5 Ways I Manage My Anxiety and Prioritize My Mental Health

A few years ago, I felt a shift internally where I would get nervous about things more often. It was an overwhelming emotion of worry and severe nervousness. On top of feeling those feelings in my mind, I started feeling nervousness within my body as a heavy chest or timid breathing. At the time I was growing into my own as a young woman. I was mid-twenties learning to navigate life, personal situations and the professional workplace at the same time. I guess everything that I was experiencing “collapsed” on me and that resulted in a physical manifestation that I didn’t recognize. When I was setting up care to see a new therapist, she told me that she felt that I had generalized anxiety. I had done therapy before but this was my first time hearing that I was formally diagnosed as anxious. Although it was new information, the diagnosis made so much sense for what I had been going through and I felt relief that I could begin to break it down on a practical level. I personally didn’t want to take medication to treat my anxiety because I don’t care for medicine in general (nothing wrong if you need to take medication) so I knew that I had to be intentional about how I would manage this new condition. This led to try different ways to manage anxiety, intentionally relax and calm my thoughts. I’ve tried a little bit of everything and this is what has worked well over the years.

How I Manage My Anxiety:

1. Prayer

I used to be really bad about turning to family and friends to talk through my issues before talking to God. Over the years I’ve realized that I need to start with God and then I can share with others if I choose to. Now, don’t get me wrong, a good vent with a loved one is still something that I do from time to time but it’s not my first choice.

2. Deep Breathing

I learned the art of deep breathing while learning and practicing yoga. We often think that we don’t have to do extra breathing because we are naturally breathing all the time, right? But what I learned is that you have to intentionally breathe deep within your chest and diaphragm to release tension and stress. We are actually not breathing as deep as we should. Deep breathing has been very therapeutic for me and I take time to breathe deep even if I’m not working out. If I am feeling super nervous or overwhelmed, I will take a few deep breaths to calm myself down and help my body stop triggering so much anxiousness. I also check myself throughout the day to make sure that. I am actually breathing and not subconsciously holding my breath. These are wonderful resources if you would like to learn more about breathing. 1. Black Girls Breathing  2. Well+Good Article 3. Healing Psychologist Youtube

3. Journaling

I’ve been journaling since I was about 12 years old and it continues to be a great release for me. When I don’t want to talk to ANYONE about it I go directly to my journal and write whatever I’m feeling. It can be very healing to write your thoughts out and release them on paper. What I love most is reflecting back and seeing the growth as life continues.

4. Walks

It’s funny because I did not like being outside and walking much when I was younger, however, as I’ve gotten older I realize that it’s my safe space. A place for me to clear my mind and just stroll to the beat – fresh air and the sun really do wonders for your mood. I love getting out on a nice day and walking around my neighborhood, a close by park, the Atlanta Beltline, as well as hiking. I usually walk with my husband or alone and sometimes listen to music or a podcast to kill time. I also love to habit stack my walks by pairing them with a long conversation on the phone with a family member or a friend.

5. Yoga

I started practicing yoga in college when I signed up for a basic yoga class for college credit. I didn’t realize then the benefits that it would provide to me later on in life. When I am doing yoga, I literally zone out (gotta focus!) and I don’t think about anything besides what I’m doing. It’s easy to forget your worries while doing yoga. As mentioned above, I also get to breathe very intentionally and deeply in yoga and that feels so good.

These are 5 ways that I manage my anxiety. In addition to what’s above, I integrate other things as needed such as massage, talk therapy, therapeutic techniques learned in therapy (like reality testing), vacations, intentional rest, CBD and essential oils. It’s also why I go so hard on my different routines – 12. What’s important to know is that it’s not a one-all-fix-all. Managing anxiety takes active daily steps to keep it in check. There are also some days when none of this is working and I just decide to take a nap (real talk!). As much as I want anxiety to go away altogether, it’s always lingering in the background and I just do my best to keep it at bay. Ultimately, you have to explore to see what works for you and what feels good to you. I want to encourage anyone that is feeling a little different lately that it’s okay, we have seasons in life that morph and change as our surroundings shift. If you need to talk to someone or get medication, please do. There are so many resources out there to help you live your best life mentally, which is more important than anything money can buy.