By Ann Shelley // Opinion Editor
Anxiety is often something quite indescribable to the people who have it. Personally, I experience it in my daily life, and I couldn’t even tell you what it actually is. I don’t know how to describe it perfectly, but when I experience it, it’s hard to focus on the present moment and what I’m trying to actually accomplish.
There are so many different types of anxiety, but one that I have really noticed affecting my life is dissociation. Dissociation is when a person’s environment has no effect on them whatsoever, making it hard to remember certain things. This has really impacted me because I worry I will lose contact with the present moment. The only true way to fight anxiety is to be in the present moment.
Anxiety is not always something that can be easily diagnosed, which is why so many individuals like myself struggle with it every day. You can’t be tested for anxiety like you can be tested for virus.
According to the book “Things Might Go Terribly and Horribly Wrong” by Kelly G. Wilson and M. Troy DuFrene, the interaction between cognitive, behavioral, biological and environmental factors will lead us to struggle in our lives. I believe this is true in some ways, but really what can be hard to grasp is how to cope with anxiety and not let it define you.
Whether you are struggling with something like generalized anxiety disorder, or you simply need to relax for your own wellbeing, these are some tips and tricks that have helped me at the moments I feel the most anxious.
Exercise. One of the best ways to fight anxiety is working out, and it will help you the most when you exercise regularly. Exercising improves quality of sleep, which I often struggle with in my most anxious moments. Any physical activity helps to relieve stress by releasing endorphins, which can also help improve your self-confidence and overall happiness. My favorite types of workouts are ones with cardio, such as pure barre or running.
Meditation. I didn’t believe in meditation until I got the application on the Apple Store called “Breathe,” and it is free to download. This app will help you check in with how your body is feeling physically and emotionally. The app lets you personalize your settings to make it most helpful for you and what you need. There are breathing exercises available, as well as other guided meditation. When you are able to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with yourself, you are on the way to helping yourself avoid anxiety.
Aromatherapy is key. In my most stressful moments, the best way I deal with it is getting my essential oil diffuser out and putting a couple drops of “chill pill” inside. Chill pill is a great essential oil that combines different scents like lavender, chamomile and orange that can help you relax. Many scents have been shown to reduce anxiety, such as lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, roman chamomile, neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, orange blossom and geranium. All of these have been proven in various studies to help with stress and anxiety.
Less coffee, more tea. Caffeine is a major stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and other food items that can increase anxiety. I have noticed that the less coffee I drink, the better I feel when it comes to anxiety. Instead of coffee, I have turned to various green teas, white teas and black teas for my daily caffeine intake to help wake up. Green tea even has antioxidants that actually help with anxiety overall by increasing serotonin levels.
“No” is the new go-to word. One thing that people with anxiety struggle with is always wanting to please everyone. I have learned that I am not in control of everything in the sense that I cannot control what other people think, but I can control my own life and what I am willing to commit to. Try not to take on more than you can handle. You can’t possibly accomplish all the tasks you were asked to do if you take on too many responsibilities. The best way to go about this is to know your limits. When I haven’t had down time in a while, I notice that I forget to eat. When I am not even making time to get three meals a day, then I don’t have enough time in my day. Your personal health is always more important.
Write it down and get it out. One way to know how selective you are with what you take on is by writing everything down. In this way, you will consistently know exactly what you have to get done and when. I always make a to do list of what I have to accomplish for each day. It gives me a sense of motivation and helps me concentrate on what exactly I need to get done. Another way to go about dealing with stress is writing down what you’re feeling in a journal. It can be a great way to both get rid of feelings of stress, as well as visualize the good things that are going on in your life.
Spend time with your favorite people. Being part of a supportive friend network can give you a sense of belonging and self-worth. Surround yourself with people you can reach out to when you’re struggling with anything. There have been many studies done showing that people with few social interactions and connections are often ones that show the highest rates of anxiety and depression. If you surround yourself with uplifting and kind individuals, it helps you become the person you want to be.
Find a four-legged friend. Every time I spend any time with my two dogs, I automatically notice a change in my mood. Some students at High Point University have an emotional support dog for help with anxiety and stress. According to many studies, dog owners are reported to have lower levels of stress. A pet is constant companionship and it keeps you active. Having a pet forces you to get outside and exercise or just spend time in the fresh air, both of which can help reduce anxiety.