My anxiety manifested when I was around 8 years old. While other kids may have self-soothed by sucking their thumb or biting their nails, I began chewing the taste buds off of my tongue. I would chew until my tongue bled, with sores all across the front and sides. It remains my tic to this day.
Unfortunately, I didn’t develop an awareness of how I could better manage my anxiety until the past two years. Here is a short list of tricks I use when stress and anxiety rear their ugly heads:
- A proactive approach: saying “no” to caffeine. There are times I wake up and I am already on edge. I avoid caffeine on those days, as caffeine is a stimulant and will likely exacerbate the anxiety. Forgoing a morning coffee may sound crazy, given that 90% of Americans consume caffeine in some form. However, from my own personal experience, breaking the habit of regularly relying on caffeine was one of the best things I could have done for my mental health.
- Deep, audible breaths. The American Institute of Stress indicates that consciously taking big, deep breaths stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which may help bring about feelings of calm. I like to make it a point to listen to my inhale and exhale, as it shifts my focus from the cause of the stress to the noise I am making and how it makes my body feel. If I find myself in an environment where my breathing techniques would prove distracting to others, I quietly take deep breaths and focus on the relaxation of the muscle groups that tend to hold my tension (chest, shoulders, neck).
- My five senses. When I am suffering from information overload, it can be hard to find focus on the task at hand. When my thoughts are scattered, I will note things I can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. This helps to bring my psyche back to the present reality. It is also a great tool when taking a short break to either walk or sit outside, as it has helped me notice new things about my surroundings.
Using these three methods has helped me to avoid the need for daily medication for my anxiety. How you, the reader, choose to handle your stress is personal and not up for my judgment. I would also like to note that I am not a doctor and nothing in this blog post is intended to be used or viewed as a prescription in any way.
2020 has proven a tough year to navigate thus far. There is so much conflict and uncertainty. It is, in my opinion, the best time to get in touch with and take care of ourselves so that when the pandemic is over, we are stronger, more resilient, and grounded.