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I often find the last month of winter tough, especially these days. We are still waiting for the first signs of spring and the weather is bleak (well, at least for those of us in the North East!) and that can trigger anxiety and seasonal depression. So, I was delighted when my friends at State Farm told me that they are continuing their support of the The Trevor Project – an incredible organization that supports LGBTQ youth. Through research they found that 68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. I suffered from anxiety when I was younger, and I still do, so I wanted to share some of the things that have worked for me to help mitigate it. I hope my personal experience might help you or someone you know, they are three things that work for me to manage anxiety. These are just my personal experiences and I know they won’t be right for everyone, so use them as you want to.
I have found that my anxiety peaks when I don’t have control, and in life that can happen at any given moment. To alleviate that I have focused on things that can give me control but also give me a sense of achievement. I found that if I am achieving things it helps me to feel less anxious, it calms me down and also starts a positive momentum to achieve more and worry less.
1. Stick to a regular sleeping schedule
By far the thing that has had a positive impact on my anxiety has been sticking to a regular sleep schedule. What I did was commit to getting up at the same time every day of the week, even on weekends, and it has made such a difference for me. It has both physical and mental benefits. Physically, my body now knows what to expect every day and it seems much better for me because it makes me feel calmer. Mentally, my brain knows that even getting up is something I have achieved and so it makes me feel a positive sense of achievement. I stuck to it, I did it! That kind of thing — small positive affirmations like that help frame a more positive day, at least for me. I know that might sound strange as getting up is a small task. However, it feels like a small win and I will take that first thing in the morning! It also makes me feel in control: I can control what time I get up and being able to decide that makes me feel calmer.
2. Work out / Move every morning
Something that also gives me a sense of achievement is working out in the morning. I used to work out in the afternoon and evening; I just squeezed it in wherever I could. In the past, I felt as though I didn’t have the energy in the morning and would dive straight into work instead. Then, when I was burn out from work, I would try to work out and it didn’t usually go so well! One day, I swapped up my schedule and tried working out in the morning, and I loved it! The first five minutes were hard work but after that, I felt fresher, and it gave me the sense that I was getting something done early in the day before all the daily distractions and frustrations started. Now, I try to work out or at least move my body athletically in some way every morning. It might just be some stretching or a walk around the block, but whatever it is it gives me control and the sense I have achieved something. On to the last thing that works for me to manage anxiety.
3. Plan most or at least some of the meals for the week
The other simple change I made was to make sure I was planning most of my meals for the week. I set aside an hour at the weekend and decide what I am going to eat for the coming week. I try not to plan every meal as life happens and sometimes you can’t cook because you just don’t have time (or let’s be real, the energy), but at least it means that I have most of my meals planned which gives me some structure for the week. I also try to treat myself on a Monday. I know that 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 am cooking, I think it’s a great time to check in with and speak to friends and family. The Trevor Project and State Farm found that if an LGBTQ youth has just one accepting adult in their life, they are much less likely to attempt suicide. I think this alone shows the power of connecting and what a difference being a good neighbor can make. Sometimes it can be hard to talk with friends and family, but I’ve found connecting over food is a great way to do this. Checking in, sharing recipes, or just talking about what you are cooking/eating is the perfect conversation starter, especially at a time when it’s hard to gather in person over a meal. Connecting with a loved one, even if it’s just about something as everyday as a meal, can be the human contact someone needs to keep going.
I am so proud to work with State Farm as they continue to support organizations like the Trevor Project which are there for LGBTQ youth. Knowing that just one person can save a life by being there for someone is so powerful. It’s definitely inspired me to try to be a good neighbor this year. I hope these personal tips, although just small, might help you or someone you know. What did you think of my “three things that work for me to manage anxiety”?