Anxiety: It's either something you're all too familiar with, or unfortunately culturally misinformed about.
It's not always a crippling, quicksand feeling, where you're suddenly overwhelmed and "need to sit down."
It certainly can be, but not always.
Nor is it always a subtle, lingering feeling, like something is just slightly off.
Anxiety can manifest in a number of different ways, and can be either something you suffer from chronically, or something brought on by your circumstances or environment.
Because of the nuanced way anxiety operates differently for each person, sometimes people who don't suffer from anxiety have a hard time helping those who do.
Regardless of the reasons we feel anxious or the type of anxiety we're having, there are certain practices that can help alleviate the feelings of anxiety.
Here are some ways -- as an unapologetically anxious person -- that can actually help with my bouts of anxiety, unlike the age-old advice of "just take a deep breath and count to 10."
1. Find openness.
No, this isn't a piece of existential advice or a flashback to an LSD trip I took in college.
In this circumstance, I'm referring to finding literal open space anywhere in the general vicinity of where you are.
You may not be both anxious and claustrophobic, but if you're experiencing anxiety of any kind, being in a crowded or enclosed space definitely won't help.
Anxiety can be so tough because of the way you feel you cannot control it. By getting out into a more open space -- preferably the fresh air of the great outdoors -- you will feel instantly more at ease and as if you have a better handle on the environment you're in.
Going outside can be especially helpful in these circumstances because the scents and sounds of the outdoors are those we smell and hear each day. Familiarity often helps push out bad thoughts.
2. Talk to yourself.
I don't necessarily mean out loud, but just talking things through to yourself can be really helpful.
I know myself pretty well. So when anxiety hits, I go inside my head, tell myself what's going on and give myself advice, rather than immediately going to a friend.
Honestly, it's not like we don't understand anxiety. We know exactly why we're feeling that way.
We just can't help it.
So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
This sort of pre-consultation with yourself may not get rid of the anxiety, but getting a handle on what's happening and why you're feeling anxious is an immediate way to effectively lower the anxiety to a level of normal stress, without disregarding the fact that it's there.
3. Fix your hair.
This may seem strange, vain or both, but this bit of advice will make sense once you work through the significance of such a routine habit.
When anxiety hits, we typically don't care about anything else or we choose to carry out our day-to-day functions as if we aren't living in some type of literal nightmare.
We may not perform as we normally do when we have anxious days.
My advice -- which can be fixing your hair, re-applying lipstick, straightening out your tie or something even more gender neutral I can't seem to think of -- is really just a metaphor for attempting to return your mindset to normalcy.
Trust me when I say this: I get it.
Anxiety interrupts the flow of our existence. By choosing to carry out a daily habit like fixing your hair (even in the midst of a bout of anxiety), you're tricking your brain out of an anxious state, even if it's just for a second.
The beauty of reading is it monopolizes the brain. It does not really allow the mind to do two things at once.
When you're reading, your mind is focused on the letters, the words that follow, the syntax, the structure and above all else, the content.
Even while reading this right now, how many times has your mind wandered off?
Once? When I said the thing about LSD?
It's not because I'm this Plath-like, wildly captivating writer. It's because the mind has to focus with full attention while reading.
That said, our minds have trouble wandering to the dark and dirty place that is anxiety when they're busy reading compelling passages.
Even if you just pull up your favorite news site on your phone or can get your hands on a free piece of print on your walk home, find content to read.
That momentary distraction from anxiety works wonders in alleviating it.
Anxiety treats every appetite differently.
Some people get ravenous with stress-induced hunger when they're feeling anxious, while others can't even bear the thought of eating.
Regardless of where you fall in that, my advice remains this: Pull out a cutting-board and a spatula, and get to it.
Because of its ritual nature (chop this, wash that, boil this), cooking is a great distraction from anxious thoughts.
Even better, because of the creativity that can go into cooking -- you know, when you add a bit of cheese even when the recipe didn't tell you to -- your mind will be stimulated and engaged in something other than your anxiousness.
It's really, really hard to turn down a meal you've just slaved over, so even you non-anxious eaters have a way to help both calm your nerves and growling stomach.
This is quite the opposite of the advice we're typically given when we're feeling anxious.
But get up and walk.
Walking is probably the best free and easy cure.
Anxiety is so difficult to cope with because it's often accompanied by energy.
Anxiety is not a lazy feeling. It will never drive you to want to sit down.
It will drive you to do anything short of rip up every piece of paper in your sight or pace the perimeter of the room you're in, regardless of its size.
But instead of giving in to this misplaced and negative energy, harness the energy that accompanies your anxiety by going for a walk.
Use it to propel you forward. With each step, the amount of energy you have will lessen.
It may not completely rid you of the anxious feeling. But after a long walk, it's hard to come home and still have that desire to rip things into shreds.
7. Call your mom.
Moms just get it.
Your mom is the perfect person to call when you're feeling anxious because she will know h0w to talk you down from it without belittling your feelings.
Some friends, in attempts to make us feel better during anxiety attacks or prolonged feelings of anxiousness, will say things like, "Oh stop, it's nothing," or "It's no big deal, stop worrying."
Those kinds of statements can actually make our anxiety worse because that level of nonchalance for what we're feeling will probably add anger to the mix. It's not a good thing.
Moms, on the other hand, know exactly what to say to legitimize your feelings and anxiety without feeding the monster.
They will tell you what you're experiencing is real, but they will also talk you down to a place where you can see your issue from a much calmer lens.
Sometimes, calling my mom can end a bout of anxiety singlehandedly. Shoutout to moms.
None of these are foolproof, feel-better-instantly methods. But they are focused on brain activity and makeup, which is exactly what we need when we're trying to remove anxious thoughts from our daily routines.
Plus, none of these ideas cost anything or call for a prescription.
Holler for holistic.