Anxiety is a weird illness. It changes how you think about things and can make tiny little things like talking to someone (even a friend) over the phone seem like hell. It can make you panic over things that other people may be able to just do without really thinking about. It can ruin your day and make you tired and run down faster than other people.
My coping methods range from day to day and from fear to fear. For example, I wouldn’t use the same strategy to calm down if I was anxious about meeting a friend in public and for worrying about the future and my GCSE exam choices. Different fears require different methods and plans to push away the worry and stop the anxiety taking over before it is too late.
Call Someone You Love
When I’m in public alone, for example waiting for a bus or waiting to meet up with a friend, I like to call someone – often a very close friend, relative or significant other. This means instead of focusing on the fact people might be watching you, it allows you to concentrate on the conversation you are having.
Listen To Music
If a phone call isn’t available, why not download some calming music or a podcast, or even listen to voice messages from a special someone? I find this one does help, especially if I’m going to be out for a longer period of time.
Create an Alter Ego
Another thing I do quite frequently for almost all situations where I feel anxious, nervous or scared is pretend to be someone else. Have a persona you can slip into when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it allows you to think like your imaginary person would think; try and create their appearance, name and character very strongly in your mind. Think like Beyoncé and create your own Sasha Fierce! A person who is confident, maybe. Of course, they could be similar to you; the idea is that by using an alter ego, you can become that imaginary person and eliminate anxiety through this. I use a person called Iona who is super confident and never gets into awkward or anxiety-inducing situations, and by trying to impersonate her I have become less nervous at attending things such as pantomimes and shows. She has never had a last name, though…
I created a whole post on using an alter ego to prevent anxiety and also to become more self-confident. You can read it here:
Have a Worry Box
I talked about having a worry box inspired by a book called What To Do When You Worry Too Much in a previous post, but I’m going to mention it again as it really did work for me. Think up a large box, or find a real one, up to you. Then imagine putting your worry and anxiety into that box. Use padlocks to secure the box and ensure your worry isn’t going to get out. You should aim to keep the worry sealed in that box for a few hours, or your entire day. Then, find a friend or parent who you can talk to for 5-15 minutes about the worry and how you managed to keep it inside the box. If it was really difficult, have shorter periods of time in which the worry should stay concealed. Talking about the worry will help you understand the fear you’re dealing with. I have tried this before and it does work, but I felt that shorter periods of time do work, and for smaller things, for example feeling nervous about a very specific thing. It should keep your mind off how you feel and allow you to relax.
Be Rational and Strategic
For days where you feel anxious about every little detail of your life, try being rational and think about the worst possible outcome. I like thinking about the most positive outcome and the worst outcome and finding a happy medium; for an example, if you are worrying about the loss of a loved one, yes it is possible they may die on that exact day. But it is also incredibly unlikely that someone you know will die on that day, or even in the near future, if you take an average human being. If there are 65 something million people in this country alone, think of the chance that someone you know will die. Zero to none. However, if this kind of thinking makes you even more anxious, use another strategy.
Use Breathing Techniques
I remember once when I was in the car with my family, headed to Scotland on holiday. Suddenly, distracted maybe by the amicable chatter or the radio, we made a wrong turn. After finding a drive to turn around in to continue the journey, we were reversing back onto the road to turn around; it was quiet, so the manoeuvre wasn’t difficult. But my dad, who was driving, stepped on the accelerator which shot the car backwards, off the drive and down a slight hill leading to a river. I immediately start panicking, as my anxiety is often worse on long journeys or holidays because of unknown surroundings and how I can envision many things possibly going wrong. This only stresses out my dad more, but seeing as the wheels spun whenever he tried to drive up the hill and back on the road, it was fair enough to be anxious. There could have been many other conclusions that weren’t so simple.
It turned out that a lovely family with a rope pulled into the drive, attached our car to the rope and helped us up onto the road again. I remember almost crying tears of joy when they stopped by to help because such a nice couple actually existed, and nothing worse could happen.
During times where I feel like I am actually going to either burst into tears, crack under pressure or start screaming, I use different techniques to calm down and try to remember that it is okay to panic but I can do things to stop it. One of the most useful things to do if you feel like you might have a panic attack is to try and think about 5 things you can hear, smell, taste, touch and see. There are also many breathing techniques that you can use to really calm yourself, slow your heart rate and just remind yourself that everything really will be okay.
Here’s a shortlist of some of the breathing techniques I use when I’m anxious:
- Count to 5 slowly whilst breathing in, then count to 3 when breathing out
- Focus on slowing your breathing, and try to concentrate purely on that
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
Once, when I was at a theme park, I remember feeling so claustrophobic in the queue for a ride that I wanted to waste the 40-minute wait and run home. But instead, I watched the ride complete it’s journey around the track, listened to the screams of the people on the ride and the amicable conversations around me, felt the wind cut across my face and mess up my hair, smelt the fast food being sold almost everywhere around the resort, and touched my boyfriend’s hand as he squeezed mine just before we entered the ride. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything to taste but improvisation filled the last gap. This really helped me calm down because I could think of the normal, safe things around me and focus on those instead of worry about the mob of people surrounding us – and hey, the ride was definitely worth the wait in the end!
Again, at a school event where there were hundreds of people all crowded in one hall, I took my mind off my anxiety and looked for people I knew. Searching the half-lit hall for familiar faces did distract me and also meant I knew I was surrounded by kind people as opposed to strangers who simply attend the same school as me. If you ever feel anxious or panicky about being at a big social event, try to look around and count the people you know. If there aren’t any, simply look around at everyone’s faces and try to relax by watching other people go about their day, whether it be at a concert, show or sporting event. One thing that I find very useful in big places is to find a few people in particular and create stories for those people, create a name, dream house, storyline and you’re done. Make up the details of your novel as you try breathing exercises; this one is so helpful for me and I can think of so many times this has come in handy!
If you feel anxious in social places, including shopping trips or sightseeing on holiday, I like to treat myself to some good self-care before I go; a confidence boost, maybe. For example, before meeting friends for shopping, I bought false nails and applied these to add to my appearance because they not only help with my self-esteem and confidence but also add to the description and characterisation of your own alter ego! If they are super fashionable and wear makeup, buy a new highlight or an eyeshadow and try it out when you next go out with the girls. This really does help me, even smaller touches like wearing a little more makeup or having an especially colour coordinated outfit.
I hope this gives you a few starters if you’re looking to look after yourself a little more, confront your anxiety or depression, or simply feel a bit more in control. Please leave a like or a comment if this helps!