I find that anxiety has its peaks and troughs, although with the ongoing pandemic, the peaks have personally outweighed the troughs over the last eighteen months. At times like this, its easy to get caught up in a downward spiral of anxiety and worst-case-scenarios that derail our lives for days, weeks, or longer.
Without the benefit of therapy – that stuff is expensive – coping mechanisms are often entirely of our design, perhaps with the help of a few like-minded folk on the internet. While I don’t have the cure-all for combatting these anxiety spirals (who does?), I know of a few things that I avoid like the plague when I’m caught up in one:
It pains me to give up my coffee during stressful times, but the truth is, sometimes its an aggravating factor. Caffeine speeds up heart-rates and in my experience, anxiety can achieve that all by itself, it really doesn’t need any help. Switching out for flavoured teas or heck, several glasses of water, goes a little way to easing some of the hardest days of my anxiety spiral.
I will pine for my double-chocolate and birthday-cake flavoured coffee the entire time, but I feel like I’m taking away a hand that helps my anxiety when I take a break from it.
I had no idea how toxic Facebook and Twitter could be until I took my first break from them. There are some amazing groups on Facebook that are incredibly supportive and wholesome, but joining these groups doesn’t stop the doomsday newsflashes popping up between photos of kittens.
Yes, the world is burning, the rich are financially strangling us, and our governments don’t care if we die. It’s old news, I don’t need reminding, and there is personally nothing I can do about any of these things right this second. The truth is, if we’re going to save the world, we need to survive our anxiety spirals first. Keeping the bad news and racist uncles at bay until we’re feeling a little better isn’t a crime, and heck, it may even be good for us.
Distressing and Embarrassing Memories
These little “beaches” love to pop up while we’re trying to sleep, and some of them can be two decades old and just as vivid as when they first happened. To date, I have only one effective coping mechanism that deals with these: telling them to shut up.
People used to tell me to do this all the time when I was younger, and it made no sense to me. Tell them to shut up? Since when does anyone shut up when I tell them to? Why would these potent memories that are literally stuck in my head cut me any slack? Yeah, it didn’t used to work for me, until I finally developed my “commanding voice”.
In my opinion, your own brain is the best place to practice your commanding voice because there aren’t any messy social consequences. Either your thoughts shut up, or they carry on as if you hadn’t spoken. But, with practice, they will always shut up and the more we succeed at this, the more confident it can give us.
Avoiding these things work for me, but obviously won’t work for everyone. I hope your next anxiety spiral is brief and not traumatic, if it has to happen at all!