Being well organised can help to alleviate stress from your day, but alone it cannot bring anxiety relief. If you suffer from anxiety, like me, you have to take proactive steps to stop it taking over your life. I speak from a place of considerable knowledge given that I have battled with anxiety for the last ten years. You can be productive, happy and balanced, whilst living with anxiety. This article will explain in 6 steps how I manage it.
My life with anxiety
I used to confuse anxiety for stress. I would say “I am so stressed right now”! If I had received a penny for every time I used the word ‘stressed’ I would be extremely wealthy. It took me a while, years in fact, to realise that stress is very different to anxiety. I actually like stress! I love working to short deadlines. I am happy in fast moving situations where important decisions have to be made quickly. That is due to stress, and I like that kind of stress. However, getting through a list of mundane chores or even fitting in the gym, my “happy place”, was making me feel ‘stressed’. That’s when I began to question if it was still stress.
At my worst
This ball of fire rising up in my chest was anxiety. When life was good it seemed to calm, but the smallest change in my equilibrium would bring this mental turmoil back. I would snap at everyone around me, would easily be brought to tears and I would get sudden bouts of nausea. At my worst this was combined with severe bloating and random stomach pains. Since I was a child I have also lived with emetophobia, a phobia of vomit. On a good day this will preoccupy my mind. During my bad times I was too anxious to be in public places or on public transport. My anxiety was also linked to depressive thoughts, especially about the inevitability of death. I knew I had to do something about it.
My top 6 steps to anxiety relief
Start saying no
You do not have to take on every project at work if you do not want to. You do not have to go out for drinks with friends if you do not want to. If you don’t like the gym, then don’t do it. If you started being vegan but don’t like it, then don’t do it. Say no to the things you do not like, or that you do not want to do.
It is trendy to ‘say yes’ to life. I say use your common sense. I love taking risks and I will say yes to new opportunities that will help me get what I want. I am not going to say yes to drinking all night and regretting it in the morning.
Saying no can often take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Do not be a doormat and get over FOMO. Seriously, you are never missing out on much!
Having a daily structure and creating habits is great for calming anxiety. This is especially true if you are going through a personal or work experience that is causing turbulence.
When control is taken from us it can cause anxiety. Gain that control back by creating stability in your day-to-day life. A good example of this is losing your job. Being unemployed is in itself a huge source of anxiety. Removing the structure you once had with your job just adds to it. Keeping to a set wake up time and daily routine will maintain momentum and productivity. Set a period of time to job search. Set a time to exercise or go for a walk. Organise a set time to call or meet a friend to chat and give you motivation.
This advice can also be applied to the self-employed or those working from home. Feeling unproductive will add to anxiety. Set your work day up and plan your hours, just like you were working in an office.
Review your goals
A big reason I had so much anxiety in my 20s is because I was striving for a goal that I didn’t really want! I felt I had to ‘be’ something by a set date and time in my life or I was a failure. But this pressure to achieve something was not out of a personal desire or commitment. It was the manifestation of external factors which I suddenly realised I had control over. I could simply say ‘that’s not what I want’.
Ask yourself what you truly want. At the age of 18 you may have decided you needed to become a multimillionaire to be happy. However, now you may have realised that to have the life you are happy with actually requires a much smaller amount. So that would change the milestones and pressure you place on yourself.
Really take time to think about what your goals in work and in life are. Set the milestones and tasks that are necessary to achieve them. It may alleviate a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Many subscribers use my goal-planning workbook.
Reflect on your health
We are most definitely what we eat. If you make sure that 80% of your diet comes from fresh foods then you will be doing yourself a massive favour. If you are out drinking every night (or staying in drinking), eating rubbish and not sleeping well you will add to your anxiety. Much of this feeds in to creating structure and working towards your goals.
However, something that may also affect you is thinking too much about your health. This was my issue. I felt I had to live by a perfect diet. At first this diet was low carb. I would only eat carbs from green cruciferous vegetables and I also cut out all dairy. I ate a lot of protein (probably way more than I needed) and I didn’t let myself have any ‘fun’ food. I was also follow a weight lifting programme. I was lean, but I was also always on edge (anxious) and I got ill a lot.
It took me a long time to enjoy a full diet, and live in moderation. That is a very long story in itself, and probably for another blog post. However, the message to take away is are you putting too much pressure on yourself to be a perfect version of healthy?
Before you seek western medical help you may want to consider something more herbal. My advice is not to try all the herbal remedies at once. Do your research, choose one and stick with it for a period of time. Keep a journal to jot down how you feel each day in order to measure whether it is having a positive (or negative) effect.
Take a look at the suggestions below.
Gotu Kola is a member of the parsley family and can be used to ease anxiety. Apparently this plant can help an over active brain without any sedative side effects. You can drink this in tea. Try Neal’s Yard Remedies Gotu Kola Single Herbal Tincture.
Siberian Ginseng is good for when you feel overwhelmed. It contains eleutherosides, vitamin E and beta-carotene which are strong antioxidants. This can also be used in a tea.
Liquorice can also be used for balance. Liquorice contains glycosides which support the endocrine system, especially the adrenals. You can buy liquorice tincture from Neal’s Yard Remedies.
Ashwagandha is a woody shrub and can be used when you lack energy, and studies suggest it can reduce the cortisol levels of those suffering chronic stress. You can mix ashwagandha powder with your favourite drink or spreads. Try Neal’s Yard Remedies for the powder and tincture.
Seek medical advice
This is not for everyone. I would say this is for people, like me, who have been proactive in trying to calm their anxiety over a long period of time but need more help. I saw my GP who referred me to a psychiatrist. I was subscribed medication to help restore the natural balance of serotonin in the brain – antidepressants. After a few weeks of nausea (which I was warned about), I felt like a completely different person. My anxiety has not disappeared, and I still use the steps I have listed above. However, I feel happier, calmer and far more capable.