Firstly I have been diagnosed with anxiety for 11 year and been on medication for 10 (!) so its taken me a long time to get where I am today. My anxiety does fluctuate depending on what I have on and how busy my week is as a whole, so like everyone with a mental illness I can have good weeks and bad weeks (and good days and bad days).
Diet - I have noticed that what I eat does affect my anxiety levels. I aim to eat a high protein diet which really helps, I also do NO CAFFIENE which to some people is a big deal but for me having a diet coke (I used to be addicted to it) just isn't worth it when it makes my anxiety levels spike. I do have vices mainly in terms of chocolate (MandMs are a major addiction of mine!) and ice cream (if its not too cold out so in winter I rarely eat it) but being dairy intolerant means that I can never go too crazy.
In terms of drinks I tend to stick to flavoured mineral water (like deep spring) when I am out, cold water and a mix of sparkling mineral water and diet lemonade when I am at home. I keep a couple of good metal water bottles in the fridge filled with water so I can grab a drink anytime (they are also Little Miss themed which makes drinking water fun). I also try to take a water bottle with me if I know I will be out for a long period of time.
I don't take any vitamin supplements but I do take fish oil tablets as more studies are showing that it helps with mental health and I do notice a difference when I take it (though I go through stages where I regularly take it and stages where I don't).
My diet is no where is near as perfect as I want it to be and lets be honest I probably eat way too much sugar but I am slowly making changes that are helping me long term.
Exercise - I don't play sports and I never will play sports, me and sports are not friends. So everyone's clear that I will never do sports unless I am forced to when I am in a life and death situation? My exercise consists of walking, I do some casual caring work 3 times a week and that involves a 30 minute walk. I have also just started walking for 30 minutes in the morning Monday - Friday, I set my alarm for 6.30am and leave the house at around 7.00am and just walk around the neighbourhood (I am lucky enough to live near a lake so I normally walk in that direction) while listening to my ipod. I also try and do sneaky exercise which is my way of making myself walk further without realising it- at shopping centres I try to park a good distance away from them which means I walk further, I will also walk long ways to stores if I have the time and I find certain chores burn calories too (like vacuuming, gardening etc.). I do find I sleep better if I do regular exercise, its just a matter of actually making myself do it.
Sleep - I aim for 10 hours but if I get 8 hours I am happy. I find if I read before bed I sleep a lot better and my quality of sleep increases. I can actually notice a difference in terms of the quality of sleep I get. I do notice a huge difference when I've had a few bad nights and it really makes my anxiety worse, so if it comes to it I will take something just so I can get a decent night's sleep and get my life back on track.
Down time - I am nor an introvert or extrovert it all depends on my anxiety and what has been going in my life at the time. Because of this I need to be aware of when I need down time and give myself a chance to recharge. Sometimes that means hanging out with friends other times it means taking time out for myself. I also find that while I can function ok being physically exhausted if I am mentally exhausted I need to take time to recharge and make it a greater priority. An example is that a while ago I had to do a workshop for mentoring and by the end of it I was mentally exhausted as it was a
new situation with new people which made me feel on edge and wanting to hide so I ended up saying no to games night. Whereas the weekend before I was physically exhausted but still made an effort to go to games night.
I try to schedule in down time where possible and am aware that if I have anything where my anxiety levels will be high to schedule in more down time. I also make Sunday's my quiet day where possible, its just a day where I can unwind and relax with no pressure. I get up get dressed and just go with the flow which really helps me start the week on a good note.
Down time for me really varies on how I much need. I really enjoy reading so sometimes just being able to read my book for a bit really helps recharge my levels and face what's thrown at me, other times sitting down and watching a funny tv show (The Office, Friends, Greek, Baby Daddy, Brooklyn Nine, certain Degrassi episodes or Superstore are my goto's) or intense tv show (Saving Hope, Suits, Bones, Designated Survivor, certain Degrassi episodes or Riverdale are shows I really enjoy when I want to sit down and think about what's on tv) or if I have a huge block of time watching a movie (Adam Sandler's films always make me laugh) provide good escapes for me and I can just shut out the world. I also enjoy baking and doing something with my hands (like craft or painting) I can never just watch a tv show or movie so I often craft or bake while I am watching something which keeps my hands busy. I love to find a nice café and read for a couple of hours if I am given the chance and its a little thing that makes a huge impact on me.
Fake it till you make it - even when my anxiety is really bad I still make an effort to get dressed, do my make up and look somewhat put together. This helps me feel good on the outside which helps me face the day. It doesn't matter if I am feeling full of anxiety on the inside, if I can present to others that I am functioning despite it all then some of it eventually translates to the inside! I am not one of those people who can stay in PJs all day so even when I feel sick I will get changed into comfy clothes, it just makes me feel good about myself.
Recently I have been trying to start the week on a good note by taking a bit of extra time and effort on Monday's and it's really been helping me feel good about myself. I am big believer that sometimes a pop of colour with a lipstick or eyeliner can make your day brighter and on the days when I wear a bright shade of lipstick I do feel happier and a bit more confident.
Setting myself a to do list - ever since I can remember I have always used lists and even now I find they are a great coping tool. I use a diary and write any major events that are happening and also list any plans I have for myself. This means I have a vauge idea of my weekly schedule and I feel happy knowing I won't forget anything. I also write down lists of what I need to do during the day and I find I get a sense of achievement ticking off the jobs as I complete them.
Volunteering - I have been a Youth Ambassador with ReachOut for almost 2 years and it's been a huge confidence boost and has helped me challenge my anxiety while also having great support. Being unemployed means it can be hard to have a purpose (so much value is put on our jobs) so being able to do ReachOut has really helped me feel like I am part of a team and gives me something to focus on. I also do mentoring at the local youth centre and am involved in my church (projector, kids church, helping at events etc.).
Psychologist appointments - if you read this article you will know that a few years ago I had to see a psych (where I was diagnosed with severe anxiety attacks which while similar to anxiety are actually a separate diagnosis) and its been one of the best decisions I have made for my anxiety! I see an amazing psych every few weeks and she has been priceless for helping me deal with my anxiety and getting through any tough patches. It's great to be able to have someone to talk through various issues and since seeing her I am able to recognise unhealthy thought patterns and help manage my anxiety better. I highly recommend seeing a psychologist (even if you don't have a mental illness) as it will help you understand your mind better.
I could go and on with this post as there are so many factors that affect my anxiety but I will stop while I am a head and will aim to do a few follow up posts as circumstances change (please pray I get a job soon!).
Everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you at the end of the day its all about realising your limits and working out what you need to do to stay on top of it.
I'm not going to pretend that I don't have bad days or days where I just want to hide but by doing the