Anxiety and Self-Care
There are lots of ways to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Research indicates that a variety of therapy interventions help reduce anxiety. Changing your relationship to anxious thoughts or addressing and changing the problematic thoughts themselves are both effective. In addition, a variety of relaxation techniques can help sooth the nervous system and contribute to fewer anxiety issues. Finally, creating space to talk about what is going on, identifying the triggers, beliefs, and core issues related to anxiety, can help as well.
I've noticed that a number of my clients report that in addition to these direct interventions that help with anxiety, there are a variety of wellness and self-care activities that help promote a sense of well-being and contribute to a lower anxiety level - a guidebook of sorts on how to keep anxiety in check. It makes sense to me and I'd like to explore what this means and how it can be useful.
Self-Care Creates Conditions for Reducing Anxiety
Think about your daily routines, your environment at home and at work, the rituals that help you feel better about yourself. While any one of these things won't necessarily directly reduce anxiety symptoms, committing to a routine of activities that contribute to well-being can definitely foster a sense of calm and order that can help reduce triggers and negative stimulation.
You probably already have a few of these in mind. As much as I love coffee, I know that if I stay below two cups in a day, I am calmer and my thoughts are less busy and reactive for the rest of the day. Going to the gym makes me feel better physically and mentally and I usually sleep better too. Meditation in the morning seems to put me in a much better headspace for handling whatever comes my way during the day.
Note that I'm not talking about rigid and compulsive routines that cause distress if they are not followed. Rather, I'm talking about lifestyle choices, health and wellness decisions, and personal rituals that foster a sense of well-being.
Create a Self-Care Plan
You can do a quick inventory of your life, routines, and environment and probably identify both things that foster well-being and things that hold you back. The idea is not to come up with a rigid list (and set yourself up for failure) but a plan that you can structure your life around - things that contribute to a better mood and overall positive view. When you find yourself becoming more anxious, you can refer to your plan and see what changes you can make to care of yourself.
Your Physical Self
Are there physical activities that help you feel better about yourself? For some it is limiting caffeine or heading to yoga class, or perhaps a short walk in the morning to collect your thoughts. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule is helpful for many. Some people notice that their mood improves if they remember to eat specific foods and reserve problematic foods and alcohol for splurge days. What physical activities help promote a better mood for you?
For some people, a tidy bedroom fosters peace and centeredness. For others, being surrounded by books and cheerful clutter does the trick. Good scents are important to some and fresh air and open windows makes others happy. What in your environment helps you feel better?
Your Internal Self
Meditation is great for some to clear out the cobwebs and reset the brain. For others, music at work soothes and helps focus. Some people find it helpful to read an affirmation every morning. Prayer works well for others. What practices help sooth your mind and keep it sharp and focused?
Consider what you would put in your self-care plan. It may be helpful to write it down or add it to your phone as a reminder. Notice if it leads to improved conditions for reducing anxiety in your life.