HOW I COPE WITH ANXIETY
Well it’s been quite a year so far! I think we all thought that 2021 would be so much less complicated than the year that was 2020.
For those living in Australia though (and many other parts of the world) it’s actually been quite a difficult year. For this reason I thought I would share how I combat my own anxieties. I can only imagine that I am not the only one dealing with it at this time. If you suffer from anxiety too, you are not alone.
For me, I know that dealing with an anxious mind will be a constant practice. Just like stretching out my posture everyday. Staying mindful about not letting anxiety creep back in is something I have decided will never be cured for me with a quick fix. It’s much more about small reminders and little moments repeated throughout the day that I have found work best for me overall. I hope these tips help you too.
This is coming first and I know you know it, but I personally have a real problem with ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ which constantly threatens my sleep. This is where you find yourself having ‘me-time’ at midnight, watching Netflix or scrolling on your phone. You do know that it’s a terrible habit to get into. but sometimes it’s hard to fight. The only way I have found the ability to overcome this is to set a ‘wind down’ alarm on my phone for 9.30pm.
This reminds me to start my ‘getting to bed routine’. It’s also a reminder to close all screens and take my dog out to the garden for her final countdown of the night, followed by washing my face, and reading a book. If I can get to sleep by 10.30pm I will know I got at least 1.5 hours of restorative sleep (which only happens before midnight!) Try doing this for a week and see if you feel more calm and composed during the day!
2) A GOOD EVENING ROUTINE
On the note of winding down, here are the things that help me drift off to sleep when I know I need to, instead of staring at the ceiling.
a) A bath in the early evening with magnesium salts in dim light. (I avoid a bath straight before bed so that my body has had time to cool down afterwards!)
b) I don’t end my night on watching something really exciting and stimulating. Reading fiction before bed and really thinking about the characters gets my mind out of my own head. It helps me let go of my day in the office and anything that I didn’t get finished. On that note I try and avoid social media before bed. Otherwise all of my book reading goodness will be erased with social media stimulation.
c) I like to look at my end of day skin care routine as self care, rather than a chore. I really enjoy the ritual of washing off my make up and applying creams before bed. It’s just anther signal to my mind to wind down.
d) Post reading, I think about things I am grateful for from today and in life. I also say to myself that I did everything I needed to today, so that I don’t subconsciously hang onto anything. I find this works for me even if I didn’t actually get through my to do list. We need to be kinder to ourselves sometimes and not just reward the idea of hustle culture. Feeling calm and centred is important too.
3) DON’T ALWAYS BE RUSHING
So this one is hard to avoid but with some careful planning it can be possible. I now build in buffer time to my day between meetings and deadlines. This allows for unexpected things to happen and still be dealt with, which happens both in life and in business. For example if I have a Zoom meeting with a client for 1 to 2pm, I don’t schedule anything until 2.30pm at the earliest. This little buffer allows me to take breath and be calm and composed for whatever is scheduled next.
Quiet days in the office are also the biggest gift! This is the time to do the things that have been waiting to be done! Cleaning out the art supplies cupboard, or brainstorming that next creative project or just looking at the big picture. I am a big fan of the quiet days when they happen, and even schedule them in.
4) EMBRACE DOING NOTHING ON PURPOSE SOMETIMES
Something that I sometimes struggle with is relaxing. This is not a good thing. If you are someone who can take a few days into a holiday to finally start unwinding, you might have this problem too. In my case I think this might be linked to my days as a single mother and freelancer; where I felt like I had to spend every spare minute working. Now that I do have a lot more structure and time in my life, I still have to work on shaking this mindset and realise that it’s a good thing to sometimes relax!
About two years ago I finally made the decision that Friday mornings would be for yoga instead of an early start in the office. This small change (which I realise having my own business allows me to make) has been life changing. It reminds me every week that always working isn’t the goal of a happy life.
5) ONE LITTLE QUESTION
So with all of the self care in the world and boundaries on social media it is still possible to slip into a negative and worrisome habit or thought loop. I don’t think this element of anxiety will ever go away completely, but I can work with it. The key practice that I learned from ‘Unwinding Anxiety by Dr Judson Brewer’ is to do the following when I feel worry creeping in. Firstly, I take a pause and just be curious about it, because curiosity is a more positive emotion than worry.
I literally stop and say ‘humm, that’s interesting, I appear to be worried about x’. I don’t judge myself; I just notice. Following this if I follow up with the question ‘Is this helpful?’ I am usually able to exit the habit or thought loop to something better. It’s a simple process, but for me it seams to work!
So one of the main reasons I created my Original Masterclass in Painting was because I knew how much painting and creativity helped me with stress and anxiety. I noticed that it almost felt like effortless meditation. It was joyful, it was calm and my brain switched off from other stresses in my life. I feel the same thing from yoga and cooking. Whatever it is for you, it might be something to do more often!
7) PRETEND IT’S EXCITEMENT
As an introvert, there are times where I have to give a public speech for a collaboration, go live on social media or unveil a collection of original art. All of these things are incredibly overwhelming for a quiet creative! Something I have done over the years though is to tell myself (when I feel butterflies) that I am actually excited, not nervous. We experience almost the same emotions when excited as when nervous so this is a little mind trick that I find really calming. It’s also the truth most of the time!
8) SELF KINDNESS
Self kindness goes such a long way. Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your timeline is not the same as anyone else’s. Focus on what is important to you, find something joyful in every day and give yourself time to rest. We only have one life, so let’s not waste it with worry. Go to bed every night knowing that you did your best and tomorrow is another day for joy and creativity.