Coming into college, I experienced some of the worst anxiety of my entire life. The tiniest of problems set me off, sending me spiraling into a fray of worry. I start to sweat, and my heart begins to beat so fast that I feel like I’m running a marathon. Even as the semester comes to an end, I still worry about minor things like whether or not I’ll get to class on time, if I’ll have enough time to do all of my work, and if the library printer is going to have paper (which is a valid worry here at Emerson to be honest).
Some days are worse than others. At times, I’ll spend an entire day almost anxiety free. These are usually the days when I feel most in control of my life, when everything goes exactly to plan. However, there are those days when almost everything falls apart, and I spend every waking hour panicking, a slave to my brain’s irrational worries.
For chaotic days like these, I’ve come up with three foolproof “hacks” that help me manage my life, and thus my anxiety. Please note that these tips won’t work for everyone, and that if you’re dealing with a serious form of anxiety, consult with a medical professional or therapist. However, if you’re looking for some simple ways to try and reduce moderate anxiety throughout your day, keep reading!
Create a daily “mission”
I got this idea from YouTuber Lilly Singh, who creates a “mission” for herself in her daily vlogs. Basically, it’s just a to-do list but on some next level ish. On a sticky note, I list all of the tasks I need to accomplish for the day. Once I complete a task, I’ll highlight it, marking it as “accomplished”, and award myself 1,000 “points”. For every task I complete, I give myself 1000 points. For tasks I accomplish that I didn’t put on my list but did anyways, I’ll give myself 500 bonus points. At the end of the day, I add up all of the points and see how successful I was. Creating a daily mission makes completing tasks a bit like a video game, and therefore much more fun. I find that I have less anxiety during my day if I not only spell out exactly what I need to do, but if I also make my tasks seem less laborious.
Listen to music
Honestly, without music, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I know, I sound like an emo kid (because I am one), but it’s true. Listening to music has pulled me out of some of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever had. I have a playlist specifically for times when I’m feeling extremely anxious, entitled “Chill Vibes”. The playlist is full of songs with soothing melodies, as well as with jams that make me feel like a badass. If this set of songs isn’t doing it for me, I turn to some of my favorite artists that never fail to cheer me up like Fall Out Boy (See? Emo kids forever), Queen, and Walk the Moon. I especially love to throw on music when I’m walking to class or heading onto the train, as it distracts me from being nervous about being on time or running into foot traffic.
Work time to relax into your schedule
I used to be that kid that would stay up until 1AM on a Tuesday night stressing over schoolwork and my personal life. This is such destructive behavior, especially for someone with anxiety. Nowadays, however, you’ll typically find me in bed by 11 PM, snuggled up to my stuffed Dachshund named Bear, fast asleep. Before bed, I also try to give myself some free time to either read, write, or watch an episode of a show. Sleep and relaxation, in my opinion, are the best ways to reduce anxiety. It’s important to dedicate some time in your busy life to take care of yourself. I try my hardest to work my butt off during the day so I can have my nights to either hang out with friends or spend some quality time with myself doing whatever I want. To take it one step further, I try and get all of my work done during the week. This way I have weekends to decompress and stay up as late as I want.
Writing down all of your thoughts and actions from throughout the day is a great catharsis and can help in trying to get your mind off of things you worry about. However, I’m not talking your regular “dear diary, today I did this” type journaling. When I journal, I pretend to be different types of characters writing about their day. For example, I’ll often write journal entries pretending to be a superhero. If I had a fight with a friend during my day, I’ll pretend that I was a superhero having a fight with an adversary or accomplice. For me, it’s better to transform my daily activities into something way cooler, and potentially novel-worthy. I still get the same sort of tension-release, while making such a mundane task like journaling much more fun.
Have a comfort object
Remember Bear, who I mentioned earlier? I made him back in 2011 when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. I bring him everywhere, including to school and back home on the weekends. No matter how worrisome of a day I’ve had, he’s always there to cuddle when I get back home. While some people may say stuffed animals or blankets are childish, I think there’s no age restriction on them. Not only are they snuggly, but they’re also a great source of sensory comfort. Feeling the soft fabric against your skin is a great way to calm yourself, especially if your anxiety is sensory-driven. I suggest finding your nearest Build-a-Bear workshop (where I made Bear), or going online to the Budsies website, as these allow you to make your very own, customizable stuffie pal!
Again, keep in mind that these hacks are in no way medically sanctioned by a therapist or psychologist (though I did get a 5 on my AP Psych exam, just saying). If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety to the point that it’s seriously effecting your daily life and mental health, talk with your doctor or a trusted adult/friend about seeking help. However, if you’re experiencing a milder form of anxiety in your everyday life (as I do), try out these hacks for yourself. I promise you, they will make your life a bit less worry-free. Your brain will thank you!