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“You should just relax.” Are normally four words you should never say to someone with anxiety. Ugh! Talk about a trigger sentence. It’s not easy to relax if you’re struggling with anxiety. And as much as people (who don’t have anxiety) think it’s all in our heads, we know it’s not. It surges throughout our entire bodies! Over the years, I’ve been developing my own little “toolbox” – which is a few things that I know help to bring me back to a more level space. In honor of today being National Relaxation Day, I’m sharing some of my “tools”. I hope that this post will encourage you to establish your own Anxiety Toolbox. I hope you’ll also take some time today to try to relax your mind and your body.
In a previous post, I’ve mentioned a talk I had with my therapist. I didn’t want medication to treat my depression. I wanted to work on developing a toolbox to manage it. My anxiety is a different beast. I hold a prescription for anxiety medication. I do not take my anxiety medication unless it is an absolute emergency, and none of my tools from my toolbox help to bring me down. Just to give you an idea of how often I take it… It was last filled in 2014. I still have one pill left from that 30-day prescription. Talk with your mental health care professional about the best option for you.
Alright, so this isn’t an actual, physical box. It’s more like a few items that I have around me or I can wear, that help me to cope when the anxiety starts creeping up.
For the record… Rudy, my dog, is not a formally trained support dog. I do not have a vest for him, nor do I take him with me wherever I want, claiming that he is an emotional support dog. He is only a “tool” I use at home. Because he has no formal training he doesn’t have “working behavior”. He is just a dog that happens to have learned about me and my anxiety. Please do not claim your dog as an emotional support animal without them going through formal training! It’s not right, and it creates problems for other people with real service dogs.
Dogs are incredibly smart and sensitive creatures. I don’t know how Rudy intrinsically knows how to know how to handle my anxiety attacks. When I’m having an anxiety attack at home he will calmly walk over and lean or sit on me. One night, I was having a PTSD dream. I was so immersed in the dream that I didn’t know it was a dream. I couldn’t wake up. Rudy, who sleeps in bed with me, noticed something wasn’t right. He laid down on top of me (all 62-lbs of him) and started licking my face until I woke up. I cannot stress enough that he is NOT TRAINED TO DO THAT! I’m very blessed to have him.
Much like a weighted blanket, Rudy’s body weight pressure against my anxiety-riddled body helps the brain to release serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps to create a calming effect on the body. No dog, no problem! A weighted blanket will be just as effective!
Originally, I’d gotten my Fitbit Charge 2 for exercise and step tracking. However, upon receiving it and playing with the settings I found that it has a “relax” setting. Literally, at the push of a button, I’ve got my own little breathing coach right on my wrist. It has two different time settings, 2 minutes and 5 minutes. If you’ve seen the gifs that tell you to breathe with the shape as it expands and shrinks, it’s like that.
If you’re not a fan of the Charge 2, FitBit’s Versa and Ionic both come with the guided breathing feature. Apple fan? The Apple Watch has a guided breathing app that you can download. I’m more of a fan of the FitBit’s guided breathing. It is tailored to your personal heart rate.
Last year I started to experiment with aromatherapy. I bought myself an essential oil diffuser. The one linked here is the one I got, and it comes with a few starter oils. Fill the water tank to the fill line and add in a few drops of oil and you’ve got an aromatherapy for a few hours! In that starter kit, you’ll get two of my favorite essential oils. These are two I always keep on hand for some quick relief.
I’ve found that hearing someone talk me through breathing exercises helps to bring me back to the present and down to a more relaxed state. Focusing on breathing is one of the best ways to begin coming down from an anxiety attack. Sound and soundwaves have a big effect on the mind as well as the body.
I rely on sound a lot. To the extent that I’ve compiled a list of 10 songs and meditations for when my anxiety starts to get the best of me. You can access my playlist on Amazon music. Don’t have Amazon Music? Get your free trial here!
I hope that this post has given you some options and ideas on how to create your own Anxiety Toolbox. And, since this post is going live while I’m taking a moment to relax on the beach, I hope that you find some time to take a moment in your day or week for yourself to just relax. <3