Do you and/or your children struggle with anxiety? With managing fears, worries and uncertainties about things that could happen or what will happen next? This post is full of tips, techniques, and strategies to help you manage anxiety as naturally as possible.
Adults and children alike need to learn mental, emotional and physical coping skills to get through times that are stressful in every way. It helps to know you have a plan, you have some tools and techniques you can use – you’re empowered, rather feeling helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and none of the suggestions in this post are intended to diagnose, treat or cure any medical condition. Consult a professional where appropriate. All suggestions are based on my own research, experience, and opinions.
I’ve divided the techniques into categories of the five senses, so that you can use whichever sensory technique appeals to you or your child the most at any time. Use this post to create an anxiety toolkit for yourself and/or your child.
Mine currently includes a combination of a big helping of apple tart, crisps, sweets, a couple of mood swings, a solid workout to mix it up, lots of camphor-scented hand cream (I never liked it before, but now I do), and building puzzles in between working and watching the kids. Nope, overeating or stress eating is not a good technique, but hey, we all have our moments of weakness!
A simpler toolkit:
Fire. (Just kidding!)
First steps to managing your anxiety
Allow yourself to freak out. Go ahead. Stop forcing yourself to calm down if you feel like you’re internally screaming all the time. There’s no point. If you keep suppressing all your feelings, you WILL explode at some point anyway. The key is to allow yourself to freak out in a way that isn’t going to hurt you, hurt someone else or make you sick. Go to this post for 27 ways you’re allowed to freak out, so you can get rid of all the tension.
Now, since most of us head for something to taste and eat first, let’s look at…
What to take/eat/drink for anxiety
Obviously, use your head with many of these suggestions. If you have any medical condition or are taking medications and you’re concerned that some of these suggestions may interfere with it, consult your doctor for a professional opinion first. (While you’re at it, if you have severe issues with anxiety, it may be well worth it to ask your doctor to do a FULL thyroid test, a hormone panel, a vitamin B12, and an iron test. There may be underlying deficiencies or other causes for your problem that need to be addressed.)
- Chamomile tea
- Chai tea
- Turmeric tea
- Warm milk with honey and cinnamon
- St John’s Wort
- CBD oil
- Vitamin B complex
- An adrenal support complex can also be helpful if you’re feeling burnt out.
- Avoid loading the caffeine and sugar. This is very difficult but yields good results.
- Try a fruit-and-vegetables fast (no meat) for 21 days and see how you feel. Many meat products contain hormones that may disrupt your endocrine system.
- If you’re sensitive to grains, go gluten-free. It’s a pain in the butt but worth it if you feel a whole lot better and more able to cope with life!
- Probiotic foods can be very helpful if your system can cope with it (think sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, etc.)
- Keep a food diary to see whether you’re eating enough or too much. Start implementing a meal plan that keeps meals simple enough for you to stick with it but tasty and healthy enough to be enjoyable as well. (Enough protein, veggies, fiber, and fat throughout the day makes a tremendous difference to your body, mental state, cravings, and mood swings.)
My favourite healthy comfort foods include sweet potato mash, dark chocolate, oats porridge, a veggie bowl on rice with some cheese sprinkled on top, and date balls.
Scents that help with anxiety
The sense of smell has a tremendous effect on how you feel, which is why certain smells can catapult you into a childhood memory without warning. You can use this sense to bring your anxiety level down as well.
If you hate essential oils, skip this section or go bake fresh bread – that smell ALWAYS works!
For anxiety, the following essential oils can be diffused, or put in your bath water (just a few drops), or diluted in a carrier oil (like jojoba, sweet almond oil, coconut or olive oil) and massaged.
- lemon / lemongrass
- ylang ylang
Other scents that can help relate to other activities such as cooking a family recipe, gardening, or maybe something as simple as applying your favourite body lotion or hand cream.
Visual ways to calm your anxiety
Your eyes take in a lot of stimulation – from social media, your world around you, the news, your children, and your imagination as well. What are you looking at and is it helping?
Here are some positive visual techniques and suggestions that can help you calm down and take your mind off your worries:
- Colours – wear your favourite colours (what you wear affects how you feel); paint them, look for them everywhere. Make a collage.
- Garden – if you have a garden, look at the colours and shapes in it. If you don’t have a garden, look up pictures of gardens you like or one you’d like to make, building yourself a mood board of sorts for gardening. I enjoy looking at landscape / garden pictures online.
- Go through old family photo albums and reminisce on good memories.
- Watch old movies that you know by heart. There’s something about watching a familiar movie that will help soothe your mind.
- Watch a nature documentary (preferably not something about an aggressive predator!).
- YouTube art clips are also very helpful – look for artists whose style you like and check out video clips on how they use watercolour, pencils, acrylics or oils to create. (Some of my favourites include Nicola Blakemore, Kirsty Partridge, CocoBee Art, and Emma Lefebvre.)
- Watch a children’s show – your kids will thank you and you’ll enjoy the distraction.
- Look up video clips of funny babies or baby animals. (Baby goats, cats, dogs, pandas, etc.).
What to listen to for anxiety
Your sense of hearing is also much involved in your anxiety levels because there’s the physical sense and then there is the internal processing of what you hear. Both can make anxiety a lot harder to deal with!
Here are some things you can listen to when you feel anxious:
- Podcasts about stories, nature, self-help tips, encouraging messages, etc.
- Nature sounds (there are plenty of playlists with these on YouTube and music streaming sites)
- Your favourite music
- Classical music (by Bach, Mozart and Chopin in particular)
- Christian music (my favourites include albums by Rend Collection, Jeremy Camp, and Selah atm)
- Silence – if you can get it! Enjoy the silence! Turn the car radio off. Turn your phone and TV off. Just lie in the stillness and breathe. Silence can be of more help to me than many of the other suggestions in this post.
- Listen to Wholetones (music with frequencies that are conducive to helping your body calm down).
Things you can touch, do and make when you feel anxious
This is where your sense of touch and your whole body gets more involved.
In the post, 27 Ways You’re Allowed to Freak Out, I shared many physical techniques to get rid of all the pent-up tension you feel. Obviously, physical exercise of almost any kind is very helpful, because it also forces you to breathe more deeply.
Other activities include ever-popular colouring, journaling, crafting, gardening and pet care (because pets are not complicated, right?).
Many activities are pretty obvious to think of when you’re calm, but they don’t spring to mind when you’re mentally at the point of having a panic attack, so here’s a handy list.
- Writing poetry, short stories, or a children’s story
- Art journaling
- Diamond painting
- Painting with watercolour/acrylic/oils/gouache/ink
- Chalk drawing outside
- Playing with playdough
- Puzzle building
- Playing music (have you seen this family’s remake of One Day More?)
- A carpentry project
- Board games
- Candle making
- Soap making
- Paper mache
- Making puppets
- Blowing bubbles
And so many more. YouTube and Pinterest are your friends here… The main point here is not to get whatever you’re doing or making to look perfect, it’s about the process of just being creative. Enjoy it and let the result be whatever it will be. You’re allowed to have fun without perfection! You could even have a family contest to see who can make the most ridiculous piece of craft. Why not?
What you say when you feel anxious
While talking isn’t a sense, it does involve your body, mind and your hearing, and it’s important to listen to what you’re saying about your life when you’re anxious. Your words have creative energy and force, and you can change your experience and reality to a major extent by what you say. The point here is you can either be destructive or constructive with your words.
There is nothing wrong with admitting when you feel anxious or afraid. Say it to someone who will listen and who can help you move forward.
For me, that means I pray first. I tell God that I’m afraid and anxious. I tell Him what I am worried about. Talking about it helps me let it go. I then find a Scripture that helps me focus on Him rather than on whatever I’m anxious about. My feelings are real, but they are not the truth about all of life or who I am. They pass and after a nap, a decent meal and some fun with the kids, my feelings may change.
What to think about when you’re anxious
Once you’ve acknowledged your anxiety, let it go. Stop focusing on it and do something else. Use the other suggestions in this post to start taking action so that you don’t stay in that anxious state. It’s important to decide whether you will let anxiety take over completely, or whether you will take charge of anxiety instead. It doesn’t have to rule you. For more information on how to change anxious thinking patterns, check out Dr. Caroline Leaf’s content.
My go-to when my mind is threatening to spin out of control is this:
Phil 4:6-8 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
A constant state of anxiety will push up your blood pressure, screw up your stomach acid till you get an ulcer, and wear your adrenals out from constant cortisol production. This is where anxiety becomes expensive – let’s not go there!
Your children need you. And they need you to work through anxiety in a constructive way so that they can feel secure and grow up learning how to do the same. Work on finding peace and contentment in your current circumstances, even while you’re working on solving problems to better your situation.
Think about things like:
- What opportunities can there be in this situation?
- How can I help someone else who may also be struggling?
- What am I grateful for today? Gratitude has positive effects right down to a cellular level, so DO practice it! Being grateful for what you have doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to say you’re struggling or that a situation is tough. It just helps you maintain a better perspective.
- How have I overcome difficult situations and experiences in the past?
- What do I have that I can use right now to help myself, my family and others?
- What will I do when this current struggle is over?
Anxiety has a way of sucking the meaning, purpose and hope out of your day. These questions will infuse them back into your life and remind you that you are still here for a reason. There are still people who want to hear your story and who can be encouraged by you.
When all else fails in calming your anxiety
Here’s my favourite suggestion: TAKE A NAP.
Everything is a little more bearable to deal with when you’ve given your body and mind a little break to recharge.
Have a cuppa, take some deep breaths and then do a brain dump of everything you need to get done. Choose the 3 most important items on the list and focus on making progress with those. Do the next thing.
Delegate everything else that you can, and postpone the rest.
Your to-do list does not define you.
You’re doing well and you will be okay.
What is your favourite coping technique? Share in the comments below.
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