During my long break from EVERYTHING in January, I rediscovered the invaluable practice of radical self-care. Within a few short days of clearing my calendar, prioritizing sleep, nourishing my body with the best foods, and staying off social media, my anxiety level dropped to zero and remained that way for a solid month.
It was glorious.
Unfortunately, responsibilities do not allow me to live off the grid indefinitely. Instead I’ve needed to incorporate some daily practices to help me maintain an anxiety-free life, while still doing stuff.
Starting each day with Bible reading, prayer, and gratitude. This is the most valuable asset to keeping anxiety at bay, hands-down. I like to call it “getting my head on straight.” God’s word coupled with journalling my gratitude is a powerful antidote to anxiety.
By the way, I’ve been journalling for decades and have become super-picky about my journals. I like an 8×10 hardcover with wide lines. Here is my favorite brand, if you’re in the market:
Daily exercise. Many studies show exercise to be more effective for anxiety and depression than medication. Even if you take medication for your anxiety, adding exercise can help. I like to do a combination of walking, yoga, and weight-training. And I do it every day.
Spend time outdoors. Fresh air + sunshine on my face + movement = good feelings. Even if the weather is gross, I try to go outside, just a little bit, every single day.
Time away from screens. For me, screen time is a major anxiety trigger. Like every other person I know, I am constantly glued to my phone. (Thank you, Apple, for creating a device that sufficiently holds my music, my camera, my podcasts, my GPS, my calculator, my newsfeed, my calendar, my weather forecast, my social media, my email, AND my phone!) In February, after an entire month off the grid, I was back on my phone so much, it was burning holes into my eyeballs, as I pinged from app to app to app, scrolling and checking, scrolling and checking, scrolling and checking.
On a whim, I decided to delete my email app, closing down the gateway to my 3 different email addresses and a hundred emails per day. Now I party like it’s 2012, and check email only a few times a day on my laptop. This one change made all the difference for me. The time I spend looking down at my phone, scrolling, checking, and responding, has been reduced by at least half. And so has my anxiety.
Paying close attention to my caffeine intake. I haven’t completely stopped drinking coffee–what do you think I am, a barbarian? But I am very mindful to not go nuts and drink several cups every morning, which will happen, simply because I love few things more than a cup of hot coffee with coconut oil blended in. Especially on writing days. I’m drinking one now, as a matter of fact. But caffeine is a major anxiety trigger in most people, including me, so I need to watch it.
Saying no, even to myself. Here is the truth: I want to do all the things; yet, sadly, I cannot do all the things. When my schedule is maxed out with no margin whatsoever, my anxiety goes through the roof. For me, this means constantly assessing every opportunity and desire, and saying no to almost all of them. I only choose the most essential things and focus my time there. I also keep a lot of margin built into every day and every week. (I write about this extensively in my book Finding Your Balance).
Taking Epsom Salt baths. I used to be a shower girl, and still am, mostly. But in the last few years, I’ve discovered how relaxing and indulgent baths can be. I’ve discovered some fantastically scented Epsom salts, which provide a luxurious way to absorb magnesium into my body. Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral, which regulates the nervous system and may help you cope with stress to prevent anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability. Here are my favorite scents:
Taking Passion Flower and Valerian Root in the evenings. I’ve talked about these at length in a previous post, Passion Flower and Valerian Root for Anxiety, but, I need to repeat this: these two little supplements are saving my life, you guys. I mean, not literally. But they are helping me chill in the evening without needing to resort to a glass of wine AND they help me sleep soundly all through the night without waking up groggy. Truly. I love them so much. With guidance from my local health food store, Oregon’s Wild Harvest is supposedly the best product:
But this one was a better price on Amazon for the Valerian Root:
Reframing the hard things. I have issues. Probably not more than the average human, but it feels like I have something every single day, sometimes big and sometimes small, that triggers my anxiety. I have so many issues that my friend and I started texting each other our “Issue of the Day” (#IOD), just for kicks. I can’t do anything about my issues, but I can choose how I view them.
I Corinthians 4:16-18 says this: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
One day I texted that verse to my friend, and right then and there we decided to change our daily “Issue of the Day (#IOD)” to our daily “Light and Momentary Trouble (#LMT)” The issues have not changed in intensity or frequency, but our perspective has. Texting my friend my daily #LMT feels different in my body. By the way, having a good friend to talk about your #LMTs is a good anxiety-reducer, too. 🙂
Drinking Herbal Tea. Maybe it’s the act of brewing tea: the gentle whistle of the tea kettle, the steeping of the tea bag, the aroma of the herbs, using a pretty mug. It feels so serene. Like I should be wrapped in a cozy blanket, overlooking the grassy hillside, by an ocean, with gentle piano music playing in the background. Or maybe it’s the actual herbs in the tea (Hello again, passion flower and valerian root!) I don’t know, but sipping a cup of hot tea in the evening is the most relaxing way to unwind after a long day of #LMTs. Here are some of my favorites.
Ending the day by reading in bed. Not just any book, though. I’ve learned that I can’t read “self help” type books that make me feel like I have to change a bunch of things in my life–like, NOW. I also can’t read books that talk about how awful or scary the world is. Or fiction that has any kind of violence or suspense.
That leaves books that are either funny, light-hearted, or deeply spiritual. Here are a few I’ve read lately that you may enjoy.
March 4th marked 10 years of blogging for me! I’m working on a Belated Blog-Birthday post recapping what I’ve learned and some fun blog trivia, that I’ll publish next week.
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