Anxiety is very common, and I am one of the unlucky souls with it. I have endured the echoes of insecurities, self-doubt, worry and pessimism. However, I like to have a healthy dose of optimism with my morning tea.
I have been lucky in that my anxiety for the most part is mild and I manage it quite well. That was up until entering nursing school. It exceeded the resources and tools that typically helped me kick anxiety’s ass and I had to make the decision to start medication to manage my anxiety while I finish school and boy am I glad because it took my anxiety down by a good 60%.
I noticed getting to the point of recognizing that I needed a little more help I really felt the internalized stigma that comes with admitting your mental health has deteriorated. Although, no one said “don’t do it” there were the looks of doubt and confusion regarding the legitimacy and effectiveness of these supports and even after being on medications for almost a year, I was surprised to be asked a leading question that implied I would not need my anxiety medications once school was finished.
I felt like that question in itself gave me anxiety. How do I know what my life will be in a year? How stressful my first nursing job will be? How stable my life will be? Will I have time to properly leverage my strategies for managing stress? All I know is that I take this pill once a day and it has been a huge game changer in how clearly I see the world today and for as long as I need it.
I wanted to make this article to give guidance on strategies that I have leveraged to help manage my anxiety beyond pharmaceutical aids and to reinforce that speaking out and standing up for yourself and your mental health is as precious as it is necessary. So let’s get started!
- I LOVE high impact cardio. Before nursing undermined me being a regular gym rat I love(d) running long distance, doing Krav Maga, and strength training. Even with a busy schedule; find time to prioritize this even if it is only 30 minutes.
- I equally LOVE meditation. I’m the gal who can meditate anywhere! If you are new to the practice and are having difficulties getting into it. Don’t give up. Apps like Headspace and Insight are great for beginners.
- Wined down rituals. I have learned that at the end of the day I need a good hour to fully wined down. If I do anything that is stressful or overstimulating, it is a pain in the ass to fall asleep and I will be awake and restless until at least 3am. Usually for me, I will shower, make some tea, read a book or watch a slice-of-life feel good type of videos. Sometimes I will just meditate, practice my ukulele, clean my apartment or take a hot bath. Try out different routines and do them for at least two weeks so you are allowing your body enough time to start adapting and responding to changes.
- Sleep hygiene is your bff. This one might sound a bit “off” but it’s actually so important. If you are not sleeping enough and regularly it throws off not only your cognitive function but also your body’s hormones. So if you are chronically not sleeping properly you are going to feel it mentally and physically.
- Listen to your body. Do you ever notice certain situations, people, items or tasks cause you anxiety? If it is not practical to distance yourself from those variables, is there anything that you can do to manage your emotional and physical reaction? For me, sometimes this means giving myself a pep talk or positive affirmations beforehand or if I can feel my anxiety is escalating to panic, I will remove myself and do deep breathing and meditation to re-center myself and then re-engage.
- Prioritize who you let in your life. I am a believer in being intentional with how much of yourself you give to others and if you feel that your friends take more from you then they give; it probably is not a healthy relationship. It is important to ensure the folks you surround yourself with: support you, build you up, and inspire you to be your best self. If they drag you down and are not making a genuine effort to improve the friendship do not be afraid to cut them lose or distance yourself depending on the circumstances.
- Be kind to yourself. This one can be hard because with anxiety, usually you are your own worst enemy. I try to periodically reflect on my success and my goals. I take time to appreciate those in my life who support me through the highs and lows. I acknowledge that not everyday will be a great day and welcome those feelings…for a finite amount of time.
Just remember. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the human mind. Be kind to yourself and take the time to respect and prioritize your needs.