The One Trick That Actually Helps My Anxiety

How I fight my anxiety

Treating, or alleviating the symptoms of, mental illness is subjective. Articles on miracle cures, tips from fellow sufferers and Pinterest infographics fill the Internet and when researching self-help tips, at times I am more overwhelmed by the abundance of information than the oncoming panic attack.

Many people do not realise I suffer from anxiety, even though it has loomed over me throughout my life, whether as a side effect of another mental illness or in a generalised form. Perhaps this is an outcome of my body having developed a profound ability to mask any physical symptoms. I make that pre-rehearsed phone inquiry through my stomach doing literal summersaults. I cling onto my pen in exam halls and regurgitate two years’ worth of knowledge in forty minutes. Once, I delivered a presentation in front of a very substantial audience and came close to unconsciousness, yet when I mentioned this to my friends a few hours later, I received a few raised eyebrows in response.

‘We didn’t notice – at all,’ they said. ‘You’re a natural at public speaking.’

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The shirt I had to throw away due to excessive perspiration certainly didn’t think so.

Anyway, this leads onto the central point of this post – how do I deal with this anxiety? Do I have wisdom to share with people in the same boat (I’ve noticed I always use sea-inspired metaphors in my blog which is a sign that it’s time for another holiday), or do I bow to anxiety as an integral part of my character?

Well, it’s a combination. Lighting candles and taking a bubble bath may work for some people. Practicing 7-11 breathing does wonders for others. I have tried countless holistic remedies and panic-fighting techniques which fellow sufferers and even psychologists recommended. These things didn’t just fail to work, but also exacerbated the problem. In my post about sleep anxiety and insomnia, I mentioned how at times, the harder you try to fix a problem, the harder it strikes back.

Some weeks ago, an excellent therapist taught me about the ‘Blue Elephant’ phenomenon. If I tell you not to think about about blue elephants – as in, force yourself to eject images or even those two words from your mind – what do you end up thinking about? Yep, a whole jungle of blue elephants. This principle certainly applies to my anxiety. The more I try not to panic, the more I expose myself to an onset of anxiety.

For example: I wake up on the day of an exam. I follow the steps which are supposed to minimise the chances of a panic attack like eating a good breakfast, meditating and drinking water. I practice deep breathing on the train while reiterating the same thoughts. ‘You must not be nervous. What did that buzzfeed article tell you? Think positively. You must not, under any circumstances, panic.’ Suddenly, my fear of forgetting how many miles of railway Russia had in 1903 transforms into a tricker beast: anxiety over the prospect of experiencing anxiety at an inconvenient time. I try really hard to avoid panic, but this in itself renders it inevitable.

anti anxiety tips

How to avert panic attacks

How can such an issue be conquered? Well, my magic trick is acceptance. I accept any thoughts, feelings and physical sensations I experience, in the absence of judgement. Whenever I recognise a future event as a potential trigger, I acknowledge that a panic attack may occur and instead of doing anything within my power to avert it, I minimise my dread by recognising that a panic attack, as unpleasant as it is, cannot kill me. That a bit of anxiety won’t hinder my ability to perform in a stressful situation. If, and when, the anxiety sets in I carry on with what I’m doing while letting the feeling sit there, do its thing and fade away on its own accord. I think ‘okay, I am experiencing anxiety and there is little I can do about it’ before paying close attention to each associated sensation, such as the beating of my heart, the sickliness in my stomach, my clammy palms.

At times I go a step further by purposely trying to worsen the anxiety. Instead of fighting a panic attack, I command myself to try and have one. This sounds ridiculous but rings close to how some insomniacs succeed in falling asleep by forcing themselves to stay awake.

Of course, this reverse psychology and most other techniques aimed at alleviating anxiety-related symptoms are short-term solutions. At times, there are underlying issues (such as specific phobias, other mental illnesses and chronic stress) which must be addressed to reduce it in the long run. For example, when I had anorexia I’d implement acceptance ‘in the moment’ when faced with a trigger while overcoming any broader fears over a longer period of time. Nowadays, however, my anxiety can arise without a cause I can specifically pinpoint, and I think many can relate to this – in such instances, acceptance os much better than ruminating and trying to figure out what that cause may be.

Anxiety can be destructive, it can hinder our lives and in many instances, stop us from following our dreams. I’ve avoided many opportunities simply because I knew I would panic. However, when I minimise the dread associated with anxiety as see it as just a feeling, a falsely-activated fight or flight response, and acknowledge my tendency to feel overwhelmed for no concrete reason, it becomes much more manageable. I float through life feeling ‘chill’ while understanding that I will never be what society deems a ‘chill’ person.

How to fight panic attacks

This, of course, may not work for everyone. Mental health is very individual much like the techniques we implement to help ourselves. However, I firmly believe that it is a process of trial and error, based on our own instincts and in many instances, the expertise of trained professionals which makes me an advocate of seeking help for issues like anxiety whenever possible.

Let me know in the comments – what tips help you manage anxiety and/or stress? What doesn’t? Talking about these issues is very important because not only does it raise awareness, but acts as a guide for those who are struggling and haven’t yet reached out.

Lots of love, Maria ♡

How to deal with anxiety

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43 thoughts on “The One Trick That Actually Helps My Anxiety”

  1. I am just like you when it comes to my anxiety, I keep googling ways and tricks to help myself during my anxiety attacks. I have tried everything but nothing ever helps, it just gets worse because I start to overthink it all. My old psychologist told me to try acceptance too and it helps sometimes but I am still searching for the way that would work ‘perfectly’ for me. Maybe one day xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think anxiety is such a tricky thing to deal with because there isn’t a one side fits all approach and what seems to help some people may be utterly useless to others – that’s why googling can be so detrimental! I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling and you just have to have faith that over time you definitely WILL find a solution that works for you, without trying too hard in your search. Xx

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  2. This was such an interesting read! As someone who also suffers with anxiety this was so informative to see the ways in which you deal with it, I always think acceptance is key. Also, you’re absolutely beautiful!! A great post as always 💞xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are absolutely beautiful; I always think it when I see your photos, but these ones are just honestly radiant. This is actually a really good trick; for me, if I ever feel panicky, I recite comedy or sing in my head (knew watching all those Big Fat Quiz videos on Youtube would come in handy!x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh that means so much to me – your photos are always absolutely stunning as well! I’ve actually done the singing in my head thing before and it works surprisingly well in comparison to all the other things I’ve tried 😂 Much love! x

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    1. Hi Courtney! Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. That metaphor perfectly described the problem I am trying to describe – and why I struggled with anxiety for so long without being able to find a solution. I’m glad you liked the post 😊

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  4. I am a natural on stage like you are at public speaking. When I tell people my legs shake, my palms, and my neck sweat before I step on stage they don’t believe me. But acceptance has really been key for me too. I often realize I forget to exhale and once I focus on breathing correctly, my anxiety lessens a bit.

    I enjoyed reading this post, it always comforts me a little bit to know other people go through great anxiety like I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep that is exactly what I’m like when it comes to any form of presentation! I’d be sweating buckets while up there and no one notices..I am so happy to hear that acceptance has helped you as well and thank you so much for your comment 🙂 x

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  5. Wow this is such good advice. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with anxiety but reading up on the symptoms I know I probably do have it, and really appreciate it. Its a straight forward and smart way to approach what is stressing us out or giving us anxiety-accepting it for what it is instead of ignoring. I’m also happy you have found something that is helping with your anxiety. Loved how insightful this post was! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading – I am glad to hear you found it helpful, I can totally agree that acknowledgment of your anxiety really is the first step towards overcoming it. Have a great day! x

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  6. I couldnt agree more, acceptance really is a key point when managing anxiety. I learnt that many years ago and that trying to fight it or being in denial is the absolute worst thing you can do. I had general anxiety disorder almost my whole life but i managed to conquer almost all of it two years ago. it still comes back occasionally but i know how to determinate it haha.

    i really think this post will help many sufferers, wonderful read.

    http://www.thewhimsicalwildling.com/

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment Eloise! I am so happy to hear that you’ve managed to get your anxiety under control as it is a difficult thing to deal with especially when at times trying too hard makes it a lot worse..hope you have a wonderful day ❤️

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  7. This was really nice to read, so thank you for sharing. I also have anxiety, not in the sense of panic attacks, but I grew up thinking I was weak and that I had a physical illness. At times I’d suffer stress worse that others, I struggled with chronic fatigue all the way through school and had frequent bouts of sickness where no doctor could find any explanation. It was only when I went to University that I figured all of these things were an onset from something I’d been anxious about. And when I say that, I mean something I didn’t even know I was anxious about. I’d get sick over going to dance class – something I did every night of the week, there was nothing for me to be the slightest bit anxious about, but I may have struggled with a step, or been told I had a different teacher. I’d get sick because I didn’t know, that made me anxious, but my mind didn’t even know I was anxious.
    Anyway, reading your post was really nice bcos your strategies are exactly what I do. I try to think ahead, so analyse when I’m likely to have these symptoms and then when I do I’ll confront them. I think about them as much as I can and I tell myself it’s ok and that although not everyone suffers from it, its ok. If I need to be sick, I will be, but I get on with it and the important thing is that I no longer allow myself to get held back by it.
    Apologies for such a long comment, xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya! Don’t worry about long comments at all – it’s always super interesting to learn about other people’s experiences. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling but it is great that you’ve managed to find the root of your problem and a solution to it! One of my friends had a similar problem – she did performing arts at school and would get sick in the run up to a performance and for the longest time didn’t know that it was anxiety because it’s the sort of thing that masks itself well as a physical illness. Well done for not letting it hold you back anymore and for thinking so practically about your situation! x

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  8. Oh this is a beautiful post, Maria! I don’t have anxiety but I sometimes just start panicking and freaking out — tho I know it’s not as horrible as panic attacks. It was so interesting to hear how you just accept that those attacks might happen, and how that actually helps you!! I’ll have to take a look at that insomnia post; I have SO much trouble falling asleep. Wonderful post! 💖 (And beautiful photos!)

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  9. Anxiety is so real. It’s hard when people tell you to “just calm down.” You know what you should do or how you should feel, but that doesn’t change how you do feel. Acceptance can take you a long way, with overcoming your anxiety and with many other aspects of life. Wishing you all the best! ❤ -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

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    1. Hi Audrey! Thank you so much for stopping by. That is a very important point – it’s not like people who have anxiety WANT to have it (same applies for any mental illness), most of the time it is so beyond our control, and when someone tells me to ‘try harder’ or ‘get over it’, it’s kinda counterproductive because NOT trying is actually better..Enjoy the rest of your weekend! ❤

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing. We’re the same in some ways. Most people doesn’t know that I suffer from anxiety as I’m very casual around people. Truth is, they don’t really know how I feel. And I’ve experienced a sleep disorder last summer. It was insane. I kept on fixing it, but yeah, it strikes back harder. Good thing, I learned how to accept it and how to overcome these challenges. And yes, acceptance is the key. 😊

    https://jirahmerizz.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are always welcome – I am glad you found my post helpful! A lot of people are very good at hiding any signs of anxiety, especially if they’ve had it for a long time. I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with it and sleep related issues but it is great that you’ve managed to find ways to deal with them!

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  11. I completely agree with you. I have missed many opportunities throughout my school years from the worry of panic. But now I am finally coming to terms that its okay to panic sometimes and to accept it. Otherwise if I don’t, it will never go away! Thank you Marie X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s awful isn’t it?! Worrying about panic before it even starts seems ridiculous but at the same time it’s very real for so many of us.. glad to hear that you are getting better at dealing with it! ❤️

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  12. I’m glad you’ve found something that helps you! I’ve tried countless things with my boyfriend to combat his ticks and whatnot. He really thinks he’s getting past it and growing out of it (: I hope so and I pray someday it never hinders him again

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  13. im in fact trying to brush off anxiety atm as it is slowly striking and then i stumbled upon this post. i had sleep anxiety just last night/today (not sure as i dont have a decent sleep yet. i think im wide awake for 1day already 😑) it does sound a little ironic bcos i feel kinda glad to know that im not the only one who suffers anxiety, when i shouldn’t be because it’s like i rejoice for the suffering of other people. but knowing that other people (like you) are able to get over this bad situation gives me motivation. none of these things you mentioned worked for me, so probably consulting a therapist is the right thing to do now in my case. hoping it would really work tho! thanks for this worthy read! x

    mutzii • http://www.theshoenazi.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes you are definitely not the only one who suffers with anxiety and knowing that there are other people in a similar situation can help a lot with feelings of isolation..I think that seeing a therapist is a great idea because mine helped me tremendously in finding a technique that works for my situation. Hope you feel better soon! ❤️

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    1. I am so happy you enjoyed reading my post! Living with anxiety can definitely be a struggle but we have to have faith in ourselves and hold onto the good days as opposed to the bad ones..I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling! ❤️

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  14. A really well written piece, and so relateable. I too suffer with anxiety, and many people have found it incredibly hard to believe. Much like you, I have delivered presentations, delivered training courses, and succeeded in many exams, and yet all the while my anxiety has been incredibly intense. In a similar way that you have described, I too have learned that accepting my anxiety is something I struggle with sometimes, not being too hard on myself, and realising that sometimes it is inevitable that I will feel anxious that day, surprisingly soothes me, as it removes the added pressure of trying to fight it off. Thank you for a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that this is something quite a few people can relate to and it is such a shame that their struggles are consequently not taken seriously because anxiety is very easy to hide. I’ve been called a liar quite a few times and told I was exaggerating. I’m glad to hear that acceptance has also worked for you, and thank you so much for stopping by and reading!

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  15. This was really interesting to read and completely not what I expected, I’ve never heard of this technique before but I love it! I recently have been having this odd sensation where I’m panicking about panicking…which like you said is because that’s what I’m thinking about and focusing on! Definitely going to start trying to practise more acceptance and I really think that will help.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

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    1. I actually just read your post about anxiety a few minutes ago and then saw your comment so I am so glad you found it interesting/helpful! Sometimes panicking about panicking is the sort of thing we don’t really notice until someone points it out, but I do hope that acceptance will help you out if you do start implementing it because to me it has been life-changing. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading:)

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