Small changes I’ve made to cope with my (mostly pandemic-driven) anxiety
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – There is no one right way to live through a pandemic. This is a new experience for everyone and it has changed all of us – some for the better, some for the worse.
If you read my last post, you’ll know that I started seeing a therapist for my (mostly pandemic-driven) anxiety. The last few months have been a rollercoaster but I’m surprised at how more level-headed I’ve felt in the last few weeks just by introducing some little changes to my lifestyle.
Here are those small, yet significant, changes I’ve made in my life to reduce my anxiety:
1. Celebrating my wins – even the smallest ones
I’ve always been a “write your to-do list with a pen and paper” kind of gal. I not only liked having everything physically in one place in front of me (I have a weekly planner on my desk), but I also liked seeing everything (or most of everything) crossed off at the end of each week. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case since lockdown started.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, lockdown fatigue hit me hard. I was unmotivated, uninspired and downright unproductive. And my “lack” of accomplishments (or so I thought) was making me more anxious.
In the past (especially when I was extremely busy), I’d move from one task to another, quickly crossing things off my list and only really celebrating my accomplishments at the end of the day or at the end of the week. Now, I let myself celebrate all my wins at all times of the day – even if that means just replying to all my emails. Finishing one thing is still one more than zero 🙂
2. Allowing myself to enjoy “me time” (and not feel guilty about it!)
At my last session, my therapist commented that I used the word ‘should’ a lot. “I should be working more” or “I should know how to do this” or “I shouldn’t feel this way”. She mentioned that using should is a form of judgement, which often leads to guilt. The more I thought about it, I realised that a lot of my frustration came from the expectations that I set for myself.
When I found myself at a lull, a mental block, or a down cycle, I’d feel guilty. I would constantly worry about the things that I “should” be doing instead of enjoying my time. Now, when I experience this, I tell myself that it’s my body’s way of telling me it wants to rest or have fun. I’m no longer afraid to take a 5-minute break on top of my already 30-minute break.
I’ve also been dabbling in some watercolour during my free time! 🙂
3. Pro-actively connecting with family and friends
And I don’t just mean setting up Zoom calls or flooding WhatsApp or Telegram with messages, but also sending them cookies or food to let them know I’m thinking about them or helping them accomplish a task. (Funnily enough, my love language has changed from physical touch and quality time to giving of gifts and acts of service.)
If you’re looking for small things to send your family and friends, check out some of these small Sydney-based businesses I’ve recently discovered:
- Fatcaron – The BEST macarons Andrew and I have had
- Bake and Decorate Sydney – Yummy positivity cookies, perfect for friends in lockdown
- Elsie Jewellery Design – Really cute earrings and accessories
4. Accepting that food influences my mood and overall mental wellbeing
When I have long days ahead, I normally autopilot into drinking too much coffee and binge eating chips. By mid-day, I’m either palpitating from too much caffeine or crashing from too much junk food.
While I love the instant gratification of eating junk food (apparently eating sweets and junk food releases dopamine), I end up being less productive, which in turn makes me feel more anxious.
Rather than reaching for more chips or coffee, I’d instead grab a piece of fruit or make myself some tea. I found that this small switch kept me more at ease and focused throughout the day. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cutting flat whites, chocolate bars and honey soy chips out of my diet completely! Just having them in moderation 🙂 )
If you’re a tea-lover like me, check out Pekoe Tea. They have some unique tea blends, which work well as hot or cold. (You know I love a versatile tea!)
5. Stopping for a breath.. or two.. or five
It’s so easy to give up when you’re overwhelmed. It’s so easy to act on the first emotion you feel. It’s so easy to allow small things to ruin your day. And it’s so easy to affect others with your mood. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of breaths to get out of your own mind.
I’m not big on meditation (I always end up falling asleep), but I find that a couple of breaths is enough to snap me out of it. It also helps me be more aware of my surroundings and reset my emotions.
So there you have it. I obviously still have a lot of things to work on, but I hope these six things help you if you ever find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious.