5 Things I Did in 2018 to Decrease My Anxiety

As a professional school counselor and licensed professional counselor, I regularly work with clients to help them recognize their anxiety triggers and create plans to relieve some of their stress. It was only until recently (in the last couple years) that I realized I wasn’t following my own tips and tricks. As 2018 winds down, I’ve been reflecting on some of the strategies I’ve put into place that have helped me manage my anxiety and busy lifestyle. Here are a few of my game-changers:

  1. I made regular exercise a routine and priority.

    I started dabbling in the world of weights back in 2016 (thanks, A) and quickly realized this was my preferred method of exercise. Once I started to see the physical changes in my body and feel the mental health benefits, I knew this was something I wanted to make a routine and incorporate into my lifestyle. With the help of one of my favorite apps, Done, I hold myself accountable and try to hit the gym five days a week.

  2. I cleaned up my social media feeds.

    Social media is great, until it’s not. I started noticing my mood and stress levels were becoming negatively affected by what I was seeing on Facebook and Instagram—I wasn’t enjoying posts by people whose views are different than mine, I was feeling stressed about having to catch up on hundreds of group messages that I missed while I was working, and I was feeling my inner bitch come out when I saw posts by people I wasn’t really “friends” with, or didn’t know IRL. After leaving those feeds, unfollowing those people, and even unfriending a few, I started realizing that a simple choice helped me “own” my social media and see only what I wanted to.

  3. I started saying, “No.”

    I’m a helper by nature, so my people-pleaser instinct wants to make sure everyone is happy or at least set them on the path to becoming so. I also don’t want anyone to feel disappointed, left out, upset, or lonely. This is both a blessing and a curse! Because of this, I was constantly saying “Yes” to things that I didn’t want to do, events I didn’t want to go to, and basically spending my free time being unhappy for the sake of others’. So, I started saying, “No.” No, I don’t want to go to that happy hour. No, I don’t want to run that program at work. No, I would rather stay in tonight than go out. Much like my social media tip, this helped me gain control over my free time and not feel so stressed that I was constantly busy.

  4. I stopped drinking coffee.

    Well, this was definitely not something I saw coming. It wasn’t until I was sick in bed with the stomach flu that I realized I was over the pounding headaches that came from caffeine withdrawals, as I suffered from one at that very moment. I recognized that I didn’t love the taste of coffee as much as I used to, I was still always tired (though I was alert, which is different), and I hated the dependency I had on my morning cup of coffee (I also didn’t love how much I was spending at Starbucks, but that’s my own fault). So, I kissed coffee goodbye and made the switch to tea, and haven’t looked back since! Perks so far: I’m sleeping MUCH better (no more waking up constantly in the middle of the night), there are a TON of different types of tea to try, and I no longer get those god-awful headaches.

  5. I am becoming more mindful.

    Most of the tips I mentioned above fall into this “be mindful” category—I started becoming more aware of what makes me feel good, and what doesn’t. Another way to be mindful is to actually practice mindfulness, which I explain to my middle schoolers as a way to focus on the present moment, and take a few minutes not worry about the past or the future. There’s lots of research on this particular technique, and there are a ton of apps that you can use to build your mindfulness practice. I am particularly a fan of Headspace, mainly because I love saving money and got a sweet educator’s discount. I also love that it have many different categories, so you can pick whatever flavor of mindfulness you’re in the mood for. Regular mindfulness practice has both mental and physical health benefits, but the kicker is the word “regular.” I’m still working on making this a habit (and still struggling to practice 3x/week), but I know the benefits will pay off in the long run.