Get Well

How I’ve Learned to Reign in My Anxiety As a 20-Something New Yorker

by Hannah Smith

Although anxiety is something I struggle with on a day-to-day basis, it’s not something that I always had to deal with. To give you an idea of what my relationship with anxiety looks like, it kicked in my senior year of high school in the form of vomiting nearly every single day; the closer college got, the more I threw up. Once I made it to college, my anxiety began to subside until I was assaulted in my first semester, which only skyrocketed it even more. This time, my anxiety took on another form. I went from social butterfly to being extremely isolated; I hated being in large social settings, and I rarely spoke to people I considered my best friends. And as time went on, I struggled to find a doctor who would take my insurance — in fact, it took me two years to find a psychiatrist. In those two years, though, I had to deal with a lot of anxiety on my own, and it’s safe to say I learned a lot along the way. While I still highly recommend seeking a doctor who can help with your journey with anxiety, below are a few ways you can try to work through your anxiety.

Self-Care: People do a lot of things in the name of self-care, I say do whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling better. For some, self-care is going for a run. For me, self-care is face-masking and basking in front of my happy lamp, smelling orange essential oils to remind me of the orange trees outside my childhood home back in California. Whether you nap, mask, run, or buy a delicious smoothie, it doesn’t matter — just do something that makes YOU happy a few times a week. Because the relationship that you have with yourself should be nurtured just as much as the relationships with you have with your loved ones. 

Meditation: My mom is a yogi, so for a long time she tried to get me to meditate and I fought it so hard. About a year into my anxiety, I finally gave in. I downloaded an app called Insight Timer (though, there are tons of meditation apps to choose from), and began to meditate whenever I felt my anxiety coming on. I make time to meditate at least three times a week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s something, and I’ve learned that even the smallest moments of calm count. Meditating helps me because it gives me time to slow down, think through my anxiety rationally, and calm my mind. 

Daily Routine: For a long time, I allowed my anxiety to manifest into depression, and though I still have bad days, having a set routine made my life (and anxiety) a lot easier. It may sound silly, but for me waking up, showering, and eating a little something every morning makes me feel more like myself. I also enjoy walking around my neighborhood a few times a week to ensure I get some relaxing personal time to reflect on the good things in my life. Additionally, I make sure I eat dinner and go to bed at more regular times, both of which has also helped my anxiety tremendously. 

Talk to Your Friends: For a long time, I had allowed my anxiety to isolate me, which meant I rarely spoke to friends. But honestly, talking to my friends about my anxiety and giving them a chance to understand it has not only helped me but helped my relationships. My friends were so supportive and amazing and our relationships are well on their way to being better than ever. If you feel like you’re not ready to speak to your friends about what you’re going through, try to connect with a therapist. Talk therapy wasn’t my favorite, but it allowed me to become more comfortable with talking about my problems with other people — which is exactly the push I needed.

Attitude Change: With the advice of Donna Storm-Lynch LCSW, I am currently in the process of changing my overall attitude. Storm-Lynch works as a psychotherapist on Long Island and deals with a number of disorders, such as depression and anxiety, on a day to day basis with her clients. She is a huge believer in practicing gratitude, saying ‘it’s a lot harder to be filled with anxiety when you’re feeling grateful and mindful of the positivity in your life if you’re looking at your cup [as] half empty all of the time.” Storm-Lynch also suggests that a lot of anxiety comes from one’s inability of letting go. Whether you feel the constant “need to know, need to be right, need to be good, need to be understood, need to be perfect, need to be heard,” she says that letting go of those feelings can help immensely with breathing and relaxing. A book that helps with both of these practices and is recommended by Storm-Lynch is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. It helps identify your self-sabotaging behaviors, helps you feel as if you can create the life you want to live, and overall, gives you a sense of badass-ness.

Stay in the Now: More than anything, staying in the now is something that I feel strongly of and something Storm-Lynch recommends as well. She says, “One day at a time makes life much easier to manage than worrying about what you need to do a week, a month, a year from now… Recognize those things that are not in [your] control and those that ARE. See the power that you actually DO have to make those changes and take control of the things you wish to change.” Again, we both agree that the book mentioned above is a great help in this.

When all else fails or if my anxiety keeps me up at night, smoking a little bit can be truly helpful. I’m at a point in my relationship with my parents where we can talk about these things and being from a state with recreational status, it’s something super common amongst people I know. When done in moderation and at the right time, marijuana can genuinely calm your anxiety. If you know that it gives you anxiety as it does for some people, then obviously stray away, but if you’ve tried everything and are at your wit’s end, try a little before bed.

My anxiety has been and will always continue to be a journey. While it can feel depressing, make you feel totally hopeless and even make you feel sick, I promise there are things you can do to help keep your anxiety under control. It sucks, but it affects so many more people than you know. You’re not alone and your journey will get easier.

Featured image via Marleigh Culver

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