Dealing with anxiety – distractions or sitting with the anxiety?

Dealing with anxiety…. that is something i know far too well. Unfortunately, i have had to deal with different types of anxiety for many years of my life.

When i look back on my life, it is only in recent years that i have realised that i suffered from anxiety at a young age. But back then, i never really knew what it was…. i didn’t understand anxiety or why i felt the way i did. I realise now, that alot of the thoughts and feelings i had were due to anxiety. Alot of my anxiety was due to worrying and being a perfectionist back then… the worrying of “what will others think?”, “how will it go?”, worrying about the things i can’t control or all the things that might go wrong. I still have those thoughts and feelings, the anxiety before something new, or anxiety with change or with unexpected/surprise/new situations… but that is a post for another day.

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This post is about how to cope with anxiety:

I am the type of person who relies on distractions to cope with my anxiety.

I go for walks, i clean, i cook, i bake, i listen to podcasts, i go to the gym. I distract myself from my anxiety until it goes down.

And sometimes when i am in the middle of a very bad anxiety attack i have to call someone and talk to my mum or my sister because no other form of distraction works.

Distractions don’t always work…. sometimes i go out for a walk or go to the gym to distract myself from my feelings and thoughts but end up just wanting to cry or lie down on the ground because i still feel awful on the inside/in my mind.

And there are times i try to distract myself with watching YouTube or cleaning or cooking, but i still get the feeling that i just want to crawl out of my skin and get out of my own mind and thoughts.

Othertimes i need to just lie curled in a ball and listen to a podcast and play candy crush or scroll through social media such as instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest to distract myself from my anxiety.

Usually keeping myself busy – especially things like work, cleaning, baking, cooking are helpful for me. I am not the type of person who can just be still and sit with my anxiety.

However… that is the main topic of this point. That sometimes distracting yourself from anxiety isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes you just have to learn to sit with your anxiety and know that it will reach its peak eventually and then it will lessen. The more you run and distract yourself from anxiety, the worse it gets. Sometimes you just have to sit with your anxiety, take deep breaths, maybe sit with someone else or if you have a pet, and just listen to music and take deep breaths. Or even writing down your thoughts can be very helpful.

Distractions are a way to run from your anxiety, and i think facing your anxiety… just like with all problems is the best solution. Sure, distractions work… but they won’t always work. Or there will be times when you can’t distract yourself.

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When i was in eating disorder recovery, one of the things i had to learn was to sit with my anxiety before and after food. 

Before meals there was this constant build up of anxiety and i tried to distract myself with Suduko or Youtube or blogging, but after meals we always had a 30 minute rest time where you had to lie down on a matteress and just rest. And at those times you couldn’t distract yourself from the extreme guilt and anxiety you felt. Instead you just had to take deep breaths. The fact is, that after those 30 minutes the anxiety had begun to lessen somewhat….. not always. Most days the anxiety was non stop because it was 6 meals a day and anxiety before and after each meal. But eventually the anxiety began to lessen and learning to just sit with my anxiety and not have to distract myself or turn to coping mechanisms to deal with the inside feelings, thoughts and panic.

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It is also important to note that when it comes to anxiety regarding food and exercise, there will be times when you can’t distract yourself from the anxiety either. Example, if you are eating out with friends, or if you are on holiday with family, then you can’t just excuse yourself to go for a walk or start cleaning or baking. At those times you just need to sit there and take deep breaths and eventually the anxiety will reach its peak and then it will begin to lessen.

The more you learn to cope and sit with your anxiety, the stronger you will get. You will realise that the anxiety won’t kill you. The anxiety won’t harm you, it is the actions you take to distract/cope with the anxiety that are harmful or dangerous. Also you will begin to realise that you can infact cope with the anxiety, you can sit through it and be ok.

I no longer have anxiety regarding food or exercise, instead it is alot of worrying about the uncontrollable, worrying about things in advance, worrying about the future etc etc

But one of the things i have forgotten over time and stopped doing, is just sitting with my anxiety. Instead i try to distract myself and like i mentioned in the beginning, it doesn’t always work… and i don’t think distracting yourself is the most beneficial over time.

Sure it works sometimes, but i think over time you have to learn to sit with the anxiety and not distract yourself or use harmful mechanisms to cope or escape from your own thoughts. Of course like most things, it is easier said than done.

This is just my thoughts on the subject….. and as mentioned earlier, i have sort of forgotten to just sit with my anxiety and instead rely on distractions. However, i think i am going to try to rely less on distractions and more on just deep breaths, journalling and music to get me through my bouts of anxiety.

I must mention though, that since changing work my anxiety has decreased SO MUCH. I felt incredibly awful – for a bunch of different reasons (i.e illness, antibiotics, stress, anxiety, worry), but can actually say i am doing good now and don’t feel that constant worry and anxiety inside of me. Even if i had alot of nerves, worries and anxiety before starting the job… i have realised that those pre-anxiety nerves and worries/anxieties aren’t always called for. The mind makes up so many negative scenarios and situations and i think of all the things that could go wrong and build up this negative scenario in my mind and things never go as wrong as i think.

Yet another long post – i really should start with YouTube and talking about these subjects. But i would love to hear your opinion on this subject…. if you struggle with anxiety, do you rely on distractions or do you just sit with your anxiety until it is gone?

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I have some previous posts about anxiety here:

Anxiety attacks & help

Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks 

Anxiety and mental health day

Signs of stress/burn out

Mental health posts

Gut bacteria and connection with eating disorders , anxiety, depression

Types of anxiety/my thoughts:

Work related anxiety? 

Summer anxiety

Stepping outside of your comfort zone, trying new things

Change is scary – Feeling both anxious and happy…..

Comparing lifestyles – feeling like you are not doing enough

Overcoming social anxiety as a vegan

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Lily says:

    I’ve never found distracting myself a good way to cope. If it makes sense, I kinda get distracted from the action I want to distract myself with, because of anxiety. For me only crying it out helps, sometimes talking to others and crying at the same time. Like whenever I get anxiety, it is just too strong and I cannot concentrate on anything, however much I want to distract myself.

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    1. Exactly. Sometimes distractions just don’t work… and you are just stuck in your head and thoughts anyway. I think letting out the emotions, sharing your thoughts or feelings is a good way to cope with the anxiety… but also more lasting/long term beneficial!

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  2. J says:

    Jag distraherar mig allt för mycket. Jag skulle behöva möta ångesten och inte trycka undan den hela tiden. För mig har värmefiltar gjort att jag kan slappna av lite mer och gråta istället för att bli alldeles för uppfylld av ångesten. Jag försöker djupandas också och bara vara i det som är. Väldigt svårt och tungt, men jag tror att det är det bästa. Ibland kan distraktion vara bra, iallafall om du eg vill göra något destruktivt eller fastnar i destruktiva tankar som inte är hjälpsamma på sikt. Jag tycker att det kan vara skönt att skriva av sig också. Få ner tankar och känslor på papper för att kunna skapa distans. Ibland går det inte alls, då försöker jag mest att andas mig igenom det som är och fokusera på sådant som är bra.

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  3. Sophie says:

    I think it is best to meet the anxiety ang go through it, it has to be done sooner or later. Distraction will only prolong the process but sometime you have to go through the bad thoughts and feelings to get rid of them once and for all. For me, what works best, is absolutely talking to a friend or therapist. It makes the anxiety go down when people understand my feelings and can give an explanation why I feel that way. Otherwise I can write out my thoughts or listen to someone talking about the things I struggle with. It really helped me because today I barely have any anxiety at all! 🙂 First I tried to distract myself by exercise, walks, studying, cleaning and the stuff you also use, but that never helped. I only ran away from my problems and fears instead of facing them. It is tough but it’s so worth it. We grow and get strong by battling our fears! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, i think facing the anxiety is the best thing to do – that was what i had to do in recovery with food and exercise related anxiety. But now when it is just life related anxiety and worrying, it is harder to face and easier to just distract myself until it is gone. But i think the best thing is to just take deep breathes, face the anxiety or talk/write about the feelings and thoughts and get it out of you somehow…
      This post was a sort of self reflection for myself as well… 🙂 That is one thing i love about my blog that i can share my reflections and self analysis, which is also part of growing and learning – to reflect on your own behaviour and habits to improve or make changes.

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  4. caroljoanne1969 says:

    Treatment for anxiety worked for me – cognitive behaviour therapy alongside prescribed medication for anxiety. It was hard getting to grips with the CBT to begin with but with help from my therapist I got the hang of it and it has been a real life saver for me. Now when I feel that familiar “bubble” of anxiety rising I can deal with it before it escalates too far, I just use the “tools” I have learnt work best for me. Of course medication isn’t the answer for everyone but it certainly helped, and continues to help me.

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