Anxiety doesn’t have a hold over me like it used to but it is still something I have to manage. Every now and then I experience weeks when anxiety hovers around, when the low-level buzz of it is ever-present. This can be because I have been too busy or not sleeping well, or because there is unexpected stress in my life. It can also be because I haven’t been looking after myself very well and self-care has been neglected. It can be for no obvious reason at all.
On these weeks I employ all the tactics I know to try and minimise its impact and move past it as quickly as possible. There are the obvious ways I mange my anxiety: exercise, being outside more, meditation, trying to free up some space in my diary etc. but there are also other smaller and slightly more unusual ways I have found to help control it.
Here are a few of them:
- Do a puzzle. I know I’m only 38 I should be doing things that are way cooler than puzzles but (secret fact about me) I have always loved puzzles. (But don’t buy me one I have too many already!) When I recognise anxiety is at the door often I make a decision (even though everything in me is telling me I don’t have time and don’t deserve it) to start a puzzle. When I have a puzzle on the go on my kitchen table I will find myself drifting over, stopping whatever work or activity I am busying myself with to find a few more pieces. I will allow myself to be distracted. The repetition and focus of it allows my frazzled brain to find moments of rest and calm.
- Crochet. Similar in some ways to doing a puzzle, there is something about the repetition of the stitches (and the fact that I can’t be walking around while I’m doing it) that forces me to get some rest and means recovery is possible. When I am crocheting I have to sit still and will often listen to the radio or have the TV on in the background, again this calms the constant noise of my mind, allowing me to find the path back to calm.
- Take photos. I have written a whole post about how photography helps me with my anxiety which you can read here. Photography is brilliant at helping to combat anxiety in the moment. Whether the anxiety is due to the social setting – too many people, difficult relationships or too much noise, or just a hectic week – with a camera in my hand I find I am able to focus myself on composition and images not the racing thoughts in my mind. Looking through the view finder allows me to put space between me and my anxious thoughts. On days I know have the potential to be more stressful I sometimes set myself a fun photography challenge: to photograph all the different patterns I see, or all the shapes I notice. This stops me from getting on the catastrophe rollercoaster. Even just noticing the day and making a record of it in images on my phone can help restore calm to me.
- Go barefoot. There is something about the physical sensation of the ground under my feet that is calming. If possible I go outside and feel the earth under my feet. When I do this the connection with the ground calms me. The sensory experience pulls me away from the chaos in my mind and reminds me I am safe with two feet firmly planted. A combination of mindful attitude (focusing on the senses) and distraction (it is an unusual sensation) can help pull me from the whirlpool that is threatening.
- Hug. When I am stressed I can want to distance myself from other people. Shame tells me to hide and not let others know. A hug disabuses me of this nonsense. It puts me right back into community and relationships. If I am having a panic attack or if I fear one is on the horizon a hug can calm me. Being aware of someone else’s (not racing) heartbeat and their (not agitated) breathing can allow me to focus, to slow my breathing and allow my body to come back into line.
These are just a few of the methods I employ when anxiety makes its presence felt. What about you? Are there any unusual techniques or hobbies that help you to find calm in the anxiety? I’d love to you, leave me a note in the comments below.