Do you suffer from anxiety? Congratulations, you are a person who exists. These days, having anxiety is simply part of the human experience: We live in a world rife with corrupt power structures, unspeakable violence, natural disasters, and PowerPoint presentations on the percentage of statistics accounting for the ratio of decimals in the aggregated digital realm that you triumphantly finish giving, only to discover the poppyseed lodged between your front teeth.
Whether your anxiety is so intense that you require professional assistance – in which case we congratulate you for asking for help – or light enough that you often make it through the day without a full meltdown – in which case, congratulations for that, too – it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Everyone you know is worried that they have a poppyseed stuck in their front teeth, too. It’s called psychology.
Let’s talk coping strategies.
Breathe. iStock/Getty Images
But not because someone told you to; nobody who tells another person to “just breathe” should receive any kind of positive reinforcement. Do it because it is the scientific way to trick your body into thinking that things are A+, even if what’s happening is that you’re being chased by a polar bear. Why? Because deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Science!
Run cold water over your wrists. iStock/Getty Images
2. Run cold water over your wrists.
Studies have shown that cold water can reduce cortisol levels, release endorphins, and bring down your heart rate, all of which can help stop a panic attack in its evil little tracks. Your wrists have major arteries, so cooling them will help cool the rest of you, too. In other words, you’ll literally chill out! (Sorry.)
Pick up some essential oils. iStock/Getty Images
3. Pick up some essential oils.
Essential oils are lovely, like a massage for your nasal cavity. Just place a few drops of lavender in your diffuser at night, and wait for the magic to happen: Your jaw will unlock, your AT&T bill and the weird bump on your dog will be erased from your mind, and you’ll experience the ethereal calm of running through a field of flowers as the sun lifts over the horizon on a spring morning. P.S. If this technique ends up working for you, please email us with the subject line “I was cured by smells.”
Do a small, nice thing for another person. iStock/Getty Images
4. Do a small, nice thing for another person.
This does wonders to help you drop the loop playing over and over in your head about how awful/boring/stupid/whatever you are, and reminds you that the world is actually a pretty lovely place, filled with pretty lovely people. Some ideas for your next mitzvah:
- Tell a colleague at work they’re doing a great job. Mean it.
- Give a stranger a sincere compliment.
- Take out a neighbor’s trash.
- Hold the elevator door for someone, even if you’re running late.
- Give a bigger tip than you have to, if you can afford it.
- Notice the name on a store clerk’s nametag. Use it.
- Dance to the radio in your car like a weirdo, and when someone notices you, smile at them and just keep dancing. It’ll make them laugh, promise.
Eat something or drink something. iStock/Getty Images
5. Eat something or drink something.
Both coffee and chocolate can reduce your levels of stress hormones…and also, you get to drink coffee and eat chocolate! Fun. Chewing something crunchy relieves tension in the jaw and lets you pretend that you’re smashing the bones of all your foes between your teeth. Carrots and celery sticks are ideal, of course, but if you did in fact send an email meant for “Chad from last night’s semi-unfortunate tequila-induced encounter” to “Chad from accounting,” go get those Lay’s.
Think happy thoughts. iStock/Getty Images
6. Think happy thoughts.
For example, did you know that some parts of the ozone layer are actually repairing themselves? And that we are this close to wiping out the guinea worm parasite? (Guinea worm parasites are three-foot-long worms that look like spaghetti noodles and erupt through the surface of the skin via extremely painful blister, so this is phenomenal news.) And that there is an entire YouTube channel devoted exclusively to Bob Ross?? AND that the delicious Australian cookies called Tim-Tams are available in America now?! All true stories. How great is that?!
Check your jaw. iStock/Getty Images
7. Check your jaw.
Is it clamped down like you’re a Rottweiler with a ham hock? Stop it.
Try repeating Zen Mantras. iStock/Getty Images
8. Try repeating Zen Mantras.
For example: “I am the one who decides whether or not to be stressed. The fact that I always decide ‘yes, be stressed’ means that I am consistent.” You can also give meditation a shot: You’ll need a hand-woven prayer mat, a Himalayan salt lamp, and one of those $4.99 apps. Commit to meditating for ten minutes each day. Do this religiously for four days, and then delete (but don’t actually cancel!) the app. Well done.
Remember that anxiety actually serves a biological function. iStock/Getty Images
9. Remember that anxiety actually serves a biological function.
Anxious people, for example, are far more prepared for an alien takeover/bird ambush/EF5 tornado than the average bear. And if you live in certain states, your diagnosis may even score you a prescription for weed! Lucky you.
And if all else fails: Remember that it’s always a good idea to ask for help. And besides, anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, you should own an activity book about anxiety! And you should do those activities on the train, so everyone reading over your shoulder can feel better about their anxiety, too.
Reprinted from “The Big Activity Book for Anxious People” by arrangement with TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Jordan Reid and Erin Williams.
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