Happy Wednesday, guys. We’ve made it half way through the week and its been quite a ride, if you ask me. I’m closing in on my photography season which usually ends up looking a lot like 3 shoots a day, boat loads of editing while binging on Netflix, the temptation to skip my workouts and to drink one too many cups of coffee. It’s within this season of my life that I face the constant battle of letting go of any and all anxious behavior and instead, embrace the calm. Because that, for me, starts a dangerous downward spiral that I have no interest in having in my life again.
I wanted to go out on this limb and write this post in hopes of helping any of you who may struggle with anxious personality disorder – because as I mentioned – I too, have been there. I’m also proof that you can make the changes to living a life that’s centered around calm and simplicity. No more intense sense of urgency, no more frazzled behavior, no more overcommitting or double booking yourself, no more people pleasing. Though you’ll still find yourself in familiar patterns from time to time (as I mentioned above) you’ll have the proper tools to find your way back to center. So first thing’s first:
Do you have an anxious personality type?
If you nodded your head in a agreement, raised your hand, or just flat out said “YUP” – let me just say, I feel you. This was me right after my dad passed away in December of 2013 up until December 2016, but I’m finally at a place where I no longer consider myself anxious, nor does it alter the way I live my life. So much has changed in regards to what used to have me nearing the featle position just to find some calm or peace of mind. I used to get anxious if I got a text message, for goodness sake. This way of life left me with social anxiety disorder, and put a major dent in my work life since I became someone who feared rejection on a regular basis. I basically closed down so many areas of my life due to anxiety and grief and being in an unhealthy relationship, and in turn, I lost sight of who I was entirely. To most people, everything looked normal. Sure, I was going through a major loss in my life so all expected me to be a little sad, but I was so good at closeting just how bad I really felt. Whether it’s someone you know, or it’s you yourself who are just coming to terms that you may be in the same boat, here are some simple ways you can determine if this is what you’re struggling with:
Anxious Personality Symptoms
- Trouble sleeping (I used to always have to take a melatonin before bed in order to have a chance at sleeping)
- Not being able to sit still
- Unrealistic sense of urgency (raising both of my hands here)
- Constantly cold, tingling limbs (I would shake a little, almost like I was shivering from the cold)
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations (when there’s no need – aka: you’re not in a fight or flight situation)
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and lack of appetite
- Tense muscles and sore joints
You can also take this free test to figure out if you’re struggling from anxious personality disorder. If any of these things sound familiar, please rest assured there are ways to fix it once and for all. I promise. Perhaps it’s not even you you’re worried about – maybe it’s your partner or your friend or your sibling. Let’s dive in to how you can help an anxious person, and how you can help release yourself from the crippling and life altering effects of this type of behavior.
10 Tips For People With Anxious Tendencies
Limit your caffeine intake
We all know that too much caffeine can leave us feeling jittery and unbalanced. While a little is helpful, be sure to limit yourself to just one serving a day. You can replace your second and third cup with herbal tea (two that I drink and highly recommend for anxious personality types can be found here and here.) I’ve also found it helpful to stay incredibly hydrated, and for me, having a water bottle that shows me how much I’m drinking is motivating and encouraging. This is a good one if you’re in need.
Take up meditation, in whatever form works for you
So here’s the truth. I don’t like meditation in the traditional form – which is funny since I relate heavily to the Buddhist culture and lifestyle. But as hard as I’ve tried, much like yoga, it just isn’t something that brings me joy or really benefits my mental health. If you’re like me, this doesn’t mean that you can’t meditate. It just means that you have to come up with a meditation practice that works for you. For example: my meditation practice involves taking a bubble bath infused with lavender oil and epsom salts (I love the eucalyptus for the morning and the lavender for the evening), a candle, sometimes music – sometimes just silence, and zero agenda. For others, it could look like a long run outside, walking your dog, drawing or watercoloring, etc. It doesn’t have to be sitting down on your floor, cross legged and listening to someone tell you when to breathe. It certainly can be, but just know that that’s not the only way to successfully mediate.
Don’t eliminate cardio
Although you may think that doing something that gets your heart rate up is counter intuitive to finding your way towards a calm lifestyle, research shows that the opposite is true. Cardio activity is actually incredibly beneficial for ridding yourself of anxious behaviors. You don’t necessarily have to run on a treadmill – you can go to a dance class, play tennis, try a bootcamp, go for a hill hike, etc. * Another one of my favorite ways to workout which helps seize any and all of my anxiety is Pilates. It takes mental strength, but it’s incredibly slow paced and thrives off of fluid movements.
Focus on your diet
What are the common foods that you’re putting into your body? Are they helping you or hurting you? Some foods to include in your diet that are shown to calm your nerves are salmon, almonds, blueberries, asparagus, avocados and walnuts. I have this cookbook and try to pull recipes from it at least a few times a week. Here’s another article that lists beneficial foods for anxious personality types.
Be conscious of the music you’re listening to
During times of stress (because lets be honest – you will face those times even once you’ve got your anxious behaviors under control), it’s crucial to surround yourself with things that keep you relaxed. After my dad passed away, I couldn’t watch TV. Sure, some of it had to do with the fact that made up TV just made me angry (like, who cares in the scheme of things if x is now dating y and y really loves z) but the other part of it was the noise and stimulation. It was hurting my brain, and I wasn’t able to tolerate it. Instead, I opted for relaxing music. Piano music on Spotify saved me, and I started getting more and more into instrumental. Very few distractions come along with that kind of music.
Charity is such an amazing way to boost your mood, eliminate anxiety and rid yourself of daunting thoughts. Doing good for others is probably the easiest and most effect way to also do good for yourself. Donate to a GoFundMe page, support your favorite charity that’s close to your heart, donate to Pencils of Promise to help build schools, or volunteer at your local Children’s Hospital or food drive. No act is too small, and I promise you’ll see a change. The best part? That change is immediate.
Be vocal about your triggers
Whether it’s your family and friends, your partner, or someone new that you’re dating, it’s important to be vocal about your anxiety and what makes you tick. I know it’s easier said than done, but having these difficult conversations can save your relationships – leaving you with one less thing to feel anxious about. When my dad died, for months and months I didn’t want to be around anyone. I pushed friends aside constantly – and finally just told them that I needed space. That it wasn’t them, this was just what I needed to survive in this current season. They completely understood, and without any hard feelings, welcomed me back with open arms when I was ready to start taking on company again. Now throughout my 3 year process with severe anxiety and we’ll just call it what it was: sadness, I learned so much about what set me off in different directions. What made me want to crawl into a hole. What made me just straight up cry for no reason. What left me feeling like the clock was going to run out and I wouldn’t have enough time. The answer was always the same: overcommitting, and not making time for the things that I loved.
So, I stopped taking on big weddings within my photography business. I started writing more. I stopped talking to people who made me feel bad and didn’t add value to my life. I unfollowed Instagram accounts that brought constant, unhealthy comparison. I started making space for myself and what I wanted to do. It really was that simple. Talk to those who love you. Be honest about what you need from them. And don’t forget to be honest with yourself, too, about what you need to do to not just survive, but thrive.
Say “no” more
Somewhat related to the above, saying “yes” to anything and everything is the best way you can continue to feed the fire of your anxious personality. I know, it’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable to say no the first several times. But just wait and see what happens once your brain starts to get used to it. It’s actually quite lovely. The guilt leaves entirely, your time frees up, and you find that you’re only doing the things that you truly want to do with your time. My sister is my favorite (in general) but specifically when it comes to this subject. If I’m feeling burnt out but I feel like I need to do x, y and z, she’s the first person that will say: don’t do it. Take care of yourself. Say no to those things and do you.
So, say no to “those things”, and do you.
See a therapist
Therapy was one of the best things that I did for myself amidst my grief and battle with anxiety. Sure, it was also mentally exhausting, but each time I would walk away feeling like 100 pounds was stripped from my shoulders. My therapy was specifically centered around grief, but within that lied so many practices and remedies for my anxious behavior as a result of my sadness. So be sure to pay attention to what’s at the center of your behavior. Are you anxious because of a past trauma? Are you anxious because of your job? Are you anxious because of your current surroundings? Find the answer to your “why” – and research which therapy avenue might be the best for you. Some really benefit from group therapy, while others would rather have a one on one.
Live in the calm
Pay attention to your surroundings. Are you in New York City and suffering from severe anxiety? This may not be the best place for you and your mental state, if that’s the case. Loud noises and large crowds are one of the easiest ways to set off someone with crippling social anxiety or even just feelings of urgency. If leaving your town isn’t an option, be sure to set your living situation up to be your calming retreat. Take any means necessary to revamp it into a sanctuary of sorts – including but not limited to colors, scents and textures. When you walk into your home every day, you should feel safe and relaxed.
Finding and paving a new way of life is challenging – I know this to be true. But I also know that living with anxiety and such intense urgency is way, way more difficult. I want to encourage any of you reading this who can relate to the traits above – whether it’s just one or all – that the smallest steps made today can drastically impact your life moving forward, and give you the ability to live free of feeling sick and tired. How lovely would it be to rid yourself of those unrealistic deadlines that you’ve created for yourself? Or the difficulty you have making decisions because everything seems to overwhelm you? Implementing these 10 simple steps can start you off on the path to calm and simple living, and designing the life that you’ve always wanted to live.
Is my life perfect the way it is right now? No, not even close. I’m still pain-strikingly sad and living in grief every day – and that has become my new normal. But I will tell you first hand that I’m also insanely happy in addition. I’ve never felt more free, independent or unapologetic in my entire life. Every decision I make is now easier than ever, because my mind is clear, I’m in full control of my schedule, the people in my life are all there for a reason. I’m able to recognize old patterns before they get out of control, and I know myself well enough to avoid my triggers and to tackle them head on by using one (or all) of the steps above. I also make it a point to forgive myself immediately, should any mis-steps occur, because of course, they will.
Life is tricky and hard enough as it is. What if you could rid yourself your anxiety once and for all, and face everything with a clear head? What if you could take deep breaths when faced with a difficult decision rather than break down into a full on panic attack? What if you could relieve yourself of society’s pressure and instead live your life the way you want to?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
I promise you, you can. And I’m here to help, should you need it. x