My anxiety became noticeably bad just after high school. If I think back now, I was always an anxious kid, but I only really became aware of the fact that I had a problem when I started dating my first boyfriend and had my first panic attack since I was a toddler after he told me that part of him really wanted to be single.
I started hyperventilating and didn’t really understand what was wrong with me. Later, I realised that I had had a panic attack. It wasn’t my last one.
A few years later, when my skin got really bad after I met my husband in my early twenties, I started getting panic attacks quite often.
You might not be able to tell that I run on the anxious side of you meet me in person, but I’m a high functioning anxious person.
I became obsessed with finding the cure to my anxiety. I tried meditation, yoga, adaptogens, a therapy session or two, journalling, natural remedies… I tried it all. And most of them didn’t work, and if they did, the effects were minimal.
But I still managed to get to the point where I would consider my anxiety to be in control most of the time. I still get a little anxious every day, but my anxiety is no longer overwhelming and I can go about my days feeling happy.
So what did help?
I Identified My Anxiety Triggers
I have discovered most of my anxiety triggers and managed to come up with strategies for managing them if something does make me anxious
I Manage My Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar leads to cortisol and adrenalin spikes, making you feel anxious. As an experiment, you can try eating a protein-rich meal to see if you feel better. I also stopped fasting in the morning and try to have breakfast as early as possible, which has helped a lot with my morning anxiety.
I Try to Limit My To-Do List
One of my biggest anxiety triggers is the feeling that I’m running out of time. Whether that’s related to ageing, my career, getting ready to go somewhere, or having quite a few tasks left on my daily to-do list and not enough time.
But things have been a lot better since I started limiting my list to five tasks a day.
I Don’t Pressure Myself to Meditate or Do Yoga
Look, I know that meditating and doing yoga are supposed to help you relax, but when I’m anxious and in the fight-or-flight state, the last thing I want to do is sit still on a yoga mat or do slow and gentle movements. It feels like torture to me, and my anxiety often ended up being worse at the end of the class.
If I’m anxious, I will feel the urge to run away the entire yoga class. But it makes sense. It’s called the fight-or-flight mode for a reason. I feel way better when I do more intensive movements, such as weightlifting, cycling, dancing, and HIIT training.
Plus, dancing and lifting weights have been way more effective methods of clearing my mind.
And don’t think I didn’t give the whole yoga and meditation thing a good try. I even did my yoga teacher training, hoping I would walk out a more relaxed person. I didn’t.
I Practise Fear Setting
My husband first suggested that I try fear setting a few months after we met. He didn’t call it that, but Tim Ferriss posted a video about fear setting in which he gave the exact same advice that Jonathan gave me and that has been very effective.
So, what is fear setting?
Fear setting is the practice of writing down things that you are afraid will happen in the future and then coming up with a plan for how you will handle them if they do.
When you have anxiety, you tend to think about the future a lot and you are generally more aware of all the things that could go wrong in life. But if you can identify your anxiety triggers and what you are afraid could happen in the future like in your relationships, career, or health, then you can come up with a strategy for how you would like to act and what you would want to do if the bad things do happen.
For example, I have a fear of getting older (like I said, time is a trigger), but I set exciting goals for certain birthdays that have made reaching these “scary” ages events to look forward to. I plan on taking a trip around the world at 50.
This is how I manage my anxiety. What works for me might not work for you. If you are on the anxious side, I highly recommend that you try different anxiety-reducing techniques and find what works best for you.