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6 Ways Being Present Can Completely Change The Way You Deal With Anxiety

I was 28 years old when I was given my first prescription for anxiety. That was only a year ago.

In all honesty, I have dealt with some sort of anxiety for a good portion of my adult life. However, it was one a year ago that I openly talked to a health care professional concerning my anxiety and sometimes depression.

Why did I wait?

Why, even after going to school, studying psychology and even obtaining a masters degree in mental health counseling, did I feel the need to disregard my own struggle?

Because the stigma of such mental health issues are still present.

As I began to talk about my anxiety with my doctor, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I then felt I could be honest with my friends and family. Most importantly, I felt I could be honest with myself.

Because as an adult, you're sometimes told to “grow up,” “grin and bear it,” “go with the flow,” “suck it up” and every other cliche phrase many mistake as words of encouragement instead of having someone just listen to you… just sit down and have a dialogue about what you're struggling with.

It's easier to not have these discussions than it is to actually HAVE these discussions. It's tough, but it's necessary.

As I began to talk about my anxiety with my doctor, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I then felt I could be honest with my friends and family. Most importantly, I felt I could be honest with myself.

However, I didn't want anxiety medication to become a crutch. I wanted it only as a safety net on those darkest days.

As I began to admit anxiety was almost always present in my day-to-day life, I began looking for ways in which to cope. I didn't want to self-medicate and avoid the issue any longer, so I searched for other means of salvation during my most anxious times.

I learned to take deep breaths.

I literally taught myself how to breathe. Well, breathe differently, that is.

Breathing is something so simple, yet has such an impact on your mind, body and soul. It's the body's natural way of calming you down and giving you energy.

I first noticed I could calm myself down with breathing during one of my yoga classes. It was a more intense power yoga session, and I noticed, toward the end, I felt super anxious all of a sudden.

With the guidance of the instructor, I was able to monitor my breathing while laying down and bring myself back to a more grounded state.

Woman doing yoga on a mat in her home

Stocksy

Since then, I use this practice almost daily. Whether I'm in a crowded subway train, having a disagreement with a co-worker or even after a long day before I climb into bed, allowing myself to focus on my breathing brings my focus center and naturally eases my anxiety.


As a result, I stopped being so hard on myself.

Life is unrelenting at times, so why should I also be on myself? I had a lot of pent up feelings about my career and love life that made me feel like an all-around failure.

But feeling like a novice in your career and bad breakups don't mean you're a failure, so I began to congratulate myself on victories and push myself to constantly do better, to be better.

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I went to the gym.

It has been one of the greatest forms of therapy I could have ever paid for.

Now, it's extremely difficult to fit in anything other than sleeping and eating when you're working 10 to 12-hour days, six days a week, but going to the gym was my saving grace over the last year.

I began with mostly yoga classes with a mix of spin classes, and the positive results were almost immediate.

My roommate has the same gym membership and having her motivate me to get up and out of bed helped ease my anxious thoughts. Even the walk to the gym made me feel better!

Working out more made it clear on so many levels just how connected mind and body really is. As silly as the saying goes, you really feel good when you look good, and you look good when you feel good.


I learned to be alone in my thoughts.

Being alone in my apartment used to terrify me. I used to have anxiety attacks more frequently when I felt trapped and alone in my head.

Slowly but successfully, I began to quiet my racing thoughts by reading in my room, cleaning the apartment or even enjoying a hot shower in the solidarity of my home.

I decorated my apartment with pictures of friends, dried flowers and comfy throw blankets to make myself feel at ease when I was alone between those four walls.

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I began to meditate.

Sitting quietly on my floor, focusing my attention on the here and now, allowing my mind to be present.

I constantly remind myself to do these things. It's still a continuous process, being mindful, but it's a practice that has been a life saver.

Sitting quietly on my floor, focusing my attention on the here and now, allowing my mind to be present. I constantly remind myself to do these things. It's still a continuous process, being mindful, but it's a practice that has been a life saver.


I began to write more.

I've always been a writer. But in person, I've never been the most articulate. Ask some of my past boyfriends — they'll tell you I'm not the best with spoken words.

My strength, however, lies when putting words to paper and texts. I began writing like I did in college, something I had shied away from since moving across the country twice.

Almost instantly, I realized I missed it. I wrote about how sad I was; I wrote angry thoughts; I wrote about love. Most importantly, I wrote exactly how I felt, unapologetically so.

Then, I started a blog with my roommate. So not only did I write again, but I also allowed an audience to read my words — my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.

Doing this made me feel powerful and in control, something my anxiety had tried to steal from me. Writing became a weapon against feelings of self-deprivation and defeat. Writing became more effective than my Lorazapam prescription could ever be.

My anxiety will be a constant battle in my life, just as it will continue to be a struggle for anyone living with it.

We live in stressful and busy times, but learning to face the battle head-on with healthy tactics alleviates the struggle.

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Sarah Cole

Contributor

Georgia-grown, California wild child living in NYC chasing after the moon. In a past life, I was probably a trucker.
Georgia-grown, California wild child living in NYC chasing after the moon. In a past life, I was probably a trucker.

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