As you know, over the past couple of months I have been transparent about my ongoing battles with anxiety and depression. And, although I have spent the past couple of years learning coping strategies and recognizing what I need, I still have a long way to go.
Coming home from the Commonwealth Games to 4 weeks away from team training was such a blessing. The lead-up to the games had been incredibly grueling and I was so burnt out I didn’t even want to look at my stick. A few days after I got back home, I ditched my phone and headed straight for the woods for a 4-day trek on Vancouver Island. Then, immediately after that, I escaped to Tofino to spend a week by the ocean. I have realized that I am most myself and the least anxious when I am unplugged from technology and surrounded by nature.
Not even 24 hours back in Vancouver and I noticed that I was already slipping back into an anxious state. I had to move from my apartment, organize where I would be training in September, and pack for a busy 3-month summer training block with the Women’s National team. Change is a good thing, but the unknowns cause my mind to go straight to the “what ifs” and the possible negative outcomes. These negative thoughts lead to rumination, and the relationships I have with myself, and my loved ones take a major hit.
Recognizing that a change needs to be made is one thing, but then actually implementing the change is another. This is what I have been focusing on lately and it got me thinking that maybe some of what I have learned could help someone else too. Below, I’m sharing ways in which I work towards reducing the effects of my anxiety. That being said, I know that everyone is affected differently, and what works for me will not work for everyone.
This one seems obvious, and we have all been practicing this since we were kids. As we get older, however, life gets hectic and sleep gets bumped lower and lower on the priority list. We no longer have a parent nagging us that it is past our bedtime. More importantly, it is not only the amount of sleep, but the quality of sleep we get each night. I get the best sleep when I go to bed before midnight and stick to a bedtime routine such as reading for 30 mins before bed or meditating. This helps me quiet my mind and decreases my chance of experiencing insomnia.
Self-care has received a lot of hype in the last little while and I am here to tell you that it is not just about buying a bath bomb, or face mask and taking Instagram photos of you using them. It is more about carving out some time in your day where you intentionally choose to do something for yourself. This can involve taking a bath, but it can also involve journaling, reading, meditating, exercise, cooking, watching a show or drawing. Self-care is extremely important because taking care of and nurturing yourself allows you to better support others in your life. And, it serves as a reminder that you are important.
Growing up, I thought meditation was a bunch of baloney and nobody I knew actually did it. Also, even if it were useful, there was no way I was going to be able to calm myself down long enough to actually do it. It wasn’t until about a year ago when my psychiatrist introduced me to it that I began to buy in. So, what the heck is meditation? Essentially, it is the practice of focusing our attention on a single thing (i.e. your breath, your body sensations, sounds in your environment) and being aware of when your mind drifts to other things. That’s it! I first started out meditating for a minute and I found it extremely difficult. My mind kept drifting back to my “to do” list and I would get mad at myself every time this happened – so much for being Zen. So why do I keep doing it? Because over time, meditation has helped me decrease self-judgement and the negative thoughts in my head. I have even taken to meditating between training sessions or before big games (before our game against Australia at the Commonwealth Games my coach found me outside the changeroom alone meditating).
*If you’re thinking about trying out meditation the Headspace app or the Calm app are both great resources
4. Essential Oils
I have found that I associate places and people with specific smells, so being able to bring certain scents with me on trips helps decrease stress due to the familiarity of it. Similar to a conditioned response, I use lavender and tree scents each night before bed and this reminds me of home and helps me wind down. I have even taken to bringing a travel diffuser on trips when I think I might have trouble falling asleep.
This is also a well-known one, and I won’t bother going into the science behind it, but I feel it is very important to mention. I exercise as part of my training every day, and I find that whenever we have time off I always have increased levels of anxiety if I don’t move my body. It is also exciting to do activities not associated with my sport as there is little pressure connected to them. I also have found being surrounded by nature, as I mentioned before, helps me calm down because it takes me out of my usual environment and forces me into a quiet one.
One Reply to “5 Ways I Decrease Anxiety”
Well written and beautifully said Hannah. I learn something each time I read a piece of your work. Thanks for being real, sharing and caring so much! XO Lisa