8 Tips for Handling Difficult Situations and Anxiety

Your top tips for getting through hard times.
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Handle Anxiety1

A few weeks ago, I wrote one of the most difficult posts I've ever written, about a particularly stressful time when my anxiety was, at some moments, crippling. What I didn't anticipate in pressing "Publish," was just how many of you would open up, in the comments and in private emails to me, about your own experience with anxiety. It not only made me feel more connected to this incredibly supportive community, but also not as alone in my anxiety. In sharing your experiences, you also provided me with invaluable advice about what you do to cope during tough times. Below, I've shared some of my favorite pieces of advice, with my own take on each:

see a therapist

"Seeking counseling was the best thing I ever did & I'd recommend it to anyone (I personally think everyone needs to see a therapist at one point or another)." - Caleigh86

"Last fall, after I returned from a trip abroad, I felt like my life just started to fall apart.[...] I was unbelievably unhappy at my job [...] So I made two big decisions: 1) after three years I would leave my company and 2) I would seek help for my anxiety. In December, I managed to find a new job and a fantastic cognitive therapist. Writing this in April, I'm really, really happy I made the decisions I did. My therapist has been a big help and the job is better than I ever thought I deserved, I feel LUCKY to have it." - Kat

My take: I've been going to therapy on and off since I was twenty-two (I started after a particularly bad breakup), and I consider it to be one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. Therapy has helped me better understand myself and why I react to things in certain ways, which has helped enormously in handling anxiety when it hits me. 

exercise

"I don't have a medical degree myself, but a brilliant psychologist once told me, "Exercising is the best drug on the market," and to work out more often in anxious or stressful times." - Chanel D. 

My take: When I was in the middle of my most stressful weeks, the first thing I gave up were the hip-hop classes I usually take three times a week. I reasoned that I didn't have enough time and didn't want to put any additional burden on myself. In retrospect, based on my own experience and this advice, I realize I should have probably done the opposite. Now, even if I don't make it to my scheduled classes, I at least try to squeeze in a walk or two throughout the day so I'm getting out and moving.

Practice yoga and meditation

"I use an app called Headspace, and it's really made a huge difference in my attitude towards my anxiety and has helped to curb it. It's not a permanent solution...I definitely still struggle with anxiety and probably always will, but meditation techniques really help. It brings you back down and helps you relax and focus...instead of ignoring the feelings of anxiety, meditation encourages you to address it head on, and it really makes a huge difference and curbs panic/anxiety attacks." - Emily

"I have anxiety often as well and have been using the Headspace meditation app which is wonderful. Or there is another one I like called Smiling Mind and both take you through brief 10-minute or less guided meditation sessions. It makes a world of a difference." - Erica O.

"I also struggle with anxiety, and I've found yoga has helped immensely. It teaches you to breathe through the hard times (sometimes that is the only option)." - Mandy

My take: Ironically, I had just started to get into a semi-regular routine with meditation, with the help of the app, Calm, when everything happened. But as soon as things got stressful, (like with exercise), I didn't make it a priority. The thing is, taking the time to pause can be as important as getting through your to-do list, especially when even a ten-minute session can yield impressive results.

self care

"Self care is treating our souls with time, attention, and gentleness. Listening to what we really need. Listen to yourself. And take care." - Alexia

"Meditate, write, and when possible take a little time out. Eat nourishing but comforting [foods] and keep on top of your supplements so the stress doesn't lead to illness. Maybe get the grandparents to step in for a few days and just let everything go. Sometimes you just need to hit the pause button." - Clever Girl Reviews

My take: I've always been a believer in doing little things to alleviate stress, like taking baths, cuddling with my daughter, or reading a magazine. It's true that the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

connect to something bigger

"This was such a lovely post. I have anxiety too! [...] You know what also really helped me? Finding my spirituality and connecting to something bigger. I started to realize my anxiety was all about control/fear of having to figure it out/do it all myself. Once I realized the Universe has my back and began using mantras and writing gratitude lists (and stopped drinking), I noticed a huge shift in how I dealt with anxious thoughts." - Amanda B.

"I'm a pretty firm follower of astrology and there has been a lot of shit happening with 5 planets retrograde at one point (we're down to 4, and merc will go direct soon).... Not to mention the very real effects of the moon cycles on our bodies/minds/spirits. We don't have to get hysterical about this stuff, but when I can see that the energy out there in the universe is a little more intense than usual, I find it very comforting and a nice reminder to be extra gentle with myself/take super good care whenever possible." - JP

My take: I've never considered myself to be a particularly spiritual person, but I do like the idea of taking comfort in the fact that there may be extraneous factors at play. Plus, hearing that other people are possibly going through a tough time simultaneously makes me feel like we're all in it together.

find a mantra

"Thank you for sharing this. It reminds me of the quote, 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' No matter how things look to others, you never know all that they're dealing with." - Kristen

When it rains, it pours. A great friend once told me when I was going through a hard time, 'When you're going through hell, keep going.' I find strength in that when I am struggling. Hang in there." - Susie Dempsey Halloran 

"[...]It reminded me of something my boss told me years ago - 'If you get in a car accident on your way to the interview you are totally going to get the job'...made zero sense to me then.. .with that said, she thought that when the world came crashing down on your when you were about to do something new or great it was just a sign you were on the right track.[...]" - Alexa H

" 'In the middle of a storm, just know that you will eventually get back to shore. It just won't be the same place you started out. And that is ok.' " - dianefrombalt

"A quote that I always try to remember when life seems too overwhelming: "It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." - Brie

My take: As someone who used to tape inspiration quotes to the wall of my dorm room (the equivalent of which now is probably following inspirational Instagrams), I love these quotes. It's helpful to find one that works for you and repeat it. For me, right now, that would have to be, "Treat everyone with kindness, including yourself."

healthy hobbies

"Your approach of appreciating little pleasures reminds me of some advice that I've heard to keep a gratitude journal to help minimize anxiety. The idea is, you write down three things each day that brought you joy. After a while it rewires your thinking so that you're keeping your eye out all day for the things you love. Up with cookies and baths!" - Bridget B.

"[A psychologist] recommended doing a puzzle with my significant other. When practiced regularly, these things provide a comfort I can't quite articulate." - Chanel D.

"The best thing I ever did to get me through an emotionally difficult time was quietly volunteering. For a few hours each week I volunteered at a place (I can't say the name) that houses the families of children's hospital patients. It's a popular place and they have them everywhere. Think of it as an affordable hotel just for this purpose. I cleaned rooms. I even had a housekeeping cart. I still pull from that experience, how humble it was and what I witnessed, when I'm feeling down or going through a rough patch." - Molly

My take: G and I often play Scrabble together, but I love the idea of doing a puzzle. The issue with Scrabble is that I'm highly competitive, so it isn't exactly what I'd call "relaxing," but I imagine we'd be able to just chat and enjoy each other's company while unwinding over a puzzle. I also love the idea of volunteering and have experienced how giving to others can be surprisingly self-healing. It's something I'd like to do more often.

Listen to music

You all recommended so many songs that we put them into a playlist, which I've embedded below, along with a few of my own favorites. Happy listening!

Note: I've very lightly edited a few of the comments for grammar, spelling, and clarity, but have indicated wherever possible when I've taken things out of a larger context with the use of ellipses.