If you're struggling with anxiety (perhaps brought on by the pandemic) and feel panicked about being anxious (it's a vicious cycle), don't lose hope. There are ways to make those anxious moments feel less intense.
No case of anxiety is the same, so what works for others might not work for you. It's not a problem that can be solved with one specific remedy. Your mind is unique, and you'll need to find the strategies that work for you. Beyond this article, take some time to read up on anxiety and try to find coping mechanisms and tricks that fit your needs.
As a first step, you can try these 8 things to calm you down:
Stop and Breathe
It sounds so easy, but your breathing can be incredibly hard to focus on when you're experiencing intense anxiety. It may even feel like you're barely getting any air into your lungs, only inducing a stronger state of panic.
To calm down, I recommend trying a controlled breathing exercise like this one. The instructions, as found in the description of the video, are easy to remember and fall back on when you need them:
Try to inhale through your nose and breathe in for about 4-5 seconds
Exhale through your mouth slowly for 4-5 seconds
Find the Source of Your Anxiety
Whenever you feel the enemy that is anxiety creeping up on you, take a moment to locate its trigger. What were you doing or thinking about that made you feel uneasy?
At the very beginning of the pandemic, my personal trigger was reading the news. Even if I didn't immediately feel it, the sad stories and scary insights into what was happening all over the world subconsciously made me super anxious. I caught myself practically searching for new, anxiety-inducing news articles, reading them all thoroughly because it felt like the right thing to do. You gotta stay up to date, right?
While staying up to date on the relevant things is important, in my case, I had to accept that it might be best for me to tune out for a bit. Limiting my news intake, and with that the new things I had to worry about, worked wonders for me.
Then, Limit the Source as Best as You Can
Obviously, we can't avoid certain things entirely. We can't choose to stop doing things when they pertain to our responsibilities. If the sight of mask-wearing New Yorkers makes your skin crawl, that's just a temporary situation you'll have to learn to endure for now. But if your anxiety is sparked by something you can limit, do it. It might be something you're not entirely willing to give up, but if seeing less of it will make you feel better, the benefits should outweigh the drawbacks.
Take social media as an example: Scrolling through your feed is an unmissable part of your daily routine, and it might be hard to break that habit. But if the endless scrolling is starting to make you feel anxious as a consequence, force yourself to take a break for a few days. Then slowly find your way back to it.
Distract Yourself with Pleasant Things (or Anything That Will Get Your Mind off of Said Source)
When your anxiety is caused by a non-threatening situation and won't stop bothering you, do whatever it takes to distract yourself in that moment. Watch a funny video or try to count down backwards, starting at 100. Go walk a few blocks to get some fresh air and remember how the NYC streets used to be full of life. Look forward to feeling that joy again in the future. Whatever it takes to distract you, have that option as a rescue strategy when your anxiety flares up.
Face Your Anxious Thoughts Straight-On
Sometimes, the only way out is through. If your distraction techniques don't help, try facing your fears. Allow yourself to think through all of your greatest worries. Write them down if you'd like. Let the worst-case scenarios that are making you anxious play out in your mind, don't try to stop them. Let go of the worry that you might be "manifesting" certain situations by thinking about them.
Once you've gone over all of the potential scary situations, you might feel a sense of "closure". Your mind won't try to force the bad thoughts into your head over and over again.
Talk to Someone Who Is Willing to Listen or Might Understand
It should go without saying, but you shouldn't feel ashamed of your anxiety. It's an ever-increasing problem that many, many people face. Cases of anxiety are skyrocketing now more than ever, so if your worries are related to the pandemic, the majority of people will understand your struggles.
Saying things out loud and getting reassurance from a trusted person will undoubtedly make you feel better.
Know When It's Time to Seek Professional Help
If talking to friends and family isn't helping and everything else you've tried is also not working, consider seeking professional help. If you start to feel like your anxious state is taking over your life entirely, it's time to consult an expert. After all, when you're physically sick, you also go to see a doctor, right? Your mental health is no different and should be equally as important.
Again, there is no shame in admitting you need help. Your doctor can prescribe you medication or refer you to a psychotherapist. It may not be for you, but it could drastically change your condition. If you need some more convincing, read up on the many benefits of therapy here.
Finally, Realize That Anxiety Is Not a Life Sentence
While your anxiety may never completely go away and could resurface from time to time, you can learn to eventually control it so that it no longer controls you. Try not to get anxious about the thought of having anxiety. It's a treatable condition, not a life sentence.
I hope some of these tips help you, even if they are easier said than done. At the very least, I hope you feel less alone by knowing others are going through some of the same things as you are. I wish you all the best!
What are some of the things you do to ease your anxiety? Leave your tips in the comments below and connect with other NYC folks going through the same thing!