After a recent poll on my Instagram (sarahjcm), I have decided to dedicate a post to some things I use to help calm myself down, or distract myself from Ben’s intruding thoughts. I have also asked some close friends of mine – who also suffer from mental health conditions such as depression and OCD as well as anxiety – to share their personal tips and tricks as we all deal with things and situations differently, regardless of sharing the same condition.
I would firstly like to remind people that although the things I am going to share help me immensely at times, they may not work for everyone. My ways to cope may be vastly different from the next person suffering with anxiety and vice versa. We are all individual and therefore our needs aren’t all met with the same tools. However, they may still help, especially for someone who is newly dealing with this condition and hasn’t figured out or researched ways to reduce their anxiety.
Ways to ease anxiety;
- Talking to someone you trust – This is something I know I bang on about but it is so important and sometimes vital to your recovery and progress when facing a mental illness. I have always spoken openly to my mum about my feelings or fears, but its only been in the last two to three years that I have started being more open to everyone else too. The more we talk, the more we learn, the more we understand. Understanding is key to helping someone and yourself regarding mental illness – that doesn’t mean you have to understand exactly how they’re feeling because, lets face it, you won’t, even when you suffer yourself. You can relate, but no one will ever one hundred percent know exactly how someone else is feeling. But understanding why someone behaves the way they do when feeling anxious or panicked, and understanding how you can help them in this situation, is going to be a massive help.
- Baths – Some of these tips are going to appear strange or random to some people, but if it works then trust me, you’re going to want to do it. I find that baths help a lot when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Its a way to shut off from everything around me and relax in a warm, calm environment. However, sometimes when I have been feeling extremely anxious or on the verge of a panic attack, baths don’t seem to help, as I need to be constantly distracted or with other people who make me feel safe. Luckily I have learnt over the years when this tool will help, or when it will increase my anxiety.
- Cleaning – As my colleagues at work will know, I like to organise, tidy and clean when I am feeling anxious. In fact, today when I decided to reorder all of our puzzles and games at work, my room leader and close friend Becky asked me if I was feeling anxious. I wasn’t, I just couldn’t handle not having all the correct pieces! Organising things calms me and it is like it helps me to focus better. I can deal with the muddled parts inside my head better when my outside world is in order.
- Walking – Or exercise in general. This is definitely a tool that I don’t use as much as I should, especially when its free and does make such a difference to how I feel on the inside. Walking particularly helps because it gives me a chance to think but whilst also being distracted by whats around me. Its so good to get out in the fresh air and clear your head. When I used to do regular personal training sessions last year with my friend Georgia – (find her website here) it used to help me focus and feel like I was achieving something. And it helped that Georgia is one of the most positive and uplifting people I know as she always gave me new perspectives on issues I was having and reminded me of my worth.
- Seeing my close friends/family – Seems like an obvious one doesn’t it. Everyone would be happy around their loved ones – however this isn’t always the case for some people as anxiety can be caused by even the people we love. Luckily, seeing the people closest to me helps calm me and reminds me that I have some very strong and loyal people by my side who I know will support me till the end of time.
- Hairband on my wrist – This is something I got told about by one of my best friends Alex. He told me to always keep a band on my wrist and when I was feeling panicked or anxious to flick the band as hard as I could handle against the inside of my wrist and focus solely on that feeling. Sounds strange, huh? Well I’m telling you now it has helped me a lot. So much in fact that I passed this tip onto one of my other best friends Coco for when she was struggling and she now uses it herself.
- Trash TV – This is probably one of the most random techniques that I use to calm myself and feel grounded. But it really does work! I watch some of the most hilarious, drama-filled reality tv programs and they make me feel more relaxed. They are easy things to watch when my mind is going 100mph and a welcome distraction.
- Fiddle toys – I have tried various types of fiddle toys and there has only really been one kind that has helped and reduced anxiety in me. It was given to me as a gift from an ex partner and it made such a difference. It is made up of small magnetic balls which you can squish and mould into bigger balls, long strings, square etc. I tend to squish it around my left thumb and keep my hand in my pocket when I’m feeling anxious – this means I can touch it and move it with my other fingers but it is always connected to me via my thumb. If you want to take a look, a link to this fiddle toy is here.
- Games on my phone – I have got some really random and sometimes tediously repetitive games on my phone that I used when I am feeling on edge. They distract me and make me focus on something other that my thoughts and fears. Usually I have to use this technique at night if I wake up feeling panicked or most recently I used it whilst travelling up to London as I was feeling quite anxious about the tube journey.
- 5 sense trick – This is something I learnt about in the early stages of my mental illness and it helps when in a busy environment that isn’t easy to escape from. I have used it in situations such as restaurants, theatre shows and the cinema. This trick is where you focus on your 5 senses – touch, see, hear, taste and smell. For example: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, two things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This works by grounding you and reminding yourself of your environment and that you are safe. I have found an article that gives more examples of this technique and although this particular website is aimed at children, adults may still benefit from using this during anxious moments. Have a read here.
I hope that at least one of these techniques helps someone in need, or gives them the push to research more ways to help ease anxiety. You don’t have to suffer in silence without any means to manage this condition, there are ways to help and people to listen. One of them always being me.