How I manage anxiety is a question I’ve thought about this week with the news about the beloved Kate Spade—it’s honestly easier to talk about other things as creatives and go-getters … isn’t it?
But, whenever I feel like I shouldn’t talk about mental health/people are sick of it, I ask myself “Would I have needed this 3 years ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago?”
Here’s something I wrote the same week I started my business:
“I’m a smidge scared to write this, but my story’s already leaking out. Like the little Dutch boy, I’m realizing my finger’s no match for what God’s stirred up. No, I don’t just LOVE talking about my struggle with anxiety, depression, and disordered eating, but what I do ‘just love’ is seeing God move. Getting texts and messages from other girls saying they felt like this, too. Because in the midst of the storm, I felt so alone. It was really hard for me to find faith-based resources for dealing.”
It. is. okay. to talk about these things, and it’s even MORE okay to get help for them.
Inc. magazine dove deep on this a few years ago in this article, and there are SO many amazing reads and resources for getting help.
Today—since, as Rising Tide Society has accurately mentioned reports citing 1 in 3 entrepreneurs deals with mental illness—all I want to do is explain, from the standpoint of someone who almost didn’t make it through all this stuff, what I do to deal with anxiety.
I’ve shared my story many places, but in a nutshell, I was partially hospitalized in 2015 at age 27 for anorexia nervosa, generalized anxiety, and depression. After I got out of recovery, I quit my job in corporate marketing/PR to start my own business, mostly because I was just over it all.
All I want is for perfection addicts like me to taste the freedom I’ve found.
So, I’m just going to share 4 things I ACTUALLY do on a weekly basis. I’m just a small business owner, so I’ll list resources too that I’ve found helpful, because I’m in no way trying to give true medical advice!
Okay, let’s go!
Tip 1: Practice Body Scans
“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” <– That’s a usually misattributed C.S. Lewis quote (it wasn’t him, in fact! Source), but I remember scribbling it all over my recovery binder.* I hadn’t really thought of connecting my mind and my body before.
*Yes, I had a recovery binder … with tabs … in anxiety recovery. Type A much?
Here are 3 quick body scans I do during the week. I learned all three at Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders, and still do them!
1. Body check
Disclaimer: There are great professional meditations and guides on this out there. I linked one I like below!
But when it’s just me on a Monday, I start at my feet and work my way up. Where am I holding tension? Where am I stressed? I have a tendency to clench my jaw shut. Relax it. Let your tongue go from its grip on the roof of your mouth. DID YOU GET THAT!? Maybe it’s just me, but my tongue presses up to the roof of my mouth when I’m stressed. Even on nights when I’m trying to will myself to fall asleep because I can’t, and I do a body scan, guess where my tongue is … slammed to the roof of my mouth. Amazing. R-e-l-a-x it.
Erin Treloar at Raw Beauty Talks has SUCH a good mind-body-heart scan right here if you have 5 minutes to listen! We walked through one of her meditations as part of Jenna Kutcher’s mastermind the other month, and it rocked.
2. Next, physically unwind your body
God made our masterful bodies are an amazing extension of our thoughts. When I’m anxious, I’m physically tight and wadded up: legs double-crossed, foot (more like entire leg) jiggling 90 miles an hour.
My anxiety is doing anything to keep me small, to keep me from taking up room.
So, take up room. Relax and let your body take. up. space.
3. Note how you are doing
We used to check in during our recovery sessions and classes with this, and I went from thinking it was SO STUPID to loving it. 😉 Ah, recovery. But yeah, basically, sit for a moment and think through these 3 questions.
- How does my body feel right now? What adjectives would I use to describe it?
- How do I feel emotionally right now? What adjectives would I use to describe how I feel?
- What’s one thing you did for self-care in the last week? (ex. walk outside, take a bath, paint … there’s a bit of gratitude, which always calms me down!)
That’s how we’d check into our body image class, and for some reason, those are the 3 questions that I always remember, but I’m sure you could ask yourself anything!
Oh, and say the answers out loud. I think that helps.
Tip 2: Get on a low-information diet
The next way I manage my stress levels? STOP CONSUMING SO MUCH MEDIA.
I have to work really hard on this both as a former journalism major, PR girl, and current content creator.
Content is king, marketers say … we know this, we breathe this. but we created a monster:
Every day, 432,000 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube, and there are 95 million Instagram posts uploaded each day.
Learning how to quiet our souls and gatekeep our minds is tough as it is, not to mention when you’re an entrepreneur and your business’s success depends on what you can learn and apply.
But, we have to consider how the content monster be rewiring our brain a bit.
Plus, you gotta get to a place where you see your brain as your business’s best asset.
So, start consuming less information. Here are some practical things I do:
1. I don’t consume a ton of news. I read The Skimm each morning, listen to NPR in the car (bonus: those voices calm me down!), and balance out that with Ben Shapiro’s podcast a few times a week since my political views are really similar to his in *most* ways. That’s it. I don’t stress myself out about knowing everything, like I did when I worked in media and had to get my hands on every second of news as it came in.
3. I check social media 2x a day. Usually when I’m on it to comment/be social, I set a 30-minute timer.
4. I keep my phone on airplane mode a lot and batch-answer texts. Probably not the best thing in the world to do, but for some reason, I get a lot of texts (I promise I’m not popular!) and it’s easier if I just sit and answer them all at once during the day. I also batch-check my Slack messages and notifications.
5. I follow the rule in Andy Crouch’s The Tech-wise Family—take 1 hour off a day, 1 day off a week, 1 week off a year from technology/social media. I have social-media free Sundays, which sometimes is a digital detox (as few screens as possible!) when I can help it. If you see a post from me, it’s because it was scheduled.
6. I schedule social media posts with CoSchedule and Plann.
7. Quiet car rides a few times a week. Just think. No podcasts, no Spotify. Just thinking.
Best book I’ve read on all this? 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.
Tip 3: Manage Your Time to See Where It Goes
Ok. I know I talk about this stuff all the freaking time, but it has been probably the #1 benefit in *not* working for my old boss.
When you work for yourself, the goal is to set up a business that can run when you can’t. Right? We’ve gotta treat ourselves like NFL players a bit—we have NO idea when we’ll be out, and time freedom comes from time managed on the front end!
I have better OFF time when I practice good ON time, otherwise, I’m tearing up at 11 p.m. typing a sales page for a client that’s due by midnight … because I did something dumb earlier.
Working for someone else, I was on her clock, and that gave me such anxiety. I was to leave my inbox constantly open, answer my phone on weekends, jump tasks during the day, etc.
It was a productivity and stress nightmare.
So, nowadays I have implemented a ton of systems so I’m able to control my time. I do things like:
- Batch my tasks (one “theme” a day) and try to keep Mondays and Fridays closed to the public. 🙂 These are my wind up and wind down days in the week, but Tuesday-Thursday I’m on for students and clients. Click here to read how I batch my days.
- Email ninja when I DO go in my inbox with Nancy Ray’s Email Ninja How-to Training
- Actually track my time. Here’s a video about why and how I do that, below!
Again, I know I sound like a broken record to some of you, but if you’ve never heard me talk about productivity tips before, please explore them! Because …
Tip 4: Rock Your Off-Time
I’m reading Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam, and her books, in general, give me all the feels. But this one is especially good.
Recently, I talked to her about what off time is, and saw that she’s really talking about it as whenever you’re “off” … so, not just weekends, but time in general.
So, what can you do to REALLY enjoy your time not working? How can you expand it?
These are some of the things I do:
Get mindful. Okay, so this is an example for like, during the week itself. This was one of my favorite things therapy taught me. Did you take a shower this morning? Ok, but did you feel the water drum against your back? Smell your shampoo (mmm, Purology, y’all), and see the steam? You can use the 5-4-3-2-1 trick: If you find yourself anxious, pause. Name 5 things you can see right now, 4 things you can touch right now, 3 things you can hear right now, 2 things you can smell right now, 1 thing you can taste right now.
Ex: See – I can see my coffee-filled mug, my Bible, green grass out the window, and the Teil Duncan print over my desk. Touch – Right now, feel my computer keys, my Nike pullover, my soft Lulu leggings, Adler’s paw against my leg, my hair brushing my face. Hear – I can hear the air vent whirl, my computer keys taps, cars rattle down my street. Smell – I can smell Mrs. Myers lavender candle, coffee. Taste – again, ze coffee. 🙂
Make pleasurable moments in the little things. How can you enjoy the everyday tasks you do? For me, I buy Mrs. Myers laundry detergent even though it’s ‘spensive because I genuinely enjoy smelling the clothes as I do the laundry. Can you light a luxurious candle in the bathroom as you get ready on a normal Tuesday morning? Can you buy a plant for your desk that makes you happy? Instead of the 17 Bic pens in your drawer, can you purchase a nice ballpoint pen to use (my favorite is Caran d’Ache, about $17 on Amazon, OR Le Pens!).
This is lame, but I feel like I was SUCH a penny-pincher until after recovery. I started to see that spending a few dollars more here and there on things that TRULY brought me joy and calmed me down were worth it. I would rather skip things that stress me out (ahem, paying to get my nails done) and put that $15 towards something that *really* calms me down.
Plan your weekends on Thursdays. I started doing this and LOVE it. In recovery, we had a weekend planning class (put a bunch of ED warriors together and the thought of being around friends, family, and food over the weekend was an immediate anxiety hurricane!), so that’s where the idea stems from. I pause on Thursdays and write down:
- 1 anchor event for Friday, 2 anchor events for Saturday, 2 anchor events for Sunday (idea from Laura Vanderkam). For example, Braves game with the family on Friday, Yoga class Saturday morning, furniture shopping/dinner date with Wes on Saturday evening, church Sunday morning, solo art relaxing time Sunday afternoon
- How much sleep I’ll get, and how I will protect that, if I’ll nap, etc.
- How I’ll nourish myself/recipes I want to try/restaurants I want to try
- 3 people I’ll spend time with, and how/when I’ll do that
- Ideas for how I’ll rejuvenate and recharge, like what I’ll read/watch, etc.
No end of week motivation to finish the drill well quite like this!
I could go on and on, but those are my favorite recovery relics that have still served me. Entrepreneurship is no joke, and as Lori Grenier from Shark Tank has said, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40.”
So, managing our stress is so, so important: our brains and our energy are truly our most valuable asset, and just like our iPhones, we have GOT to recharge.
How do you manage worry and anxiety?