Anxiety is no joke. As I talked about on my Instagram recently, it’s not cute or funny or something that exists in a bubble. It can affect your entire life and feel you struggling to function. But I also believe there are real ways we can help ourselves when we’re feeling anxiety—at least, ways we can help bring in more peace.
Today, I was thinking about what helps me the most. I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety in the last few months related to health anxiety. Things have eased up more lately and I’ve been feeling good.
But now, we’re dealing with sudden health issues in our 10-year-old bulldog mix fur baby that has my body on high alert again. So, I’m back to focusing on extra self-care when it comes to remedying anxiety. Here are four of the top things that help me—and hopefully, they can help you, too.
1. One-minute meditations throughout the day.
Meditating can help my anxiety—unless it starts to feel overwhelming. On days when my anxiety is high, even three minutes of sitting still and focusing on my breath are super hard.
I must constantly remind myself (and my therapist has reminded me of this too) that if something feels like too much, I’m just going to put it off or not do it at all.
Related: What If Meditation Makes Me Anxious?
Enter one-minute meditations! I find a minute goes by very quickly, and it rarely feels like I don’t have time to breathe for 60 seconds.
One-minute meditation options
There are a few ways you can do these quick meditations:
- Using guided meditation, such as through a YouTube video or phone app
- Closing your eyes and focusing on deep inhales and exhales
- Using a focal point, such as a candle, as you breathe deeply
I have been using the Calm app’s Breathing Exercise feature for one minute. It uses a breathe bubble to guide you to inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and exhale for four seconds, repeating this for the time you set.
The only downside to this app is that there’s a fee of $50-$60 per year (or you can switch to monthly). I’ll likely cancel before my next billing cycle because I only use the breath bubble.
Lately, I’ve been setting a timer on my phone to go off four times a day—at noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm—to remind me to do my one-minute breathing sessions. But you can start with just once a day if that feels like a lot.
2. Eating regularly throughout the day
This might sound a little silly (or even obvious to some), but it makes a huge difference for me. If I’m not eating regularly enough—and balanced enough—my anxiety can be even worse. I’m very sensitive to changes in my blood sugar, and I suspect others with anxiety may be too.
Everyone is different, but I like to have a whole-grain bagel with almond butter for my breakfast. I use Dave’s Killer Bread Everything bagels (oh my gosh they’re so amazing—highly recommend!). It gives me some carbs, protein, and fats to fuel my body. (For me this is key—trying to get a blend of all three macros with every meal and snack.)
Breakfast is easy. It’s later in the day where I forget to eat enough and end up feeling lightheaded on top of anxious. I try to prepare myself for easy access to lunches with a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats. Those may be:
- Leftovers from dinner the night before
- Pre-mixed salad bags with a plant-based protein added in (such as tofu crumbles, chickpeas, tempeh, or pre-cooked tofu)
On days when I’m super anxious and overwhelmed, I’ll order something out and feel absolutely no shame about it. I like Chipotle, Pei Wei, Subway, or anything else that feels fairly well-balanced so I’m satisfied and fueled.
I want to note here that I know food can cause a lot of anxiety for some people (that used to be me, big time). Having anxiety can make every decision difficult—including food choices—so don’t use anything I say about my own diet as doctrine.
If the most you can muster right now is something quick and convenient, no shame in that. If you feel like a little more balance in your food might help your anxiety, start super small and if feelings of guilt, shame, or restriction start creeping in, take a step back and remember there is no morality tied to food choices. It’s not black and white. Start small.4 Daily Habits to Bring Peace From Anxiety Click To Tweet
3. Getting in some movement
Like food, there’s no one-size-fits-all for exercise or movement. For me, moving my body a little more in any way can help my anxiety. I like to do online workouts through Fitness Blender because most are 30 minutes or less and I don’t have to worry about leaving my house or putting on cute workout clothes to do them.
Walking is awesome too. So is yoga. So is strength training (although, when my anxiety is high, I tend to prefer easier movements.) Anything that allows you to move can help with stress release, which can also help with anxiety.
If the thought of exercising just causes more stress, think of it as simply moving your body to release tension. And start small. What’s something little you can do to move more—and that you can actually find enjoyable?
4. Writing down at least one cognitive distortion
In my opinion, this is the most important daily habit that helps my anxiety. (I saved the best for last.)
It’s also the one I struggle to do consistently the most. Because it can feel like HARD work! But I remind myself that it’s one of the best things that will bring me relief.
This technique is based on the book Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns, and it’s something I’ve recently been working through with my therapist.
We all have negative thoughts that fall into one or more categories of these cognitive distortions:
- All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.
- Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
- Mental filter: You dwell on the negatives.
- Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count.
- Jumping to conclusions:
- a) Mind-reading: You assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no definite evidence
- b) Fortune-telling: You arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
- Magnification or minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance
- Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.”
- “Should statements”: You criticize yourself (or other people) with “shoulds,” “oughts,” “musts” and “have tos.”
- Labeling: Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk,” or “a fool,” or “a loser.”
- Personalization and blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and deny your role in the problem.
Here’s what I do with these:
- Make three columns labeled:
- Negative Thoughts
- Distortions and
- Positive Thoughts
When I’m feeling anxious, upset, sad, angry, or otherwise off, I sit for a minute and try to pinpoint one to two thoughts I’m having related to those feelings. I write those under “Negative Thoughts.”
Then, I identify which distortions each thought falls under. This can range from 1-2 to literally all of them. As my therapist has pointed out, the more distortions, the more it may show how irrational each thought is.
I use the last column to write more rational phrases in response to the other two columns. The key here is that they must be phrases I actually believe. Simply writing down extra positive thoughts won’t work if I don’t believe them. I usually need to write several sentences before I land on one that I believe at least 98%.
Here is an example of a recent (very personal) example of me doing this related to my health anxiety and finding lumpiness in one of my breasts:
- Negative Thought: I will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Distortions: All-or-nothing, fortune-telling, magnification, emotional reasoning.
- Positive Thoughts:
- The chance of the lumps being cancer is low because I’m young and not at risk.
- I have had benign lumps before, and they run in my family.
- I am getting it looked at just to be sure.
- Many women have benign lumps.
- I have a less than 10% chance of having breast cancer. (My therapist helped me with this one).
- If it is something bad, I’m more than likely to be fine.
It’s very hard for me to keep this one up daily, but I know it helps over time. My therapist has recommended I do at least one of them per day, which I’m working on by keeping a journal by my workspace to use when I feel off.
I find this helps so much because our thoughts can become so jumbled. We can feel awful but not even know where it started. This is a fantastic may of noticing what we’re actually thinking and recognizing where our thoughts are irrational—and often cruel towards ourselves.
What Helps You When You’re Anxious?
So, there are some things that help me feel more peaceful when anxiety hits me. There are others that I’m currently compiling into the book I’m writing, so stay tuned for that if you liked this.
Otherwise, what are some methods, practices, or mindsets that help ease your own anxiety or depression? I would love to hear them—comment below. 🙂