Turns out, you can get rid of crippling anxiety.
Well, I don’t know about everyone else’s anxiety, but I know I got rid of mine. Perhaps the things I’ve learned when it comes to managing (and overcoming) my own anxiety, can help you figure out a little bit more about yours?
Nowadays, it’s not that I don’t feel anxious anymore; it’s more that, when anxiety starts to show its head, I now know how to manage it. This makes anxiety appear easier to navigate seamlessly: you just do it without having to think about it (too much).
Anxiety is not inherently good or bad; but when we face constant, overwhelming, or crippling anxiety all day, every day, it becomes a problem.
Maybe my anxiety will come back stronger at other points in my life? It probably will.
But until then, and so that I can remember what to do in case it happens, here are 16 things I did that, I believe, have helped me get rid of my crippling anxiety for good.
Well. At least, for now.
18 Things I did (and still do) to get rid of my crippling anxiety for good
I quit smoking weed
Weed is awesome. But it also feeds my anxiety like a motherf**er.
It’s funny because I first started smoking weed to help with my anxiety. And maybe it did help, at first.
But in the end, and after a few years of consistent smoking, I finally understood that weed turned my mind into a P-A-R-A-N-O-I-D mess.
Phobias, increased heart rate, obsessive paranoid thoughts, a constant sense of impending danger or doom were my daily reality.
But it can be hard to realize that something is bad for you when you are and have been in the midstof doing that thing. You know what they say about the frog and the boiling water.
And you are probably addicted to such a thing right now.
For me, it was weed, among other things. But for you, it might be something else. It doesn’t have to be weed or even a substance.
It can be a behavior, a thought, or even a person! It simply has to be something you use regularly to avoid reality.
Avoidance triggers anxiety.
Do you know what avoidance does? Yes, it offers (very, very) temporary relief to the stress created by the situation you are trying to avoid. But mostly, in the medium and long (and even short) run, it greatly increases your levels of anxiety.
This is why I think it’s good to go on regular “detox” of all the different things you like a little too much and are not sure if they serve you, to make sure these things don’t become addictions.
I quit drinking coffee or tea
In my case, what made dealing with anxiety worse, was its physical manifestation.
I didn’t feel particularly anxious in my head; well, not all the time. But my body was going insane! So, I thought I was anxious, and so did everyone around me: co-workers often described me as “stressed”.
It really annoyed me because it wasn’t entirely true. But that’s what the outside world was seeing.
What they saw, and what I saw were: excessive sweating, constant trembling and shaking, constant pounding heart and increased heart rate, insomnia, and sleep issues… (source: Healthline).
Guess what multiplies these symptoms by 100? Coffee. And even tea. Green tea, black tea, it’s all the same to me.
But I had to quit for many months to truly understand the impact of caffeine (or theine, as they are the same molecule) on my anxiety.
I often see people skip their cup of coffee ONE DAY out of 10 000 days, and then claim: “coffee doesn’t affect me whether I drink it or not”.
Or I see people drinking coffee at all hours, day and night, then complain about insomnia.
Well, try quitting coffee for 3-6 months and then try drinking some again. You might finally notice how big of an impact coffee can have on the physical symptoms of your anxiety.
I face all my problems ASAP and make it a habit to do so
Did I mention that avoidance triggers anxiety?
Well, I will repeat it again because you most likely need to hear it, again.
Quit avoiding life. Problems become problems, or even mountains because you avoid facing them and solving them quickly.
Avoiding problems is like leaving your dirty dishes under the bed. You may not see them, you may think they are out of the way (out of sight, out of mind, right?). Well, wrong. The thing is, you know they are under your bed; you know the food remnants are probably rotting, and probably attracting bugs; and you know that when you will finally face those dishes (because you will have to face them), you’ll have a bigger problem on your hand than if you had simply washed them the moment you had used them. And since you know all that, you keep delaying… and the problem keeps getting bigger.
Avoiding something that seems difficult is a coping mechanism that does offer temporary (illusory) relief to your stress or anxiety.
But it’s only temporary and very misleading: when you avoid a situation, you don’t stop thinking about it. On the contrary! You start making up scenarios in your head and it makes things worse.
Want to keep your crippling anxiety in check: stop avoiding the things that need to be done: have the difficult conversations and make the difficult decisions you’ve been avoiding.
Do it quickly, swiftly, and move on.
I changed my diet and adopted the Auto-Immune protocol (or AIP diet)
Anxiety may be one of the results of prolonged, untreated stress. And some common symptoms associated with both stress and anxiety include (source: BetterHelp):
- High blood pressure
- Digestive issues
- Muscle aches and pain
- Depressed immune system
- Skin problems
- Memory problems
- Depression, etc.
After I switched to the Wahls protocol, a paleo diet plan to treat chronic autoimmune conditions, most of these symptoms went away after only a few weeks.
When I follow the diet, my anxiety is in check: my body is completely calm, quiet, and at peace. And it reflects on my mind.
The only issue is: I still struggle to stay consistent with this diet and I have regular ups and downs. Also, I’m still stuck at level 1 (out of 3 levels of the Wahls protocol). But it’s a work in progress.
Related post: I tried the Wahls Diet and here’s what happened
I journal regularly, especially when I feel anxiety creeping in
Journaling is one of the best habits I’ve picked up as it helps tremendously with keeping my anxiety in check.
Instead of leaving unhelpful thoughts racing through my mind, I capture them in my journal, analyze them, question them, solve them, if possible, then move on.
I no longer indulge in obsessive thinking. Well, I try not to. If something is bothering me, I take it all out in my journal: it saves me a lot of pain, worry, anxiety, and time.
I quit my job
I am in no way advising you to quit your job.
But be honest with yourself: how much is your current job contributing to your misery, and what can you do about it? What have you done about it?
I LOVED my job. I had worked VERY hard for many years to get there. But it wasn’t right for me.
Related post: How do you quit a job you love?
I was an analyst for the federal government, and I had to keep my head deep in the news to stay on top of everything that was going wrong in the world. It also felt like I always had to be 20 steps ahead of everything, to be able to make predictions and forecasts.
I just could not manage the constant barrage of heavy news and the resulting crippling anxiety I had to deal with. Furthermore, I had not yet adopted any of the habits I talk about here, so it was all the more difficult to handle.
I still think about my old job often, but I don’t regret my decision.
I let go of people
I loved my boyfriend very much. I still do. And I believe he loved me too, and probably still does.
But my relationship was one of the biggest causes of anxiety in my life and, after years of trying to (unsuccessfully) change things, I had to let it go.
My ex was a professional avoider (oh, I had my issues too) and after half a decade, we still couldn’t plan a life together. We didn’t even know in what country we would live (!)
I was living in a permanent state of restlessness, nervousness, worry, and I just could not find the way out.
It’s hard to let go of someone you love, but sometimes, the things (and people) you love the most are also the things that cause you the most anxiety and pain. And we must find the courage to let them go.
No more binge-watching videos
I spent a full year avoiding most shows and videos that didn’t serve a purpose, and now I can see clearly how content feeds my anxiety.
I listen to motivational videos (no more than an hour per day), I will watch instructional videos on a specific topic, I watch German videos… but I don’t “binge-watch” anything anymore. Or very, very, rarely.
As soon as I start consuming content for too many hours, I feel my anxiety creeping back in.
But it’s very subtle. The only reason why I was able to notice it is because I had made myself go on a 3 month “create VS consume” challenge. During that time, I made (and still make) myself create (i.e., write, blog, paint, draw, design pins or t-shirts, etc.) instead of consuming content.
Honestly, the more I find ways to express myself and create, the more it seems to relieve my anxiety and my tendency to over-analyze things.
I created a sacred morning routine for peace and gratitude
The way I start my morning determines how I will spend my day. But it’s not a given; it has to be intentional.
I keep tight control over my mornings to make sure I keep my anxiety in check. But you can’t expect it to happen; you have to make it happen. If I’m not mindful of my actions, I will lose control over my anxiety again.
Examples of dos and don’ts.
- Take 5 minutes to express gratitude when you wake up;
- Take 10-15 minutes to stretch. Do it in bed if you’re too lazy, but do it;
- Drink a cup of herbal tea in front of the window while looking at a tree or a bird;
- Journal and/or set your intentions for the day;
- Take a quick walk early in the morning around the block to look at the sky and hear the birds.
- Check your phone first thing in the morning. Seriously, don’t;
- Look at emails, social media first thing in the morning;
- Turn on the news;
I started HIIT workouts/running
Working out can be painful and scary at first, especially if you are out of shape. Which you probably are.
But here’s the thing, once I started running in the mornings, it allowed me to evacuate a lot of the energy that fueled my anxiety during the day.
After running in the morning, I somehow feel both relaxed and energized, but the best part is: I have no more energy left to be anxious!
Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, obsessive thinking, etc., they all take shit loads of energy. But once you evacuate that energy in a positive manner (like working out), there’s no more left to be anxious!
Isn’t that good news?
I sat outside, stared at nature, and did nothing
When I first started my emotional and physical healing adventure, I was an anxious and exhausted ball of nerves.
One of the most soothing and effective things I did to calm my anxiety, was to sit outside in a park for (at least) an hour, every day and do nothing but observe nature.
Every single day, no matter the weather, I sat outside or took a slow walk, while looking at (but also touching, smelling, and listening to) nature: trees, birds, squirrels, clouds, insects, etc.
After 4 months of this, I found myself in the most peaceful state I’ver been.
Related post: How do you heal an exhausted mind?
I take action (aka, stop procrastinating)
One thing that keeps you anxious is INaction.
You know how you keep thinking about things, worrying and obsessing but never actually doing anything about them?
Or maybe you procrastinate and delay action as much as possible?
I don’t do that anymore and it has helped me get rid of that constant anxious state I was in.
Yes, it’s annoying sometimes because, well, I’ve become a “take action” kind of girl, and I can’t be lazy about stuff anymore… But at least I’m no longer anxious.
I don’t let things rot in my mind. I either do something about whatever it is that’s bothering me, or I let it go.
One book that has helped me a lot when it comes to taking immediate action, is The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.
I walk every day
Taking daily walks has helped me significantly reduce my anxiety.
Walking is man’s best medicine (Hippocrates)
I used to walk for HOURS outside, until I was so tired, my only option was to go home and sleep.
It beats watching Netflix every night or scrolling on social media. (Two things that made my anxiety significantly worse, btw).
I don’t have to do it as much now, but I still try to walk at least 30 minutes outside every day.
Of course, don’t just walk anywhere. There is a difference between walking on “nicer” streets, with old trees and birds chirping vs walking for 4 hours on a huge Boulevard with lots of traffic and pollution. If option #1 is available to you where you live, then go with #1).
I practice acceptance
Do you know what doesn’t help your anxiety? Indulging in excessive, obsessive (negative) thinking and worrying.
I wonder if sometimes, people think that overthinking about stuff is a sign of intelligence? And so, they keep doing it because they believe it’s the right thing to do.
But the truth is, it’s not.
I find it much more effective to accept the way things are as quickly as possible and then switch to problem-solving mode if the “problem” can be solved. Compare this attitude, to simply sitting at your desk, anxiously biting your nails, while going over and over a situation in your head, frantically drinking coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes, for days. Which do you think is better?
Honestly: has over-thinking and over-worrying ever made you find a good solution to a problem?
Acceptance is a smarter, more effective way of facing problems. It helps me stay calm, in control and keeps my anxiety in check.
I allow time to worry
Just because worrying frantically isn’t useful, does not mean that you should not think about stuff.
And so, to avoid sticking my head in the sand or risking being overwhelmed by anxiety, I consciously dedicate a certain amount of time in the week to worry about something specific that’s been bothering me. But once that time is up, I make myself stop.
At first, it is hard to stop yourself from feeling anxious. But with time, you learn how to manage things more effectively.
I stopped trying to change the world and focused instead on changing myself
One major way I was finally able to keep my anxiety in check was to stop obsessing about everything that was wrong with the world and other people.
Other people are out of your control. By deluding yourself into thinking you can change them, you create a lot of stress and anxiety in your life. You make other people’s (good) behavior the condition to your happiness and well-being.
That’s a losing formula.
You don’t make people change; you inspire them to change through your example.
So now, I focus solely on improving myself and only myself.
I’m also learning to let go of perfection and concentrate instead on progress.
Overall, this attitude has made me a much calmer, peaceful, and less anxious person.
I found a purpose/serve others
Do you know how you stop feeling so anxious? By diverting your attention away from the anxiety-inducing topics, and by focusing instead on more positive and constructive topics.
One way I was able to do that was by searching for (and finding) meaning and purpose in my life.
Before that, I was only surviving, simply existing in the world, feeling sad, anxious, and out of place.
Now that I have a goal and a purpose that serves people other than myself, I simply don’t have the time or energy to worry obsessively about things that don’t matter much. Because now I know: the energy I put on my anxiety is energy that is diverted away from my goals.
I now treat my attention as my most precious and prized resource. As such, I don’t give it away lightly
You are what you focus on.
After months of paying close attention to where my focus is and learning to redirect it, I am now able to choose carefully what I focus on. Well, more than I used to.
I try not to let my attention dwell too much on the negative, and this has been truly beneficial in keeping my anxiety in check.