When I was first diagnosed with anxiety I tried my hand at going to therapy. My therapist was a sweet, warm woman who enjoyed turtlenecks and looked like she had always just finished baking cookies from scratch. Therapy was expensive and my insurance didn’t help much with that. We also reached a point where my therapist didn’t feel I was benefiting much from it anymore.
I learned my most important coping skills from my therapist. I share them whenever I can because they have saved my life. So below I have come up with the 5 most amazing tips she gave me during our sessions.
1. Eat Breakfast Every Morning
This has always been a challenge for me, but I cannot stress enough how important it is. Most of us know eating breakfast kickstarts our metabolism, but it also helps with our blood sugar levels throughout the day. Skip breakfast and you’re asking for low blood sugar levels during the day, opening you up for anxiety symptoms. Eating protein for breakfast will help you keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day!
If you’re anything like me, eating too early in the morning can cause you to feel queasy. I’ve learned it helps to avoid excessive sugar, and stick to simple foods and flavors. Eggs and toast are my favorite if I have time, but unflavored Greek yogurt with granola can be put together in a pinch!
2. Breathe and Count To Ten
My therapist made sure to push this one because it can be done literally anywhere. The concept is as simple as it sounds. Take deep breaths and count to 10. You don’t have to close your eyes. You don’t have to count out loud. You don’t have to take dramatically visible deep breaths. Instead aim for slow, steady breaths as you count back from 10 in your head.
I know, I know, this sounds corny and pointless. I get that. I didn’t believe in it either. When my therapist suggested it I internally rolled my eyes at her. But then I tried it one day, anxious beyond words at my internship. I was surrounded by some very judgmental people, but no one noticed a thing! And what was even more significant was that I felt noticeably more calm and in control afterward. I still do this years later at work, while I’m driving, or anytime I’m feeling trapped in a crowd in public.
3. Get Yourself Outside
My therapist also recommended I try to get outside for 30 minutes a day, everyday, whenever possible. A simple google search will give you a million reasons why going outside will help your anxiety, but I just want to share my personal experience. Because it was life changing!!!
At first I felt exposed, naked, and didn’t understand how this could be helpful. But overtime I started to get comfortable with so much open space around me. And then I noticed that the air was so fresh and clean, and that had me taking deep cleansing breaths without even realizing it. I started this process in the Spring, and I fell in love with how bright the flowers are, and how round and fuzzy bumblebees are. Eventually the 30 minutes became my half hour of time to myself. My brain felt clear, my stresses felt less prominent, and I was just overall HAPPIER. And now I truly love and appreciate nature in a way I never did before. All weather. All seasons. All times of day. Anytime I get overwhelmed with anxiety and have a chance to step outside, I do it!
4. Move Your Body
My therapist roped this in with number 3, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I separated it into its own category. Movement and exercise can really help release that anxious energy that builds up inside. I knew exercise released endorphins, but when you’re at rock bottom with your anxiety you’re lucky to even get out of bed. Endorphins sound like a myth, or a fairytale or something you are far away from ever producing ever again when the anxiety gets bad. But guys, endorphins are GOLD.
I’m still not always the best at motivating myself to workout, just like I can’t say I eat breakfast every single day. But when I do workout, even if it’s only for 20 minutes, I feel like I could take on the world. And if I can exercise before my day starts? I’m super woman. So shoutout to endorphins for saving my life.
5. Have a Sleep Schedule
Who else sucks at this? I am naturally a night owl, which was great in college, but does not work now that I work a structured job. If left to my own devices, I can be up until 2am and want to sleep until 1pm. Not only is this the opposite of productive, it is not healthy. A structured sleep schedule has helped me ensure that I am getting the proper amount of sleep, and that I’m also awake to soak up as much sunshine as possible during the day.
Now I try to be in bed around 10:30pm when I can help it, and I’m typically awake around 8:00am if I’m caught up on sleep.
It’s very possible that there are tips on this list that won’t work for you. Anxiety is different for every single one of us. Find the things that work for you! Because ultimately, if you take care of YOU first, then the anxiety will struggle a little harder to take control. And isn’t that what we’re all after?
****I am not a therapist, and if you are suffering from anxiety I am a strong believer in seeking help from a professional. Anxiety manifests differently from one person to another, and only a medical professional can tell you the best treatment for you.****