How To Create A Self-Care Plan For The New School Year

Students Need Self-Care

University is such an interesting and chaotic time of our lives.

Our schedule is packed with classes, assignments, tests, seminars and work clashing together—and that’s just for an undergraduate degree.

It feels like we have no time for ourselves except for a few hours to sleep. And even that’s not guaranteed.

Studies have shown that burnout amongst high school and university students can create symptoms of PTSD. And while I’m a few years removed from university, I still experience some of those symptoms.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

National Library of Medicine – Student Burnout and PTSD Symptoms

Preparing for the new school year with a self-care plan may help students to manage and hopefully prevent burnout.

September is the perfect time to start as school is just beginning, and you may have more wiggle room to try out new things.

But if you’re discovering this post during midterms or spring break, that’s fine too!

When you start doesn’t matter—having a plan does.

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.

Make Time For Self-Care

I realize it may not feel possible, but I guarantee you can add self-care to your daily, weekly and monthly routines.

As a student, I would sleep in the university library, eat lunch outside my next class and schedule bathroom breaks into my study time. I was shuffling through my days like a zombie.

It was not until my third year of university that I learned to add proper me-time to my school agenda.

I scheduled when I’d eat, when I’d exercise, how often I would clean and when I would literally do nothing.

That may sound very constraining, but it resulted in a wonderful transformation. I suddenly felt like I had more control and time and generally felt more like myself.

Self-care for students: how to have a stress-free year

Creating A Self-Care Plan

In this post, I will help you to formulate a plan to add self-care activities to your schedule.

Below, I have outlined four self-care categories.

The best self-care plan will combine activities from every category to create a holistic* routine. This will ensure that you fully take care of all aspects of yourself.

*Holistic refers to treating or caring for the whole person (the body, mind and spirit) rather than one part.

And you are not expected to do all of the activities every day. That’s simply not possible.

Instead, consider these general guidelines when adding self-care activities to your schedule.

  • Daily activities are those that require roughly 5-10 minutes
  • Weekly activities: ~15-30 minutes
  • Monthly activities: ~1 hour
  • Annual activities: ~half a day

Remaining cognizant of the time you have and the time you need will provide a better chance of scheduling your self-care.

5 Steps To Create Your Self-Care Schedule

Woman looking at her busy schedule and a calendar

1. Look at your current school and work schedules to identify the number and duration of break times. Don’t forget to factor in homework and study time.

A blank calendar with dates highlighted

2. Highlight or list the duration of your break time–just the time in minutes or hours.

A woman writing a list in a notebook

3. Look over the list below and choose the activities you consider interesting, relaxing, or useful. Write them in a list along with the amount of time they take.

The words daily, weekly and monthly

4. From your activities list, choose three daily activities, four weekly activities, and three monthly activities. You may, of course, choose more, but I suggest starting with these numbers.

A woman writing in a planner that has different events in different colours and post-it notes

5. Add those activities to your school calendar, agenda or planner.

  • Set a specific or general time of day to complete them.
  • It may be helpful to add these activities in another colour.

A Brief Caution

A problem I often face with lists like this is that I want to try everything all at once. And it’s overwhelming!

So while creating your self-care plan, start slow. Choose a few activities that you can start doing today.

You want to try to build a habit of doing these activities but don’t want them to become tasks.

Aim to include these activities in your schedule, but give yourself some leeway and don’t be too tough on yourself if you can’t get them done when you hoped.

4 Self-Care Categories

There are many categories for self-care.

For this post, I have chosen to focus on the following four: physical self-care, practical self-care, psychological self-care, and social self-care.

And I’ve ordered the categories alphabetically because no one category is more important than the rest.

Physical Self-Care

Graphic of woman doing yoga in front of a laptop to indicate physical self-care

Physical self-care aims at caring for your body. It involves focusing on what you put in your body, ensuring you’re well rested and keeping your body moving. Remember that physical health can help or hinder mental health, so you want to take special care of both.

1.       Schedule Meal Breaks

  • 5-30 minutes
  • Many people opt for fast food because it’s a filling meal you can eat quickly. But it’s full of harmful ingredients that drain your energy.
  • Set 2 meal breaks where you can eat a full meal (perhaps breakfast and dinner) and mini breaks for snack time.
  • Another option is to designate lunch as your big meal of the day and have smaller portions for breakfast and dinner, supplemented with hourly snack breaks. (This is my preference for my schedule. Follow the plan that works for you and your schedule.)

2.       Sleep

  • 10 minutes-8 hours
  • Micro naps during the day can help you to stay focused. But don’t rely on napping to keep yourself healthy.
  • Try to get a full night’s sleep. For some people, 6 hours of sleep is sufficient; for others, 9 hours may be necessary. Listen to your body and what it needs to feel rested.

3.       Breathing Exercises

  • 2-5 minutes
  • Practice breathing exercises anywhere, at any time, as needed.
  • Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 5-7 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Breathing exercises will allow your body to relax while providing a mindful moment as you focus on your breath and the counts.

Read More| How To Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

4.       Get Sunlight

  • 10+ minutes
  • Take a walk, study on a patio or sit on the greenspace at your school.
  • Vitamin D and fresh air are essential for our bodies and overall happiness.
  • In winter, vitamin D drops and a light therapy lamp are helpful.

5.       Exercise

  • 15+ minutes
  • We are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and it is possible to allocate 15-minute exercise sessions during breaks.
  • Remember that walking, yoga, cycling and jump rope are all forms of exercise, so you are not required to go to a gym unless you choose to.

6.       Hydrate

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Drink water. Bring a water bottle to every class and take a few gulps every hour.
  • If you drink water regularly, you will feel and see a difference.
  • Always remember that what you drink matters because not all beverages will support your body the same way.

Practical Self-Care

Graphic of woman with her laptop sitting on a calendar next to an hour glass to indicate practical self-care

Practical self-care can be thought of as the necessary chores to relieve us of future stress—like the adage to plan today for a better tomorrow. Taking small steps to prepare for your day, week or year will pay off substantially and cut much stress from your life.

1.       Create A Budget

  • 30+ minutes (to create), 2 minutes (for upkeep)
  • You may buy a budget planner or create a spreadsheet. (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer annual and monthly budget templates.)
  • Steps to create your budget:
    • Write down your net income (this will be the income you receive, less taxes and other work expenses).
    • Track how much you spend—write every purchase down, including your bills, Netflix subscription, groceries, coffee, etc.
    • Set a budget for how much you can spend for the month to ensure you will keep some savings. For example: If I earn $1,000 per month (net income), my bills are $300, and my loans are $200, I may set myself a budget of $200, so I can save $300 per month.
    • Adjust your spending habits to stick to your budget (this may mean less Starbucks).
    • Review your budget to see how you are doing, what is working, and what needs improvement.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

WorkBC – Student Budgeting

Clever Girl Finance – How To Create A College Student Budget You’ll Actually Use

Student Space – How to make a student budget

2.       Organize Your Closet

  • 1+ hours (for initial organization), 5 minutes (for upkeep)
  • Use baskets, totes, shelves or a whole closet organizer to organize your clothes and storage.
  • Separate your work clothes from casual ones so they are easier to find. This may be done simply by having work clothes on the left side of the closet and casual clothes on the right.
  • Seeing disorganization and interacting with it daily can result in a sensory overload leading to stress and distraction. Therefore, having an organized closet with everything in its place can be freeing.

3.       Make Your Bed

  • 2 minutes
  • Make your bed every day. You don’t need perfect corners or to change the sheets every day.
  • Having a bed in disarray can cause a room to look messy and may add to your overall stress. Having an organized bed to fall into at the end of the day creates a peaceful area that will help you feel relaxed and may lead to better sleep.

4.       Meal Prep

  • 30+ minutes (to prepare), 3+ minutes (to heat)
  • Depending on your fridge and freezer space, you may meal prep for a week or month at a time.
  • Preparing meals that will only require a quick warm-up will ensure you eat properly and save money.

5.       Schedule Decluttering

  • 10+ minutes
  • Slowly start decluttering by donating or throwing away things you no longer need or use. And organize the things you need regularly.
  • If you believe your clutter has a system, create an improved design with baskets and shelf dividers.
  • Less clutter leads to tidier spaces, creates more peaceful and stress-free environments and ensures everything is easy to find.

6.       Set Out Clothes For The Week

  • 10 minutes
  • Decide your tops, pants and shoes and arrange the items in your closet from Monday through Friday.
  • Choosing your outfits ahead of time will ensure you have clean clothes for the week and fewer decisions to make first thing in the morning.

Psychological Self-Care

Graphic of woman holding her head and a thought bubble full of squiggles to indicate psychological self-care

Psychological, emotional, mental self-care is all about taking time to identify your headspace and express your feelings. There are many activities for psychological self-care that will allow you to channel stress and negative thoughts into a medium that will help you to let them go. Some activities will also allow you to sit with and enjoy your happy moments. Being able to positively impact and express your inner world is very important for your mental health.

1.       Affirmations And Mantras

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Keep positive affirmations and mantras posted on your mirror, phone lock screen or anywhere you will see them. Repeat the affirmations a few times a day.
  • Affirmations and mantras will help you to rewire your brain to think positively and calmly.

Read more| Generate Positivity With Affirmations

2.       Practice Gratitude

  • 5 minutes
  • Make it a habit to take a few minutes at the start or end of your day to write a list of things you are grateful for. Do not rush! Be slow and mindful while you make your list.
  • Speak what you are writing and try to use the expression “I am grateful for….”
  • During stressful times, creating or reading these lists will remind you of the positive things in your life.

3.       Journal

  • 5-10 minutes
  • Write when you are happy, stressed and overwhelmed.
  • There are many uses for a journal and many ways to write in a journal. Choose the option that serves you best. And choose the time that works best for you. You may find journal prompts to get you started here: link.
  • Writing a journal entry will provide relief and is an interesting keepsake.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

4.       Create Art

  • 5-20+ minutes
  • Draw, paint, sculpt, knit, whittle, etc.
  • Depending on your medium, art may be created between class periods or give you an extended mindful release a few times a week.
  • Art will give you something to focus on while releasing stress. Or it may allow you to express your feelings.

5.       Play Music

  • 2+ minutes
  • This may refer to listening to your favourite artist or playing an instrument.
  • Music can help us to feel lighter, connect and release pent-up feelings.

6.       Meet With A Counsellor Or Therapist.

  • 30+ minutes
  • If your high school, college or university offers free or discounted counselling services, take advantage of them!
  • Counselling is a genuinely positive experience as it will help you understand yourself, learn how to handle stress and disappointment, and, most importantly, celebrate and focus on your achievements.
  • If you do not vibe with your assigned counsellor, talk to your school and try to seek an alternative option. You deserve a counsellor or therapist who is working with you.

Social Self-Care

Graphic of 2 women and 2 men communicating on a laptop, tablet and phone to indicate social self-care

Social self-care directs its focus on social interactions and how to maintain healthy relationships. Whether introverted or extroverted, our social life will add to our happiness. However, during school, our social life can sometimes hinder our schoolwork. So while considering your social self-care, you want to create a beneficial school/work/life balance. Please note that I could not list specific times for some activities because what you need and your available time varies significantly from person to person.

1.       Set Boundaries

  • Unfortunately, I cannot create a timeframe here as it involves deciding, communicating and reinforcing your boundaries. This may take consideration and practice over a few days or weeks.
  • There are many different types of boundaries, but perhaps while focusing on school life, you can narrow the boundaries to what you need for a successful and stress-free year.
  • Consider these questions while creating your boundaries:
    • What do you need from friends and family when you are stressed? For example, do you need someone to vent to, alone time, comfort foods, etc.?
    • What will help you focus on your studies? This may be quiet time, a peaceful area, fewer messages and screen time, etc.
    • What will take the pressure off? Perhaps you want to ban certain questions about your schoolwork or tests. Questions like How is your dissertation coming along? Are you ready for your midterms?
  • Asserting your boundaries may sometimes feel rude, and some people may consider them selfish, but they are necessary to your well-being. Boundaries communicate our needs to others so they can support us.

Read More| Are Introverts Rude? And How To Assert Your Boundaries

2.       Call A Friend (Or Your Safe Person)

  • 5+ minutes
  • Have a friend or a safe person you can call, FaceTime or message whenever you need to. Let them know ahead of time that you may be contacting them during stressful times and what you may need from them (a listening ear or advice).
  • You may also schedule regular calls to ensure you are both available and give you something to look forward to.
  • A safe person is someone you can share with who will keep your conversation private and whose sole interest in the conversation is in supporting and protecting you.

3.       Meet With Friends

  • 30+ minutes (or short breaks between classes)
  • Schedule time with your friends. Everyone has a busy schedule, so last-minute plans may not work as well as they used to.
  • Friendships can strain and start to fizzle during university. So use the time to catch up, share a little about school and be a support system for each other.

4.       Be Intentional With Social Activities

  • There is no time suggestion here, as this option involves deciding if, when and where to add social activities to your schedule.
  • Accept that you should not partake in every social event or go out drinking every weekend. A night out will impact your budget and physical self-care.
  • Pick and choose events that are important to you and your experience. They will be more memorable and give you something to look forward to.
  • And practice saying NO. It may be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice, and you will be happier.

5.       Join An Online Support Group

  • 2+ minutes
  • Join a Facebook or Reddit (or similar) group for your school or area. If a gender, religion or ethnic-specific group exists, that may also be beneficial.
  • Try to ensure it is a safe space for people to share stories, ask questions and offer advice without judgement or bullying behaviour.
  • I recommend observing the group before asking any sensitive questions and using the anonymous post option whenever necessary.
  • While living in South Korea, I joined five Facebook groups: three regional and two women-only groups. I never commented in the regional groups because I followed them for events and found the most active members to be very opinionated and rude. It did not feel like a safe space to ask questions. But I was very active in the women-only groups, and though I no longer live there, I am still part of them today because they’re incredibly judgement-free, and everyone is looking out for each other.

Read More| 10 Ways To Expand Your Comfort Zone

6.       Play With A Pet

  • 2+ minutes
  • Take a break and spend time with someone who loves you unconditionally and does not care about your schoolwork.
  • Playing with a pet releases serotonin and will make you feel happier.
  • If you currently do not have a pet, consider your budget and the free time you will need to care for your pet properly—it’s a lot of work.
How to create a self-care plan for the new school year

Final Thoughts

If self-care is selfish, be selfish.

Caring for yourself provides the benefits of reducing stress, thinking clearer, maintaining relationships and, most importantly, not losing yourself to your studies.

Creating healthy habits takes time and practice, and there are many options for adding self-care to your schedule.

Again, I have only covered four self-care categories, but many more options exist.

Please let me know in the comments below if you are interested in learning more about self-care and additional self-care categories and activities.

And if you like this post, please like this post, comment, share and follow for more.

 

Glossary of Terms to Support Your Mental Health Journey

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.

A mental health journey comes with a complete vocabulary of terms. And a clear understanding of these terms will assist you with the process.

Many glossaries for mental health provide definitions of disorders and conditions. So I want to focus this list on terms you will encounter during the self-work aspect of your journey.

This is not a comprehensive list. It is designed to provide a brief overview of these terms. I have also attempted to paraphrase the definitions/meanings so they may be more easily understood.

I plan to continue to add to the list over the next few months, so please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below.

What are boundaries? Growth? Self-work?

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements we use to help retrain our brains to think positively. For affirmations to be effective, we need to say them aloud daily until we believe them to be true.

Read More| Generate Positivity with Affirmations

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines used to communicate what we need to feel safe, comfortable, supported and respected. Boundaries help us navigate our relationships by giving us the knowledge and ability to say yes and no to protect our well-being. There are seven types of boundaries: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, sexual, time and non-negotiables. Boundaries can change as relationships evolve.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – 7 Types of Boundaries You May Need

Calm

Calm is a generally positive term meaning a state when we are not experiencing strong, negative feelings. This could mean we are free of anger, sadness, anxiety or agitation. Most coping strategies aim to “re-establish calm” or release negative thoughts and emotions.

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a physical or mental space in which we feel safe, secure, content and comfortable. A mental comfort zone will dissuade us from partaking in activities that may be mentally or emotionally harmful. A portion of our growth journey may involve expanding our comfort zones. This work will allow us to practice “scary” activities in small doses to redefine what our comfort zones look like.

Read More| 10 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Comforting Activities

Comforting activities are any enjoyable activity that brings us focus, calm, relaxation and comfort. Many disorders will wear on the mind and body, leaving us exhausted. Comforting activities distract our minds in order to provide much-needed relief. A comforting activity may be sleeping, watching a movie, pursuing a hobby, taking a walk, etc.

Cope/Coping

Courtesy of Oxford Languages: coping means to “deal effectively with something difficult.” The key to coping is finding an effective strategy to manage our symptoms, provide comfort and work on healing. A worthy goal of our journey may be finding coping strategies to control and heal effectively.

Read More| 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a psychological theory focusing on skills to identify, understand, control and successfully express our emotions. Most studies and books on EQ focus on the workplace, but the skills are helpful for all interpersonal relationships. Within a mental health journey, practicing EQ skills can help us better understand ourselves and the roots of our negative feelings and mindsets.

Empowerment

Empowerment is all about having control and power over our mental health journey. This includes access to support networks and resources that will aid and encourage us to grow strength, confidence and authority over our lives.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is the ability to be our personal source of encouragement and support for our mental health journey. It involves taking responsibility for our journey and holding ourselves accountable to do the work, make positive choices and track our progress.

(Mental) Energy

Courtesy of Healthline: mental energy is “a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done.” Low mental energy may present as boredom, inability to focus or frequently zoning out. Feeling mentally drained may or may not cause us to also feel physically exhausted. Some mental health disorders claim a lot of our mental energy, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – 8 Tips to Boost Mental Energy, in the Moment and in the Future

Growth

Growth refers to gaining knowledge and abilities to support and improve our mental health.  Growth can be measured by tracking goals or keeping a journal that can show how our mindset has changed. Growth can also be detected as we start recognizing when we are better capable of handling difficult situations than we had been at the beginning of our journey.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

Personal Growth

Personal growth is also referred to as personal development or self-improvement. Personal growth is about developing positive behaviours, habits, mindsets, and skills to improve our mental, physical and emotional health.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Healing

Unlike physical health, mental health does not have cures. Healing involves growing by learning how to cope and live with a mental health condition. A healing process begins with the desire to improve ourselves and includes seeking help, whether it be understanding our condition or pursuing therapy.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – Can You Cure or Heal the Mind?

Journey

Journey is another word for the process of learning about and taking care of our mental health. We can consider it a journey as there will be a start but no definite ending. There will also be many ups and downs, comprising bright days and challenging experiences. The journey is a worthwhile endeavour to benefit our overall happiness and well-being.

Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is a belief or state of mind that limits or prevents us from pursuing and achieving our goals. Limiting beliefs often present themselves as fears or in I can’t/I don’t have/I’m not statements. Affirmations help identify and minimize our limiting beliefs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Happier Human – 15 Limiting Beliefs Examples That Hold You Back in Life

Mental Focus

Mental focus involves making a conscious effort to concentrate on and work towards achieving our goals. Developing and improving mental focus takes time and practice. It will require us to limit distractions, create time for ourselves, take breaks for comforting activities and to practice mindfulness.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the health of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We can have good mental health or poor mental health. Our mental well-being can influence our relationships, decision-making skills and how we experience the world. It can also simultaneously impact our physical health for better or worse. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness.

Mental Health Glossary. Learn the terms you will encounter on your mental health journey.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. It provides a greater understanding of mental health to reduce misconceptions and increase acceptance. Awareness and acceptance offer greater access to information, diagnoses, treatments and support.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Mental Health Strategies

Mental health strategies are actions used to achieve our mental health goals. These strategies may include long-term and short-term plans or practical coping activities. Practicing mental health strategies is helpful for everyone to support good mental health or treat a mental illness.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a mental health condition that negatively disrupts or changes our thoughts, behaviours and feelings. It can make functioning in daily activities and maintaining relationships difficult. It is an umbrella term to refer to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental illness is treatable.

Read more (I have no affiliation with these websites):

American Psychiatric Association – What is Mental Illness?

Health Direct – Types of Mental Illness

Mindfulness

Courtesy of Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is about focusing our attention on acknowledging and accepting our present thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and our needs better.

Mindset

Mindset is our mental attitude that determines our ideas, beliefs, values, philosophy and worldview. Our mindset is typically established through our social and cultural settings. In some cases, our communities may lead our mindset to perceive mental health practices in a negative light.

Shifting Mindset

A mindset shift is a shift or change of our minds. It allows us to be more critical of our current beliefs and accept different philosophies to support, manage and heal our mental health. A shift in mindset is required for mental health awareness.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind setting goals and persevering through the necessary work to achieve them. Beyond having a major end goal, motivation can be maintained by setting and achieving small goals along our journey. Being able to track improvements and using personal rewards are effective motivators.

Process

The process is a sequence of steps and stages we follow to achieve our goal of overall improved mental health. Some steps of the process will be difficult (mentally, emotionally and possibly physically). And some stages will feel frustratingly stagnant as if we are not improving or healing. Trust the process, as every bit of work we put into our journey will pay off at some point.

Safe Space

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexualities, mental health, etc. 

Read More| 5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Self-Care

Self-care is literally caring for the self. It is a combination of activities we follow to support our good physical, mental (or psychological), emotional and spiritual (religious or not) health. Self-care requires positive daily habits to establish a healthy environment and lifestyle. And includes activities to help us handle stressors.

Self-Discovery

Self-discovery allows us to learn about who we are, separate from the opinions and values of our family, peer groups and culture, in order to follow our own path. The process will allow us to understand our personal feelings, thoughts, needs and priorities to become who we want to be. Self-discovery can include learning about our personality, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, unlearning limiting beliefs and behaviours, and growing self-confidence.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Self-Love

Courtesy of Brain & Behavior: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” At its core, self-love means showing kindness to ourselves. It encourages us to prioritize our happiness and well-being rather than be lost in the needs and expectations of others. Self-love involves using positive inner thoughts, setting boundaries, treating ourselves respectfully, and nurturing our growth. It is neither selfish nor vain as prioritizing ourselves leaves us with a better capacity to support others.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Brain & Behavior – Self-Love and What It Means

Self-Work

Self-work is the work and effort we dedicate to improving ourselves. From setting goals to developing mental health strategies to seeking professional assistance, we must hold ourselves accountable to do the work before receiving the reward.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Hello Giggles – Here’s How You Can Start Your Self-Work Journey

Soothing

Soothing relieves pain or discomfort to create a feeling of calm. Different soothing methods may be used to target physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. Effective soothing techniques will differ from person to person, so it may be helpful to test multiple options and suggestions.

Read More| How to Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Positive Psychology – 24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults

Stigma

Courtesy of Better Health: “stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of your mental illness.” Stigma involves prejudice and discrimination that is often the result of misinformation, disinformation and deception. It may prevent people from seeking help, which will, in turn, cause mental illness to worsen. Always remember that mental illness is only one aspect of our identity, and everyone has a right to strive for good mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Better Health – Stigma, discrimination and mental illness

Therapy

Therapy or counselling is the process of meeting with a trained and licensed mental health provider in a series of sessions. Sessions may be completed privately, as a couple or in a group as needed. The term “therapy” is surrounded by stigma. However, therapy is a very healthy activity for our mental well-being and is similar to seeking physical healthcare. Therapy benefits everyone, whether seeking treatment for a mental illness or looking to improve their overall mental health.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is therapy more specifically aimed at treating mental illness. A trained mental health professional may assist us in learning the cause of our condition and how to cope effectively. Psychotherapy is a clinical term we may choose to use while searching for an appropriate therapist. However, it is acceptable to refer to any form of therapy as therapy.

Glossary for Mental Health

Trauma

Courtesy of American Psychology Association: “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.” Physical or psychological symptoms may present immediately after the event or arise years later. Sometimes the traumatic response will be to forget specific details of the event, but our mind will still remember the danger. Psychotherapy can help unearth the details of the traumatic event to provide treatment.

Trigger

Courtesy of Healthline: “triggers are anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” Anything may trigger a memory of the event, including images, scents, sounds or someone discussing a similar experience. The trigger may cause minor to dangerous emotional or psychological pain. A minor reaction may be soothed with self-care and mental health strategies. However, a strong reaction may be dangerous to our safety and require help from a professional mental healthcare provider.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – What It Really Means to Be Triggered

Trigger Warning (TW)

A trigger warning is often used on social media to indicate the content may be triggering. TW will be included at the top of the post and should be followed by the topic (i.e. TW: violence). The increasing use of trigger warnings is an example of the benefits of mental health awareness.

What other words should I add? Let me know in the comments below!

7 Strategies for Coping with Morning Anxiety

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.

Pinterest Image: Seven self-care strategies to cope with morning anxiety

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):

Healthline – Why Do I Have Anxiety in the Morning?

Well and Good – How to Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta – Waking up Exhausted and Anxious?

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, 

Okay, what are we freaking out about? 

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:

“No. I’ve already worried about that. Let it go.”

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.

4. Journal

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:

  • Freewrite
  • Jot notes
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Comics

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.

Pinterest image: Transform your mind. How to overcome morning anxiety. Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day. 
Learn how to manage anxious mornings with 
time-intensive strategies.

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!

Generate Positivity With Affirmations

What’s the state of your internal monologue? Are you encouraging? Or do you ridicule yourself?

Most of us use negative statements regularly:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I can’t do it.
  • I suck.

Whether we say them out loud or in our heads, they do nothing but convince us that we are not worthy of our goals.

But we don’t deserve this negative narrative.

Start speaking to yourself with the same kindness you would offer to the people you cherish.

Affirming your positive life: The benefits of creating your own affirmations and the easy 4-step process to write positivity into your life

The Stigma of Affirmations

I didn’t use to believe in affirmations.

I was deterred by the stigma surrounding people who use words to bolster self-confidence.

Affirmations were often demonstrated by seemingly neurotic, low self-esteem people in movies and TV shows. It gave the impression that affirmations are silly. “A reasonable person would never look in a mirror and tell themselves how great they are”—wrong.

Such negative representations of effective mental health practices keep many people from seeking the help they need. And the support they deserve.

It coincides with the misconceptions that self-care is selfish and that we shouldn’t discuss mental health.

Affirmations are effective, and we should not be afraid to try them.

What is An Affirmation?

Affirmations are positive statements that we use to refresh our minds.

And just as negative talk can erode our self-image, the opposite is true.

  • I am good enough.
  • I can do it.
  • I’m great.

Affirmations can be used to target any part of your life or mentality that you want to change. Make a positive impact on your self-care, self-esteem, career, relationships, or mental health.

Benefits of Creating Your Affirmations

The process has its own benefits.

The internet has many examples of affirmations.  And they’re helpful if you connect with the statements.

However, I believe that the most effective affirmations are those you create for yourself.

Why is that?

Well, let me tell you.

The process has its own benefits.

First, creating affirmations requires self-reflection. Because as we start identifying what we want to change, we discover the root of the negativity.

Second, once we know the root, the positive statements can target those specific negative thoughts.

Last, what we target becomes our goal. Goals provide a means to judge our growth. And seeing our growth encourages us to continue on our journey.

Features of An Effective Affirmation

1.      Positive vibes only.

An affirmation should be positive.

Try not to include any statements that allude to the negative thoughts. This will only draw focus to the negative.

Try not to include words like don’t, won’t and can’t.

Examples of weak affirmations:

  • I don’t suck.
  • I won’t tell myself I can’t do it.
  • I can’t say I’m not worthy.

We want to rephrase the complete sentence into something positive.

2.      Be realistic.

Ensure your goal is believable and achievable. You may be discouraged if it is too far out of your grasp.

Don’t be afraid to set smaller goals while you progress to the big ones.

Say your goal is to get a promotion. That big goal is your endgame.

Set small goals to help get you there:

  • Grow your confidence.
  • Start telling yourself how well you do your job.
  • Start growing your leadership skills.
  • Identify your weaknesses and consider how you can turn them into strengths.

Create affirmations to support each of these goals.

You can also use affirmations to prepare for this journey. For example, use phrases like “I am open to…” and “I am in the process of…” to help you negotiate with your negative mind.

Use your affirmations to inspire: you may not be there yet, but you’re working on it.

3.      Stay in the present.

It is best to write in the present tense using I and my phrases like “I am…” or “I can…” or “My strengths….”

You want to influence your mind’s acceptance that you already possess these positive features.

4.      Focus on the self.

Use affirmations to positively change the things you can control.

Instead of affirming, “My co-workers will like me,” try, “I can accept if they don’t.”

You cannot control what other people think or do. But you can control your reaction.

This journey is about you. Accept yourself, love yourself and grow.

And understand that you may outgrow the negative influencers in your life.

5.      No deadlines.

A sure-fire way to disappoint yourself is to set a progress deadline.

Sometimes the negative thoughts have deep roots. They’ve had years to grow.

And while we can encourage change, we cannot force it. The change will come as you practice your affirmations and work towards your goals.

So try to keep your affirmations free from time expressions like “this time next year,” “by the end of the month,” or “in 30 days.”

6.      Short and sweet.

Keep the affirmation short and to the point. It should be memorable.

You will be repeating your affirmations multiple times a day. And you don’t want to get caught up in trying to remember the wording.

As you begin practicing your affirmations, you may decide to edit the phrasing. That’s great!

Adjust the statements to suit your needs.

Create An Affirmation in Four Steps

Creating an affirmation only takes a few steps.

1.      Set up your page.

(a)      Add a title.

The title is entirely optional but can help keep you organized. The title may be especially beneficial as your journey begins branching into different areas.

For example:

  • Affirmations for self-care
  • Affirmations for my career
  • Affirmations for emotional intelligence

(b)      Divide the page into two columns.

Either fold a page in half or draw a line down the center.

2.      List your negative qualities.

In the left column, write your negatives.

Try to be as specific as possible.

To help you create this list, you could refer to your journal entries, take time to self-reflect, or consider feedback from others.

I will use the example of “I feel uncomfortable standing in front of a class.” (I think first-time teachers and anyone who has hosted a meeting will understand.)

But this is very broad. Yes, I wish I was more comfortable, but what qualities hold me back?

I want to focus on what makes me feel uncomfortable by asking myself questions:

  • What is the cause?
  • Am I afraid?
  • What specifically am I afraid of?
  • Am I nervous about my skills as a teacher?
  • Am I nervous about how my students will behave?
  • Do I feel under-prepared?

Through this process, I may realize the problem stems from an old memory of tripping in class. (I move a lot while teaching, and I’ve bumped into everything!)

In my list, I will write: “I am afraid of making mistakes.”

3.      Write your affirmations.

In the right column, rephrase the negatives into positives.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the positive aspects of these qualities?
  • How might the “weaknesses” be useful?
  • How would you encourage your friends if they said these things about themselves?

Try to use strong words. A thesaurus helps change your wording from good to great.

Remember: you can edit the affirmation at any time.

Let’s write an affirmation for my “I am afraid of making mistakes” example.

Now, let’s figure out the perfect phrase:

  • Every mistake is a chance to learn.
    • Too many words.
  • My mistakes are learning opportunities.
    • I can get better wording.
  • My mistakes influence progress.
    • Perfect! (I used a thesaurus.)

This affirmation is positive, realistic, about me, has no deadlines and, most importantly, is short.

It also encourages my mind to forgive and view mistakes positively.

4.      Stay to the right.

After you write your affirmation, scratch out the negative thought.

It’s finished. Take it off your list and out of your mind.

And highlight the affirmation in a bright colour.

Practice Makes Impact

You want to remember to practice your affirmations daily.

Display the affirmation.

Don’t share it online. But put the affirmation somewhere you will see it.

I like to keep my affirmations on sticky notes, posted next to a mirror or on my closet door.

I use bright colours to connect my mind to the affirmation. For example, I may highlight my affirmation in orange. Then if I use my orange highlighter at work, I will say the affirmation. 

Say the affirmation.

Self-improvement is all about practice. And we practice positive thinking by affirming positive thoughts.

Speak the affirmation out loud for five minutes, three times a day. You can set the schedule, but the standard practice is morning, afternoon and evening.

Try saying the affirmations while looking in the mirror. Make eye contact with yourself. Don’t rush it. Let the phrases sink in.

Try to include your breathing exercise:

Deep breath in → Hold → Exhale slowly → Speak your affirmation

But what if you’re at work or out with friends? Try to write your affirmation multiple times in a notebook. You may also use the Notes app on your phone. This exercise reminds you to think of your affirmations.

Share the affirmation.

If you have a safe person supporting your journey, share your affirmations with them.

For one, they can provide feedback to make the affirmation stronger.

And for another, they can repeat your affirmation to you.

The purpose of an affirmation is to change your self-image. And some of the negative images we have about ourselves come from external factors. So having another person re-affirm that you have these positive qualities is invaluable.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Cleveland Clinic – Do Positive Affirmations Work? What Experts Say

Mind Tools – Using Affirmations

Psychology Today – Affirmations: The Why, What, How, and What If?

My First Affirmations

Most people who provide how-to lists don’t offer examples like this. Perhaps it’s because it’s terrifying to show our vulnerabilities. But this is the purpose of this blog. I hope you will find it helpful.

These were the first affirmations I ever wrote for myself. They took all night as I kept narrowing down the negative side. I really wanted a clear base to build from.

An example of my first affirmations, shown exactly as I described the 4 steps to create affirmations

Looking at these examples now, I think they could use some improvement. However, at the time, they felt right, and they supported me.

After writing these affirmations, I wrote them on a post-it and hung them next to my bedroom mirror.

I felt ridiculous when I started using them, as I still felt the stigma. But I wanted to make positive changes, and I trusted the judgement of my friends who used affirmations.

I started saying them when I was getting dressed, during my lunch break and through my nightly shower.

I did find six affirmations challenging to manage at first.

It was challenging to remember all six and their exact wording. Plus some of them are just too long.

I would start by creating only one or two at a time and slowly adding more.

And edit them as you need to.

Have you ever created an affirmation? What advice would you share?

How to Self-Soothe During a Panic Attack

Even before the diagnosis, I’ve always had coping mechanisms for my anxiety.

Yes, anxiety and panic attacks are not the same thing. However, one may spark the other.

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.

Some self-soothing techniques came about somewhat subconsciously. Others were deliberately applied. The more deliberate actions were found when I seriously researched my anxiety disorder.

I have tried a long, varied list of activities and methods.

Eventually, I adopted the techniques I found that successfully calm my mind and body.

I prefer practicing multiple self-soothing techniques. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There’s no cure-all.
  2. It’s best to use different coping mechanisms for different situations.
  3. We should remain open to trying new methods.

In this post, I will give you a few physical and mental coping mechanisms to try.

Physical Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

The following methods involve external stimulation to calm anxiety.

1.      Holding Thumb to Palm

This is one technique I found by chance.

When I am in a social situation, I become very aware of my hands. To alleviate the awareness, I hold them together.

One day I realized how relieving it is to hold my thumb in my palm.

How to do it:

I am right-handed, so I will hold my right thumb in my left palm. I put my right hand over my left. My right thumb rests flat against my left palm. And my left thumb rests over my right hand.

If you are left-handed, using the opposite hands will be as effective.

A demonstration of how to hold your thumb to the palm of your opposite hand

Notes:

You may need to apply light pressure through your thumb. But it should not feel as though you are gripping your hands.

It is best to hold skin-to-skin. Do not dig your nails into your palm.

Benefits:

I honestly don’t know how it works. But it is very calming.

Perhaps it is slightly grounding. The physical sensation distracts from the mental distress.

Why I like it:

Although it’s physical, others won’t notice when you use this technique. I have done this while teaching or standing in a meeting.

2.      Breathing

The perk of this technique is that it has benefits for both your body and your mind.

How to do it:

Take a deep breath through your nose for at least 4 seconds. Hold it for at least 7 seconds. And slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat three times. Adjust the time to suit your body.

Notes:

During this practice, try not to inhale through your mouth.

Our nose is designed for breathing. That’s its primary purpose, and, for most of us, it’s great at it.

You may find that you are out of breath after breathing through your mouth. This is because our mouth doesn’t fill our lungs quite as well as our nose does. So our mouth can take a big breath, but it won’t reach as deep into the lungs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Verywell Mind – 8 Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Right As Rain – This Is Why Deep Breathing Makes You Feel so Chill

Healthline – What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

Benefits:

Deep breathing opens the lungs and sends more oxygen to your body. Greater oxygen circulation improves your lungs, muscles and brain.

Also, focusing on your breathing will pull focus away from your anxious thoughts.

During the exercise, the mind concentrates on the air moving through the nose sitting in the lungs and pushing out through the mouth.

Why I like it:

Breathing exercises are lovely. As your body begins to feel better, so will your mind.

3.      Holding a cold water bottle

This is a new technique I’ve been practicing, thanks to a recommendation from a friend.

How to do it:

Grab a water bottle and cup it between your hands. The bottle does not need to be ice cold—that is much too uncomfortable for my sensitive hands. But it should be cooler than your hands.

Hold the bottle for as long as you need to.

Notes:

If you are near a body of water, you may also find just placing your palm over the water’s surface to be calming. Feeling the water lightly lap against the palm is peaceful.

And please know that I am jealous if you are near a lake. I wish I were near a lake.

You can also try holding ice, which I only just found out is currently a trend—I must be getting old for being so far out of the loop.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Medical News Today – Anxiety and hot flashes: What is the link?

Parade – TikTokkers Are Using Ice Cubes to Stop Panic Attacks—But Does This Trick Work?

Stylist – How to Calm Anxiety At Night

Benefits:

Hot flashes are one symptom of anxiety/panic attacks. In response to stress, our body releases hormones and our blood circulation increases.

Think of how relieved and refreshed you feel standing near an air conditioner. Holding the bottle provides a similar cooling effect.

The bottle also applies pressure to the palms, which provides some grounding.

Why I like it:

It’s very handy (pun intended) as I always have my support water bottle nearby. I’ve both slept and taught while holding my water bottle.

Mental Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

These methods involve internal calming practices or talking ourselves through a panic attack.

1.      Say your reassurances and affirmations

I decided to group both reassurances and affirmations because they are similar practices. But they are not the same thing.

A reassurance is a statement (and/or action) to relieve fears and doubts.

An affirmation is a positive statement to combat negative thoughts.

Again, very similar but slightly different.

You can also think of a reassurance as supporting your reality while an affirmation supports your mentality.

Note: Try combining these phrases with the breathing exercise.

A.      Reassurances

When an external force is triggering my anxiety, I choose to fight back with a reassurance. I know how I would speak to my friends, so I have chosen to be similarly kind to myself.

How to do it:

Assess the situation to find what triggered the attack. Tell yourself that you are safe. And be specific. What are you safe from and why?

For example, let’s say you are panicking because you’re in the middle of a crowd.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s normal to be scared in a crowd. I’m safe. No one here wants to hurt me.”

Repeat these sentences as often as you need. Say them aloud or in your head.

Notes:

I intentionally use multiple sentences when I reassure myself.

I like to start with a short sentence to grab my mind’s attention. I also repeat it with the change from it (the situation) to I (myself) to draw focus to me.

The rest of the statements are about my feelings, safety, and a clear reason why I am safe.

Benefits:

Learning to reassure yourself will give you a lot of power.

You will begin to understand the basis of your fear. Then once you identify it, you are better positioned to manage it.

Using the same example: I am still uncomfortable in a crowd, but I won’t avoid them. And solo adventures have become possible.

Why I like it:

Reassurances can be created on the spot.

B.       Affirmations

My affirmations flip the script when my mind forces my anxiety to panic.

How to do it:

Refer to your cache of affirmations. Choose one or two affirmations that fit the situation. Slowly speak the affirmation to yourself—aloud or in your head. Repeat it until you feel calm.

The best affirmation will depend on what triggered the attack.

Notes:

Affirmations require pre-planning and practice.

Read more: How to Create Unique Affirmations

Benefits:

Affirmations will help you to reprogram your mind.

You may begin to see yourself in a different light. And you will grow confidence in your ability to live with your anxiety and panic attacks.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Mind Tools – Using Affirmations

Happier Human – 45 Positive Affirmations for Anxiety Relief and Stress Reduction

Chopra – 7 Benefits of a Daily Affirmation Plan

Why I like it:

The more often that I use affirmations, the more I trust myself.

2.      Lists

This technique may or may not have been inspired by Dame Julie Andrews.

How to do it:

When the panic attack begins, start listing things in your mind or on paper.

Your list could be things you find comforting, the people you trust, or your tasks for the day.


“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens / Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens / Brown paper packages tied up with strings / These are a few of my favourite things”

Rodgers and Hammerstein, “The Sound of Music” (1959)

Notes:

You may speak through your list or repeat it over in your head.

If you choose to list your tasks for the day, write them down. Keep the number of tasks limited to the few most important things that must be done today. As you complete the tasks, you will get the bonus of being able to check them off.

Benefits:

Lists provide focus.

Your panic attack may want you to hyper-focus on something your mind has determined to be going wrong. By making a list, you adjust that focus. And you will take back power from your hectic mind.

Why I like it:

Lists are easy to create, and I get so much enjoyment from checkmarks.  

3.      Journaling

A lot of relief can come from unleashing your feelings and fears on the page.

How to do it:

Write in your journal or make notes on a mobile app.

You can give details about what is causing the panic attack. Or you can track your feelings and symptoms.

Benefits:

Journaling gives you the ability to release what is attacking your mind. Getting the thoughts and fears out of your head is a big relief.

It will also give you notes about what you were feeling and why. Then you can reflect on the situation at a later time.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Very Well Mind – Journal Writing as a Tool for Coping With Panic and Anxiety

Don’t Panic, Do This – THE Best Panic Attack Diary Template (Anxiety Journaling 101)

Bustle – 7 Types Of Journaling That Can Help You Manage Anxiety

Why I like it:

Putting pen to paper has always been calming to me. I feel better after I write.

How to self-soothe during a panic attack

And there you have it, seven methods to self-soothe during a panic attack.

I hope you will find a few of these suggestions helpful.

Again, some of the techniques I listed may not work for you. But I hope you will continue researching more coping strategies—even the seemingly strange ones.

Try to have a balance of mental and physical techniques.

You want to treat your symptoms, ground yourself in reality and calm your mind.

If you have any strategies to share, please leave them in the comments.