As someone who’s struggled with anxiety her whole life, I’ve been given every piece of advice out there. (You try being told to “just breathe,” it’ll make you want to spiral off into another dimension.) While some of the advice makes me nauseous, there have been a few nuggets of useful wisdom.
So, from “Why would you say that to me?” to “Maybe this could work,” I’ve gathered six pieces of anxiety advice—and ranked them from worst to best.
If you’ve ever rolled your eyes when someone says “You control your own happiness,” this one’s for you.
Advice #1: “Just don’t think about it.”
I’m brave enough to say it: This advice is absolute garbage. If anyone has ever said this to you number one, I’m sorry. And number two, what’s their name? I just want to have a little talk.
Do you really think me, an anxious mess, is physically capable of not living in my brain? Did I miss the part where I have a magic wand that’ll bippity-boppity-boo the anxiety away? Like, if I had the ability to not think about it, I wouldn’t think about it, yeah?
So, in closing, this is a horrible thing to say and the next time someone tries this with me I’ll simply blast off to Mars.
Advice #2: “Take a cold shower.”
Some experts tout this as a useful method to reduce anxiety because it supposedly improves blood circulation and releases feel good hormones.
I don’t know what freezing cold nightmare these researchers live in, but they can have it. The one thing that makes me even more anxious than my actual anxiety is thinking about being pierced with icicles.
And then what about once I get out of the shower? Will I get hypothermia? I mean, I’ll straight up shiver post-cleanse even after a hot one. See what I’m saying? My overactive brain simply cannot handle this type of shock. If I wanted to live my life in a state of eternal discomfort, I’d sit on a cactus.
Advice #3: “Distract yourself.”
I’ve heard there are studies that claim distracting yourself can lower feelings of stress or anxiety.
That’s cool. But I’m not a fan.
I liken distracting myself from my feelings to a grocery store manager ignoring a disgruntled customer. At first, it seems like it’s a good tactic. But, as time goes on, the customer just gets louder and angrier until they erupt—a lava of emotions spreading everywhere.
Now, imagine that customer, but Honey I Shrunk the Kids sized, and instead of inhabiting the snack aisle, they live in your brain. I’ve found that distracting myself from a situation only makes my thoughts multiply and start yelling at me.
So, while it may be uncomfortable at first, I’d rather sit with my anxiety, listen to it, and let it know it has some space. And once it’s finished waxing poetic about how the world is ending, I feel a lot better and my anxiety leaves me alone (or goes to take a nap or get a snack, my anxiety is eternally tired and hungry).
Advice #4: “Get enough sleep.”
The only reason this piece of advice gets a higher rating from me is because apparently it works for a lot of people. According to studies, sleep helps decrease the chances of anxiety by restoring the part of your brain that helps regulate emotion.
Alas, even if I wanted to sleep, my good old anxiety prevents me from sweet, sweet slumber.
Riddle me this: If I don’t sleep because I have anxiety, and then I get anxious that I don’t sleep, but sleep is supposed to help me feel less anxious, what’s a girl to do? Huh? Let’s go back to the lab and tinker with this one a little more, shall we?
Plus, I can’t get over the fact that “get enough sleep” sounds dangerously close to “just don’t think about it.” So, yes, while in theory this is “good” advice, it’s gonna be a no from me.
Advice #5: “Cut back on caffeine.”
Hear me out: Cutting back on caffeine has changed my life.
Not too long ago, I thought I was being cute and European by ordering a “cortado” at a coffee shop. If you’ve never tried this, it’s a double-shot of espresso with a little bit of milk to make it go down more easily. Great for tired workaholics, bad for people with an already amped up central nervous system.
After I guzzled down my coffee, I experienced some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever had. Yeah, I had a full-blown panic attack.
Well, duh, I mean caffeine can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response and increase feelings of anxiety.
Now you’re probably thinking, “There’s no way I can live without my a.m. cappuccino,” while you’re holding your “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” mug. I get it. I’m big on rituals, too—there’s nothing better than waking up and curling around a cup of bean water.
But you don’t have to live without it. Because guess what? The caffeine wizards make something called—wait for it—decaf. Before you scoff, it tastes the same!
The only reason for my-lower-than-10 rating is because it’s not always accessible: Some restaurants don’t offer decaf (rude) and some coffee shops charge you extra to make a decaf or half-caff drink (also rude).
Advice #6: “Listen to calming music.”
In my humble opinion, you simply cannot feel anxious when you’re listening to “Fur Elise.” Seriously, Beethoven must’ve had a metric ton of uneasiness because he created an audible anxiety antidote.
And it’s not just me. There’s research that shows listening to music can help calm your nervous system and lower cortisol levels, both of which can help reduce stress. Nice.
I also love this advice because it allows me to slap on my headphones and ignore literally anyone and everyone. Plus, I get to listen to some grade A bangers.
Classical not your thing? That’s fine!
May I suggest spa music or bopping to the piano version of your favorite chart-toppers? It’ll change your gosh darn life. Bonus: This usually leads to dancing, one of my other favorite things to instantly calm down. I simply cannot recommend this advice enough.