To control my anxiety, it seems like I have to follow a lot of rules. And rules seem to stress me out just as much as the anxiety itself. This is a list of 10 things I should be doing to control my anxiety disorder but don't. (Hopefully, you have better luck with doing these things than I do.)
1. I should...meditate.
Practice mindfulness, they say. Lay on your back and breathe, they say. Look, I'm all for having an excuse to do nothing, but how helpful can this method actually be? I mean, will concentrating on my breath *five hours ago* help me when I'm freaking out at the train station now? The short-term answer is probably no. I suppose if I've been meditating constantly for a decent amount of time, it might help, but since I only started doing it yesterday, it won't do a god damn thing. And that's frustrating.
2. I should...get enough sleep (but not too much).
I've always heard that people should get around 8 hours of sleep, but Forbes said in 2015 that a number of highly successful people only get 5 to 6 hours in. So which is it? Because I want to be successful too! What is the secret amount of sleep I need to give my body so anxiety doesn't creep into my everyday life?
(Actually, you know what? In that article, Forbes said Ellen DeGeneres gets 8 hours a night. And Ellen is bae. So, I'm going to go with her sleep schedule. Screw Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill and their 5 hours of shuteye a night.)
3. I should...limit alcohol and caffeine.
And what does "limit" mean anyway? How much is too much? Oh, and you know what? I bet you can have more than you think you can, but because you've been told to "limit" both of these things, you start to freak out when you realize you're on your second Whiskey and Coke. Why does everything have to be a vicious cycle?
4. I should...drink tea.
Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm- these are just a few of the teas out there that are supposed to have relaxing qualities. In theory, this is great. I would love to drink away my problems in a healthy, acceptable way. But, there is one, tiny problem: I hate noncaffeinated teas. And, as I just stated, I need to limit caffeine (which is in most good-tasting teas) to control my anxiety. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place here.
5. I should...have a good diet.
Anxiety-reducing foods like asparagus go bad easily. So do avocados, blueberries, and leafy greens. But longer lasting foods like turkey and oysters can be spendy and time-consuming to make. I have had some luck with almonds, but those get boring after awhile. I just can't wait to learn how to feed myself "correctly."
6. I should...exercise daily.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sweat for 30 minutes a day. Run. Do yoga. Box. Whatever. It "releases endorphins" and "makes you feel good." But exercising daily, whether you have anxiety or not, is difficult. I have so many other things I'd rather be doing than ruining my makeup and getting all smelly. I want to take care of my body, but can't walking to and from the kitchen to my bed suffice?
7. I should...have a routine.
Having a routine is supposed to alleviate anxiety. So, I should go to bed at say, 11pm and get up at 7am - and when I wake up, I'll need to exercise (because exercising in the morning is said to give better results), have a healthy breakfast, shower, get dressed, do my makeup, tackle my hair, brush my teeth, ect. etc.. ...all this sounds very time-consuming but perhaps worth it...
8. I should...hang out with people.
I do know that I feel ridiculously better when I force myself to go out with friends, but why does it have to be such a struggle? I often wonder if I would have this problem if I had friends that I connected with better, but then that spirals into a whole other string of anxious thoughts. *Would finding better friends actually solve my problem or would I have these problems with anyone? Do I actually have trouble connecting with my friends or is it just something I made up in my mind? Am I just the problem in general?*
9. I should...practice gratitude.
If you only focus on what you don't have, you'll never be satisfied in life. Practicing gratitude will make you realize that you're life isn't as bad as your head makes it seem sometimes. Thank your best friend for being there for you. Thank your mom for always taking care of you. Like, literally, thank them. Out loud. With words. I don't do this nearly as much as I should.
10. I should...stop aiming for perfection.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle between me and my anxiety is my constant need for perfection. I look at the list of everything I just mentioned and get overwhelmed. I want to do all of these things- flawlessly and without hesitation. But that isn't how life works.
If you have anxiety, I urge you to fulfill each of these points step-by-step. Start small and revel in your successes even if they seem easy to obtain. Allow this to motivate you, and each week go a little further. Challenge yourself to keep this going for at least one month, and you'll start to see changes happening. We'll get there- slowly but surely, we'll get there. Just don't give up.
Video: What Having Anxiety Feels Like
Credit: Meghan Rienks