* I am not a doctor, so take these anxiety tips and tricks as you please.
In 2021, I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder.
The diagnosis shook up my world. I could not understand how I had developed a mental illness after all these years. What happened next changed everything.
I started to become aware of the fact that I was anxious about everything. The most significant area in my life was my health. It did not help that we were in the middle of a worldwide pandemic at the time, and I felt like I was being constantly exposed. Shortly after, I did what everyone recommended and went to the doctor to get a bottle of pills to ensure I would be okay.
For many, the pills and antidepressants that they take heal everything. And they did work, for a moment. But almost immediately after, I started to notice things. I no longer felt like myself and began feeling emotionally numb. Whereas I usually had extreme highs and emotional lows, I began feeling like I could not feel anything. It was one of the scariest things that I have ever experienced. And then, I started to experience body odor. The body odor was not a standard type of body odor, though. It was a specific smell. I remember the day someone mentioned it, and I realized I had to get off antidepressants.
So, after I got off antidepressants, I noticed I had to do something about my anxiety. I began the journey of self-healing.
Today, I experience anxiety symptoms occasionally, but I have not had an anxiety attack in months. So here are the ten things that helped me out.
1. Learning the source of my anxiety:
Anxiety can come from many things. I found that my anxiety was around health and getting sick. I would sit at my desk or on my bed and research my side effects for HOURS because I was so scared that I would catch the newest illness. If I had any cough or sneeze, I began catastrophizing, and it got chaotic. I also learned that when I was in a situation of intense pressure or a place where I felt trapped like an elevator, I got anxious.
Why does learning about the source of anxiety help?
Well, once you have sat down and learned about what causes your issues and problems, you can either avoid those situations or prepare yourself for them. I used to be scared and afraid of elevators because I did not want to get trapped, and now whenever I am about to get into one, I start doing my routine of deep breathing and stretching.
Slowly but surely, the situations that used to give me an anxiety attack would not trigger me that way. I found my life was feeling bright for the first time, which was terrific.
2. Circle/ Square breathing
Breathing is the number one thing that healed my anxiety. I learned about circle breathing from my counselor. Circle breathing is where you perform a sequence of breathing, holding your breath, and then exhaling.
Considering that the breath is the first thing to go during an anxiety attack when I eliminated shallow breathing, I ended up having fewer anxiety attacks.
Another thing that I began to notice is that the circle breathing became like a reflex. Whenever I was in a situation that made me stressed, I would instinctively begin to circle or square breathe, and it changed my life.
Here is the deep breathing that I did
Breathe in 5 seconds
Hold for 5 seconds
Exhale for 5 seconds
I would repeat this breathing cycle until I began to feel calm.
A word about this is that it only works if you take deep breaths from your stomach. If you try to circle breath and perform short or shallow breaths, you might notice that it does not work.
3. Changing my eating habits
Another thing that helped my anxiety was changing the way that I ate. When I had the worst anxiety, I ate tons of junk food every day, did not take my vitamins, and consumed lots of sugar. As a result, I felt bloated most of the time. Here are some of the eating habits that I added to feel better
- I eliminated most simple sugar and replaced it with complex sugar. Some of my most significant weaknesses were ice cream and sodas. My family used to love drinking a ton of sodas, and I found that the sodas were always around. But my life changed when I began to trade out the sodas I would drink for juices like apple juice or cranberry juice. Food Replacement, where you trade one food group for another, became one of my most potent eating habits.
- I began to drink apple cider vinegar water every day; we will talk more about this one later.
- I started consuming ginger. In 2022, I caught Covid 19. It wreaked havoc on my body, and I found that it gave me a large amount of mucous long after the disease released me from its clutches. Frustrated, I consulted the help of one of my coworkers, who used to be a nurse and has been in the medical field for over 30 years. She introduced me to this ginger drink. It immediately cleared all of the mucus I had been fighting to clear for several months. To this day, I now crave ginger drinks.
- I stopped eating breakfast. Now, this one is probably a little controversial because you have probably been taught that breakfast Is the most important meal of the day. However, I found that on the days I would eat a huge breakfast, I would get symptoms such as cramping and indigestion. For some people, eating breakfast can trigger anxiety and symptoms. This can be especially true if you don't consume much water (like I didn't). I tried intermittent fasting for a time, and this is where I learned that eating breakfast was not for me.
4. I drank apple cider vinegar water every morning
Drinking apple cider vinegar water is the Number one thing that healed my anxiety. '
There have been a host of scientific studies about the connection between your brain and your gut. I will allow you to research this, but one thing to note is that when you begin to change your gut health, it improves every area of your life.
Because of my anxiety, I would have irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. I work a pretty stressful job that requires working super early mornings. In the morning at work, I often had a growling stomach, chronic constipation, diarrhea, the feeling of not being able to empty my bladder, or terrible heartburn.
I became increasingly frustrated because my job at the time was exciting, and I wanted to be able to focus on it. But going to the bathroom and being stressed about going to the bathroom ruined my peace completely. So, what I began to do was I began to drink Apple cider vinegar water.
Honey….. Let me tell you. My irritable bowel syndrome symptoms disappeared, and I was finally able to become regular again. I had forgotten what it felt like to empty my bladder, but I no longer had the bubble guts. Though I sometimes have the occasional gas, it is nothing like it used to be.
It was not until a couple of weeks after I started drinking the apple cider vinegar that I noticed my mood had improved. I no longer had the intense highs and lows of being chronically anxious. I now wholeheartedly believe that diet and gut health play a huge role in chronic anxiety.
I encourage you to try apple cider vinegar water if you are like me. It can be a little strong at first. But over time, as you begin to drink it, the tonic tastes sweet and is not as bad. Also, please make sure that you dilute the apple cider vinegar. Some people have reported feeling throat burns from drinking apple cider vinegar.
I recommend that you watch this fascinating Ted Talk about this topic (https://youtu.be/B9RruLkAUm8)
5. I began to prioritize exercise
I can always tell when I have not been exercising because my body turns into a stress bomb. Exercise is one of my favorite things. I noticed a considerable improvement in my mood and how I dealt with stressors when I bought a gym membership. I have found that it does not matter what type of exercise I do. Sometimes, walking outside for 15 minutes or just stretching significantly impacted my life.
So, how can you start to exercise more?
Many people struggle with being productive and getting motivated to go to the gym. Here are some things that have helped me to find motivation.
Start a routine: I was motivated to change my life and go to the gym when I started a weekly rotation. I drew up a plan of each body part I wanted to work on while at the gym and began going on those days. I began to find that the gym became a place of comfort for me.
Make the gym or exercise fun: Who said that exercise has to be a dull experience? In college, I was in the best health of my life in the marching band. During these times, we would exercise for hours of the day. But since I enjoyed it, I did not mind too much
Mix it up: I find that when I go to the gym too much, I begin to dislike it. So on certain days of the week, I would trade gym cardio for taking a 3-mile walk outside. I found that doing so felt amazing and that it had the same energizing effect
Don't forget to care for yourself afterward: After a good gym day, you might feel sore and tired. Therefore, you must take care of yourself. Make sure you drink plenty of water and remove your wet clothes as soon as you get home. I know I am guilty of getting home from the gym and sitting in my clothes for an hour. Don't be like me. Change your gym clothes as soon as you get home, and your body will thank you.
6. Call on God
When I say this, I don't mean just praying. I feel like there is this toxic idea in the Christian community that demons cause anxiety and depression; therefore, you can pray them away. Sadly, for me, this is not the case. Despite my active prayer life, I still had debilitating anxiety.
So, I needed to learn how to call on God in times of trouble. Whenever I was about to have a panic or anxiety attack, I would do circle breathing, and then I would call on God to help me. I liked to use the method where I tell him how I feel and ask him to give me his perfect peace or to give me a distraction from my anxiety.
Every time God swooped down and sent either a person or a song to lift me and get out of the anxious mood. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You shall seek me and Find me when you search for me with all of your heart." God wants to hear from us, his children. Even in times of trouble.
7. I cut out secular/negative music
This point about music will most likely be a bit controversial, but I need to say this. I believe that there are spirits in the music that we listen to. It would explain why we feel better when we are sad and listen to certain songs. Or why certain music makes us angry and wants to fight people. Therefore, as Christians, I believe that it is so important that we watch what we listen to.
I used to be one of those people who believed that you could listen to secular music all the time and feel the best that you can be. But instead, I found myself modeling the behaviors in this music. The songs I would hear would discuss drinking and smoking and taking drugs, and I found that the more I listened to them, the more I became inclined to believe that the lifestyle these artists were preaching about was normal. I did not realize it then, but I was hurting myself.
Then, in January of 2022, I discovered the JOY FM radio music station. The station was all about finding joy in Jesus. The people on the station were funny and uplifting and talked about the real-world issues causing my anxiety. I slowly switched from listening to negative and worldly music to JOY FM almost 24/7.
When I made this small change, something crazy began to happen. Whenever I would get sad or depressed, or stressed, I would start to sing some of the songs from the JOY FM radio station. These songs were about uplifting things like how God holds us in the storm and how Brighter Days are coming.
Day by day, my anxiety began to melt away like the clouds after a rainstorm. Now, whenever I am going through a crisis, I know I can turn on the JOY FM radio station and find a little piece of joy and comfort.
I encourage you to find your happy music. Maybe for you, you don't feel convicted when you listen to secular music. That is okay. Look for music that makes you feel uplifted and joyful, and watch how your mental health begins to change. A note here, I used to be a big Billie Eilish fan. However, whenever I listened to her music, I would notice that it would put me in a down mood, so I stopped listening to it. Be careful of artists who sing sad songs because they can affect your mood without realizing it.
8. I stopped watching the news
More and more, I am starting to see how divisive the news is. I went to school for communications and journalism. Therefore I know all about the tactics the media will use to make it sound the way they want.
Recently, I have noticed an uptick in the separatory language that news stations will use. Often the news is segmented by racial group, sex, gender, and, more recently, political orientation. What this does is that it starts to separate us more than unite us. How often have you seen people arguing and clawing at each other's throats over political views?
In the height of the 2020 panoramic, I realized that watching the news was a behavior I no longer wanted to participate in, and I stopped. Immediately, my mental health improved, and I felt like I could breathe. I have now concluded that humans are not meant to know what is occurring in the world every 20 minutes. Sometimes a little bit of ignorance is peaceful.
Ask yourself this question: How does it make you feel when you watch the news?
9. I stopped participating in group chats
Recently, I realized that texting is one of my least favorite things. I remember when I had 5 different groupchats that I was active in. I am a private person and love one-on-one conversations with special people. When I am alone or doing a task, I like to focus 100 percent of my energy on that task, which means that I hate when I am about to do something, and my phone goes off. I found that while I was in the group chat, I was not focused on my purpose because every time I would sit down to do something that required my full attention (like writing this blog post), my phone would light up, and I would see that I had sometimes missed 50 or 60 messages.
Over time, I could not keep up with the steady flow of messages or frequent facetime calls. Then, I got a full-time job. It was my first full-time job, and I knew that the time I spent outside work would be precious. I also knew that I would dread opening my phone daily and seeing 50+ messages in the group chat. And so, I left—multiple group chats.
I will not sit here and lie to you, dear friend and say that it was easy. At the time, it was a devastating choice, and I felt like losing all my friends. But instead, I found that my anxiety improved. And today, I also find that I get more text messages. But these text messages that I do get are not only important, but they are also stress-free.
Group chats are not for everyone, unfortunately. Are you like me, and do you find that you groan when you have to scroll through a long thread of messages? Do you find yourself hyperventilating at the idea of formulating a text message fast enough while the conversation is still relevant? Do you hate being interrupted? Then, maybe it is time to consider if you need to get some space away from your group chats. It improved my life so much. As a bonus, I got closer to the people I left the group chats with because not being in those conversations forced us to come together more often.
10 I quit a lot of social media platforms
This is my favorite thing that I did to help heal my anxiety. In my book, Since when did Single Mean Sad, I dispelled a big lie that the world preaches: that you have to be in a relationship to be happy. Another lie preached to business owners is that you have to be everywhere on all platforms.
At one point in my business, I was active on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, Reddit, Quora, Pinterest, and a local podcast site. You would think I would have seen exponential business growth, right? Actually, wrong. Instead, I felt burnt out, discouraged, and spread thin. And none of my platforms were growing because I was trying to be everywhere all at once. The tiredness and working from a position of being spread thin triggered my anxiety, and I found that I had panic and anxiety attacks daily.
Then, I watched a video by Sunni Lenarduzzi about how she grew her business, and I realized that I needed to stop being everywhere at once. I took a big fat pair of scissors and cut ties with all social media platforms except Instagram.
I began to focus my Instagram strategy on showing up authentically, whether that meant showing my life's personal and business side. Or whether that meant advocating for the cause of singleness. And it worked! To date, Positively_Gabrielle has a community of 690 Instagram followers (I am trying to reach 1K by September 30th). People began to gravitate toward my content and purchase my novel. Shameless plug, you can purchase my book here! The hardcover copy is on sale for less than $20! Which is less than a week's visit to Starbucks.
Even if you are not a business owner, I encourage you to examine your social media apps. Are there apps on your phone that you never use anymore? Do you find that certain apps make you feel drained and purposeless? Do you wish you could just throw away all the apps on your phone? If you notice these things, I encourage you to press the delete button on some of your apps.
Even though I occasionally visit Pinterest, I find that most of my time is spent on Instagram and sometimes Facebook, and I have never been happier.
These are the ten practical tips I took to heal my anxiety without medication. I employ this same writing style in my novel, so if you liked this, you will most likely like that as well. Anxiety doesn't have to be a part of your everyday life. You are allowed to grab it by the horns and use it for your good. Don't spend another day miserable and worried that the world would end.
If you would like more blog posts about mental health, here are some good ones.
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See you again soon!
Author of Since when did single mean sad
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How to escape the rat race and live an unconventional life: https://www.positivelygabriellewrites.com/post/how-to-escape-the-rat-race-5-tips-to-live-an-unconventional-life-and-think-outside-the-box
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