5 Things That Have Been Helping Me Distract My Mind and Manage My Anxiety

Anxious feelings have really been fucking with my shit.
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Claire Lower
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Anxious feelings have really been fucking with my shit.

I've always been an extroverted and outgoing individual, but I've also always been a very anxious individual. I've never really thought of it as "having anxiety"— it's just how I am. I love being around other people, but I also compulsively replay conversations in my head. I enjoy parties and large social gatherings, even though they leave me feeling exhausted. I live for attention, but get embarrassed if the waiters at a restaurant sing "Happy Birthday" to me.

Literally me.

Literally me.

This is just how I've always been, and usually I don't mind. In some ways I feel like my anxiety keeps me sharp and self-aware, and it's rarely more than an annoyance. Recently though, anxious feelings have really been fucking with my shit. Mornings are the worst, and sometimes I feel like I literally can't get out of bed, so I lie there under the covers, shaking, until I have to get up to take my dog out. I then feel guilty about staying in bed so long, and berate myself for being lazy and unmotivated. It's not a great cycle.

So that sucks.

Luckily, there are tools and tricks I can use to chill the eff out, it's just a matter of doing them. Below are my favorite was to distract myself from anxious thoughts and feels, and I'd love to hear yours in the comments. 

Moving Around

I always feel much calmer after going for a run, but sometimes getting myself all spandex-d up and strapped into my sports bra seems much more daunting than it should. 

So even if I don't get out for an actual "run," I make a point to at least go for a walk, even if it's just through the pretty part of my neighborhood to the grocery store. If I'm too anxious to even leave the house, I've found putting on Sly & the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" and dancing as hard as I can for the glorious three minutes and ten seconds of perfect music provided by this song.

If your ears have not yet have the pleasure of getting acquainted with the above, I suggest giving it a listen. 

Getting Out Into Nature

Feeling unimportant can actually be very relaxing and looking at a waterfall or giant freaking rock is a good way to get some perspective on how little I matter in the grand scheme of things. There's something soothing about taking a hike and noting how the flowers, trees, and rocks are completely unaffected by my problems and anxious thoughts.

Simply put" flowers, trees, and rocks don't give a fuck and are going to keep on being flowers, trees, and rocks regardless of how my day/week/life goes, which is both freeing and a little humbling. 

If I can't make it all the way to the falls, I'll take a short jaunt to the rose garden near my house and count bees. (I don't know why but I find counting bees very pleasant and just distracting enough.)

Drinking Less Ethanol

Okay, so this isn't really a distraction technique, but it's worth mentioning. Frankly, I've been using drinking as a distraction, and that isn't really working out so well. 

Not only is it bad in a physical "I am literally poisoning myself" kind of way — poison isn't a great mood stabilizer — but drinking makes me say a lot of things, which is fine, except I then spend a good bit of time worrying about who I offended or weirded out by saying those things. Also, there is also nothing more terrifying than having someone fill you in on the details of something you don't quite remember doing. 

Meditation, Mantras, and Breathing

Sometimes I just need someone else to tell me what to do with my thoughts, and for that I turn to Andy from Headspace. Guided meditation is the only kind of meditation I can do, and this app is frankly delightful. 

If I don't feel "up to" doing a whole ten minute meditation session, I'll use a breathing exercise I learned early on in my Headspace journey, where I count inhalations and exhalations until I reach 10, then start over again at 1. I never think it's going to help, but it almost always does.

If I'm so overwhelmed that the act of counting seems stressful, I'll throw on a chanting video from YouTube, which is almost magical in its ability to snap me out of my anxious thought cycle and calm me down.

Chris Fleming

There is something about Chris Fleming's videos that make me feel that everything is going to be okay. Maybe it's because he's a little anxious himself, but his rambling, kind of all over the place style of comedy gets me out of my freaking head and makes me laugh. The only downside is that I usually don't surface from my YouTube k-hole for about an hour.

How do you deal with anxious thoughts and feelings? I'm always looking for new tips, and would love to hear yours. Also, have you tried counting bees? Or am I then only one who does that?