No one goes through life unscathed. Although we all come from different backgrounds, all go through different experiences, and all look at life through different lenses, we are all often going through similar stages of life, sometimes as if we are on a conveyor belt, and society expects us all to come out the exact same. Go to school, get a college degree, get a good job, get married then have children, buy a house, pay your taxes and look good and act right while doing all of it.
As you meet people in life, you meet them at that present moment. You have no idea where they came from or what their past was like. You may find out if you become close, but there are many people you meet in life in academic and professional settings and you will only ever know the surface of them. You do your work and often are expected to put aside whatever you’re dealing with in your personal life. Sometimes you have opportunities to release these feelings, but often times while at work or school there are not many spaces to do so.
Dealing with stress and anxiety is a normal part of most people’s lives. Sometimes though, things can get really extreme. Some people seem like they have all the tools to manage their anxiety. I’ve struggled so many times in the past year with extreme peaks of anxiety at inappropriate times, where I am not able to immediately call a friend or burst into tears.
The conversations around mental health are changing these days. It helps to know you are not alone, but we still all go through individual battles with our own mental health. Different coping mechanisms work for different people. It’s important to address yours so that you can work and live your life.
Here are 7 tips I use to deal with anxiety in everyday life:
Don’t forget to eat
When anxiety attacks you like prey, it can be easy to stop taking care of your basic needs like eating right, getting enough sleep and even keeping up with your hygiene. DON’T. If your basic physical needs are not being met, it can only make things worse for your mental health. I know sometimes it’s hard to sleep or eat when stress levels are high, but force yourself to and take any necessary steps to get yourself a decent amount of sleep each night and eat a fruit or vegetable. Don’t isolate yourself either. We need human interaction, so stay connected to your loved ones.
Be strategic about taking breaks
Rest is so important for our brain and body. No matter what you are doing or how you are feeling, taking time to break and rest is a must especially in times of high stress. There’s been many times where I’ve planned to have a cry or deep breathing session in the bathroom after an important meeting or class. It’s a healthy way for me to release and collect my thoughts before returning to the world ready to tackle the next challenge.
Take things step by step
It is overwhelming to look at the never-ending things on our to-do lists. It’s good to think big picture, but you will never get anything done if you just stress about doing all of the things you need to do. If you take a step back, and begin to do things one at a time, it will really help your focus and ultimately help your anxiety. Also, don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t get done. We are only human and there is only so much time in a day. Plan to take care of it the next day.
Don’t compare yourself
The glamorous, happy lives of our friends posting all over social media can be unhelpful in times of high stress and low self-esteem. The coworkers around us getting promotions can maybe make you look at yourself like there’s something wrong. But keep in mind that everyone’s path is unique and different, and you will never find yours if you keep obsessing over everyone else’s.
Relish in small joys
I can’t emphasize this enough! It is so easy to be negative and get down on yourself when you make a mistake or something bad happens. Taking time to be thankful or happy about something small can go a long way. Like waking up to the sun in the morning, free cake at work, getting a nice note from a friend. The list can go on and on.
Talk or write about it
Talking things through with a friend, family member or a counselor will do much more than you think. If you are a spiritual or religious person, meditating or praying can go a long way too. But something about speaking your truth aloud and getting it off of your chest can lift so much emotionally. On the note of counseling, seeing a counselor or therapist can do incredible things for everyone and does not mean you are failing at life. Deep down, we’ve all got issues and we all want happiness. If you’re not ready to talk about it or don’t want to, at the least then write it out. That also helps as a way to release and also helps provide perspective on how you may tackle a problem.
Look into your potential resources
Many jobs and schools offer resources that you might not be aware of. Check to see if there are helpful links, guidance counselors or fun groups you could join. If you’re not affiliated with a company or school, look into your neighborhood and community resources as those can also be helpful.
Some of these tips may seem obvious or maybe they may seem impractical, but practicing each of these things on a daily basis can help them become healthy habits. It helped me, and I hope it helps you.
Words by Destanie Martin-Johnson // @destaniemj