I remember the first anxiety attack I ever had.
I was sitting on the top deck of a bus, on my way to college so I must have been about 16.
It hit me out of nowhere.
I had my headphones in, listening to music one minute, and the next minute I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I felt like I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs, no matter how much I tried to breathe.
Then I started to feel paranoid that I was breathing really loudly and other people on the bus could hear me, so I took my headphones out.
Then I became aware of the fact that my heart was racing.
Then I remembered that I had drunk a cup of coffee pretty quickly before I’d left the house.
Then I started panicking that I’d drank the coffee so fast that the caffeine was making my heart beat out of my chest, there was nothing I could do to slow it down and I’m thinking that I really am about to pass out on this bus surrounded by strangers.
Strangers who are probably watching me freak out on this bus and thinking I’m a lunatic.
I’m fully aware that this sounds ridiculous and none of it makes sense.
But that’s the thing about anxiety – it never makes sense. It doesn’t ask for permission. It doesn’t need a reason.
This post has been a long time coming. I don’t like talking about anxiety (does anyone?!) but every time I mention it on my Instagram I get so many messages from people who can relate. It seems like more and more people are struggling with anxiety.
So I figured that this would be the week that I man up and start talking about it. If I can help even ONE person who reads this find relief from anxiety, it’s totally worth it.
Plus, I think I’ve pretty much kicked its ass now, so it would be rude not to share how?!
I’m not going to lie – there are no quick fixes on this list of tips I’m about to share with you. It took me a long time of building these habits to go from the girl freaking out on the top deck of a bus, to the empowered, strong woman I feel like I am today.
The good thing is, they’re all simple and actionable life changes that you can make today to finally get that relief you’ve been looking for.
This is all opinion and based on my own experiences. I am not a mental health professional, but making these changes really did improve my quality of life and I hope they will do the same for you if you’re struggling. <3
1. I stopped affirming anxiety over my life
I know you’re supposed to save the gold till last but if you only read one tip I want it to be this. This is the best thing I ever did for myself.
I stopped describing myself as an anxious person.
I stopped talking about ‘my’ anxiety.
Anxiety became something I experienced from time to time, not something ‘I have‘. See the difference?
I stopped allowing anxiety to define who I was.
It’s part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to write this post. I don’t focus on anxiety anymore. I focus on growth, change and improvement. Those are things that I want to be associated with.
‘I am’ and ‘I have’ are extremely powerful words. What follows them can shape and define your life, because what you focus on becomes your reality.
If you continue to affirm things like ‘I am an anxious wreck’ or ‘I have so many problems’…well, life is going to hear you and give you a double serving of it. Because anxiety isn’t something we speak about lightly or throw in as a passing comment – statements like that often come with a lot of feeling and emotion behind them and feelings and emotions are the driving force behind manifestation.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak about anxiety. But you should be mindful of the way you speak about it.
Watch how much power you allow it to have over your life.
Instead of simply stating that “I have anxiety”, I started saying things like, “I’m feeling uncomfortable/scared/worried (insert negative emotion here) right now, because…(insert cause here)”
I began to identify and describe the emotions that were coming together as a whole to form what we know as ‘anxiety’. I began to break the word down into what it really was that I was feeling. I took the word apart and that made me feel like it didn’t have so much power.
Does that make sense?
Whether it does or it doesn’t, here’s the bottom line: anxiety doesn’t define who you are. When you focus on it, you give it power.
You can’t ignore it, but you can stop affirming it over your life by choosing your words carefully.
Affirmations to help with anxiety
2. I stopped doing things that made me feel anxious
Sounds obvious, right?
But how many times have you said yes to something when deep down, you wanted to say no?
How many times have you put someone else’s wellbeing and emotions before your own, because you didn’t want to upset that person?
I believe that anxiety tells us when we’re around people, in places or doing things that don’t align with who we really are. Anxiety is your soul’s way of telling you: ‘No more. I don’t like this.’
Here are 2 words we need to get comfortable with saying for ourselves:
No & Enough.
This will bring you so much peace. And that’s not just when you say them to other people. You need to start saying these words to yourself too.
I used to work out at a gym that had an Instagram page, and they’d post daily photos of their members. They had these perfectly toned, amazing bodies and I’d scroll through the photos wishing I looked like them.
As a result, every time I walked into that gym, I felt insecure.
I felt inadequate.
I felt uncomfortable.
Honestly, my heart would race every time I walked through the doors. Going there clearly did not sit well with something inside me. Yet, I told myself I was being silly and I’d force myself to go there and feel those horrible feelings at least three times a week, until one day I said to myself: ‘enough’.
Cancelling that membership was one of the most empowering things I ever did for myself.
You are in control. If something isn’t aligning with you, remove it from your space.
3. I got to know myself better
So much of anxiety is feeling unsure. Unsure of yourself, unsure of the people around you, unsure of your safety.
So I spent some time really exploring my personality and getting to know myself better. As a result, I began to feel more confident in myself and the decisions I made.
Journaling helped with this a lot – but I’ll get into that later on in the post.
I also took a Myers-Briggs personality test – for fun, but it actually ended up doing me so much good. See, 90% of the time I am super-outgoing, chatty and great with speaking to people I don’t know. 10% of the time I am painfully shy, socially awkward and uncomfortable meeting new people.
Those 10% times were horrible, I hated feeling so unsure of myself, wanting so badly to speak and be confident but being frozen with fear. The more experiences like that I had, the more I began to focus on that 10% every time I went out and started to feel really anxious in social situations, in case I’d get like that again.
I honestly forgot that 90% of the time, I loved meeting new people.
When I took this personality test and the results confirmed me as a highly sociable person who loved being around others, I didn’t believe it at first. But after taking multiple different tests and getting the same results, I started to remember the 90% of times where I was extremely outgoing, the side of me that could easily talk to strangers without a care in the world.
Now I focus on the 90% and it’s made such a difference to how I feel.
This is just an example of how learning about myself helped me to shift my focus to the parts of my personality that helped me to thrive and feel more confident – there’s nothing wrong with being shy or introverted. For me personally, I just wasn’t focusing on my strengths. You might discover something totally different about yourself.
Learning more about my personality led me to study astrology, which led me to a book called Astrology for the Soul which totally changed my world (I’m going to get into detail about this book in another post soon – it’s amazing).
In a nutshell, the book describes your purpose and how you can achieve it by enhancing your strengths and working on your weaknesses, which are based on your North node placement (in your birth chart). This is how I began to implement tip #4.
4. I started setting goals for myself
I used to hate setting goals, but my North node placement revealed that I actually needed to set myself goals to thrive, so I started by making a small monthly commitment to myself. It was to wake up at 5:45 every other day and work out.
When I actually achieved it at the end of the month without skipping any days, that was a huge boost in confidence. So I continued to set myself more small goals, and my confidence continued to grow as I achieved them.
So goals are a big part of my life now. How does this help with anxiety?
It gives me something else to focus on – focus is a big part of anxiety and switching what we focus on is a major key.
It builds my confidence – anxiety is that little voice we all have in our heads that is constantly telling us what we can’t do. Every time I achieve a goal it reminds me of what I can do when I put my mind to it.
Essential Oils to help with anxiety
5. I started journaling regularly
You know those days where you just feel really crap and there doesn’t even seem to be a reason why?
Journaling can help with that.
You know when thoughts are just racing through your mind so fast that it’s impossible to process them?
Journaling can help with that too.
It can bring you so much clarity.
Even if you pick up a pen and feel like you have nothing to write or that you don’t know where to start, trust me, as soon as that pen touches the paper the words will flow.
You’ll surprise yourself.
Thoughts will come out on that sheet of paper that you didn’t even know you were thinking.
It doesn’t have to be all ‘Dear Diary’. Far from it. Just grab that pen and write the first thing that comes to your mind and the rest will follow. And once those thoughts are out on paper, you’ll feel relief.
Don’t be afraid to get deep with yourself when you journal. Really explore and get to the bottom of your thoughts.
Enjoy the process.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s saved me by helping me to understand a situation better, stopped me from sending a stupid text or just gave me a way to offload at 3 am when there’s no one else to call.
6. I started meditating regularly
Nothing is more calming and peaceful than sitting in total stillness, especially when you’ve been feeling anxious.
The times when I’m meditating regularly are the times when I’m most inspired. That’s no coincidence.
When the mind is quiet and still, you can be more receptive. Meditation stops the anxious chatter and allows the messages we actually need to be heard clearly.
When you’re meditating, you’re not worrying, you’re not panicking, you’re not beating yourself up about anything…you’re just being. Present. In the moment. And sometimes we really, really need that with all the stuff going on around us.
If you’re easily distracted during meditation, like me, – try this.
7. I started exercising
I hated exercising for most of my life. I would drag myself to the gym, hate every minute of my workout and then struggle to keep up a regular routine when I could no longer motivate myself to do something I dreaded every day.
But our bodies need exercise, and if you’re struggling with anxiety, you need it even more.
Changing my mindset towards exercise was the first step to really beginning to enjoy it.
I started looking at exercise as something to do, not to be skinny, or to have a six-pack, but something to challenge and improve myself.
I started looking at it as a form of self-love – our bodies are like machines, working so hard to keep us alive every single day. Why not work on it and make it as strong and healthy as it could be?
I started looking at exercise as something to be grateful for. There are people in the world, with disabilities and injuries that would dream of being able to exercise. I should appreciate the fact that I can. It’s a blessing.
And so it took me a long time and a lot of experimenting, but I finally found an exercise regime I enjoyed.
Then I noticed something. The days where I was up at 6 am to work out were the days I was bursting with energy, the days I felt like I could handle anything. The days I didn’t work out weren’t quite the same.
And of course, the stronger my body gets, the more confident I feel.
The more confident I feel, the less anxiety is even a factor.
Find what works for you and stick to it – even getting out the house and going for a walk every other day could do so much good.
8. I started being mindful of what I allowed in my space
I spent less time watching TV, less time scrolling through Instagram, less time reading news articles about the state of our planet and all the horrible things happening and started reading more uplifting material, listening to podcasts, filling my mind with inspirational content that made me feel hopeful and positive, instead of anxious and scared.
It’s so important to watch what you let into your space.
The little small things that you don’t even realise are affecting you can add up to something much bigger.
Like the news, I found that my mindset was much more negative when I used to watch it. And yes, there are awful things happening in the world, but there are also beautiful things happening too. The negative always seems to win our focus though, which means we have to make a conscious effort to shift our focus to the positive too.
Pay attention to the environment you spend the most time in – make an extra effort to make that a peaceful and calming place.
Energy is real, it’s everywhere and it can affect us more than we realise. I always feel amazing after a good decluttering session – I find it creates space for energy to move and flow which lightens things up around you.
Also, I love to diffuse essential oils and burn incense to create a relaxing environment.
I recently made an inspiration board for my room. I filled it with some of my favourite quotes and sayings, and some lovely messages I’ve received from some of you guys – and every time I look at it, it raises my vibration.
Keep things around you that make you feel good. Have a calming place, whether it’s your whole house or a room or area in your house, that you can retreat to when things get a little stressful.
Getting serious about protecting my energy was another huge key to reducing anxiety.
9. I found somewhere to direct my energy
My passion is what you’re reading right here. My blog.
Writing has always been my escape since I was a little girl.
Dedicating time to a hobby or passion you have on a regular basis is a good way to combat anxiety by channelling all that restless, antsy energy into something productive. So what do you love to do?
If you haven’t found your passion yet – explore. Try different things until something clicks. At least you’ll have fun and get to know yourself in the process.
When you’re in the zone, doing something you love, there’s no time to think. There’s no time to worry.
I remember, during a particularly anxious time in my life, I was working in a job that I hated. I felt trapped. I didn’t write at all during that period. I had no outlet for all the negative energy and emotions I was feeling, so I was just overreacting, lashing out.
I had so much time to worry and be anxious.
The more time you make to spend doing the things you enjoy, that happier you’ll feel overall.
10. I focused on my breathing
If I’m ever in a situation where I feel very uncomfortable or anxious, I stop and take a long, deep breath in, until I can’t inhale anymore.
I hold for a second or two.
Then I slowly exhale it all out until I feel my shoulders relax and my stomach expand. I repeat this three more times, and then I find that all those symptoms of anxiety that I would experience, like shaking, have calmed down.
It’s really hard to remember to do this, but the first few times you do it and see results, you’ll remember. If you need to be discreet, you can make it less obvious by keeping your eyes open or doing something with your hands to divert attention.
You know, I’m a pretty good driver, but I failed my test 3 times – all because of silly mistakes I made due to nerves. The night before my fourth test, I Googled, ‘How to not be nervous during driving test’ and an article about deep breathing came up and just made so much sense to me.
The entire duration of my 4th driving test, I practised this technique and I passed. I must have looked like a total fruit loop to the examiner, but I didn’t care. I just wanted so badly to feel calm, and focusing on my breathing was all it took.
When our minds are racing, it’s hard to remember to just breathe. But that’s normally the one thing we need to do.
11. I stopped making excuses
I just started doing things before the anxiety could kick in and tell me that I couldn’t or I shouldn’t.
I stopped using anxiety as an excuse and decided that life was too short to let it hold me back.
I hit publish on that blog post before I could start worrying about people hating it.
I got in the car and hit the gas before I could panic about crashing and dying. (I’m actually serious – I used to feel extremely anxious about driving and it was more than new driver nerves – my heart would beat out of my chest every time I got in the car!)
I just stopped thinking so damn much. Because when you’re dealing with anxiety, thinking can very easily cross the line into overthinking, and then things just never get done.
12. I focused on solutions instead of problems
It’s very easy to sit around thinking about all the problems you have and how many things are going wrong when shit hits the fan. Life will do that sometimes – you know, throw 10 different things at you at once.
But dwelling on the problems or feeling sorry for yourself changes nothing. It only makes you feel worse.
In situations like this, I’ve found the best thing to do is focus on the solutions rather than the problems.
When something goes wrong, I make a list of possible solutions or actions I could take that would at least make me feel better, even if they won’t immediately solve the problem. Then I commit to doing at least one of the things on that list.
Taking action is so important. And I thought about not writing that because it sounds so obvious. But then I thought about all the people I know who complain about feeling trapped, yet haven’t even taken a moment to sit down and figure out what they could do to help their situations.
And I get that because problems can weigh you down and it can be hard to focus on anything else when there’s a big issue in your life.
But taking the time to figure out how you can solve it gets the ball rolling, the universe moving and the energy shifting.
It’s the first conscious step you can take towards a better place.
Crystals to help with anxiety
13. I made self-care a huge priority
Last but not least – I really stepped up the self-care.
I made sure I got plenty of me-time to help me recharge and reset my energy.
I have a friend who’s been dealing with a lot of stress lately and neglecting her self-care. She recently started taking daily evening walks and having baths. As a busy Mum, she didn’t think she had time for self-care but she found a way to fit it in. These 10-minute walks gave her something to look forward to in the evenings and made her feel a million times better.
A 10-minute walk might sound like nothing, but to her, it was a major breakthrough.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can calm us and make us feel good. You just have to find what works for you.