Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Caroline vs. Anxiety


As I wrote back in January, I've been dealing with anxiety for a while.  During university and my first year post-graduation, I would spend a lot of my spare time just lying around, watching videos on YouTube, scrolling through social media, and eating.  I was worried that I would fail at anything and everything, and was convinced that if I just did nothing I couldn't actually fail at anything.  And while I've moved past that and I love living in Tokyo, sometimes I feel a little isolated, and I end up spending most of my time inside, either at home or in a study room at UTokyo.  While it is definitely important to know when you need to step back and take a break, I was taking it a little too far.  Below are some things I've learned I can do when I don't want to leave the house, but still need to get something done.

**Disclaimer: These are some strategies that help me cope with my anxiety.  Everyone experiences anxiety in a different way, so this is by no means a universal or exhaustive list.  I hope that by sharing some of my own experiences I might be able to help other people find coping strategies that work for them.**


1. Do a chore

It doesn't have to be a major undertaking like reorganizing your closet or cleaning out your fridge.  I tend to do smaller chores, like washing dishes, vacuuming, or folding laundry.  I also start each day by making my bed, which has a huge impact on how productive I can be, especially in my tiny studio apartment.  Completing small, simple tasks will help keep you from feeling like you wasted the day.


2. Exercise

I'm a big fan of exercise videos on YouTube; I've been pinning them like crazy.  You can find them for any exercise, any ability, and any length of time.  Yoga in particular is great for stress, anxiety, and depression, and there are a lot of videos created specifically for people who want to get calm and centred, while strengthening both body and mind.  I did this one the other day; it's under 15 minutes and has only three poses, so it's a quick and easy break.  Don't have time for a full exercise routine or yoga practice?  Just take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.  Long, deep breaths will slow your heart rate and help circulate blood and oxygen.  If you can, do a forward bend (plant your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart, keep your knees slightly loose, bend at the hips, and touch your hands to your shins or the floor, or hold your opposite elbows, keeping your neck loose).  Putting your head lower than your heart will pump blood and oxygen to your brain, which will boost your mood and help you focus.


3. Make a healthy meal or snack

A lot of people (myself included) will reach for comfort foods when they're feeling stressed or anxious.  I've been making a conscious effort to replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones, but that doesn't mean everything I eat is boring!  I love an apple with peanut butter and honey, for a boost of protein and natural sugars.  There are tons of ways to make healthy meals as well, and sometimes all you need to do is swap out one ingredient for a healthier one (whole grain pasta instead of regular, ground turkey instead of ground beef, natural nut butters instead of processed ones...the list goes on).  You'll feel good about making healthy choices, and this satisfaction will be reflected in your body and in your mind.


4. Use social media

Baby Boomers decry Millenials' dependence on social media, but it has become a great tool for those with social anxiety who want some social interaction, but need a break from actual face-to-face conversation.  I get and share news on Twitter and Facebook.  I take pictures of my food and post them to Instagram, and scroll through my feed to see what my friends are up to.  I send silly Snapchats.  I love social media and being connected, and interacting with friends online keeps me from feeling completely isolated, even when I'm home alone.  Sometimes online interactions lead to making plans, which gives me something to look forward to.  And if you start to worry that you're not living up to the "perfect lives" of other people online, just remember that people only present their best selves, and that behind the scenes everyone is facing their own challenges.


5. Treat yourself

As important as it is to fuel your body well, I don't believe in depriving yourself of something you love.  You'll only end up consuming more in the long run, which will make you feel worse.  Want another glass of wine?  Go for it.  A chunk of chocolate?  All yours.  They key is moderation, or you're back to square one.  You can also try non-food options: taking a hot bath or shower, watching a favourite movie or TV show, reading a new book or magazine.  Sometimes you really just need to take some time away from the world and focus on loving and taking care of yourself.

How do you guys deal with anxiety when you just don't want to leave the house?

xx, C.

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