Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.
When does your anxiety usually hit?
I’m hardest hit in the morning—right when I wake up.
Anxious thoughts always seem to float through my final REM cycle of the night.
It is the worst alarm clock ever.
My mind is constantly working.
As an office worker and again as a teacher, I would constantly be thinking about what I needed to do at work and the best way to accomplish it. And now, with my blog, I’m always thinking of new content and how to present it.
No matter what kind of job I have, I lose sleep thinking about it.
And then there are all the other things that I worry about: a bill that needs to be paid, heavy rainfall, questioning if I turned off the stove or a what-if scenario that I’m running late.
Any of these things will force me to sit bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, heart hammering away as if the world is ending.
Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day.
But I have learned how to manage my anxious mornings with time-intensive strategies; and none of them are ignoring it until it goes away
We can fake confidence, but we can’t deceive our mental health.
Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):
1. Take a Day
Some people offer this as a last resort, but having a day for yourself is vital.
I think everyone should take a day more often. But I realize that this is not always an option for everyone based on your job or economic necessity.
If your job offers mental health days or sick days, take them.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, ask your partner or a family member to take over for a few hours.
Calling work may add a little more nervousness to your morning. And I have always needed to convince myself to do it, but I have never regretted making the call.
Dedicate the entire day to yourself if you can.
Catch up on the sleep that was attacked.
Do your comforting activities.
Ignore social media for the whole day (I’ll explain why later).
And just relax. And I mean, really relax.
If part of your anxiety revolves around unfinished household chores, set a one-hour timer to get some (not all) done. Then save the remainder of the day for yourself.
My typical mental health day is filled with the comforting and stress-relieving activities I enjoy:
- Sleeping for as long as possible with Do Not Disturb in full effect.
- A shower to relax tense muscles and keep my skin healthy.
- Wearing daytime pyjamas.
- Drinking a warm beverage, but I try to avoid caffeine as it won’t soothe an anxious body.
- And listening to an audiobook while working on a puzzle to focus my mind.
Again, these are the activities that I enjoy and I find calming.
When you take a day for yourself, fill it with the activities that comfort you. You can exercise, do crafts, bake, or do anything that feels calming to you.
It’s your day.
The main point is to rest your body and your mind.
2. Make a To-Do List
Anxiety sometimes leaves me feeling as if I am lazy, inept, and unproductive.
When an anxiety attack hits first thing in the morning, the idea of getting through the day can be daunting.
It’s already hard to get out of bed and only gets worse as the day’s tasks continue to build up.
Write a list on paper or your phone to get those tasks out of your mind.
When you accomplish a task, you can check it off.
It’s hard to explain but seeing all the check marks on a completed list is uplifting.
Even if I have completed a task before making a list, I will write it down for the simple joy of checking it off.
A to-do list helps me to focus. I know what I need to do, and I can track my progress for the day.
I can also limit my list based on what my current energy can accomplish.
If I have ten tasks but only the energy for four, I list the four most important things I need to do today. The act of finishing those four tasks may give me the energy to complete another two, three or four. And if I can’t do all ten, I reassure myself by looking at what I have achieved today.
My list will prove to my mind that I am competent and productive.
3. Feel for 15
This suggestion will take time and practice to master, but it’s entirely worth the effort.
Emotional intelligence is all about being aware of, understanding and managing our emotions.
No one likes to feel angry, sad, or anxious. These are heavy emotions that wear on our bodies.
But we need to experience all emotions in their turn.
When anxiety hits, give yourself a set amount of time to feel through it.
You will dictate the amount of time you are prepared to give to your anxious thoughts.
This can be done in bed, in the shower or on the bus ride to work.
When my chest is bursting, I allow my mind 15 minutes to be anxious.
I will start by asking myself aloud,
Then my mind will flow through every negative and positive thought for 15 minutes.
That time allows me to be introspective about the issue(s) that triggered my anxiety and possible solutions.
I also use my physical coping mechanisms to calm my body during this time.
| Read more: How to Self-Soothe During a Panic Attack
The anxious thought may return later.
However, I can self-soothe with the reassurance that I already gave it time:
Through practice, I have found that 15 minutes works best for me.
If you need more or less time, take it.
Try not to suppress your anxiety, anger or sadness. I am happier for feeling all of my emotions.
The old faithful.
The basics of journaling are getting your feelings out of your mind.
Use it to understand and work through your thoughts and experiences.
It doesn’t matter how you write; just write:
- Jot notes
When I am anxious, I freewrite in my journal and let my mind go on its journey.
Sometimes it just relieves me from the weight of overwhelming thoughts.
And sometimes, it helps me find solutions.
Writing is a comforting activity for me. Just the feeling of writing with a pen on paper is calming.
Please never feel embarrassed about starting a journal. It’s personal, and it’s helpful.
5. Use Affirmations
An affirmation is a positive statement we can use to recondition our minds.
It is a mindful activity that we need to prepare and practice during calm moments. Consider it like preparing your arsenal for when anxiety attacks.
You can find an overwhelming number of affirmations through Google. But I would suggest using those as examples only.
I find affirmations are more successful when meaningful and personal.
| Read more: Generate Positivity With Affirmations
You can also choose the number of affirmations that you need. Rely on one or choose from a collection to suit your present circumstances.
Should an anxiety attack hit me, I choose one of my affirmations and repeat it in my mind or out loud while looking into a mirror.
And I don’t just use affirmations when I am feeling anxious. I have five daily affirmations that I say to myself in the morning and night.
I find they don’t just protect me; they can also set my mood.
6. Do Not Use Social Media
I know that scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can feel relieving; we can see cute animals or funny videos.
But we have zero control over what we will see on social media.
Your friends and family can share personal updates or news stories that you are not prepared for.
Or you may start watching a cute animal video just to find out it’s an in memoriam—this happened to me recently.
If you’re already feeling anxious, stay offline.
Similarly, be deliberate about when you check the news. It’s important to stay informed. But a majority of the stories are negative.
I don’t need to compound an anxious day with further doom and gloom.
Choose a comforting activity that you can control.
7. Do Not Use Negative Self-Talk
Anxiety will try to convince you that you suck.
But your mind is lying to you.
You are worth so much more than every negative thought.
And you owe it to yourself to be encouraging and optimistic.
I would never speak to the people I love how my mind speaks to me.
I consciously reassure myself that I am safe and loved and better than my mind wants me to believe.
I hope that you have noticed the common theme among my coping strategies is self-care: giving time to the care of my mind, body and emotions.
For an anxious person, it can feel like the best solution to our struggle is to become numb and just follow through the motions of the day.
But we are not robots.
I want to live a fulfilling life, not just survive the day.
Blocking out feelings to avoid the bad ones also blocks out everything positive, happy and exciting.
Pushing through to endure beyond enduring draws a heavy cost on our health.
And not giving time to our difficult emotions does not control them. It actually takes all control from us.
Knowing the best strategies to serve your anxiety will first depend on what your anxiety triggers are.
| Read more: 100 Anxiety Triggers
Try to keep in mind that most mental health remedies, strategies and skills take practice, time and effort.
There is no quick or easy solution so give yourself time to find the perfect strategies to serve you.
When does your anxiety usually hit? And what is your most successful coping strategy? Share it in the comments below!