As I round out my second victory lap of undergrad, I have become very acclimatized to generalized, constant anxiety. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2018 after battling it for a few years without any type of outside aid, and it had reached the point of being crippling. I was unable to leave my room for hours or even days once triggered, and I cried into my pillow so often that the sight of mascara stains on any fabric — even today — sends me spiraling. Therefore, after I got home and realized that life was indeed worth living, I had to come up with coping mechanisms to curtail that anxious mental poisoning. I know “list journalism” is lazy, and I know I’ve done a lot of it on this here blog. You know what? People seem to respond well to this format, and it’s easy for my worn-out brain. Sue me. I’m going to list some things I do to self-soothe when I feel the black hand of existential dread and stress wrap its cold fingers around my neck. These suggestions probably won’t be too revelatory, but they work for me.
- take a walk — Do you have just ten minutes? Sometimes I just walk up and down my street a few times, getting that good air in my lungs. The simple act of ambulating forces your brain to shunt energy away from the central nervous system and thereby forces you to get out of your head-prison. If you’re really on your A game, then exercising is a surefire way to work out some anxiety, but I’m a lazy dingus who doesn’t like to accelerate past a leisurely stroll.
- go on youtube and find a good guided self-hypnosis video like this one by Michael Sealey — This really helps me work on my anxiety-induced insomnia, but there are daytime options as well. I got into hypnosis in 2019 and immediately felt bamboozled. How could this magic process have existed for so long without my knowing how easily and readily it could benefit me? I’ve always found strict mindfulness/meditation to be difficult, but hypnosis is much easier for me to engage in. Within minutes, I go to sleep (if that’s the goal) or go into a trance-like state. It isn’t scary like the Sunken Place in Get Out though; it’s like floating into the astral plane on a warm cloud. I would highly suggest trying it.
- journal or write out a prayer — I know I’m a broken record when it comes to how much journaling has helped me along my journey toward mental stability, but getting my wadded up thoughts out on paper has saved my life on multiple occasions.
- I stole this next idea from The Help, but writing out my prayers has been majorly helpful as well. Thinking about a prayer as a letter addressed to God helps me communicate with Him honestly, clearly, and unabashedly. However you like to talk to God, you do you. I’ve just found that written word aids me in being clear and thoughtful about what exactly I say, and what I say is important when the recipient is the Big Man Upstairs. Manifesting is also much easier when your wishes are made concrete by putting them in writing.
- cuddling with my dog or teaching him new tricks — Animals of any kind are like therapeutic gifts from God. They fulfill every requirement of a good de-stressor; they are cute, loving, stable, predictable sentient creatures that can bring out your best maternal/paternal instincts. Allowing yourself quality time with your pets is so important for both of your health. Block out five minutes to really hang out with your dog.
- read a single chapter of a good book or a short story (I have several amazing recommendations if you are interested) — By limiting yourself to one chapter or short story, you are giving yourself a doable task that will be highly rewarding on the other end. You don’t have to commit yourself to something too daunting like Lord of the Rings or Anna Karenina. Read what interests you, not what makes you look like an intellect on social media. Don’t be afraid to keep it short! Just focusing your mind on some creative portal like a book for a few minutes will doubtlessly curb your anxiety. Every time.
- watch a good movie — Again, it doesn’t have to be Rashomon. Just watch something you like, and let it ~transport you~.
- replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones — If you do something like bite your nails or pull your hair out when anxious, then get a pointy crystal tower. Just trust me. I know it’s hippie, “woo-woo” stuff, but I have really enjoyed using my crystals as “Stevie Nicks stress balls.” Instead of picking at my nails, I put pressure on the end of a crystal tower with my thumb. That stimulus helps rewire my brain so as not to demand that I put myself through any amount of unhealthy pain in order to alleviate stress. There are infinite other examples of healthy coping mechanisms like poking a crystal but without the metaphysical witchy component, so find what works for you.
- go get a Strawberry Freeze from Taco Bell — They are selling Strawberry Lemonade Freezes right now, but with the Strawberry alone…it’s a game-changer. Trust me on this one.
- write a letter to a friend — Every so often I like to write my friends just to tell them how much they mean to me. It’s almost selfish because of how good it makes you feel.
- curate your perfect playlist for a certain mood or occasion — This is so fun to do. Just pick a theme, like Sunday morning or studying or private dance party, and really focus on honing the very best sequence of songs possible.
Sharing this might not help at all, but these actions do wonders for my anxiety. I promise. Can’t hurt to try one or two options! Also, my DMs are always open for those who are struggling with mental health stuff. Always. Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if we don’t know each other well.