Self-Care for Anxiety

We all experience anxiety to some degree, and it’s not always a problem. Like before a presentation or performance, the anxiety we feel reminds us to prepare and practice. Or the anxiety surrounding an upcoming test can motivate us to study more. However, anxiety can become a problem when we experience, “persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.” (NAMI.org) We might be able to logically tell ourselves that we are safe and there’s nothing to worry about, but we still feel anxious and can have some of the following symptoms as outlined on the NAMI website:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense or jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Sweating, tremors and twitches
  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

It can be difficult to get through a regular work day, or school day for students, when we are experiencing these symptoms. And then anticipating that we might have this experience makes it even worse! Not a fun cycle to be in. So, how do we reduce our anxiety?

Self-Care for Anxiety

Since the COVID19 pandemic began in 2020 the rates of anxiety have increased significantly. Usually, when we experience anxiety around a performance or a test our stress levels return to normal after the event. However, people are experiencing chronic stress due to the uncertainty of when it will end and because we have lost some control over everyday common things like business closures. 

Part of the reason we feel anxiety is because we are not feeling safe, and anxiety can show up as an overreaction to the actual situation. If you can logically tell yourself that you are safe but you still feel the symptoms of anxiety, then a healthy distraction can help. An activity that engages you enough that you need to focus on it and get into a state of flow. A mildly difficult hike or other workout; a guided meditation; or a creative active meditation like art making, are all healthy ways to distract your mind from overreacting or overanalyzing a situation. Of course, if you want more support in reducing anxiety, seek out a trained therapist in your area that can help guide you in your mental wellness goals.

Try This

Making art has always been my creative distraction when I need to reduce stress. One of my favorite methods is abstract painting with watercolors while listening to instrumental music. 

  1. Clear a space for your watercolor paper, paint, and a jar of water
  2. Play some instrumental music so that you’re not distracted by the lyrics and you can get into the flow of painting. (I really enjoy listening to classical piano music for this or cello by Yo Yo Ma)
  3. Then play with your paints! Try getting your paper wet first and then adding paint; try painting on dry paper; try layering colors
  4. Don’t judge your art, don’t censor yourself, just play and have fun. 

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