Many years ago, I was diagnosed as having general anxiety disorder. It came as no surprise but was still a relief to have an umbrella for symptoms from chest pain to jumping muscles to dissociation. I’m from a very anxious family of Russian Jews—whose hysteria combined with historical trauma certainly triggered whatever fear was latent in my genes. Combined with being widowed at a young age, the hormones of perimenopause were enough to put me into a tail spin of dread.
“It won’t kill you,” the diagnoser said. This was not my GP at the time—who had ruled out anything too serious—but an MD who was essentially part of my extended family. He did me a great turn by giving me a label, and some suggestions. “In descending order,” he said, “you could try drugs, homeopathy, some lifestyle stuff, or…you could even do nothing…”
I went to the library, and checked out a few books with titles like “You are totally totally anxious!” and “Fear—it’s everywhere!” Not really, but similar. I created a program based on suggestions from these books and some experimentation on my own. A few days ago a friend asked for a recap on my “program”—so I am sharing it here.
I want to add that this is not exactly your standard self-care. It isn’t about eating veggies or aerobic exercise, breaking bad habits, or treating yourself nicely. It’s honed towards one thing—less anxiety. In DUNE the sword master says: “fear is the mind killer.” That’s also true, ad worth remembering.
Essences—feel good, do little harm, may be placebo, but so what:
1. Aromatherapy. I always carry essences on me. Lavender for that I’m about to faint panicy feeling, rosemary for refreshment, rose to feel good. Inhale, put on wrists.
2. Valerian. Drops taken in tea for a quick fix. Several dropperfuls in a bath along with lavender to soak. It does work like a drug, though, so get to know its effect on you.
3. Rescue remedy, under the tongue, quick fix.
Beauty—being in nature in a low key way, several times a day
1. Sitting outside
2. Gardening, even if just a houseplant
3. Short walk, observing surroundings
Movement—exercise in general is good, but for anxiety control I’d break it up, and maybe move ten minutes on the hour
2. Yoga or Tai Chi
3. Dance to music you like
4. Progressive relaxation—tightening & loosening muscles.
Body work—go beyond PT or massage. Here again, try to get short treatments as frequently as possible—1/2 hour twice a week is better than once a week. You can massage the points on your own feet too, and your face.
Meditation and Mindfulness
2.Slow walking meditation
3. Awareness of hands or feet for 10 minutes at a time
1. Prayer—like the serenity prayer, or giving problems over to the divine
2. Telling yourself, I’m doing this (whatever it is) to reduce my anxiety.
3. Give charity money—small amounts, frequently. You can get a box and put change in it—then donate a larger amount once you’ve saved up.
1. Always have something to read, even mediocre book, with some narrative interest. You can add audio, too.
2. Always have a movie or TV show with same.
3. Use these things sparingly—10-30 minutes, so no binge watching.
1. Write in journal
2. Draw in journal
3. Any handcraft—knitting etc.
I also sometimes listen to 10 minutes of classical music. Calming herbal tea is good too. Basically do one tiny thing an hour most of the day–you could give $1 in charity, work a shiatsu point, read, stretch, drink tea, smell lavender, draw…it isn’t very time consuming and a lot of it became second nature to me. Try it for 5-7 days and see what you like? It’s basically cheap, doesn’t depend on other people or a lot of energy, etc. Or don’t do it! I’ll never nag…