5 Things To Help Manage Anxiety

5 Things To Help Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is an uphill battle. Some days, you slay the hill. Others, you don’t get past the first step. This is completely normal. It’s okay to have bad days. Keep going. The fight is worth it.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I’m sharing my own personal experiences with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If your anxiety is impacting your ability to function or you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm, I urge you to contact a professional immediately.

If your anxiety has become unmanageable and you need help, contact the Anxiety Hotline 24/7

I’ve had anxiety my entire life, but it wasn’t until my diagnosis close to eight years ago it became unmanageable and I had to get help. My brain literally felt like it had imploded. I had such severe, crippling days I couldn’t leave the house – even after going on medication. I didn’t drive for over two years.

Eventually, I had to find additional ways to cope. These things really helped me. I hope they help you, too.

Beautiful beach manage your anxiety

1) Identify Your Triggers

When I first experienced anxiety, it manifested in everything. I couldn’t sleep because a terrifying man in a ski-mask was breaking into the house. All. Night. Long.

Some nights, a horde of other men in ski-masks joined him and they circled the house taunting me. I couldn’t walk anywhere alone for fear of someone attacking me. EVERYONE wanted to attack me. The 75 year old lady coming out of Pet Smart with a bag full of cat toys looked dangerous. If I flew, I was sure the plane was going to crash. It was in everything.

Over time, I began recognizing specific situations in which I experienced the most extreme anxiety or felt the symptoms of an impending panic attack. Everyone has triggers. My personal triggers are:

Driving –

I was in two roll over car accidents and my first massive panic attack happened while driving.

Too Much Noise –

Since my breakdown I can only handle so much coming at me at once. This can be voices, television, radio, traffic. If I’m already feeling overwhelmed it doesn’t take much. A pin dropping amidst other noise can send me over the edge.

Showers –

I know. This is horrible. No, I’m not a stinky, unshowered mess. I still take them. Every day. Almost. It’s really unfortunate because a lot of people reduce their stress in the shower. Not me. I’ve had multiple panic attacks in the shower and lost consciousness. Ceramic hurts.

Caffeine –

This is a sad one. I love coffee. Like Looooooove coffee. I mourn my hot steamy cup of Joe. And decaf just sucks. If anyone can suggest a brand of decaf that tastes like real, robust coffee, I’ll be forever grateful.

Anxiety itself –

Anxiety breeds anxiety. It’s a perpetual cycle. Have you ever read that saying, ‘my anxieties have anxieties’? It’s a thing.

Are you aware of your triggers? Identifying your triggers can help you to manage them and cope.

I like this article on triggers. Give it a read.

2) Communicate With Loved Ones

Communicating about mental health can be one of the most difficult yet important steps to recovering. Expressing your perceived limitations feels shameful and embarrassing.

When I first began managing my anxiety, I couldn’t go over to my parent’s house. Every time I walked through the door my mom bombarded me with all of the things we hadn’t talked about since our last visit. They came at me like missiles:

Did you email your aunt? A bill collector called. Are you taking care of X,Y, and Z? I miss you. Dad misses you. The cat misses you. See how she’s looking at you? See that expression? She really misses you. You don’t come over enough. Did you renew the tabs on your car? Are you still working out? I’m ready for your unborn child.

I swear she would write a list. I mean a literal list. Not even joking. I saw the magnetic grocery list pad on the table in the kitchen and my head immediately filled like a balloon about to pop.

I felt anxious just thinking about going there. It wasn’t because my parents were the actual trigger; they were unknowingly overwhelming me every time I walked through the door.

After avoiding them for a few months, I finally came clean. I was ready to share – that and the fact my mom’s guilt riddled voicemails were almost as bad as seeing her face to face.

I told her I couldn’t handle things the way I once could. My brain could only manage so much before going into overload. I needed her patience. I didn’t need The List. She didn’t completely understand, but things did change. The List disappeared. (Hallelujah!)

I’ve had to do the same thing with driving. I’ve lost some friends due to my driving anxiety. I’ll drive short distances, but I’d rather walk through burning hot coals with my face than drive the freeway during rush hour.

Communicating with others helps eradicate stigma. There are people who won’t understand and will deny you empathy or compromise. Quite simply, you don’t need such toxicity in your life.

3) Breathing, Water, and Fresh Air

These three things are staples for almost everyone with anxiety.

Breathing –

Try finding a counting method for deep breathing. Meditation. Yoga. Full, deep breaths in, complete exhale. Tell yourself it will pass. It will pass. More deep breathing.

Water –

Water, water, water. I take water literally everywhere. One of my first symptoms of anxiety is a dry mouth. Like extreme-cotton-mouth-my-tongue-might-actually-crack dry. If I have water on hand I can usually stave off the beast by drowning him. Water is good. Water is your friend.

Fresh Air –

Often, when I feel anxiety coming on, I take a swift walk around the block. I roll the window down in the car. Do that swoopy hand motion in the wind, stick my face in it like I’m motorboating the air. It helps every time.

5 no nonsense ways to help manage anxiety and other natural remedies to ease your mind www.themessybadass.com Ashley Allyn

4) Don’t Feel Weird About Your Coping Mechanisms

Like our cold, frosty friend says – it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. This is #1 on the list for me and something I desperately wish someone had told me.

When my anxiety first hit hard, I had no clue what was happening to me. It took a very long time to find coping mechanisms. I couldn’t find a handbook that worked for me. I searched. And searched. Many of the ‘suggested’ coping mechanisms just didn’t do it.

Some triggers for anxiety are avoidable; coffee, for instance, was an easy thing to cut out but I couldn’t very well stop showering. I mean, I could I guess, if I wanted to live a life alone with no friends, wearing animal skins up in the mountains, making guttural noises and dancing around a fire. I didn’t want that life. It’s cool for some people. No judgment here. Just not me. So I started doing some fairly bizarre things to tackle the tough stuff. We can’t avoid our triggers forever and we shouldn’t. So we cope.

I popped my ears a lot – stuck my fingers in there and jiggled them around until the pressure subsided.

I got belly down on the floor for my deep breathing.

When my initial panic attack sent me to the ER, I learned I was potassium deficient so I’d take supplements or slam a V8 if I felt light headed. (I still take potassium. I think it’s a big help)

A sudden midnight sprint around the block.

I sang and bounced around my house. (I’m a horrible singer and my hideous voice is extremely distracting)

Talking to myself.

Splashing cold water on my face while driving.

My last panic attack was 9 months ago. It lasted for hours. It was like a series of 6 or 7 in a row, back to back. Living Nightmare.

I was on vacation with a girlfriend – which is the most lame and ridiculous time to have an attack. At first it came on slow… then BOOM – my brain was in full-fledged freakout mode. I began pacing the pool deck talking to myself. This wasn’t enough, so I jumped into the pool and started bouncing around, flapping my arms in the air like I was a super enthusiastic new water aerobics instructor. In a scary way.

My friend came out of the house, and when she saw me her eyes immediately bugged out of her head. This freaked me out more. We were literally mere minutes from a trip to a hospital.

“Pretend like this is normal!” I yelled. “Say something funny!”

This girl totally gets me. Her expression changed as quickly and flawlessly as an award winning actress and she goes, “Yeah! Get it girl! Jazzercise in the pool! Get after it! Your boobs look great, by the way. Want me to take your class? I can get in if you want.”

Thank you, Universe, for friends like these. After I’d burned about a million calories jazzercising in the pool, I forced her to listen to the same music play list 6 times in a row – because I couldn’t handle hearing anything else.

Moral of the story? I got through it. Sure, I looked like a weirdo, but I don’t give a rat’s ass. I survived. Second moral of the story? Make more friends like these.

Anxiety can be completely debilitating. If you find coping mechanisms that work, distract your brain, get after it. As long as you’re not hurting anyone or yourself, who cares if you do weird stuff to manage your own anxiety? If these things help you to face your fears head on or stave off a panic attack, go for it. Sometimes, all of the ‘normal’ advice just doesn’t work. Sometimes, inhaling and exhaling ten times or the grounding method doesn’t do it. Sorry, not sorry.

Some common, less weird soothers for anxiety are:

Essential Oils



Soft lighting

Your ‘feel good’ Music


A good night’s sleep

A hot shower or bath (I like the bath)

Herbs such as St. John’s Wort, Valerian Root, Chamomile, Lemon Balm

A hug or touch from someone who loves you

These things are great, especially if they work for you, but if it takes getting a little weird to get through it – get weird, baby. Weird is cool. #NoShame

Anxiety feels like the splitting of the mind into two different people.

We’re getting our asses kicked – and we are super aware we’re getting our asses kicked – by ourselves. It’s completely exhausting. But we shouldn’t stop living. We should never stop fighting. More and more, the rational you starts doing the ass kicking.

5) Get Help

If you are finding that your anxiety is impacting your ability to function or you are experiencing thoughts of self harm, seek medical attention. If it’s too hard to make the call on your own, ask someone to help you. I made the mistake of suffering in silence, thinking I was alone. For a long time I was convinced I was crazy.

You are not alone. You are not crazy.

Millions of people have anxiety – studies suggest one in five people in the United States alone, and a great portion of them remain untreated.

Personally, I need medication. I never thought I would be in this position but TAA-DAA! Here I am. I attempted going off medication and it was a baaaad idea. Maybe I’ll always need it and that’s okay. Maybe I’ll always cope with weird stuff and that’s okay. It’s okay for you, too.

Search out support groups on social media, therapy, whatever it takes. The most important thing is to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the better it feels and we let others know they are not alone, either.

The AADA has a list of support groups.

Related posts in The Messy Badass:

My Brain Broke

Anxiety Letters

Additional blog:

I contributed a small piece to Jen’s impressively comprehensive post about anxiety on her blog, Stumbling Around The World.

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