7 tips to manage anxiety

Cancer, the pandemic, social unrest, figuring out your friends’ Covid precautions, virtual meetings, political chaos and every day life issues. Yikes, that’s enough to make the anxiety meter start to creep up, right? While unsurprising to feel this emotion right now, there are ways to protect your health. I wanted to share 7 tips to manage anxiety.

If you’re going through cancer or another illness, you may feel anxious, sad, worried and a host of other emotions. These emotions may be amplified with concerns about the pandemic affecting your health, the need to social distance, others’ refusal to wear masks that may protect you, and more. All totally understandable!

However, anxiety and negative emotions aren’t helpful to our mental and physical health. So it’s important to manage these emotions to ensure they don’t affect us long term.

I’m certainly no doctor nor mental health professional. However, I have faced three cancers, my dad’s death, a divorce and more. And while I’m naturally a positive person, I also have moments of feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, frustrated….well, you get it. Frankly, this pandemic isn’t helping. Risk from the virus, some people’s negative behavior and refusals to wear masks (one of the simplest acts of kindness, in my opinion) and lack of plans from government often bring a lot of heaviness. But I’m always trying to release that type of energy and focus on positivity and what I can control. I wanted to share things that helped me over the years.

Here are 7 tips to manage anxiety:

Find something to distract you.

Being busy helps take my focus from things that are making me anxious. Sometimes it’s simply cleaning my house (with good music playing), planting flowers or crossing projects off my to do list. I’ve been binge watching comedies like Schitt’s Creek and Friends (again!) I also read a lot. Lately it’s been fiction to take me away to other worlds/stories, from romance to mystery to political thrillers.

Sweat it out.

Exercise provides many health benefits, including improving mood, energy and sleep. Physical activity triggers some brain chemicals to help make you happier, more relaxed and less anxious. Exercise comes in all forms so find an activity that you enjoy. For example, I love to bike and hike. I’m having fun, not forcing myself to do because it’s ‘good for me.’ Yoga definitely relaxes me. And I recently bought a speed bag – great stress relief! These are great ways to get physical and mental benefits! I share some tips for getting started with a workout routine (check with your doctor before starting an exercise program).

Go green.

Nature is a great place to relax. Focus on the natural beauty, get distracted by animals playing. Try walking/hiking on the trails or even spread a blanket in a park to sit and breathe in fresh air. Many nature centers have surrounding trails. Look for rails-to-trails paths or check out your state park website for trail ideas.

Write it down.

Writing down negative thoughts or emotions can help let those go. I can’t tell you how often I’ll start writing and then just keep going. It really does feel like a weight lifts when I journal to release these thoughts. You can even write these thoughts on paper scraps and burn to feel you’re rid of them (burn in a safe place, preferably outdoors). I usually counter this with writing things that I’m grateful for – it helps me focus on the positive.

Surround yourself with positive, supportive friends.

Be selective about who you give your time and energy to. Yes, we all have bad days and moments of complaint. But have you noticed that some people seem to always have something to complain about? Being around these type of people too much can influence and affect your moods, behavior and outlook. So find people who will support, encourage and motivate you. Being around happy, supportive people can ease anxiety and negative emotions, while also attracting more friends and happiness to your life. Kids can help too. I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew. We do fun stuff, from playing games to making crafts to hiking and biking to dance parties. It’s easy to focus on being happy when they’re around!

Pump up the jams.

Find a playlist full of music that makes you feel strong, powerful, sexy, happy. Get up and dance! Sing! I find it pretty tough to stay sad or anxious when I’m dancing and singing to upbeat, happy music.

Talk to a mental health professional.

There are many benefits to having someone provide an objective perspective to your concerns and thoughts. Many counselors can provide tactics to help you approach situations differently. I saw a counselor through cancer treatment last year, and started periodically seeing her again (via telehealth) a few months ago. It’s been helpful to manage my own emotions surrounding the pandemic and other things. As with any care professional, find one who ‘clicks’ with you. You should feel comfortable and able to be open/honest during your conversations.

BONUS: Smile – it looks good on you!

I hope these 7 tips to manage anxiety help you. How do you manage anxiety? Feel free to share your tips in the comments!

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