“I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.” — Atticus

Anxiety. It’s something that is not often talked about, even though many struggle with it, including myself. The stigma of mental illness can hold people back from talking about what they are experiencing or from seeking help. However, we need to stand up to stigma and let others know that they are not alone. We need to stop ignoring that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Anxiety can be extremely overwhelming and it can be suffocating at times. I have dealt with anxiety for a long time, and due to life changes and challenges, it has stuck with me. In general, a little anxiety is good for you, as it keeps you motivated. However, when it begins to cause body pains, makes you overthink every little thing, and affects your everyday functioning, it can be debilitating.

Five months ago, I moved from the US to Ireland. This was completely out of my comfort zone and it took a lot of courage. I have felt all sorts of emotions. However, anxiety was the most prevalent. Although, I hit rock bottom at one point, and wasn’t sure how to cope, it made me stronger than I have ever been. Through this experience, I have learned what helps me when I am at my most anxious times. I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

Express your feelings.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It takes courage to be vulnerable and express how you really feel. It is a strength. I am grateful enough to have friends that have helped me through the most challenging times. They have listened to me without judgement and inspired me to not give up when I wanted to. Find someone you trust and ask them to listen. Seeing a therapist is also a great way to talk to someone and form a trusting relationship where you can freely express yourself.

Be kind to yourself.
 It is very important to be kind to yourself. To treat yourself just like you would treat a loved one, especially when you are struggling. It allows you to not be so hard on yourself and to know that your mistakes do not define you. Tomorrow is a new day and you can always start again. Also, practice self-care. It’s isn’t selfish, it is critical.

Just breathe.
 I recently learned of the 4–7–8 technique and it is very helpful. Try it and see what happens. You breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7, and breathe out slowly for 8 seconds. Doing this repeatedly can help you relax within a minute.

Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
 Anxiety and caffeine is not always a good combination. It can often make anxiety worse. I have personally struggled with eliminating this. I typically have only one cup of coffee at most per day. I also go through fazes of not drinking it at all. If you are looking to eliminate it, I recommend doing it by slowly lowering your intake, switch to half caffeinated half decaf, and then tea if you fancy it.

Alcohol is also something you want to limit if you experience frequent anxiety. When you are having an anxious day, sometimes you want to turn to alcohol to numb the pain. That is what we do when we drink-numb all of the feelings we don’t want to feel. Binge drinking only makes me feel worse, especially the next day. I have recently cut down my drinking significantly, and it has felt very freeing.

Change your environment.
 Sometimes, the environment we are in can be anxiety provoking: At work with a demanding boss, at home when you are all alone, or when you are with family members. Although it is not always the answer, removing yourself from these environments (even temporarily) can help to ease anxiety. I have learned that some environments make it extremely hard to cope with your anxious feelings if you don’t remove yourself.

This is one that I have found to be very helpful, even though I haven’t had much of it this past year, as I have been moving all around the world. However, the times that I feel most relaxed are when I have a consistent schedule and living situation. With anxiety, it can feel like you have so much you have to do. However, structure allows you plan things ahead, so you have less decisions you need to make when the times come. My spontaneity doesn’t always help me with this one. 🙂

These are just a few things that have helped me to cope with my anxiety. I hope that these suggestions can help others who are going through the same thing. If you are dealing with any sort of mental illness, it is important to seek help and know that there are people out there who do care. And remember, your anxiety doesn’t define you. You are worthy of a full and joyful life. Just take it one day at a time.

“You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly ok to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared or anxious.” — Lori Deschene

Originally published at medium.com