Are you prone to anxiety?
I always have been. As a kid I was anxious that I'd get a bad grade or that my house would burn down, that there was a monster under my bed or a murderer on the block. Oh, and tornadoes. Those were really scary.
I spent my college years worrying about school, money, my future, and if my little house in the country had securely locking windows. Then onto motherhood and, well, you get the idea.
When anxiety shows up it hijacks my day, robs me of sleep, and makes it feel like everything is falling apart – though I can almost guarantee you that's it's not.
But now, pushing 42, I'm finally getting a handle on it. Anxiety is no longer the order-of-the-day in my world. It's a rarity, a call to action, an invitation to change.
I finally have some tricks up my sleeve so that when anxiety comes on strong I know what I need to do to get centered again.
And now anxiety has become little more than a great reminder to get things back on track.
Needless to say, if you are in a mental health crisis please seek care with a trained counselor. This is just my way of dealing with the day-to-day of an anxious mind.
Here's my remedy. I hope it helps you.
Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja
1. Slow down
No, it's not always possible to dash off for a beach vacation when you're feeling anxious or to take a break from your day-to-day busy life. But taking charge of your agenda but cutting some obligations off of your to-do list – even temporarily – can help.
Think in terms of the flu. If your body was sick, what activities would you have to cut?
Find the courage to cancel a visit, reschedule an appointment, or simplify a meal to buy yourself a little space to slow down.
This mindful practice can help you get centered and can put things back into perspective.
Sleep is vital as well.
When I'm feeling anxious I go to bed as early as I can and rest as long as possible. Grab some herbal tea, light a candle, and tuck in (without a phone or computer). Let yourself unwind slowly to welcome sleep.
2. Limit social media
Social media can be a nice way to stay connected with far-away friends and family but it's also an anxiety bomb waiting to explode.
Disturbing images, sharp comments, and just too much baggage are all easy to absorb when we're feeling out of balance.
Take a media fast until you feel centered again, or simply create some limits on how much time you engage there.
3. Cut the caffeine
With apologies to my friends who own the coffee roastery, caffeine is a big contributor to anxiety.
I had another friend once confessed, "I just can't drink coffee. When I drink coffee I instantly turn into a really nasty mom."
I get that. When I've had too much caffeine I have a shorter fuse and am more prone to anxiety. It also depletes magnesium in the body which has a very direct effect on our anxiety levels.
Cut the buzz.
Wean yourself slowly or go cold turkey. It's your call. I love homemade herbal chai as a caffeinated tea or coffee substitute. I make a big pot of it every Sunday but don't add the milk. Then I can drink it for several days without having to make a fresh batch.
4. Magical Magnesium
This, my friends, has been key in my anxiety management.
After discovering the effect magnesium has on my body, I'm certain that a magnesium deficiency has long been at the root of my anxiety (as it is for so many of us).
More than 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient – thanks to depleted soils, lifestyle choices, diet, and our health. (More on the reasons here.) Getting some absorbable magnesium in or on our bodies can be a game-changer.
I have prefer to get magnesium into myself and my kids two ways: internally and topically.
Magnesium is easiest for the body to absorb when applied topically, but if you are deficient you can use a combination of internal absorption and external application.
We love Calm. For an edible magnesium source it's absorbable and clean. It's also pretty sweet-tasting so I'm considering buying an unflavored bottle to cut a flavored bottle with it. Go slow with magnesium! Taking too much will result in epic diarrhea. You don't want that. And please don't ask me how I know. (Ahem.)
Homemade or Purchased Magnesium Oil
Magnesium oil is simply magnesium chloride that has been dissolved into an equal part of distilled water. No, it's not an oil, but it is commonly called that because of its feel of it on the skin.
When you are magnesium deficient the oil tingles, itches, or stings after application as the body greedily absorbs all it can from the application. With continued use this sensation lessons until after a few days it feels simply like oil.
My kids hate magnesium oil. Hate, hate, hate. When they are deficient they can't get over the tingly sensation and don't want to have anything to do with it. To remedy this we take Magnesium Calm and apply a small amount of the oil to thicker skinned parts, like the bottoms of the feet.
To make your own magnesium oil simply boil 1 C distilled water and combine with 1 C magnesium chloride flakes. Stir to combine, cool, and transfer to a clean spray bottle. That's it. For real.
Apply once a day to your belly or lower back.
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths are also helpful, but not as good a source of magnesium as magnesium chloride.
5. Get outside
Nature heals. Getting outside and away from the overwhelming business of our day-to-day life is a game changer. Biophilia, baby. Carve out even a few minutes to walk and breathe and be in nature and you will find your anxiety taking a back seat to your gratitude.
Whether that means a walk around the block, a visit to a city park, or a hike deep into the wood, find the green. It heals you.
6. Soothe with Scent
The power of essential oils on the mind is profound.
When I was a new (anxious!) mama I created an essential oil blend for my colicky, rough sleeping (read: not sleeping) baby.
I was amazed at how well these essential oils worked not only for helping him fall asleep, but also for calming my anxiety. Enough so that I relabeled the blend for adults and offered it undiluted for diffusers and baths as well.
If you are stocking your essential oil kit for the first time or want to treat your anxiety with something you already have on hand, the following scent are tops for anxiety and can be found at your local coop or natural pharmacy:
Lavender – if you have only one single essential oil let it be lavender! Helpful for anxiety, sleep troubles, and skin issues lavender EO has countless uses.
Tangerine – a wonderfully bright and uplifting oil. Helpful for those prone to depression as well.
Ylang ylang – A complex, rich, floral oil for depression and anxiety. One of my favorites.
Always use essential oils properly diluted on your skin, or put them in a diffuser or bath. Never apply undiluted.
7. Seek connection
You weren't meant to do this alone. Not parenting, not keeping a home, not the day-to-day grind of work and bills and life. None of it.
Find your people.
Call your mom, your sister, a friend, a counselor. Seek out like-minded people though a church, art collective, or parenting coop. People were not designed to be solo, especially during difficult times.
8. Face your s**t
Get real about what's troubling you. Money? Relationships? Impending doom? Sit with it and mindfully focus on what you can control to remedy the situation.
Make a budget. Have a difficult conversation. Ask for help.
Because at the heart of anxiety is usually a specific fear or group of fears for the future.
Saddle up and take it on.
You've got this.
9. Write a different story
Anxiety is usually one big game of make-believe.
It's our imagination, hard at work, making up worse-case scenarios for the future.
Pull the plug on this self-defeating loop. Write a new story. One that you might not believe yet, but that you want to believe in. And then write it again and again until you begin to believe it.
And then watch it unfold.
Because if your anxiety can use your imagination, so can your optimism. Which story do you want to come true?
And while you're at it, practice gratitude.
There is so much for us to be thankful for. But when we're drowning in anxiety it doesn't feel that way. We see messes instead of magic, lack instead of abundance, a cloudy future rather than a gorgeous sunrise.
Make a habit of practicing gratitude.
While you brush your teeth, while you wash your dishes, while you drive to work. Start with ten things each day that you are thankful for.
Because gratitude can change everything.
10. Just Breathe
Some days there is barely time to get food on the table, much less to meditate.
But slowing down – even for a moment – can be a game changer.
Take a few minutes (before you fall asleep if it's the only quiet you can manage) to sit or lay silently and focus on your breathing.
Begin with your palms laid across your belly button. Breathe deep and slow into the place behind your hands at the very bottom of your lungs.
Feel your roots and your balance coming back.
Now place your hands across your upper chest. Breathe fully into your upper lungs.
And feel your heart again. Yeah, it might make you cry. But that's healing work, too.
Be well, friends. Here's to an anxiety-free future for us all.