Coping Strategies For Stress And Anxiety
I have always seen the value in writing as a form of self-expression. In my saddest and happiest moments, I turned my eye to my bookshelf, picked up my journal or my poetry book and documented my feelings of that particular moment. As I got older, less time was devoted to this and I eventually found myself sinking further into a well of depression. The less time I found for myself, the more I dwelled on the negative – terrible grades, painful situations, hurtful words, grief, and death.
While professional help would have been ideal, my socioeconomic status was not going to afford me the luxury of seeing a specialist. I was able to utilize the psychology department of the clinic while being at the University of the West Indies for ten (10) free sessions. But when you aren’t practicing what you’ve learned, you are bound to forget it. In 2015, I recognized that I needed to be more intentional about me – how I intended to take care of myself. It was to be a lot of work because of how far off the wagon I fell, but I was determined to see it through.
What I found were coping strategies that looked very familiar. It looked like spending more time journaling and, spending time by myself to learn about who I had developed into when I was not looking. It also looked like participating in and assisting with projectBRAVE by itsNasB (part 1 and later part 2). Introspection became a well-used tool. Initially, it was challenging to recognize that introspection does not mean to be harmfully critical of oneself. Instead, it should be used to generate awareness of the areas that need help developing past their shortcomings, and treated carefully. Introspection leads to the first set of coping strategies reentering my life – journaling.
Coping Strategies For Stress And Anxiety
Journaling, done right, saw me open a chapter of my life and at the end of it come away with a deeper understanding of my initial problem, my reaction to the problem, and how best to resolve or move past it. Journaling allows me to channel emotions (something I struggle with) and realign myself if I become overwhelmed by them. It has been one of the better coping strategies for stress and anxiety. Even though managing anxiety using self-care methods proves to be difficult at times, journaling has been known to aid in recovery from anxiety attacks.
At the times that my anxiety would spike, I would open my preferred notes app, (for example, Evernote) and slowly move through the situation. Instead of allowing myself to become overwhelmed by my thoughts, I would list them out and explain both the logical and illogical aspects of what my mind was presenting to me. At times journaling was not enough, particularly the moments where my anxiety would trigger a physical reaction (for example, vomiting or compulsive behaviors). If a physical reaction accompanied my anxiety attack, I would ride the wave until I pushed it out of my system – which ultimately led to me feeling very disappointed in myself. My disappointment would sometimes push me deeper into despair because I would feel that I had failed at being better to myself. Unlearning this behavior has since become an everyday struggle.
- Meditation and Mindfulness
I was introduced to meditation and mindfulness by my friend, Nas. Though journaling had taken me a far way and taught me a lot about myself, I still found that my anxiety would be triggered by things and people that I was not fond of. My upbringing taught me (like most) to shun things that were too spiritual or not about God. But further research on my own showed me that you do not need to invite external spirits to calm your mind, instead, you regain control of your mind by refocusing your own energy.
Mindful meditation helped to refocus my mind during very high stress, or triggering situations. It feels very similar to a compulsion to reorganize my physical space, instead, it requires me to focus my mind on the present, something as simple as the ticking of my watch, or kittens playing on Instagram. I’ve even used the movement of the machines at work to steady my mind and pull me back into the present. I’ve taken it a step further and have begun to include yoga practices (using the app Asana Rebel on iOS) with my daily meditation.
I am definitely not a trained yogi or even an amateur yogi for that matter, but by placing significant effort into completing the poses to the best of my ability, I was able to use them to ground my mind instead of being carried away by the stressors of my daily life. It allowed me to sleep through the nights without being plagued by nightmares and negative thoughts. I had to take a step back for health reasons and have already felt the effects of not maintaining my yoga practices. For years I shunned the idea of practicing yoga (religious reasons) but after doing my research and seeing just how it helped my physical and mental health, I am excited to resume my practice.
Through balancing Journaling, Meditation, and Mindfulness I feel better equipped to face my anxiety. I am able to take it a step further and participate in activities like projectBRAVE, a Witted Roots Internship, even be a part of the customer service department at work (this is still a work in progress and can be very draining). These activities remind me that while I have very big expectations of myself, I am still human. While holding myself accountable to my expectations, I should still be mindful of my limitations, not stress myself to be perfection. Being gentle with myself in a time of not knowing what exactly my problems were was hard.
The more I know now, the more I read, research, and talk to other persons who find themselves in similar situations, the better I become. Changes take time. Some days, journaling is the last thing I want to do. Interacting with complicated customers is the last thing I want to subject myself to. Being intentional about my mental health is essential to my survival as life will continue to throw complex situations at us; this is what we must learn to accept.
Being A Work In Progress
In 2017 I had the opportunity to attend Fran, Hasnaa, and Yera’s Supernatural Wellness Pop Up Tour, an experience that opened my eyes to how I may not have been utilizing my anxiety coping strategies in the most efficient way possible. Despite that, I can acknowledge that I’m a work in progress. Hopefully, this will inspire you to begin seeking out your own methods of coping and actively utilize them to keep your mental health ‘tuned-up’ daily. Be mindful of your progress and journey, while remembering to be gentle with yourself. Here is a list of some great resources to check out when you may not be able to afford professional help.
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