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!

Why You Should Start Journaling

Journaling is a very personal activity. And there are many different purposes and means of keeping a journal.

It can be a memoir of your travel, year or life.

It can be a means of self-help, record-keeping or tracking personal goals.

Or it may just be a new hobby to try.

I have been journaling for ten years. And I have used many journals for various reasons.

In this post, I aspired to include everything you may want to know about starting a journal. It may be an information overload. Just take what you want and leave the rest. Please use the links to jump ahead to the section you need.

One of the purposes of this blog is to share my mental health journey. So I have focused a lot on journaling for mental health. However, I hope the information I provide is still useful for anyone interested in journaling.

Why to start a mental health journal

Why Do People Journal?

The most basic use of a journal is to keep track of events and experiences. But the benefit is beyond the simple act of writing. Reading over those events later gives us a unique view of ourselves.

Every entry includes snippets of our personality, mindset and emotions.

Our mindset in a moment can shape how we view and remember an event. But our memories make it very difficult to separate fact from emotion. A journal entry gives more detail than our memory ever will. And once we have multiple entries to review, we can get a richer portrait of ourselves.

The self-reflective element of journaling makes it useful for practicing self-care, emotional intelligence, and improving therapy.

Journaling for Self-Care

Self-care is exactly as the name suggests: caring for yourself. It is the activities that you do to take care of your health.

Proper self-care requires working on yourself every day, both mentally and physically.

A good self-care routine includes activities that are physical, mental and emotional.

  • Physical activities are things like walking, dancing or taking a bath.
  • Mental activities like reading, drawing or learning a new skill.
  • Emotional activities like meditation, talking with friends or journaling.

Keeping a journal eases your thoughts and feelings.

It also can help you understand your mind, especially when it starts to feel jumbled and overwhelmed.

And reading past entries will also remind you of good days filled with happy memories. And you can trust the bad days will pass.

Journaling for Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is all about recognizing, understanding and using our emotions. And as I said above, one of the benefits of journaling is self-reflection.

Reading through past journal entries allows us to identify our feelings and the source of those feelings.

I’ll give you a very personal example of using a journal for EQ:

I started to find my journal entries to have common themes of feeling sad, small, and stupid. The common event was any form of contact with my partner. Once I realized this, I began to use my journal to encourage myself to end the relationship.

I identified my feelings, understood their cause and used them to create positive change in my life.

While this is an oversimplified explanation of EQ, keeping a journal is one practice to grow your emotional intelligence.

Journaling for Therapy

A journal can help you talk to your therapist.

Journaling has been described as a cheap form of therapy. But I would never say that it replaces a therapist. I have been in therapy during my mental health journey, and nothing can fully replace the help it provides.

Keeping a journal for therapy will add to your growth.

My experience is that a therapist will expect you to do homework between sessions. This homework could be reflecting on your session or practicing some form of self-help. Your therapist may even provide you with resources, such as worksheets or tasks. But if not, a journal is a great tool.

Regular entries will reveal your mindset and help you understand why you are struggling. Through these breakthroughs, you can narrow down what you need to work on in your sessions. Therefore, a journal can help you talk to your therapist.

You can also use a journal to track your progress in therapy. Re-read your entries over the past year to see where you started and how it’s going.

We take from therapy as much as we put into it. It takes time, emotion and honesty. And writing a journal entry gives us this outlet while only requiring a few minutes of our day.

How I Started Journaling (And Almost Quit)

When I was in high school, a teacher told everyone to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to their bed.

It was easy to start. I bought a cheap notebook and searched online for journal prompts.

And I wrote every day to form the habit.

Working the pen lightens my load.

But it quickly felt like a chore for two reasons:

First, I have very messy handwriting.

My hand simply cannot keep up with my thoughts. And when I first started, I hated that. I wanted to have pretty journals and didn’t want to wreck a new one with my writing.

I started writing slowly and focused hard on my penmanship. Until I realized I wasn’t writing as much as I needed to express myself fully.

Eventually, I came to accept how much better it feels to mark the page than to have pristine paper. Working the pen lightens my load when I write freely.

Second, I was trying to follow prompts and 30-day writing challenges.

Prompts are great for beginners. They will give you ideas of what to write about.

But I only connected with a few prompts I found online. So I’d be bored using the same topic again. Or I’d force myself to write one I’m not interested in. It wasn’t fun or beneficial.

Therefore, once I understood the journaling basics, I stopped using prompts.

My tactic is now to start with a statement or create a question, similar to the examples I provide below.

Ultimately, I got the idea and basics of journaling from other people. But I’ve been able to keep journaling for over ten years because I adjusted the pastime to suit my needs.

I try to update my journal three times a week. I allow my pages to be messy. And I rarely use prompts unless they’re interesting.

Everything you want to know about starting a journal

How to Write In a Journal

The rules are there ain’t no rules.

– “Grease” (1978)

A journal is incredibly personal. And there is no one right way to do it.

So let’s start by breaking whatever misconceptions you may have about journaling:

It is not a school assignment. You don’t have to be a good writer, use proper grammar or tell a story. There is no minimum number of words and no maximum number of pages. You are writing for yourself. You won’t need to explain your thoughts to other people or seek their approval. And please don’t feel like you have to write pages-long prose about the woes of the day.

Now let’s give you some motivation to start writing:

Write about what you want as often as you need. You can write once a day, four times a day, once a week, three times a month—it’s in your hands. A few sentences are fine. It’s understandable if you don’t have the energy to write every day.

Write when you are happy as well as when you are sad.

Choose a writing style that suits you:

  • Freewriting
  • Jot notes
  • Lists
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Comics
  • Doodles
  • Write in a notebook
  • Type on a computer or phone

Use one pen or multi-coloured pens and highlighters to develop your own technique.

Using different pens really helped me in therapy.

When I journal, I will often start wherever my mind is focused. For example, it could be in the middle of a story. Then as I write through the event, I will go on tangents to cover different angles.

Before my next therapy session, I will read over my journal entries and mark up the pages with a different coloured pen. In other words, I study my journal entries to prepare my notes.

Bottom line: You have total freedom to do whatever you want in your journal.

Start Your Journal

Before buying a journal… start writing.

Before buying your first journal, notebook or diary, start writing.

On the one hand, waiting until you find the perfect journal is a great excuse not to start journaling. (You’ll have to trust me on this as I am a master procrastinator.)

On the other hand, you need to figure out your journaling style.

I don’t want you to find writing as a task. So, let’s keep it simple.

Experiment to find the best writing style for you, using whatever you have on hand:

  • Add notes on your phone.
  • Start typing on your computer.
  • Make a list on post-its.
  • Answer prompts on a notepad.
  • Draw on blank paper.

Think of this as an audition.

Try writing every day, but do something a little different. If on Monday, you write a list of your favourite songs. On Tuesday, try drawing your emotions. And on Wednesday, free write on your computer.

You can narrow down the proper journal when you know what feels most comfortable for you.

Getting The Right Journal

Infographic about buying your first journal including notebooks (hard-bound, soft-bound and spiral-bound), paper (lined, unlined and dotted), Pages and cost

Once you know how you want to journal, you can start looking at the available options.

Again, journaling does not have to be expensive.

To give you an idea of the variety of journals, I will describe my journals and how I use them.

I currently have 5 personal journals and use them for various reasons:

  1. Mental health

My mental health journal is a big honker. It has three sections separated as lined, unlined, and dotted pages. It is spiral-bound and has 480 pages. It cost less than $20.00.

I really hop around and use whichever section fits my current mood. I write on all the pages but also use the unlined and dotted pages to draw.

I also use the unlined pages during my therapy sessions. My sessions are over messenger, so I jot down what we discuss and any advice I receive. After the session, I review everything and use a different coloured pen to write notes.

  1. Brainstorming

My brainstorming journal has 120 lined pages. It is a soft-bound notebook and had cost about $14.00.

I use this journal for writing my blog posts. To be blunt, this is my most chaotic journal.

  1. Quotes

My quotes journal has 100 lined pages. It is a soft-bound notebook. The cover was custom-designed and cost around $50.00 in total. The cover is also removable. Once the notebook is full, I can get a new one and re-use the cover.

I use this journal to keep track of the first sentence of every book that I read. I got the idea from a writing class. This is my favourite way of keeping track of the books I’ve read. When I re-read the sentence, I instantly remember the book I got it from.

  1. Doodling

My doodling journal has 500 unlined pages. It is a hard-bound art book. The pages are designed to absorb ink without bleeding through to the next. For this reason, it also cost $40.00.

I am not good at drawing, but that doesn’t stop me. I draw multiple images on every page. And I date each of my pictures. I’ve noticed some improvement as I keep practicing, so seeing the dates is also encouraging.

  1. Notes

My note-taking journal is really a catch-all. It has four sections and 400 pages. It is a spiral-bound notebook and cost $20.00.

I use it to learn new programs, self-care strategies, hobbies, etc.

Some things to consider

Your best journal is whatever suits your writing style and feels most comfortable. And every option has strengths and weaknesses.

A soft-bound will need to be held open. But you will get full use of the paper. I also like how they look on the shelf.

A spiral-bound will fold around, so you have less to hold. I also like how easy it is to pull a page from a spiral-bound notebook. But the coil may be uncomfortable to rest your wrist on. And sometimes, the coil wrecks the covers of other books, so I don’t want them on my bookshelves.

Some notebooks include writing prompts. These are good if you really want a writing challenge or need the motivation. But they will cost more money. And the possibilities for these journals are limited to the subject of the prompts.

If you want a journal just because you love the cover, go for it! I have bought many journals for that exact reason. In time, I always find a use for them.

And I fully encourage you to keep multiple journals at once. You can separate them by theme or goal.

Again, there are no rules so choose the options that serve you best.

What to Write In Your Journal

It can be challenging to sit down and start writing. You may question where or how you should start.

Just remember that there are no rules to writing in a journal.

If you have something sitting heavy in your mind, write it out.

And it’s okay to start in the middle of a story. You are journaling for yourself, not for other people to read. You already know the situation/feeling/problem you are writing about. Let it out; the paper can take it.

If you need some help to get started, please use my list of journal prompts.

Journal Prompts

Choose the prompts that connect with you. Don’t force yourself to write every prompt.

General

  • What did I do today?
  • How do I feel today? Why?
  • Look out the window. What do I see? (Be detailed.)
  • What is something new I learned this week?
  • What are my goals for today? This week? This year?

Opening Statements

  • The things that bring me the most joy are…
  • I want/need to forgive…
  • I wish…
  • I am excited to…
  • I am focused on…

Lists

  • 10 of my favourite inspirational quotes.
  • 5 emotions. Try to answer: what does [emotion] mean to me?
  • Things to let go of.
  • My favourite song lyrics. (Can you explain why?)
  • Daily affirmations.

For Mental Health

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What makes me feel safe? (These could be people, objects, places or actions.)
  • How do I want to feel today?
  • What do I love about myself?
  • (After meditation) What passed through my mind?
20 effective prompts to motivate your journaling journey. Prompts for beginners.

I hope you feel motivated to get that journal started! Have you started a journal? Share your tips or questions 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.

100 Anxiety Triggers

“…things that were, things that are, and things that may yet be.”

J. R. R. Tolkien

Anxiety doesn’t make sense. I know it doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop my mind from filling with worry and my body from feeling sick with nerves.

And I am tired of people asking me what I have to be nervous about.

So I decided to make a list.

I set my number at 100 to see if I could actually make a full list. Then I let my mind take over to remember every real-world and “what if” scenario that has triggered my anxiety at one point or another.

Thankfully, one thing we can always count on is a flighty imagination to keep the panic ticking on.

My triggers have developed from a mixture of past experiences, learning from others’ past experiences, and my own unkempt imagination. However, I will not be discussing those root causes on this list.

What are the benefits of knowing your anxiety triggers?

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.

Sitting down to make a list of anything that has tripped your anxiety is a practice in self-reflection. And once you have that list, you can analyze it to see the connections and identify the underlying causes.

Knowing the root cause of these feelings will then give you a goal to focus on during your journey.

And, this practice will give a huge boost to your emotional intelligence.

But beyond that, perhaps the greatest benefit of identifying your emotional triggers comes when developing your anxiety coping strategies.

To cope with your anxiety, you may focus on addressing the root causes, begin to assert boundaries, and learn how to avoid the triggering events.

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

Healthline – How To Identify and Manage your Emotional Triggers

Psychology Today – How to Spot Your Emotional Triggers

The Holistic Psychologist – Let Your Triggers Be Your Teacher

The benefits of knowing your anxiety triggers.

A List With A Purpose

I know this is an odd post, but this list serves two purposes:

  1. exercising my emotional intelligence; and
  2. for a laugh because I know that some of these things are completely ridiculous.

At the risk of this topic feeling sad, please know I chose to post it to share and create camaraderie among people with anxiety.

Perhaps this list will provide some comfort that you are not alone should you have similar triggers or your own silly triggers (like number 44: stomach gurgles).

Please know that I try to laugh at how ridiculous my mind can be rather than mope in constant dread.

When a negative thought flits through my mind, I try to push it away with a hopeful alternative or action plan.

Anxiety will only leave me as stuck as I let it. And I’m nervous about getting stuck anywhere (see numbers 43 and 51).

How does my anxiety get triggered? Let me count the ways.

Disclaimer: Please read this post with caution as I do not want it to trigger your anxiety or, worse, a panic attack. Take care!

  1. When a doorbell rings.
  2. A knock on the door.
  3. Answering the door.
  4. Not answering the door.
  5. My messy apartment.
  6. My clean apartment.
  7. People who drop by without warning.
  8. Having people over, ever.
  9. Talking.
  10. Not talking.
  11. Talking too much.
  12. When I set the alarm.
  13. When I can’t sleep.
  14. When I can’t sleep because I set the alarm.
  15. When I have five more hours to sleep before the alarm goes off.
  16. My home security alarm.
  17. My car alarm.
  18. Loud noises.
  19. Going on a date.
  20. Going on a virtual date.
  21. What if I forgot to unplug my straightener?
  22. A ringing phone.
  23. Calling family.
  24. Calling a client.
  25. Calling to make an appointment.
  26. Going to an appointment.
  27. What if I’m early?
  28. What if I’m late?
  29. What if I have the wrong date?
  30. Tuesday.
  31. Am I having a panic attack or heart attack?
  32. Lighting a candle.
  33. Extinguishing a candle.
  34. Using a lighter.
  35. Using a gas stove.
  36. The first day of the new school year.
  37. The first day back after a break.
  38. Tests.
  39. That embarrassing thing I said when I was 9.
  40. Walking alone.
  41. Walking with other people.
  42. Walking near crowds.
  43. Getting stuck in the mud (walking or driving).
  44. Stomach gurgles.
  45. My posture.
  46. What if I forgot to turn off the light?
  47. Entering a new store.
  48. Asking for help.
  49. Returning an item.
  50. I’m not sure what I’m anxious about right now, but my body feels anxious. Let me think about it.
  51. What if the tire doesn’t line up on the track at the car wash, and I get stuck?
  52. The flight I have tomorrow.
  53. The flight I have in six months.
  54. The flight I haven’t booked yet.
  55. Finding my seat on the plane.
  56. Receiving bills.
  57. Paying bills.
  58. Remembering if I paid the bills.
  59. Taxes.
  60. Deadlines.
  61. Making mistakes.
  62. Running.
  63. Driving in a new area.
  64. What if I don’t know anyone there?
  65. What if I know someone there?
  66. Setting up a bio on any social media app, ever.
  67. Making a reel.
  68. Taking a selfie.
  69. Posting a selfie.
  70. Posting myself in a story.
  71. Writing a blog post.
  72. Sharing a blog post like this.
  73. Doing too much.
  74. Not doing enough.
  75. It’s 3 AM—why am I still awake?
  76. It’s 11 PM—what am I doing with my life?
  77. Everything I need to do tomorrow.
  78. Everything I didn’t do today.
  79. When I need to leave and can see the neighbours are outside.
  80. When I need to leave and can hear the neighbours are also about to leave.
  81. When people are close enough to read over my shoulder.
  82. When people can see me sing in the car.
  83. What if I’m overdressed?
  84. What if I’m underdressed?
  85. Wearing a bra.
  86. Not wearing a bra.
  87. Forgetting someone’s name.
  88. Being too excited.
  89. Being too sensitive.
  90. Being too mean.
  91. Being too nice.
  92. Spending $200.00.
  93. Carrying any amount of cash.
  94. Having a wallet.
  95. What if I forget my wallet?
  96. What if I forget my phone?
  97. What if I forget my keys?
  98. Poor Wi-Fi.
  99. A phone battery at 60%.
  100. Anything outside of my control.

How I Deal

I’ve developed some coping strategies to ease my anxiety.

But I also structure some of my life around limiting the triggers:

For 1-4, I will only use an app like Skip the Dishes or DoorDash when ordering food. The delivery instructions are always: leave the food at the door, do not ring the bell. And when they don’t even knock—above and beyond! You get five stars.

For 23-25, I ask to keep all communication online, and thankfully, in 2022, it’s more acceptable than it used to be.

For 95-97, I need my fives when I go out: phone, money, ID, keys and lip balm. I keep the list short. I always count off my fives before leaving the house. If I need to add one more item, I keep it under the keys and put a post-it note on the door.

While these extra steps can feel like a pain, they make me feel confident and in control.

Please tell me you share some of these triggers! And if you have any odd triggers, share them down below.

100 anxiety triggers and how to create coping strategies