Quick Anxiety-Reducing Tips

I struggle with anxiety and I have learned what helps me during these times. Although different coping techniques work for different people, I decided I would share mine with you in hopes they might help somebody.

Drink water — I feel more clear-headed, positive, and emotionally stable when I am hydrated. On the contrary, I feel foggy-headed and am more vulnerable to negative emotions when I am dehydrated.

Get outside — I feel calmer and uplifted when I spend some time outside, especially if the weather is nice.

Take a hot shower — For me, showers are like being back in the womb. They’re cocooning and allow me both to experience a level of sensory deprivation (everything going on outside the shower stall falls away), while also experiencing some positive and calming sensory input (the roar of the shower in my ears and the pounding water on my body).

Exercise — Moving my body is an almost immediate anxiety lifter. It feels good to be active, to strengthen my body, and to engage in this type of self-care.

Deep breathe — Anxiety leads to shallow breathing, which can lead to more anxiety in what becomes a vicious cycle. Simply concentrating on my breathing and taking deep breaths calms and centers me.

Repeat a mantra — I will sometimes self-soothe by repeating a mantra such as “Everything will be okay” or “It’s not that serious”. Sometimes vocally contradicting the anxiety results in it dissipating.

Start cleaning/straightening — A clean, uncluttered environment has always made me feel more in control of myself. On the contrary, a messy, chaotic environment contributes to my bouts of anxiety.

Think grateful thoughts — Considering what I’m grateful for always calms me and helps put my worries and concerns in context. The situation is almost never as dire as I make it out to be.

Talk to somebody — Being alone can aid the anxiety in continuing. Sometimes just talking with a friendly person can cause the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions to end.

What are some ways you successfully battle anxiety?

Dangerous Self-Care Myths

There are many myths surrounding the concept of self-care. Let’s talk about what they are and what the truth really is. But first, let’s define self-care. I would define it as anything you do to intentionally maintain or improve any facet of your health, including the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects.

1. Self-care is expensive.

Self-care doesn’t have to be an expensive massage, expensive dinner, or anything else that requires a lot of money. Self-care can even be free. Taking a walk or a nap, for example, are both self-care activities.

2. Self-care is selfish.

The only way you’ll have the energy and patience to help others is if you give yourself the opportunity to become rested and rejuvenated. Regardless of your best efforts and motivations, you are not a machine and will break down if you do not take care of yourself. Mothers especially often forego their own health to focus on others.

3. Self-care takes up a lot of time.

Self-care doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. It can be a 20-minute cat nap or eating the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the fried one (or, if it’s time for a treat, eating the fried chicken sandwich instead of the grilled one).

4. Self-care is always fun/ pleasurable.

Self-care is very different than self-indulgence. It can be doing something you don’t enjoy, such as exercise, eating healthfully, or cleaning your home.

5. Self-care is a one-time thing.

Self-care must be regularly scheduled just like other commitments like work and school. For example, getting a massage once a week or setting aside ten minutes each day for meditation are examples of self-care.

6. Self-care is a luxury.

Self-care is a necessity. It is essential to ensure we are able to function properly and not become burned out. Thinking of it as a luxury builds feelings of guilt into self-care time, which deters many people from engaging in self-care.

7. Self-care is trendy.

We live in a busy, stressful, complicated world that is only becoming moreso. Due to the state of things, the topic of self-care has come up a lot in recent years. More people are being introduced to the term and learning what it means and how important it is. Yes, the topic is more popular now than ever, but this doesn’t mean it’s a fad or that it’s not integral to a healthy lifestyle.

8. Self-care is only for mentally-ill people.

Everybody, including those without mental disorders, needs self-care. Of course, those with mental disorders often need to attend even more closely to self-care. Many people with mental disorders have an extra hard time attending to self-care. And mental illness is often the result of neglecting self-care for an extended period of time.

9. Self-care is always an action.

Sometimes, self-care is inaction. For example, not driving by somewhere that triggers you or declining a party invitation can both be examples of self-care.

Have I missed any harmful myths related to the topic of self-care? Do you find yourself believing some of these myths?

Fat Person’s Thoughts on the Body Acceptance and Health at Every Size Movements

The Body Acceptance Movement purports to be a movement about loving your body in its present state, flaws and all. The face of this movement used to be people with disabilities, deformities, scarring, skin conditions, and the like. It was an empowering movement that emphasized looks don’t matter; health and self-care do.

The Fat Acceptance or Health at Every Size Movement was founded as a reaction toward the extremely thin figures that started becoming popular in the 1960’s on television and in magazines and that eventually made its way to Main Street, negatively affecting women’s mental health due to insecurity over their own bodies. Nowadays, when people hear body acceptance, the first thing that typically comes to mind are fat people.

In recent years, as the rate of obesity in the U.S. has skyrocketed, the movement has centered moreso around accepting extreme levels of fatness, and the movement itself seems to have grown in popularity and acceptance. This movement asserts that fat and obesity have nothing to do with how healthy a person is, so a fat person should accept being fat and shouldn’t feel the need to lose weight– that the only reason anyone would ever lose weight is to fit in with and please others, which are regarded as non-legitimate reasons.

Unfortunately, this view conflicts with science to a massive (pun unintended) degree. Almost every disease and condition that affects human beings is worsened due to obesity, if not directly caused by it. Since 2013, obesity itself has been considered a disease. And yet, while we don’t ridicule or bully people who have other diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cancer, we also don’t preach that they should be “accepted”, either. Instead, we promote the funding of cancer research, as well as lifestyle changes being instituted by individuals to reverse their diabetes.

I agree that it’s important to love and appreciate your body at whatever state you find it in currently. But self-love will inevitably result in giving it what it needs in terms of exercise and nutrition, not routinely overeating, and not accepting or settling for an obese body. Similarly, a parent who loves their child will make sure to wake them up in the morning, educate them, feed them healthy food, and limit their technology use, not because it makes the child happy but because it is what the child needs. As well, positive psychology has taught us that using positive motivations to change (for instance, losing weight to be able to participate in sports) is more effective than using negative motivations (feeling worthless after being bullied about your weight). If you don’t love and value your body to start with, you won’t care enough to take care of it. There’s nothing refreshing, glorious, positive, or inspiring about a body that is so large normal daily activities such as bending, walking, and climbing stairs are painful. Neither is there about the possibility of high blood pressure, strokes, or death resulting from carrying excessive weight.

I would really love to hear other’s opinions about this topic, especially other fat people’s. Do you think the Fat Acceptance Movement is a long time in coming due to all of the prejudice we have faced historically? Or do you agree that the movement is misinformed and dangerous?

Self-Indulgence = Self-Care or Self-Harm?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about when self-indulgence acts as self-care and when it acts as self-harm. Examples of self-indulgence include eating junk food, overeating, sleeping in, not exercising, procrastinating, etc.

Sometimes we use self-indulgence as punishments for past mistakes, without even realizing it. If you do not feel as though you’re worthy of a healthy body, mind, and spirit, what can appear to be self-care can actually be self-loathing and self-sabotage.

Putting off chores, staying in bed, and allowing yourself unhealthful but tasty treats both feels good and can be considered part of a balanced life, if done in moderation. For example, many people have “cheat days” on their diet. These are not considered to be negative because they acknowledge that perfection is not necessary or even desirable and that most things in life are not “all bad” or “all good” (including different foods).

I believe the difference is what we make the focal point of our lives and what we do most of the time. If we make it giving into every whim and following every fleeting feeling instead of doing what we know will be more worth it in the end (for example, building a savings account or achieving a healthy BMI), we will end up miserable. However, no play and all work will also make us miserable. Self-indulgence should be used as a reward for a productive week (or day), not in lieu of being productive. Hard work and productivity are natural mood-lifters and will bring more ultimate satisfaction to our lives than a life filled with nothing but leisure and hedonism.

I hope I haven’t come off preachy in this post. As with all my posts, I write about what I struggle with or can relate to, myself. And lately I have been struggling with my competing responsibilities and desires and striking a balance between them. Does anybody reading have any additional or alternative thoughts on the matter?

What to Do (and Not Do) When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Overwhelm can be…well, overwhelming. And yet in our fast-paced, busy, over-scheduled society, it’s a common experience. What do you do when they’re aren’t enough hours in the day to handle all of your responsibilities — at least, without giving up necessaries such as sleep, food, and recreation? It’s easy to let the stress of it overtake you. I have come up with several “to dos” as well as some “don’ts” to follow when you’re feeling overwhelmed. These have helped me immensely and I hope they help you, as well.

What to Do

1) Get a relaxing shower. It seems silly, but shower time can feel like time spent in a womb-like environment, and thus be incredibly stress-relieving. The roar of the water blocks out other noise, while the heat loosens tight muscles, and the solitude allows you to get away from having to face other humans for a while. Also, some of my best thinking gets down in the shower, so you might just have an idea come to you while you’re in there. Start re-conceptualizing showers as therapeutic rather than solely related to hygiene purposes.

2) Count to ten. This exercise can take your mind off your worries momentarily, while centering you. It can also help steady your breathing and make you feel more in control.

3) Do breathing exercises. Similar to counting, these can help you concentrate on steadying your breathing, which in turn can help you feel calmer. One I find helpful is to slowly take a deep breath, hold it for three to five seconds, then slowly breathe out.

4) Write down everything you have to do or that is bothering you. This will help organize your thoughts and emotions. It will make your responsibilities feel more manageable and once again put you in control. I am constantly writing lists either with pen and paper or in the “Notes” section of my iPhone. It’s the only way I feel “on top” of things.

5) Tackle the easiest thing on your “to do” list. This always helps me get through my list faster. If you get lots of easy, fast things done first, it motivates you to get the harder, longer tasks done.

6) Play classical music. It’s been proven to increase mood. Many people find playing music while they work to be motivating and make the time pass more quickly.

7) Color. It was fun as a child and is now relaxing as an adult. There are many coloring books marketed towards adults nowadays. I got mine on Amazon for $5. This activity can help you use up some nervous energy and center your attention when you’re feeling out-of-control.

8) Meditate. This is a good practice to incorporate into your daily self-care regimen, but it can be especially important when feeling overwhelmed. With practice (ten minutes a day), you will get better at mastering your mind and letting thoughts come and go without becoming emotionally attached to them. When feeling overwhelmed, meditation will help pause the constant surge of worry, so you’ll be more clear-headed to tackle your day.

9) Move your body. Run. Dance. Do jumping jacks. Stretch out your muscles. Exercise has been proven to release “feel-good” hormones, is good for your heart, and can help release nervous energy and frustration.

10) Vocalize. Sing. Scream. Do scales. It will let out built-up frustration and immediately make you feel calmer, and give you more positive energy, afterwards.

11) Procrastinate. This is only to be done if you have not planned. Tackling a hard day without proper preparation is the fastest way to burnout and failure. If you haven’t come up with a plan, don’t self-sabotage. First make a plan of attack, then get busy.

12) Drink water. Dehydration causes confused thinking. Don’t try to get through a tough day (or week, or month…) while dehydrated.

13) Make yourself comfortable. Are you cold? Warm yourself up. Are you hot? Cool yourself down. Getting a lot of work done from home today? Put on comfy clothes or PJ’s. Have a (healthful) snack. Making yourself comfortable will make your work easier and more pleasant.

14) Straighten up. If you’re like me, it’s hard to think in a cluttered environment. Cluttered space, cluttered mind. A neat area without unnecessary stuff is less over-stimulating and will therefore help you feel calmer and more organized.

15) Get enough sleep. I’ve read that 100 years ago people got 12 hours a night, on average; 50 years ago, people got 10 a night, on average; and I know when growing up in the 90’s, people were getting 7-8 a night (and this is what was recommended). Now “they” are recommending 6-7. The recommended number keeps decreasing, and I have to wonder if this is due to new research being done that shows humans need less and less sleep, or if it’s really about convincing people they need less sleep so they’ll happily continue to work 50-60 hours/week to make somebody else as rich as possible (but oops, I’ve revealed my cynical side…) Moving on…If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before and can spare the time, take a 30-60 minute nap. Just enough to feel refreshed, not enough to feel groggy. Then continue with your day.

16) Share your frustration with someone you trust. Talk it out. Gain an empathetic ear. It can help just to know others are thinking about you and you have their moral support.

17) Hand off responsibility to others. Are there responsibilities you’ve taken on that really shouldn’t belong to you? Have you taken on an unfair share of the load? If it’s a work project, can your co-workers help? If it’s planning a family reunion or wedding, can your relatives help?

18) Schedule time for work, fun, and rest. All three are equally important to having a balanced, satisfying life. Some type of work (whether paid or not) is important for feelings of productivity and worth. Fun is necessary to enjoy the lighter, more personal side of life (humor, time spent with family and friends, expanding your horizons via hobbies and travel). Rest is necessary to allow your body to repair and to have the energy to do work and fun.

19) Let go of things you can’t control. The weather messing up plans or timelines. Others’ attitudes, actions, and decisions. Sickness. Your car randomly deciding to break down or pop a tire when you REALLY need it to just cooperate and take you to your destination. I’m convinced the fastest way to a miserable life is allowing worry and stress to eat you up over situations and circumstances out of your control.

20) Use positive affirmations and internalize them. Find ones you resonate with or make up your own. Look in the mirror, say them to yourself every day as though you’re reading a love note to your significant other, and feel the power and strength they imbue in you. Examples are “I am capable”,”I feel motivated”, “I love myself regardless of my productivity levels”, “It’s okay to take a break when I need one”, “I did a good job today”, “Everything will be okay if I need to take extra time”, and “I cannot control everything, and that is as it should be”.

What Not to Do

1) Panic and try to handle everything at once. This will result in mistakes being made and your mental and physical health being depleted.

2) Beat yourself up for not meeting your expectations. Perhaps your expectations were not realistic. Perhaps there were unforeseen circumstances that came up that pushed your deadline farther away. Be gentle with yourself while challenging yourself to reach your full capabilities.

3) Put your self-care on the back burner. Not getting enough sleep. Working through the night. Missing meals or eating convenient, unhealthful foods. Skipping making your bed in the morning, even though you know that helps put you in a better mood at the start of the day.

4) Fail to reach out to others for moral support or practical help. It’s important to use your support system in times of need, the same way you offer support to those you care about when they are in need.

5) Live in the past/future. Dwelling on past “failures”. Worrying about what the future holds if you don’t meet your deadlines or things don’t go as planned. You cannot give 100% to the task at hand if you’re not present. Be present for your life always.

6) Take on even more stress and duties. If you’re already drowning, you don’t welcome yet more water. It’s important to learn assertiveness and how to say “no” in a kind way. Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Employers are often guilty of over-depending on their standout employees and then becoming shocked when those employees experience burnout. I’ve learned being the dependable, capable one often gets you taken advantage of.

7) Lash out at others. It’s easy to lose patience when your nerves are fried and to treat others poorly when you’re feeling poorly, yourself.

I feel that this is a very important topic, as it affects everybody, the majority of us on a daily basis. Have I missed any points or helpful tips related to this topic? Please let me know!

The Art of Shower-Sitting

So I mentioned in my last post that one of my hobbies is shower-sitting. This is a hobby that I have had since early childhood, starting with me getting the stomach flu almost every year around my birthday. The hot water felt so good raining down on my ache-y, chilling body, but I didn’t have the strength to stand the entire time. So I got the idea to sit in the tub. Ever since that time, I have used long, hot, sit-down showers as a relaxful respite from sickness, stress, and looming responsibilities.

I was lucky for a long time to have my own bathroom so I didn’t have to worry about sitting in someone else’s filth. I have since lost my own bathroom, so have taken to using a $10 plastic patio chair.

Generally, I turn off any glaring lights and either have it pitch black or leave on an indirect light or light some candles. This aids greatly in relaxation, especially if you have a headache. With nothing but the roar of the water in your ears and its steady drumming on your back/shoulders/head, etc, the rest of the world and its noise is locked out and you get a partial sensory-deprivation experience. As an introvert, it’s especially important for me to get away from the rest of the world and have time to myself. I’ll sit with my back to the spray, as well as away from the spray.

I have even read books this way (with my back facing the spray), which protects the book. Sometimes I use this time to think of absolutely nothing and let my mind go blank, engaging in a form of meditation.

Sometimes I use it to brainstorm and reflect. My greatest ideas and epiphanies generally come during two periods: In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or during a sit-down shower. And sometimes it’s cathartic to have a good cry in the privacy of the shower stall.

Granted, it’s a waste of water (I’ll admit some of my sit-down showers have been 45 minutes long, although I have not taken one nearly this long in several years and most are under 20 minutes), but it’s a pretty mild vice to have, comparatively-speaking.

It used to be that taking a sit-down shower was associated with being depressed, elderly, or hung over, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that, while it’s still considered somewhat of a weird taboo, it’s become much more popular as of late. Does anyone else reading this indulge in this pastime? Let me know! And if not, I’d recommend it as a cheap and easy stress and pain-buster!

Let’s Talk Hobbies

Some people have many, some a couple, some none. Some are expensive, require a lot of skill, and/or take up a lot of time. Some are free, require no special skills/talent, and/or can be done anytime/anywhere. Some people prioritize making time for them, while others only do them as an afterthought when they’re bored.

What are your hobbies? What do you consider the definition of “hobby” to be? According to dictionary.com, it’s “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation”. Using that definition, my hobbies are reading, writing poetry, watching movies, gluttony, taking sit-down showers (more about this in another post!), taking drives, and — my newest! — blogging. I hope to add exercising to that soon, although I guess there are definite non-pleasurable aspects to that activity when you’re first starting out in the pitiable shape I’m in. In listing them, I notice many of my hobbies are passive, solitary, and/or unhealthful.

Do you find you have the time/motivation to put into your hobbies after taking care of your daily responsibilities? Do you consider them important enough to prioritize as part of self-care so that you don’t get burnt out and so your entire identity doesn’t become worker/parent/spouse/etc? I’d love to hear what place (if any) hobbies have in your life.