Since being diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder two years ago, a lot of things fell into place for me. The constant worrying over insignificant details, the sweaty palms and freezing cold feet, the inability to sleep due to unpleasant fantasies about what would happen the next day, week, or year… suddenly, it all made sad sense. But along with that diagnosis came an understanding of cause and effect, by which I mean all symptoms can be soothed. I’m not helpless to my anxiety by any means, and besides the medication I take, I have a number of things to fall back on.
I wrote about what I call my ‘anxiety toolkit’ a while back, taking inspiration from blogger and fellow Hull alumna Heather, but after reading it recently, I thought it needed a bit of rejigging; so this is the revised and developed list of things that can help me feel better if I find myself suffering.
The more organised I am, the more prepared I feel for my day, hence the happier I feel about life in general. I try to keep as organised as I can, as it makes me feel calmer if I know what’s what; for instance, every now and then I’ll tidy my drawers and wardrobe up, fold things neatly and put stuff on hangers if it’s got a little out of control. When I was at uni and had assessments due, I’d make massive posters with clear bullet points to stick on my walls, and I like to write absolutely everything down in my diary, as well as making little notes on my calendar that I can look at everyday so I know what the plan is, no matter how miscellaneous.
Along a similar vein, I like to write lists, simply because I find it therapeutic. Some of them are daft (i.e. I once wrote a list of all the lists I’d like to write), but most of them are more useful than that! It sounds so obvious, but To-Do lists are really helpful if I’ve got a lot on my plate and/or mind respectively. It can feel like screwing off the top of my head and giving it a good upside-down shake so all my thoughts, dates, and events pour all over the page so I can organise them more clearly. I also find the quiet act of writing it all down by hand very calming.
Notebooks and Stationery
Because of my love of lists, I own a lot of stationery. In particular, I have a lot of notebooks, more than I actually care to fill. Some of them are just too beautiful to write in, and I’ll only do so if I’m feeling a bit rebellious, which I know is extraordinarily sad, but there you go, that’s me all over! In regards to it being calming, however, I’m not really sure how that works. At uni I used to write my favourite poems down with a really good pen (I know — sad!), but just browsing WH Smiths’ stationery section is enough to relax me a little bit.
Making my bed
Such a simple and easy thing to do once a morning, and it boosts your daily productivity level by 500%* (*don’t quote me on it). Genuinely though, if I make my bed, my bedroom looks so much tidier, I feel more productive, I’m less likely to crawl back in it for a couple of hours if things get tough, and it’s so much more luxurious and satisfying to get into at the end of the day.
Having a lie down
That being said, sometimes having a moment to yourself when you need it is so much better than forcing yourself to carry on writing essays or gluing your eyes to the TV. If you’re not up to it, it’s not gonna do you any good in the long run. After years of not being able to sleep, I’m now able to participate in that fabled activity, The Nap, so if I get back from work absolutely shattered and feeling snippy in conversation, I’ll go and have a breather for anything from ten minutes to three hours. If my body takes it, my body needs it, and more often than not I’ll feel calmer when I get back to it.
Fresh air and Exercise
Open a window and air everything out! Go for a quick walk (or jog, if I’m up to it) around the block to blow off some steam. Whatever the weather, rain or shine, I always find a few lungfuls of fresh air again makes me feel so much cleaner and calmer, and makes all the noise and rush in my head stop long enough for me to get it back into perspective.
This is where some of my compulsive tendencies come into play. Firstly, a cluttered workspace equals a cluttered mind, for me at least; if I’m all worked up, I can’t relax or get on with things if there is physical mess or dirt bothering me. Sometimes I’ll need to do a full deep clean (although if that’s the case, it would have been a long time coming, and I would have been avoiding it for a while and stressing myself out about it), or sometimes, simply doing the washing up or tidying things away into their proper places is all it takes.
If I can feel the stress building and I have the time, I’ll go in the shower, wash my hair, and have a good scrub down with some of my favourite products. Or I’ll get a face wipe and take all my make-up off, and slowly and deliberately go through my facial cleansing routine. It doesn’t actively change anything, but metaphorically washing away the dirt and stress of the day often leaves me feeling a lot fresher in mind as well as body.
This one is only available as and when Sir Merl sees fit, but one thing I love is cuddling up with my gorgeous cat. He’s started sleeping on my bed, which is currently the most exciting thing going on in my life, and he doesn’t mind me snuggling my face right up to his belly and listening to him purr. I think he senses when I’m feeling a bit hectic, because it’s on those days that he’ll stay with me longer, and give my hand or arm or even my nose a thorough lick for good measure. It’s not gross, don’t judge me.
Having a drink
No, I don’t mean going out and getting sozzled (although that has its own respective set of liberating attributes). I mean a big pint glass of cold water sipped at slowly but frequently. For me, being clean is very closely linked to being calm, and a drink of water makes me feel like my insides are being thoroughly sluiced down. It’s also (obviously) super important to drink enough water, so simply rehydrating is a good thing in itself.
Creativity and Colouring In
I’m naturally quite a creative person, but the slog of what must be done everyday can sometimes take its toll. Even reading and creative writing (formerly my favourite hobby since childhood) became tiresome when I was studying it for my degree. So, I try to be creative in other ways. Makeup is obviously a big thing in that respect, but also things like cooking something favourite or new, taking the time to freshly prepare each ingredient and follow the recipe step by step. Also I’m hopping on the bandwagon here, but I love colouring in! I love the glossy pages and thick black outlines, and felt tips pens send me into a state of utter euphoria. I have a pot of Berols in the corner of my room just itching to be used, and my bestie Danielle got me a cat-themed book for my birthday, so that’ll be next on my artsy agenda!
As you can see, I have so many things that are helpful and valuable, and if you are struggling, do not worry, as I’m sure you have just as many to suit you. Make time to find them, and be sure to indulge yourself once in a while. Listen to what your body is asking for, and have no shame in fulfilling its needs.
What do you like to do to relax?