Four Ways to Cope with Anxiety

February 9, 2017

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Since I was 12 years old, I’ve struggled with anxiety. It’s come in the form of panic attacks, overwhelming fear, forgetfulness and most of all, mood swings. Before I learned to control these through medication and the other coping methods below, I could be happy as a clam and the next minute, the slightest thing would send me into a rage.

Imagine if you will, making a call to the local pharmacy. I’ve called the line and been put on hold. The longer that the ticker on the phone goes on, the more and more angry I get. I’m sweating, shaking. It’s not normal. My breathing is heavy. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to the person on the other end when they finally pick up. I feel helpless and angry, for no real reason.

Another example that would be more traditionally recognized as anxiety happened often when driving down the road. My breath would get really shallow and it would feel like someone was sitting on my chest. I felt completely out of control of my body and my car. This happened more times than I could count while driving on the highway in Houston, a terrible place to have a panic attack.

Thankfully last year I decided to speak to my doctor about my situation and ways to control it. Through reading blogs and speaking with other women, I’ve come to realize that anxiety is something that affects way more people than I realized. Because of that, I wanted to share four ways that I’ve learned to cope with my anxiety:

Cope with Anxiety

Talk with your doctor. This is the most important one. Many people don’t feel comfortable taking medication to regulate moods or to help with anxiety, but for me it is the one thing that finally helped get my anxiety under control. Even if you decide not to go the medication route, your doctor may be able to recommend other coping methods or refer you to a psychologist that can do so.

Figure out what triggers you. My anxiety manifested itself most often in mood swings that occurred as quickly as flipping a switch. I could feel myself getting annoyed and then I would just lash out and although I knew what I was saying was wrong or mean, I couldn’t stop myself. Although I don’t have this happen as often anymore, I have learned to take a step back if I start feeling extremely annoyed or anxious. I take deep breaths, sip water, and try to distract myself with something on TV (particularly not the news….)

Ask someone to help you with coping. Having the support of a friend, parent, or significant other is extremely important in learning to cope with a mental illness. Although I had been suffering from anxiety for 15 years, I didn’t decide to do anything about it until last year. Talking with my husband about how my anxiety manifested itself and asking him for his patience and encouragement has made a world of difference for me. When he sees me starting to get short or annoyed, he reminds me to calm down and breathe. It has really strengthened our relationship and reminds me that I’m not alone.

Take time for yourself. It seems like we’re constantly surrounded by bad news everywhere we look these days. Many people are discouraged by the direction of our country and afraid for what it might mean for themselves, their friends and their neighbors. If you’re able, unplug for a bit and do something that you enjoy. Or take a mental health day from work, if you’re able. I know my mental health has taken a toll in the last few months, but giving myself some time to do things I enjoy has really helped. (I realize that being able to unplug is a privilege that not all of us are able to afford. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to do so but will continue to work hard so that all Americans are able to have some peace of mind.)

I’m not a psychologist, but these are just a few things that have helped me. I highly recommend speaking with your doctor or psychologist to find methods that work best for you.

Even if you don’t struggle from anxiety, are there methods you use to calm yourself down?

  • Jen

    These are great tips especially when it comes to figuring out what is triggering the anxiety. Once you can identify that it can make figuring everything else out much easier.

  • Girl yes. This post is so important! Knowing what triggers my anxiety is huge for me. I think I always knew what triggered, but accepting it and recognizing its power made a big difference!

    • Whitney H

      Thanks for reading, love! Knowing that others experience this as well really helps.

  • Kiri

    Totally…It drives me nuts that my anxiety makes little things seem huge. I’ve recently become hooked on the show Schitt’s Creek and a line from a recent episode really resonated with me. “Trust me, people aren’t thinking about you they way that you’re thinking about you.” I’ve thought of this several times since then when it feels like everything is out of control and like everyone around me must see what a mess I am.

    And I agree, the sudden onset of anxiety on Houston highways was no joke. Thanks for sharing, it always helps to know that others are going through it.

    • Whitney H

      yes yes yes! That line is so relevant. I always feel anxious about that. I hope you kick anxiety in the rear!

  • I get such awful mood swings sometimes, one moment I am so happy and then the next I feel so sad and down. I am still trying to figure it all out. My sister goes through the same so I’ve talked with her about it and it helps. I try to read but then sometimes my mind starts to wander and I lose focus. So frustrating!

    • Whitney H

      Jessica, I totally understand your struggles. If you haven’t spoken to a doctor, I highly recommend it!

  • I didn’t know that anxiety can manifest in mood swings – it must feel so out of control. I’m sorry :( Good for you for taking that control back!

    • Whitney H

      It’s honestly like night and day. I feel so much better now, and my marriage has benefitted so much. :)

  • sofieyah l
  • My husband has pretty bad anxiety and it can be difficult for him to deal with. It also doesn’t help that he drinks way too much caffeine – it just makes him even more anxious lol.

    • Whitney H

      Oh I bet!!! I definitely feel more anxious when I have caffeine, and I’m obsessed with Coca Cola. Eek!

  • Elly Leavitt

    actually talking to a doctor and getting professional help is so important and something that people tend to overlook! these are great tips, sure to help anyone dealing with anxiety x

    • Whitney H

      Thanks Elly! I hope someone will get the courage to take back their life from anxiety by reading this post!

  • My husband and a lot of his immediate family members struggle with anxiety. I try my best to keep him calm and relaxed if he becomes anxious, but sometimes it can be difficult because I don’t have anxiety myself. I guess I just struggled to understand it all before we got married and I saw how it affects him. The tips you listed in this post are great. I’ll have to share these with him.
    Katie | Millennial on the Move

    • Whitney H

      Thanks Katie! He is lucky to have someone as supportive as you!

  • Anna Hubbard

    Great post! I don’t have anxiety, but I can imagine that talking to a doctor and your family is immensely helpful!
    -Anna | http://www.fivefootandfabulous.com

    • Whitney H

      Thanks Anna! It’s honestly like night and day after I decided to take control. I’m so happy I did!

  • This was so eye opening for me. A lot of these things mentioned do get to me but I’ve never thought it was anxiety. Thank you for this.

    • Whitney H

      I’m glad to hear that, Silvia! Speaking with your doctor is a great way to stabilize yourself. I highly recommend it!

  • Casey

    Figuring out what causes anxiety for you is a great step in the right direction!

    • Whitney H

      Totally agree, Casey!

  • Ashley Mason

    Great advice for anyone dealing with anxiety!

    • Whitney H

      Thanks Ashley!

  • Rachel Ritlop

    Great tips! I’ve struggled with it since I was like 4 and it was really hard growing up since it took until I was 17 to get diagnosed and for anyone to take it seriosuly

  • Sydney Power

    I never had anxiety growing up but then when I moved away to university I would get travel anxiety when I had to travel back and for the between home and school. My boyfriend has actually helped me so much he really helps me feel calm no matter whats happening and it is really amazing to have him to talk to and help me really get over it. I have been so much better this year and its a big thanks to him

  • This is such a great post! I always tale some time for myself to unwind especially after a SUPER horrible day.

    Alix | http://www.apintsizedlifeblog.com

  • Adriana

    Such important tips! I think taking time for yourself really can make a huge difference!