What are your anxiety maintenance routines/resources?
June 6, 2018 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to know about your anxiety maintenance routines and resources - books, videos, workbooks, etc.

So - I have depression and anxiety that I've historically worked with a counselor on that has really helped me. Non-medicated on both fronts although I take Vitamin D for SAD when I don't get enough sun which helps. I found some pretty deep and dark holes and found ways to move past the things putting me there which has been immensely helpful.

Lately, though, I've noticed that my anxiety has been manifesting itself - not quite at the point where I seek professional help, but enough that I'm interested in knowing how you maintain your anxiety day-to-day. I have stressors but none are at the point where I feel overwhelmed by anything. Specifically:

1) I changed jobs to one that's got a huge learning curve and speedy pace and thus, as a leader, I've had a ton of balls in the air much faster than I'm used to;

2) We are trying for a baby which hasn't taken just yet...not yet a concern, but perhaps longer than we expected; and

3) I have had a long run of personal projects (being in a wedding band, throwing a bachelor party, European travel with a couple and a baby, family visits, and a backyard landscape project) which all overlapped in such a way that I felt a bit frantic on the home front.

My anxiety has started to show itself in the following ways:

1) Sleep - I have found around 25% of nights I am waking up with a racing mind and an inability to get back to sleep for long periods (this has off-and-on been a problem my whole life - sleep studies have suggests I do not have an apnea, but rather normal waking patterns but an inability to get back to sleep);

2) I have been neglecting/avoiding some of the maintenance things I usually do - my willpower against snacking has been nil, my ability to stick to a workout routine wanes, and my maintenance of friend and family relationships has been so-so.

On the good news front - I have completed all the things I need to, I've been doing some awesome things like getting to bed early/maintaining good sleep hygiene, baking sourdough weekly and making more food from scratch, and have completed several woodworking projects that sat at 80% for a while. My drinking, which historically is a good marker for how I'm doing mentally, is almost nil and I don't have the desire I usually do with ebbs to escape via binge drinking.

So I come to you, hivemind, for how you maintain your anxiety daily so it stays in check - I am not a particularly woo woo person so am less interested in yoga, essential oils, supplements, etc. I like things like workbook, structured exercises, podcasts, talks, etc. that get me thinking and outputting what may be on my mind. My partner is wonderful and is entirely willing to be a part of the solution if that's part of it for you. Thanks in advance.
posted by notorious medium to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I downloaded and used and loved and then paid for the Calm App so I could love even more of it. It has both sleep stories and "daily calm" recordings of various duration, and it comes with a reminder system to remind you to listen during the day per whatever schedule you adopt. [Apple | Android] I'm allergic to the Westernised practice of meditation completely, but the sleep stories have been amazing for me. My sister, conversely, is addicted to the Daily Calm thingies.

Either way, there's enough with the free Calm to get a solid idea of whether it will help you to sleep better, relax through the day or both or neither and is worth a try.

PS: I first downloaded Mindfi Deep Sleep Hypnosis and it was free and worked for me, but eventually I needed more variety so migrated to Calm. Mindfi a more traditional sleep hypnosis and one of them is specifically for falling back to sleep so you could try that too.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:00 AM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hi NM, I started melatonin yesterday as stressful times are impacting my sleep. I was prescribed a stronger dose than you can buy in the pharmacy here (France). I took it last year and it helped.

I have been struggling recently with uncertainty, and as a person with anxiety this was really stressing me out. I read a great tip of listing what you can and cannot control. This has helped me this week as the 'can control' list is much longer.

As well as vitamin, have you had your iron and thyroid levels checked? They can cause fatigue which for me turns into insomnia.

I also journal three things I am grateful for/happy with from the day, and use the Headspace app to meditate in bed to help me feel sleepy.
posted by ellieBOA at 7:05 AM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing you may consider for insomnia is sleep-restriction therapy. It's based in a cognitive behavioral approach, and the basic idea is, in bluntest terms, to exhaust yourself so you sleep better. The premise is that people who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time trying to sleep unsuccessfully, and the effort of doing so makes it harder to associate bed with sleep. So, you spend some time monitoring how many hours of sleep you tend to string together each night, then you don't allow yourself to be in bed for longer than that. E.g., if you tend to to to bed around 11, wake up at 7, and sleep for about 6 hours in that time, you restrict your sleep window so that you can't go to bed before 1 and can't stay in bed after 7. After a week of this, you feel like you've been hit by a bus, but if it works, you increase the window by 20 minutes, and if it doesn't, you decrease it by 20. It also builds on the work you're already doing to sustain good sleep hygiene, since you're supposed to get out of bed if you're awake for longer than 15 minutes. A good primer is here.
posted by dapati at 7:10 AM on June 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you like something where you can "work the steps" you may like the Centre for Clinical Interventions consumer resources. I work through their Generalized Anxiety worksheets and it's been useful.
posted by jessamyn at 7:27 AM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My best anxiety management technique for myself has been not over-committing myself, and learning to embrace the feeling of doing nothing. I think when I was at my own most anxious I was scheduling a lot of after-work activities/personal projects so that I didn't have to be alone with my racing mind, but after I got better I started scheduling in lots and lots of free/decompression time in the evenings. I feel that this has been absolutely invaluable to my sense of stability and ease.

I may be jumping to conclusions, but it sounds like even your personal time is quite full of projects (baking, cooking, woodwork) which is all great, but if decompression/nothing time is something that seems like it would work for you, I would encourage you to schedule in a couple of evenings where you don't have any thing to work on, or do, or be. Esp since you've started a new job, I'm pretty sure your mind would benefit from it after days filled with lots of learning and activity. I feel like self-care often becomes stressful when it degenerates into lists of things to do, even though I get that that works for some people. This is just another way to approach it. I have a feeling it would really help your sleep.

YMMV, IANAD, just a stranger on the internet
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:09 AM on June 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Hmm, it's interesting that you want to rule out yoga. My best strategies involve the body in some way, like sleeping enough, and like exercise, and yoga is a really good one. I don't think yoga works via "woo." To me, it works by putting me under stress in a systematic way (like holding Warrior II until my thighs burn) so that I learn how to breathe through the stress. When I was doing it at work, occasionally I'd notice myself dropping into my yoga breathing at work, which was a really interesting indicator (a) that I was stressed, and (b) that yoga had taught me ways to stay steady in the face of it.
posted by salvia at 9:24 AM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I literally schedule time for myself to do things that I find relaxing. For me, a few hours cross-stitching in front of Netflix is extremely restorative, but I'm really bad at sitting down and actually doing it. When I make a checklist of things to do for the weekend, I will put that on there, so I get the satisfaction of getting something done.

I also wake up with my mind racing. The Calm app is great. I fall asleep with one of their background audios on pretty much every night. When I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes one of those is enough to get me back to sleep. Sometimes I will switch to a sleep story, because it's more to focus on. I've also recently gotten into this app I learned about on MeFi called MySleepButton. It reads names of random objects out to you and you picture them in your head...there is some fancy science behind it, but the TLDR for me is that it makes me focus on that instead of my anxious thoughts and then I fall asleep.
posted by radioamy at 10:54 AM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty binary when it comes to managing my food. I am either super organized and on track, or totally out of control and eating everything I can see. When I lost my job last year and was super stressed, I went back to Weight Watchers—initially because I wanted to look better in my interview clothes, but I found that having the Points structure was really helpful in structuring the rest of my life.
posted by radioamy at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2018

I'm not your doctor but I'm trying out using Gabapentin. It's seeming to work when I feel myself getting stressed and anxious for really no good reason, or feeling stressed and anxious above what I feel is reasonable. It seems to take the edge off that feeling, leaving me in a calm state of consideration, "Huh, that's their monkeys at their circus, not my problem..." Does that make sense?
posted by drinkmaildave at 5:26 PM on June 13, 2018

A late comment here: I wanted to add -- I hope your choice not to use medication is not based on the stigma related to 'being on something' for anxiety.

I used to have a major routine to both prevent and alleviate my anxiety. I made sure to exercise daily (at least 10 minutes of jump rope), meditated regularly, and watched my caffeine intake. I also sometimes had to go to a movie or other distracting event, or take a long walk when I had bouts of severe anxiety.

While I still do some pieces of that, I started taking medication and things are SO MUCH BETTER. I can focus on my other goals, not just anxiety maintenance.

When I was trying to conceive, I spoke with my family doctor about my anxiety. It had always been there, but TTC increased it. She was able to prescribe me an SSRI that is known to be safe in pregnancy.
posted by ElisaOS at 8:22 PM on July 24, 2018

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