the 5,4,3,2,1 rule helps in going through the numbers in order to ground yourself in present thinking. Here is how it works: you start by acknowledging 5 things that you can see around you at that moment, then you identify 4 things you can touch around you at that moment, then 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This technique ultimately helps with symptom relief because after you have taken the time to identify these things in your physical surrounding you often will have taken long enough for the symptoms to pass.
I hope this helps anyone reading who too experiences or suffers from anxious feelings or anxiety. Our thoughts are almost always directly linked to how we are feeling at that moment. Although sometimes we can lose control of our thought process and where our mind takes us mentally, there are tools and cognitive exercises that we can enlist in our daily routine to pull us out of the hole we feel that we are falling into. I can promise you; those feelings may come but they will go away. You and your mind are strong enough to fight through those feelings. You totally got this, and I am here for you!