8 Things to do While Recovering from Anxiety Disorder
I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder in 2009, but I had my first attack in 2001. I suffered and struggled and tried many different things for eight years before finally finding some relief in the form of medication.
However, as much as medication saved me, it was merely the stepping stone of what the true essence of recovery really is: Change. Changing yourself, changing certain habits, changing diet and lifestyle, and most importantly, changing mindset and thought patterns.
Medication never cured me; it was never supposed to. It was a short-term coping mechanism, until a suitable form of therapy could be found. Throughout my recovery, I have learned so much about the mind and mental health in general, and I’d like to share eight habits that I’ve had to either let go of or introduce into my life:
“When faced with an anxious thought, simply recognise [it] for what it is: an anxious thought…accept this thought without judgment”
A solid morning routine. Routines motivate you into doing for the day. It gives you something to do to keep your mind busy, and provides subconscious ‘support’ — having a to do list that you can tick off once things are done. I recommend changing the routine around a bit and perhaps adding in or omitting one thing every other day. This is so you don’t feel guilty when you don’t follow the routine exactly.
A sleep-inducing evening routine. Ending your day right is just as important as starting your day right, because many anxiety sufferers struggle with insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks and night sweats. Following a routine in the evening that can help you get to sleep will only boost your morning routine as well.
No more exposure to violence on TV. I don’t watch news, read newspapers or watch violent movies. It’s an unfortunate thing as I used to love horror movies and police and medical procedurals, but I simply cannot do this anymore; it makes me so anxious. I feel it’s a small price to pay for preventing an anxiety attack.
Limited exposure to social media. When it comes to negativity, politics and controversy, social media is the place to go. I limit myself from it in a personal capacity. I have business pages on Facebook and Instagram, and I’ll usually post something to do with these pages specifically, but I have had to greatly reduce my time on it for my mental wellbeing.
Using the RAT method. The RAT method is my own creation, which I devised, taking inspiration from other similar methods that are out there. RAT simply stands for RECOGNISE, ACCEPT and ADMIT, and then TAKE CONTROL. This simple but effective method has proved invaluable to me in times of great anxiety and irrationality. When faced with an anxious thought, simply recognise the anxious thought for what it is: an anxious thought! Don’t push it away or pretend that’s it’s not there. Next, simply accept this thought without judgment. Admit that you feel anxious, feel the feelings associated with the thought. Finally take control, and ask yourself what you are going to do to stop the anxious thought, a process that will be different for each individual.
Slow down. I don’t do the fast-paced life, I don’t do busyness and I definitely don’t do crowds! If you are anything like me, you’ll benefit highly from slowing down, doing everything in a deliberate, controlled and thoughtful way. In other words, be mindful! Don’t do everything in a rush; do it with ease and grace. Feel what you are doing and do it in a controlled manner. I swear this sounds strange but it really helps me. So, walk slowly instead of running. Sit down and eat your meal rather than eating on the go. Fast paced lifestyles add to anxiety and cause our bodies to go into flight or fight mode — remember to take it easy.
Challenge irrationality with worst case scenario. Irrationality is one of the two main fears associated with anxiety disorders. Irrational thoughts are ones we know, deep down, are irrational. They will never come true, but somehow, we just can’t seem to make our minds believe that, and unfortunately, these thoughts can induce instant anxiety attacks. I find challenging the irrational fear with a worst-case scenario works quite well. Think up the most ridiculous thing that could happen as a result of this thought coming true, say it out loud, and subconsciously, your mind will see how irrational it is.