These days, we're constantly inundated with opinions, news, demands, so much noise, and it's pretty overwhelming, isn't it? It seems young people are more anxious then ever before (!) and with the internet age and the state of the world at large, anxiety is something we're all encountering.
This is why listening to our bodies and taking care of ourselves in simple ways can go a long way. Of course, I learned this the hard way.
A few weeks ago, I fainted on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) on the way to work. It was mortifying to say the least. I was totally ok (sitting at the time), but to make sure, I went to the doctor afterward and had every test known to man to make sure it wasn't a sign of something bigger. Basically, it came down to this: I need to eat every meal (I had skipped breakfast that day) and sometimes anxiety gets the best of me.
So I figured, hey, I essentially have a clean bill of health, I'm fine. Then, this weird thing started happening on the subway each morning. As I sat there, listening to music and reading or scrolling through Instagram, my chest would tighten and I would feel a bit of dizziness as soon as the train entered the tunnel to Manhattan from Queens. It would come out of nowhere. It was like my body was reliving the experience (and panic) of realizing I was going to faint on a crowded train and going through a sort of fight-or-flight response—I think we had been heading into a tunnel at the time on the LIRR, too. I've taken the subway for nearly four years and never been claustrophobic, but for the first time, I felt like I was experiencing symptoms of anxiety in a real way.
I bet that you've dealt with anxiety before, but it's something we don't talk about a lot, and that's why I wanted to write this post. No one is immune to it, yet we have the power to get through it—it's all about finding the right method for you. So, I've collaborated with my mom, Heidi, a certified social worker and the director of social work at a senior home in New York, to put together a series with three different ways of dealing with anxiety. Here's the first one:
Affirmations are your friend.
"A lot of anxiety is created by the way we think, the way we imagine things. Repeating something positive over and over relaxes the brain. This is why having a mantra or praying can be so healing for some people." —Heidi
There is science behind the idea that how we think determines our reality. When we're feeling overwhelmed, focusing on affirmations can have a super calming affect. Close your eyes, breathe, and think of the same positive phrase, like "I am safe" or "I am breathing in peace and breathing out love" over and over again. If you're alone, try saying the phrase out loud. It'll feel silly, but the more you practice it, the more grounded you'll feel.
Hope you all have a relaxing weekend. Check back next week for another way to deal with anxiety.
Xoxo, Heather and Heidi
P.S. "If anxiety begins to affect everything you do, then go and see a counselor," Heidi says. "If you can’t get away from it, then you may need professional help. It’s not the same as talking to your friend; it’s going to someone that’s objective. They can help you develop tools for dealing with anxiety. Sometimes you need a little bit of help in life. It happens to all of us."
P.P.S. While I still feel a little funny on the train sometimes, the tips in this series have helped me a lot. Even something as simple as closing my eyes and focusing on my breathing helps, too. Stay tuned for more, my friends!
Photograph by Tom Schelling