I have a problem with anxiety. Having had several panic attacks and a week-long period where I constantly imagined myself falling through the floor, being hit by a truck, and generally dreading the wrong thing to happen at every turn, I feel that I am qualified to make this list. At first I thought I’d overcome it eventually, which gave me hope. For the most part, I did. I balanced my life, and God was a big part of that. However, not all people can just "overcome" anxiety. I still occasionally get an ugly feeling in my stomach due to anxiety. Aside from religion, maintaining some sense of hope and waiting it out is often all you can do. Those are the most important things to do — remembering that in the end, it always gets better.
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It’s the waiting it out that’s the hard part. Negative thoughts send you out swimming deeper and deeper into the sea, water lapping at you. The ocean of your mind turns cold and blue as you move further. You know this place, you’ve been here before, yet the familiarity does not lend comfort. You begin imagining that sharks in the water will come any second, thinking of the ways that they would carry out the kill, imagining how the smell of your blood will draw more. You listen to the thoughts of anguish, thoughts of worry, predictions of a storm, and impending doom. However, all of these things won’t help. You need to lie on your back in the water and remember that none of these predictions have come true before. Close your eyes. Relax your body. Feel yourself float and think of a sunny day. You need to find that place.
This is similar to advice I received from a friend of mine, who is twice my age with five times my wisdom and was an abundance of help when I was really struggling. I would call her up and run over the list of my fears, worries, and imaginings — she got it. She had been through it. And she was such a help. I hope I can be that to you now. So, here is a list of things I learned I need to do when anxious.
Stop thinking of myself, and stop over thinking
This is crucial. In times of anxiety, I’ve noticed that the main idea appearing in my head is a selfish slapping “me.” However, you can’t just turn your thoughts off like a light switch. That’s kind of the point. So, we come to the next thing.
I know sometimes you feel like curling up into a ball and just falling asleep, but that doesn’t help in the grand scheme of things. You need to get up, go out, and find something to do. The following things particularly help.
Be thou artistic
Do you dance? Put on a song you love and dance your heart away. I don’t care if you’re good. I do this when I’m anxious, but I put on my happy songs and use up my energy. Do you write? Do it. Write about what you’re feeling, but only if it helps. If it doesn’t, write about a good memory and why it was that way. Make lists — good lists. Keep them in a journal and really take the time to read over them. If your worries are based on something you can change, like your lifestyle, then make a list of how you can change it. Set yourself up for a victory. Paint. SING. That’s a big one — let your worries flow through and out of you. Make sure not to sing only sad songs, though. Mix the hope in. I’d suggest "You’ll Be Okay" by A Great Big World, that’s a good mix.
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This one I cannot stress enough. If you take your focus off of your own worries, problems and life, and focus on making someone else happy just by giving your time, attention, and help, you will feel 10000% better. However, you need to commit yourself to whatever you’re doing, and not let the noise of negative thoughts enter in. Surround yourself with the things you love dearly, and dash the things you don’t.
Talk about it
To your mom, dad, coworker, best friend, internet friend, spouse, partner, little sibling, big sibling, aunt, uncle, or lady at the grocery store who you feel would understand something like this. I’m serious, people are very receptive to conversations about these things, and it shouldn’t be shocking. It actually instilled more hope into me when I realized how many people can just listen and understand.
Don’t be afraid to make fun of your own worries. That is not to say that you should treat them like they’re nothing and put yourself down, but oftentimes all we need to do in our moments of anxiety is have a laugh. So, call a good friend, and tell them you just need someone to cheer you up. My brother was great at this. In fact, he wouldn’t let me talk about my anxiety with him; I had my mom, sisters, and friends for that. He instead provided warm humor and stories about his life. I learned to forget about my worries and focus on the good. He’s sneaky like that. Maintain your sarcasm, and laugh when you know your worries are ludicrous. Sometimes, they truly are. Learn to laugh at the things you can’t do anything about, and use all of that determination that you have welling up inside of you to make changes to the things you can.
Focus on hope
Hope is a wonderful thing. Focus on what you believe in. You will find your way. You may not fully believe it in times of anxiety, but even the smallest seed of hope can get you through.
If you are struggling, know that someone loves you, and there is always hope. You will find your place. You are still growing.
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