Techniques for fighting the anxiety dragons?
December 29, 2012 9:18 AM   Subscribe

This winter I'm having a lot of low-level anxiety. What methods have you found helpful in dealing with anxiety day-to-day? Any and all anxiety dragon fighting techniques appreciated.

This winter and last winter I feel anxious a lot of the time about things that do not normally make me anxious. My partner is also out of town for a few weeks so I'm lonelier than usual. I think this has something to do with low light levels and I'm going to take some Vitamin D and maybe fish oil supplements to see if that helps.

I was super anxious about Christmas and family, but now Christmas is over and it actually went really well so I guess my anxiety was unfounded :)

I feel pretty confident that I'm going to be happier when the winter ends and I'm doing pretty well with identifying my feelings ("oh I see I am just being anxious about that but it is actually okay.")

Some things I'm finding helpful
  • using anxiety as a motivator to do things (my house is a mess? THEN I WILL CLEAN IT JUST FOR TEN MINUTES OH LOOK IT IS CLEANER)
  • getting out of the house and seeing people -- I see friends most days
  • playing music or reading or cooking or cleaning -- basically doing almost any activity helps
  • spending time in the room with sunlight instead of the dark room
It still sucks to have this small anxiety monster following me around, though.

I think I'm also a bit more socially anxious than usual, but I'm ignoring that and just spending time with people as usual because being by myself for too long drives me nuts.

What things do you do to make yourself less anxious?
posted by oranger to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Meditation, therapy, and medication. Vigorous aerobic exercise and mind-body practices like yoga also help me.
posted by jaguar at 9:23 AM on December 29, 2012

For an immediate fix, I've always just isolated myself for a few minutes and just breathed deep for those few minutes. Later, when I have time, I try to figure out what the root cause is for that issue. Longer term, meditation is great. Don't be afraid to investigate therapy. Maybe you might need medication and just as equally, maybe you won't need it.
posted by badger11 at 9:30 AM on December 29, 2012

Exercise. Go for a brisk walk, perhaps while listening to music that is energizing.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:48 AM on December 29, 2012

thirding exercise.
posted by 3mendo at 10:11 AM on December 29, 2012

Anything that pulls me out of my head and into my body; yoga, brisk walks everyday, sprinting, spinning like whirling dervish in the middle of the kitchen floor, dancing to loud music, guided body scans and/or deep breathing. The trick I've found isn't necessarily in engaging in some distracting activity, but learning to get away from worrying about the past while fretting about the future with meditation.
posted by squeak at 10:19 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have taken great steps already ie movement, socializing and music!

Other things which help me are:

Full spectrum lighting

Happy Camper!

Start planning something wonderful for the future - a trip, your garden, a summer picnic!

Make an "Atta Girl!" (or guy) list of past accomplishments and false anxieties. Post prominently.
posted by cat_link at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2012

In this eat-and-be-eaten world, a few billion years of evolution have favoured the survival of individuals possessing a general awareness that at any moment, a predator might jump out of the bushes or drop from the sky. I don't expect that any amount of rationalization or medication will ever completely eradicate such an ingrained behaviour.

I can only say that I try to accept my own constant, low-level anxiety as a natural byproduct of being alive and try not to beat myself up over it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2012

Exercise doesn't really work for me unless it's outdoors. Just throwing that out there. Even just a walk outside helps me a lot.

Making sure that I can see. Sounds silly, but my vision is okay enough that I can walk to the store without my glasses- but then when I get there, I can't read the aisle signs, and that's an anxiety trigger for me.

I love dogs, but their energy makes me anxious. Cats, on the other hand, I find very relaxing.

Getting rid of stuff. The more of a minimalist I've become, the more my anxiety has waned. Sometimes I set a number in my head, let's say twelve, and grab two bags. Then I put a dozen things in the trash bag and a dozen things in the "give away" bag. I find this very soothing.

Setting aside time for creative pursuits is huge for me. I write, draw/paint, work with textiles, and play music. Giving myself time and permission to do those things allows me to function unmedicated.
posted by Athene at 1:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got a light therapy box that I sit under for 20-30 minutes in the mornings, and that helps with my mood in the winter.

I'm finding lately that I've been doing some catastrophizing in the form of imagining terrible things happening to me (for example, imagining accidents when I'm driving); I'm working on pushing those thoughts away and focusing more on what I'm doing. I tell myself, "just take your time, pay attention, and be careful, and you'll be fine; if you do have an accident, you'll handle it." That helps me a lot. "I'll handle it" is a good phrase to keep repeating to yourself if you find yourself worrying about what could happen ("What if that vet bill turns out to be huge and I can't pay it?" "I'll handle it." "What if that class next quarter turns out to be a killer?" "I'll handle it.")

I also remind myself that the 27 things I worried about yesterday didn't actually happen--and 99% of the bad things you worry about don't happen--so I should recognize and ignore today's obsessive worrying. And if those things do happen, worrying about them beforehand doesn't actually help me cope with them. I'm getting better at shutting down that stuff; it does take some practice.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2012

I do a cheerleader routine every morning.

I mean, that's what I call it, it's after I have coffee but before I take a shower, so for about 15 min I set to my loud-ass speakers to blast out Hey Mickey and I do squats, bends, stretches, jumping jacks, and all the time shouting out the commands on the song in big deep breathes (Gimmie All Your Luving by Madonna, True To Your School by the Beach Boys, and The Power IS On by the Go! Team are also in there) and staying SUPER ACTIVE while going through the songs and just flopping around naked in my apartment making an ass of myself. It burns off an amazing amount of general floating anxiety (seriously don't neglect the shouting, I shout a lot) and then I am sweaty and tired enough for a shower and then some quick food ands then work.
posted by The Whelk at 6:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

For short term anxiety, when I am starting to obsess about something that is making me very anxious, if I am in or near my car, I go for a short ride playing music that I have on a CD that I label "Cool, calm and collected". I also have that playlist on my phone. When in my car, right before I start the CD, I let out like a 20 second primal scream that seems to really help my mind and it is a signal to myself to shift gears.

At home, I will scream into a pillow or if no one else is home or around, just scream for 20 seconds before doing something relaxing that takes a little focus like needlepoint or vacuuming. (Yes, I am a male who needlepoints --thanks Rosie Grier -- and who likes to vacuum.)

Exercise would probably work too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2012

Look up "progressive muscle relaxation." Probably the most beneficial technique I learned in CBT. You may need to find a recording for prompts the first few times you do it but it helps calm me down when I'm noticing my anxiety ramping up.
posted by eldiem at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2012

Breathing techniques seem like an overly simple solution. However, the right types of breathing techniques are extremely powerful, and well founded these days in science. To reduce symptoms considerably, and in a long lasting manner, one must breath often and routinely. Keep in mind, the effect of breathing is accumulative. For many it takes a good deal of will and determination to jump into a daily routine of breathing. This is the challenge.

There is one great breathing method. It is called coherent breathing. It is being provided to survivors of 911 who suffer from PTSD, and health problems, and has proven very successful

Here is the link to the M.D. who provides the course for 911 survivors.
posted by Therapist in NYC at 6:20 PM on December 31, 2012

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