Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety

Disclaimer: All information below is based on my own experiences and opinions. None of the information below is meant to diagnose, treat, or used as a substitute for professional medical advise. This information is intended to be a helpful addition to your current treatment plan. As always, discuss any changes to your symptoms or treatment with your physician.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (, 18.1% of adults in the US suffer with anxiety.

I have suffered with anxiety as far back as I can remember, even as a young child.
Through my many years, I have found several helpful ways to reduce anxiety. I have discussed my anxiety with my primary care physician for as long as I have been with him. Together we decided when it became time that I needed a little extra help with controlling my anxiety. A lot of people are able to manage their anxiety perfectly well without medical intervention, and many of us need that extra help whether it’s a daily medication or one on an as needed basis.

I have found that for myself, I need a multi-directional approach to manage my anxiety. Everyone is different, and no single treatment will work the same for everyone. That is why it is so important to have an open discussion with your health care provider and come up with a plan that fits YOU.

Every day is different, so it’s always good to have a variety of options to pull from to help deal with anxiety. Sometimes I need to quiet and calm my system from stimulus overload, and other times I need to “get out of my head” because the more I think the further down the rabbit hole I go.

So, here is a list of things that I personally find helpful.

  1. BREATHE. Yes, I know… that’s what everyone tells you to do. But seriously, a deep slow breath in and blow it out, helps to re-center yourself and reset.
  2. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes we get over stimulated and need to calm our nervous system down because it is just overflowing (fight or flight hormone). So, put yourself in “Time Out”. Reduce outside stimuli: turn off the lights, TV, noise, etc.. and let your nervous system calm itself and stop pumping out all that extra adrenaline.
  3. Get Grounded – Literally. I find something very therapeutic about getting my hands or feet in contact with nature. Take off your shoes, dig your toes in the grass. Get a few plants and make a small garden, flower bed, or even a container garden on your balcony or patio.
  4. Crank up the Music!! There are numerous studies out there about the affects of music and Music Therapy A LOT. There’s no wrong genre here, go mellow or rock it out, it’s all about what makes YOU feel better.
  5. Dance it Out. Sometimes with anxiety, we find our whole body is just buzzing with adrenaline that “crawling in my skin” feeling and we need some way to burn off that extra energy. An impromptu dance party in your living room is a great way to get it out, and nobody cares if you look silly.
  6. Exercise. I’m not gonna lie, I could utilize this one way more. Exercise has been proven to release more of those “feel good” hormones, and helps to burn off that extra energy when you have that crawling in your skin feeling. You don’t have to go to the gym or run a marathon. Just lace up those sneakers, and go for a walk. If you don’t have a safe place to walk in your neighborhood, most parks have great walking trails around them now.
  7. Read a book. As I said earlier, sometimes the more I get into my own head, the worse my anxiety gets. So, finding a good book is a great way to pull yourself out and distract yourself with something else while quieting your physical self.
  8. Get Creative! You don’t have to be Michelangelo. Get some colored pencils and a coloring book, break out the brushes and paint, play with clay, sew, crochet, knit, make beaded bracelets, etc… There are endless ways to create and find your own artistic outlets.
  9. Animals. Some of my best days were spent hanging out with our little flock of chickens, watching them run around and chase bugs. Our two cats are so fun and cuddly. Sometimes it’s physical comfort, others it’s the act of taking care of another living being, or simply enjoying their presence.
  10. Talk it out. Family, friend, therapist, support group… Find someone you can be comfortable and honest with. My sisters have listened to me for years talk through the most seemingly irrational things that had me worked up. Talking to someone isn’t about needing answers, sometimes it’s having someone just listen.
  11. Identify your triggers. There isn’t always a specific reason behind an anxiety attack, but there are usually a hand full of things that we know will trigger our anxiety. Keep a journal for yourself to help identify these triggers. . I know that “the unknown” is a big one for me, so research and asking questions about new things I’m unfamiliar with is helpful and makes me feel more in control. I have randomly occurring anxiety attacks in the car since I had my car accident 13 years ago, but being the driver and not a passenger helps me. Knowing a potential cause can better help you better prepare for situations where you may experience high anxiety.
  12. CBD oil/supplements. I debated on whether or not to include this one, because I really wanted to steer clear of any “medication” recommendations. But, CBD oils and supplements as well as traditional cannabis use has been found to be helpful for so many people. As with any other medications, talk to your physician and your pharmacist as there could be interactions and/or side effects. Medications and supplements affect everyone differently. I tried several different brands of CBD oil before I found one that worked for me. I have had the best results using a full spectrum CBD oil. There are a wide variety of tinctures, isolates, oils, edibles, etc… So, if you decide to try this route, don’t get discouraged if the first one doesn’t work for you.

Whew! I know that was a long one, and there are so many things we could add. Know that you are not alone when dealing with anxiety, there are millions of us! It’s always great to talk with others who experience similar issues. We can learn so much from each other. Let me know if there’s anything on this list that you found especially helpful. Are there any ways that you have found work well for you that I have not listed? If so, please feel free to share in the comments!

When Life Doesn’t go as Planned

We all have a pictures of our ideal life, but what happens when the universe throws a monkey wrench in those plans? What do we do when we have major upsets and life doesn’t go as planned?

If you had asked me a year ago where I’d be; I would have confidently have said I’d be living on our family’s small farm, working as a vascular and wound care nurse at the surgical practice I loved, and very slowly continuing my Bachelor’s in Biology with hopes of continuing on to PA school. I had no plans to change the way my life was. I LOVED living on our family farm, right next door to my grandparents and aunt & uncle. My 3 children LOVED living on the farm, running freely back and forth to Granny & Papa’s, helping Uncle Bobby and Aunt Ann in the fields, and tending to our flock of chickens.

Life was great. Then in September 2018, that all changed. Hurricane Florence hit Eastern North Carolina, and sat over us for 3 days dumping an unimaginable amount of rain. We received a mandatory evacuation order from our local volunteer fire department…the river was rising, and major flooding was expected. We packed what we could into our cars, and tried to put things we couldn’t up on top of counters, beds, dressers, and tops of closets, in hopes that if it did flood those things up higher would be ok. Then left everything behind to go stay with family outside of the danger zone.

And it flooded. Worse than we could have ever prepared for.

Our cousins in a boat took photos of the farm for us. This was taken after the waters had started coming down.

The river rose so high, it surpassed the buoy that measures the depth of the river. They estimated around 29 ft….6ft higher than the flooding after hurricane Floyd in 1999. It would be over a week before the waters receded and we could survey the damage. It was so much worse than we could have ever imagined. Even though we had gone through this once before 19 years earlier…This was SO. MUCH. WORSE. Very few homes in our rural community were spared. The damage to our homes on the farm was so extensive that they could not be repaired. We lost EVERYTHING. All 3 of our homes will be demolished, and the fate of the farm is yet to be determined as we wait for flood maps to be redrawn. Thousands of families were displaced, and housing options in short supply. After 6 weeks of furiously searching, we finally were able to find a new house….2 hours away from the farm I’ve called home for the last 25 years, and nearly 2 hours away from family that we’ve been right next door to, or within a short drive.

So, here we are 6 months into our recovery. And it truly is a process of recovery. Losing and replacing objects is more of a frustration than anything. Stuff is just “stuff”, it can be replaced. It’s the mental recovery that is the hardest. I have battled through stress, anxiety, depression, and just being completely overwhelmed with grief. I have mourned the life we had and loved. I have mourned the loss of the place that drew our family together for every occasion we could think of. We’ve all had to get accustomed to living in a neighborhood in a more suburban area, and not having family close by when you need something, or just need some company.

Where do we go from here? What do you do when life doesn’t go as planned? You re-evaluate, and start to form a new plan. Figure out what your top priorities are, make short term goals, and give yourself time to adjust. You don’t have to do everything overnight. Will I go back to nursing full time? Continue my degree? I honestly don’t know, and it’s a bit scary. I like familiar, routine, organization, knowing exactly what to expect. So, basically EVERYTHING that life is NOT right now!!! For now, I concentrate on organizing my physical space to help calm my mental space. Finding a new routine, and beginning to form new plans. Join me as we explore this new path that life has lead us to, take back control of this life, and find our new direction. What are some things you do when the unexpected happens? How do you cope when you’re thrown outside of your comfort zone?