*Salt-N-Pepa voice* Let’s talk about an-xie-ty, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.
Let’s be honest, talking about anxiety is WAY more fun when Salt-N-Pepa’s involved. Salt-N-Pepa make it betta!
And if you’re currently reading this amidst some gnarly anxiety, you’re probably all like, yeah, yeah enough with Salt-N-Pepa – cut to the chase, I’m anxious!
Guuurl, I feel you. And I feel you because I’ve been there (and still find myself there every once in a while), not because I’m an expert on mental health, so Imma talk about this from first-hand experience instead of regurgitating some textbook mumbo-jumbo. Cool?
Anxiety and I were super close for years. We had one of those co-dependent toxic friendships that left me constantly doubting myself, comparing myself to others, resisting finding/following my passions, people pleasing, and lots of other un-fun, disempowering crap.
Hangin’ with her (and by her, I mean anxiety) feels like having an elephant sit on my chest and then step on my stomach every so often. Trying to smile feels like struggling to lift cement blocks attached to the corners of my mouth. My mind feels like it’s racing, but it’s really just replaying the same things over and over like a broken record. It’s like I’m trapped inside this bubble that disconnects me from the outside world – where I can see what’s happening, but not fully engage with it. People talking sound like those muffled adults in Snoopy cartoons. And not only does it disconnect me from others, it pulls me right out of my body and out of the present moment.
Try showing up fully in your life when you’re riddled with anxiety, I dare you!
To add insult to injury, in many cases I’m unable to pinpoint what exactly set off the anxiety – it usually feels like my subconscious has been piling teeny little “negative” thing, upon teeny little “negative” thing until the stack gets too tall and finally topples over (and I put “negative” in quotes because everything is neutral until we assign meaning to it – it’s really all about those subconscious judgements that each of us collects over time).
And though it can be tough to narrow down an exact culprit for my anxiety-induced Bubble Boy state sometimes, there’s always one common denominator: allowing myself to fall out of alignment. By that I mean I stop prioritizing the things that bring me joy and make me feel great.
For me, alignment comes from a whole variety of things like: yoga, meditation, cooking, writing, hangin’ with mama nature, spending time alone (I’m an extroverted introvert and absolutely need time alone to recharge), spending time with peeps I love (oh, the tug of war of being an extroverted introvert).
Ever since I took time to figure out the things that make me feel aligned, anxiety has only come to visit me a handful of times – because now I have this whole toolkit to fall back on whenever I start feeling the walls closing in around me. I know that if I tune in to how I’m feeling, and start ruthlessly prioritizing my alignment, the anxiousness will lift.
Back in the day when anxiety was my middle name I had no clue what I could do to get myself out of it – and I didn’t want to rely on the drugs that my doctor was always pushing on me – so I felt super disempowered and helpless. I was so focused on external things, people, and ways to “fix” myself, which just perpetuated my shitty feelings – and it wasn’t until I learned to turn inward and listen that things started changing. I have yoga to thank for that positive ripple effect in my life – as it was 100% my anti-anxiety, mindful-living gateway drug.
So, if you’re struggling with anxiety, and you’re worried that it’s something that you’ll have to deal with on a consistent basis forever, I’m here to tell you that you don’t. Here’s a list of my absolute favorite things to reach for when the anxious-monster makes a visit:
- What are the things that make you feel happy and connected/in your flow? These are the things that make you, YOU. There intimately connected to your purpose in life, and ignoring them leads to unhappiness, restlessness, and all sorts of other undesirable things. Honoring them is absolutely ESSENTIAL to your happiness and sense of purpose. You can’t ignore what your soul’s asking for. Make a list of things that make you feel amazing (this will be your toolkit). Keep it somewhere easily accessible. Do those things as much as possible. Prioritize them. When you fall out of alignment, go back to the list and start doing the things one by one.
- Even when things feel crappy, there is ALWAYS something to appreciate. What can you feel gratitude for in this moment? Why are you grateful for it? List all the things and all the reasons. Go on a rampage of appreciation. Your vibe will automatically lift and perspective will shift as a result of this exercise.
- Connect with something larger than yourself – nature (it’s seriously awe-inspiring when you stop to really take it in). Breathe in the fresh air, get your feet in the grass/sand/dirt/whatever, absorb all of the negative ions. Remind yourself that everything in life is impermanent (just notice the weather, seasons, or the change from day to night as evidence). If you allow yourself to ground in nature and get rooted again, all of that outward, heady energy starts centering and getting back into balance.
- Shift your focus from external to internal. Sit still in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath (another reminder that everything’s impermanent). Scan your body from top to bottom, notice the sensations, stop in places that feel tense or constricted and visualize a bright, healing light dissolving the stagnant energy. If/when thoughts pop up – don’t judge them, don’t let them carry you away – just notice them and name them (once you name them, your brain realizes that they’re not part of you and they’re able to fade into the distance), then come back to your breath. Carving out time for intentional mindfulness (or meditation) sends a clear signal to your nervous system that it can slip out of its fight or flight state into a (much more peaceful and restorative) rest and digest state.
- While much of anxiety has to do with allowing our mind/ego to run wild, paying attention to what you’re putting in and on your body is incredibly important to achieve overall balance. Eat real, whole foods that truly make you feel great (light, energetic, vibrant). Pay attention to the ingredients in the products that you’re using – do you recognize them? If not, you’re likely adding a lot of toxic garbage to your system that can have a major negative influence on your hormones and emotions (among many other things). Simplify and detoxify your self-care routine and notice how much lighter you feel. Incorporate aromatherapy into your life – it’s an insanely quick and effective way to shift your emotional (and physical) state – check out this post for info on the top anxiety-soothing essential oils to learn more. As they say, “as within, so without” – so make sure your “within” is clear of excess and toxins that weigh you down. Lighten your physical and emotional load.
So, that’s my list! I can’t even explain the massive difference each of these makes in my day-to-day life, and I hope they do the same for you. Have anything you’d like to add? I’d love to hear all of your incredible tools in the comments below. Sending you ALL of the anxiety-relieving, alignment-prioritizing vibes. ✨