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I often find the last month of winter tough, especially these days. We’re still waiting for the first harbingers of spring and the weather is gloomy (at least for us in the northeast!) And that can trigger anxiety and seasonal depression. I was thrilled when my friends at State Farm told me they were continuing to support the Trevor Project – an incredible organization that supports LGBTQ youth. Through research, they found that 68% of LGBTQ adolescents reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. I suffered from anxiety when I was younger and still do, so I wanted to share some of the things that helped me alleviate it. I hope my personal experience can help you or someone you know. These are three things that work for me to help manage anxiety. These are just my personal experiences and I know they are not for everyone. So use them as you like.
I’ve found that my anxiety peaks when I’m out of control, and that can happen at any time in life. To alleviate my focus on things that give me control but also give me a sense of achievement. I’ve found that accomplishing something helps me be less anxious, it calms me down, and it also employs a positive dynamic to accomplish more and worry less.
1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule
By far the thing that had a positive impact on my anxiety was sticking to a regular sleep schedule. I made a commitment to wake up at the same time every day of the week, including the weekend, and that made a huge difference to me. It has both physical and mental benefits. Physically, my body now knows what to expect every day and it seems much better to me because it makes me feel calmer. Mentally, my brain knows that even getting up is something I have achieved, and it gives me a positive sense of achievement. I stuck to it, I did it! Things like that – little positive affirmations like this one help make a more positive day, at least for me. I know this might sound strange since getting up is a small task. It feels like a little win though and I’ll take that first thing in the morning! I also feel in control: I can control when I get up and decide that I feel calmer.
2. Exercise / move every morning
Something that also gives me a sense of achievement is training in the morning. I used to train in the afternoons and evenings; I just pushed it in where I could. I used to feel like I didn’t have the energy in the morning and would go straight to work instead. Then when I was burned out from work I would try to exercise and it usually didn’t go that well! One day I switched my schedule and tried to work out in the morning and I loved it! The first five minutes were hard work, but after that I felt fresher and it made me feel like I had something done early in the day before all of the daily distractions and frustrations started. Now I try to train every morning or at least get some exercise in my body. It may just be a stretch or a walk around the block, but whatever it is, it gives me control and the feeling of having achieved something. On to the last thing that works for me to deal with fear.
3. Schedule most or at least some of the meals for the week
The other simple change I made was to make sure I planned most of my meals for the week. On the weekend I take an hour to decide what to eat in the coming week. I try not to plan every meal the way life happens and sometimes you can’t cook because you just don’t have the time (or let’s face it, the energy) but at least it means I’ve planned most of my meals what gives me some structure for the week. I also try to do something nice for myself on a Monday. I know this sounds strange, but I think Monday is a tough day and why make it worse by eating all healthy foods? Monday is a day that needs a treat like a brownie or a slice of pizza for lunch, right ?!
While I’m cooking I think it’s a great time to talk and talk to friends and family. The Trevor Project and State Farm found that an LGBTQ youth who has only one accepting adult in their life is far less likely to attempt suicide. I think this alone shows the power of connection and what a difference being a good neighbor can make. Talking to friends and family can be difficult at times, but I’ve found it to be a great way to connect while eating. Checking in, sharing recipes, or just talking about what you are cooking / eating is the perfect conversation starter, especially at a time when it is difficult to meet in person over a meal. The connection with a loved one, even if it’s just about something as mundane as a meal, can be the human contact someone needs to move on.
I am so proud to partner with State Farm as they continue to support organizations like the Trevor Project that serve LGBTQ youth. Knowing that only one person can save a life by being there for someone is so powerful. It definitely inspired me to be a good neighbor this year. I hope these personal tips, even if small, can help you or someone you know. What do you think of my “three things that work for me to manage anxiety”?