Living with Anxiety: 3 Ways To Help You Cope

Anxiety is toxic. In the last few years, it's become a huge part of my life and it's become harder and harder to keep my head above water when the anxiety is always there, yanking me back down.  It can so easily take over. More often than not, it controls my day-to-day life. 

Medication helps - so does counselling. But today I'm sharing three practical ways to help you handle your anxiety. They sometimes work for me, and I hope that they can make a difference in your life.

Please Note: These are all practical tips I've found helpful. Please don't assume they can be applied instead of seeking professional medical help. None of these tips are officially medically approved.

I hate talking about my feelings. I get this mental block whenever I try to do it. It's partly because I'm an introvert, and partly because I'm an INFJ. If I ever actually get close to sharing my feelings, I'll usually write them down. I don't vocalise well. 

However, talking does help. If you don't talk about your anxiety, if you don't tell someone how you're feeling or what you're struggling with, the anxiety will poison you from the inside out. It's suffocating, and it's not healthy. It's a constant squirming weight inside of you. 

When I went to a counsellor and told her everything - the first time I'd ever opened up to someone like that - the relief was immediate and incredible. Of course, it didn't get rid of my anxiety, but I couldn't believe the difference. Just vocalising my stress, unpacking all of my anxiety and internal made me feel lighter. It was like that crushing weight had been lifted. 

A counsellor is one thing, but the reasons I find it hard to tell other people about my anxiety? One, it makes me feel extremely vulnerable. I feel uncomfortable with someone knowing all of my innermost thoughts. Two, it's a lot to unpack, a lot to say, and I'm too quick to decide that the benefits aren't worth it. Lastly, I tell myself that it's not worth sharing, that no one will actually care, and that I can - I will - cope by myself. 

Talking does bring relief. I just need to be brave enough to do it more often. The mental block might feel unsurmountable, but trust me, sharing with someone could be the best thing you ever did. Don't make the mistake I constantly do. Please, tell someone.   

When you're feeling anxious, be acutely aware of that feeling. Try determine the trigger - the situation, the person, the exact moment you began to feel like you did. Maybe it was when you heard you had a job interview. Or when your friend said something insulting. Or when your partner asked if you could handle a phone call for them.

When you've determined the trigger, write it down. Draw out a mind map tracing the trigger to the feeling you're feeling now, and add to that map as you dig into your feeling, into your anxiety, and trace all the avenues of different emotions you're feeling in that moment.

Visuals can help you unpack your emotions and understand them. Sometimes, they can even decrease your anxiety because they make it seem more manageable.

Anxiety makes our minds go crazy. We can't settle, we can't relax, we either can't stop crying or we can't sit still or we lash out at the people around us because inside, we're a mess. What do we desperately need? Control. We need to breathe. We need to focus. We need to be able to look at our situation and take it in without hyperventilating. That's why this method works so well for me.

In a nutshell: focus on the details. You could lie down, close your eyes, be aware of every limb and the exact position of your body, and let your mind slowly expand and branch out. Become hyper aware of your physical situation; here's an example: "I'm in bed, in my bedroom, my parents are just down the hall, next to the kitchen, my house is in this particular neighbourhood, I'm in this state...." And if you're anxious about a certain upcoming event, include that in your process: "...and just down the road is that store, where I'll have my job interview next week. It's a big store, and it's got a thatch roof...." Etc etc.

See what I'm doing? I'm being hyper aware of details, I'm focusing on those details, and I'm processing those details slowly, one bit at a time, in order.

This may seem totally weird, but it's an exercise that helps me. Think of it like getting into a freezing swimming pool. The water's cold, so you dip your feet in. Then, you get in up to your knees. Then, you slowly wade out. Eventually, you get your head under. Finally, you're immersed in the water. And guess what: it's not so cold anymore! It's the same way with anxiety. The more you examine it, the more used to it you become. The more prepared you feel. It's a stark contrast to what anxiety makes us want to do: avoid the situation altogether.

Processing your situation at a gradual pace can help you gain control of it. Or at least, it gives you that illusion. It can calm you down, because you're absorbing everything that's going on in a slow, gradual manner, compared to the usual whirlwind of anxiety that forces your mind to bounce in every direction. This method allows you to focus and see your situation one step at a time. You're basically looking at it from a distance, and then zeroing in at a pace that allows you to get used to it.

The important thing is to zoom in - or out - slowly. Remember to breathe. It's all about control. It's about giving you that illusion of control, so that your situation appears manageable.

How do you generally cope with your anxiety? Have you found any of these methods helpful?