I bet that you've dealt with anxiety before. Or you know someone who has. It's something we don't talk about a lot, and that's why I wanted to write this three-part series. (I shared my experiences with anxiety here.) Even though it's hard to avoid altogether, there are ways to manage anxiety. 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 three different ways of dealing with anxiety. Rather than a quick or easy solution, our focus is to help you find the right method for you. Here's the final part of the series (you can read the first two parts here and here).
Pencil in "joy" time for yourself every day
"Having a few things that you know relax you—you really need that in this life. Then it's focusing on wanting to be happier and making the effort." —Heidi
Sometimes even before I open my eyes in the morning, my head is flooded with an endless to-do list for the day—plus all the should-haves and could-haves and if-onlys. And then the alarm goes off, I reach for my phone, and I'm inundated with an overwhelming amount of information—emails, news alerts, etc. So it's no wonder that before I've left my bed there's already a bit of anxiety whirling around.
What if before that automatic reach for our phones (or morning worry spiral 🙋🏼), we laid in bed for a minute and thought: What am I going to do today that will make me happy? How often do we start the day that way?
Think of something relatively simple that almost always makes you happy. Maybe it's going for a walk with a friend, researching an upcoming trip, people-watching at your favorite cafe, snuggling with your dog, dancing up a storm to your favorite song. Whatever it is, schedule out a block of "joy" time each day or add it to your daily to-do list. (Even if it's for 10 minutes, even if that means cutting something else out. It's putting you and your health first.) Adding a positive, purely fun activity to your to-do list is a reminder that bringing a bit of joy into your day is essential. It breaks up the hum-drum and the mad hustle from one task to the next. It'll likely push you to reassess what's absolutely necessary to get done that day. It puts you more in control, instead of feeling rushed and like a slave to your to-do list, which is how I feel a lot of the time!
Heidi says that as children, we often wake up with a sort of wonder and excitement, and then as we go about life and get older, we get a little beaten up and downtrodden and basically, we're just trying to make it through the day. But taking the time to try the three methods we've shared—to repeat positive affirmations, to embrace quiet moments, and to schedule time each day for a fun activity—will make dealing with anxiety less of an insurmountable process.
"These things aren't easy to do," Heidi says. "They take discipline and motivation and repetition. We’re human and we're assaulted by different stresses in our life. Be patient with yourself; we all have anxiety. If you can learn a few of these skills, it will make a world of difference."
xoxo, Heather and Heidi
P.S. "If anxiety begins to affect everything you do, then see a counselor," Heidi says. "If you can’t get away from it, you may need professional help. It’s not the same as talking to your friend; it’s going to someone that’s objective. A counselor 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."
Photograph by Tom Schelling