Something that I think we as a society don’t encourage ourselves to do enough is to engage in self-care. I know certainly haven’t been engaging in it. By self-care, I don’t mean bathing, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and going to the doctor when you’re sick. Those are indeed forms of self-care, but constitute a bare minimum.
In a world that overflows with distractions and stressors, it is easy to get carried away in the stream that becomes a river that becomes a torrent of things that are dragging your attention away from your mental and emotional well being. That Facebook alert that pops up on your phone? Distraction to pull you in one way away from your mind. How about that email from work that comes up at 9:00pm? Another thing that pulls at your energy.
As many of the few of you who read this know, I have a history with anxiety. My most recent bout with it was this prior week where my body put me through an adrenaline-fueled anxiety bender that caused me to think that – more than the previous anxiety attacks – I was a) having a heart attack, b) going to die, c) losing my mind, and d) not in control of my life. After getting divorced, I was determined to be in full control of my life, calling as many of the shots as I could. An anxiety or panic attack strips you of that feeling, despite every contrary indication that your life is not an omnishambolic trainwreck.
After an emergency intervention and a resumption/increase of my medication, I am feeling a little better, though still somewhat ill at ease. To help me cope, I developed and Clarissa helped to refine an Anxiety Action Plan. It is a list of action items that include things that can be done immediately and things that are ongoing concerns. Ryan’s Anxiety Action Plan is as follows:
- Until otherwise directed, maintain prescription use.
- Get a referral to seek appropriate modalities of care. (Mine is actually more specific, but just sharing the general idea.)
- Clean the car. (Gotta have control over something, so make it easy to control and something that reflects how you want to feel.)
- Get outside, exercise, and track it. (Getting outside every time my anxiety spiked helped me feel better, though it didn’t completely beat it back. Tracking it can help create a positive reinforcement.)
- Use adjusted work schedule and delegate tasks. (Great if work has been causing stress and you’ve got the ability to manage the change the way you want to see it.)
- Manage and balance social obligations.
- Express gratitude and spread love. (Sharing warranted positivity with people makes me feel better.)
- Talk about your stress and anxiety. (It’s okay to feel like crap and stressed out – it happens! However, bottling it within you creates the likelihood of your becoming an emotional powderkeg.)
- Don’t drink caffeine. (Damn it.)
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption and celebrate periods of non-use daily. (I don’t drink a lot, but minimizing the potential for an adverse reaction, especially while on medication, is ideal.)
- Continue not smoking and keep track of it. Celebrate each day without tobacco. (The nicotine feeds the anxiety, not to mention all the other garbage that tobacco use can cause.)
- Meditate daily. (Center yourself before the start of a work day. It does wonders.)
- Have device-free time. (Seriously, you don’t need to be on Facebook all the damn time.)
- Eat well. Cut out fast food and make healthy, savory meals at home that can be reused. (Just a general healthier living tip.)
- If you’re comfortable with it, seek out dietary/herbal supplements that can help abate stress. (Certain teas are good for this.)
- Lastly, see a therapist. A professional can help you manage your stress and provide insights on what you can do and what you need to do to feel better.
Being less stressed out of course can make you less prone to severe bouts of anxiety, but I’ve also noticed that when I’m stressed out, I’m more prone to get sick. I’ve been sick with sinusitis and other general cruddy ailments this winter more often than I normally am. On top of that, stress is a contributing factor to heart disease and my family’s history with cardiac issues is less than stellar.
With all of that being said, this is all advise coming from someone who is not a medical professional, but someone who is seeking out ways to help combat stress levels in his life. I hope that you are able to identify stressors in your life and manage them the best you can.