HELLA ANXIOUS/ On your table: Memory Journal

This had been a really positive addition to my life recently, because of my horrific memory loss (a common symptom of depression and probably my least favourite). However I'm really great at remembering negative, anxiety-inducing stuff and regurgitating it over and over until I end up in a spiral? REALLY GREAT.

Take a positive subject from your life (right now for me this is travel but it can be anything you really enjoy/enjoyed - food, gardening, films, sports, music, fashion, etc) and keep a diary from memory. You can draw pictures or diagrams, or leave blank spaces to fill in with names if you can't recall them. 

I started doing this with a massive roadtrip I took in New Zealand with my family ten years ago, in a pre-instagram lifetime. I charted out the route we took, and then tried to fill in the gaps - where we stayed, what we did there, what I ate, what I saw, who I met, what I bought. The journalling process was very restorative and really helped me access positive (but forgotten) memories.

Next I did it with other trips. Now I do it every few days and it's actually helping me remember people and instances from positive times in my life. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

HELLA ANXIOUS/ Self Care: Craniosacral Therapy

I've been seeing a craniosacral therapist for the last couple of months (in addition to other therapists) 

Craniosacral involves lying down while she places her hand under or on various parts of my body and makes nearly imperceptible movements to ease tension and thus help the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the body (Or at least that's what she said.) The under body thing was pretty unnerving at first - imagine lying down with somebody's hand under your tailbone - because as an anxious person and an empath, I hate causing people discomfort. If I'm to sit on somebody's lap, I've literally hovered over it since I was a little kid. 

In my first session, we talked a little bit about my history, my emotional state, my health, my sleep patterns and my digestion.

After my first evaluation session with her, she revealed to me a lot of things about myself I hadn't considered:
How tense my body was.
How angry I am and how much anger my body holds
How my circulation is poor
How scattered my thoughts were
How repetitive my negative thoughts were
How my anger is linked to my anxiety and depression
How my digestion is linked to my anxiety and depression

As somebody with agoraphobia, there is nothing as off-putting and stress-inducing as somebody who tells me to do stuff (in the real world). One of the main reasons I liked and trusted my therapist was that in our initial sessions, I told her I didn't want to give up coffee or leave the house. And she looked at me and said - that's okay you're not ready, you don't have to do anything. 

In the several sessions of craniosacral therapy I've had so far (my therapist is only in town once a week), I've had one uncomfortable session (including a fit of sneezes that wouldn't stop) and several energising ones. She called the sneezes discharge and said they are a good thing - tears, sweat, etc, are also good.

In general though, I feel relaxed and refreshed after a session. It feels meditative and it really helps with grounding me. If you are interested in trying craniosacral therapy and would like her details, email me.

 

Artwork by Cauliflower Hour.

HELLA ANXIOUS / On your table: Water

Be like Anne. 

Actually don't even keep reading unless you are chugging on some water. Dehydration causes anxiety symptoms to worsen, causes the brain and body to function poorly, and makes concentration impossible. In short, a dehydrated body is a stressed body is an anxious body. 

Always have a bottle of water handy and sip water throughout the day. 

HELLA ANXIOUS / Productivity: Make two to-do lists

To be honest, I feel like I haven't really achieved a lot in the last few months even though it seems like I am constantly working. At my worst, my neverending to-do list really overwhelms me and it takes me all day to write an email (or not even that) and I've often felt really distracted and scattered, jumping between tabs and not really being able to concentrate and get shit done. Errands especially never get any priority.

The double to-do list has been working for me lately.

I made one to-do list outlining work stuff I have to do - communication, writing, social media, freelance deadlines, all of that. The second to-do list outlines errands and other miscellaneous stuff - appointments, bank work, people I need to call, things I need to organise. Now if I'm ignoring something on my work to-do list, I'm usually ticking something off on my errands to-do list out of desperation to complete something. It's still procrastinating but with something useful and it seems to do the trick.

 

Artwork by Gemma Correll.

HELLA ANXIOUS / Breathing: 4-7-8 for Sleep

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The 4-7-8 breathing technique based on pranayama is one of the best ways to relax and induce sleep when you are feeling antsy in bed. It helps a lot for my anxiety, particularly because I experience physical symptoms like restlessness or a racing heartbeat that don't help me rest. It also distracts me from overthinking. 

Once you are tucked into bed, breathe out, then breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold the breath for seven counts and exhale very slowly through your mouth for eight counts. Repeat four times.

 

Drawing by Ruby Etc.

HELLA ANXIOUS / On your table: Anxiety Object

Seven years ago, a friend (who I barely knew then and barely know now) gave me the perfect present - a rose quartz shaped like a ball. I had it in my drawer for a few years and on a particularly anxious day, I held it in my palm. I couldn't put my finger on why but it made me feel better. 

Your anxiety object can be whatever makes you feel better. For some people, this may be a blanket, or something to wear that offers them comfort. For many others, it is a soft toy, or a pillow. For people who are out and about often, a small object such as a stress ball, a keychain, a crystal, a puzzle, a magnetic balls toy can be useful. (These are some my friends use. Technology is generally best avoided.)

Anxiety objects are great for diverting your focus from anxious thoughts as you look, touch and play with them. Notice their shape, their texture, temperature, colour, size, and any other details. The smaller objects work well because they are available in the moment when other aides are often too difficult or out of reach - e.g. meditation, nature, writing, etc.

My rose quartz, which I cleanse ever so often under cold running water (there are many ways to charge crystals, and this one works for me) feels cool to touch and I pay attention to how smooth it is and how it becomes warmer as it is in contact with my skin. I will often place it on parts on my body that feel hot like my forehead or neck. Sometimes I sleep with it in my palm or against my chest. Rose quartz is also known to have a lot of nurturing properties, though I can't say I know much about other crystals. 

If anxiety objects have worked for you, feel welcome to share your story in the comments.

 

Illustration by Mari Andrew.

HELLA ANXIOUS / Grounding exercise: 1

Acknowledge your anxiety level on a scale of 1-10 before beginning this exercise. 

Sit comfortably and name out loud - 

5 things you can see in the room: E.g. chair, lamp, table, bottle, wall.
5 things you can hear right now: E.g. fan whirring, traffic, trees rustling, bird chirping, somebody's voice.
5 things you can feel on your body: E.g. fabric touching your elbow, foot touching the floor, arm touching your thigh, glasses on your nose, hair on your neck. 

Repeat with 4 things you can see, hear and feel. Then 3, then 2 and then 1. You can notice new things or repeat the same ones. The objective of this exercise is reign in your focus to yourself and your surroundings. 

Acknowledge your anxiety level after you finish the exercise. 

Typically it should have dropped by one point. Repeat the exercise if desired.

 

 

Patch by Retrograde Supply Co.