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I've never been more acutely aware of how privileged I am to have spent so many years of my adult life with funds for and access to therapy. My childhood was unsafe and hard and it set me up with a powerful anxiety disorder
which I have spent much of my adult life navigating. I don't do well with medication and so I have had to learn a great many techniques for lifting myself up out of anxiety spirals and their mean sister, depression.
What follows is a list of tools I've used at various times to stay sane and sober. I'm not suggesting anyone forgo their medication, obviously. But some of you are brand new to this level of anxiety and may have never learned tools for walking through it! So I'm sharing mine.
I am not a therapist and I'm not claiming to be so you can please save your accusations of preudo-science. I'm just sharing some weird shit I've been taught by therapists and sponsors that has truly worked for me.
1. VISUALIZATION. There's all sorts of science about the chemicals it releases in your brain. Look it up. Visualize a bottle with a cork. Uncork it and picture yourself blowing your anxiety/fear/panic into the bottle. Maybe give your breath a color.
Maybe see the word "anxiety" written inside your breath. Blow it all in. Several times. Then CORK THE BOTTLE and picture yourself putting it somewhere on a shelf, far away from you. You can do this many times in a day. It helps.
Visualize your favorite vacation spot. Close your eyes. See the colors. See the water/sky/mountains/beach/waves. Remember the smells, the feel, the sounds, the taste of the air. All five senses.
2. WRITE. With pen and paper. About your feelings. It not only lowers your stress, there are studies that suggest it improves your immune system. Look it up. Put pen to paper and put ten minutes on the clock. Start with "I am anxious because" or "I am sad because."
Keep your pen in motion for ten minutes. When tempted to stop, return to your opening phrase and keep writing, even if you write that phrase ten times before more words/feelings form.
3. SING. Loudly and at the top of your lungs. Alone or with others in group chats. In your living room or in your shower. Well or badly. Sing. It releases feel good brain chemicals. Look it up.
4. DANCE. You need to move your body while you are locked up in your house. Your sanity requires it. You only need some music and a few feet of floor. No one is looking. Or if you're locked in with five kids and a spouse, then dance with them. TRY IT. IT HELPS SO MUCH.
5. STOMP YOUR FEET. You know you want to. I don't know why it helps so much but it does. Put on a great song and stomp around your house like you're a goddamn angry giant. Shake your arms while you do it. You'll look nuts and that's okay because you'll feel better.
6. SCREAM. Scream into pillows so as not to frighten your children or the neighbors. Scream repeatedly and as loud as you can. When the tension builds up, this helps release it before you decide to start an unnecessary fight with your spouse just to get it out.
7. TAKE CONTRARY ACTION TO HOW YOU ARE FEELING. Feeling sad? Put on a stand up comedy special. Feeling angry with your children & want to yell at them? Call them to the living room for a dance party or tickle party. Contrary actions help change the dark feelings & thoughts.
8. TAKE A BREAK. Don't be a martyr. If you need a break from your kids or spouse or twitter feed, TAKE IT. You are not serving them by devolving into an anxious wreck before their very eyes because you feel like it makes you a bad parent to park them in front of a screen.
9. CALL SOMEONE. When you're anxious or depressed, the phone can feel like it weighs 10,000 pounds. But force yourself to pick it up and dial a person you like or love and talk. Talking helps in a way that texting and staring at social media doesn't.
10. TALK ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN THAT WHICH IS MAKING YOU ANXIOUS. Don't call your sister or brother and spin about the pandemic. Ask how their kids are. Tell a funny story. Step out of the spin cycle. Give yourself that.
11. MAKE A GRATITUDE LIST. List twenty or fifty individual and unique things for which you are grateful. Do this every day. You have things like functioning fingers or eyes or ears or breath. Take a moment to name it & feel grateful for it rather than feeling fear of losing it.
12. BREATHE. Try box breathing. In through your nose as you count to eight, hold for eight, exhale for eight, hold it out for eight. Repeat ten times. There are so many other breathing techniques you can try too. They are magic. They help so much.
13. LAUGH. If you're so scared that comedy isn't funny to you, there's a technique called "laughter yoga." Look it up. Techniques by which you fake a laugh until it becomes real -- to release the endorphins you desperately need. Try it with your kids. It's goddamn delightful.
14. PRAY. I don't care what you believe in or don't, prayer lowers anxiety. Go sit under a tree,close your eyes &think or speak, "Dear tree, thank you for absorbing some of my crippling anxiety & thank you for making the oxygen we breathe. I'm so grateful."I dare you to try it.
15. TALK TO YOUR INNER CHILD. Picture yourself at some young age. And imagine holding that child and comforting her. Whisper comforting words. "I got you. I'm here. You're okay. You're safe." Let her cry if she wants to. You cry if you want to. Do it again tomorrow.
16. TAKE A WALK/STRETCH. There's an old saying, "Move a muscle, change a thought." If you're trapped in a vicious thought spiral, move your body. Walk, dance, stomp. Just GET UP. It helps.

17. COMPLIMENT OTHERS. It helps, it changes the dark spiral, it lifts you. Try it.
18. BE OF SERVICE. Get up out of painful self obsession & help someone else. Offer $, words, a grocery run for an elderly neighbor, an ear. Do something for someone else.
(Unless you are generally a martyr, a saint, or a healthcare or grocery store clerk, then be of service to others by taking time for yourself. Take an epsom salt bath. I mean it. You need it and we need you to survive.)

Love to you and yours. We're all in this together. Xoxo
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