Self-Care to Combat Anxiety

A contemplative fisher sits on bank.So many of us are loaded with stressors. Maybe we’re not excited about what we’re doing; we may take on certain tasks because this behavior is modeled to us from early on in our lives. For example, we may have learned that one parent stays at work for what seems like ages, while the other parent drowns in chores and errands and parenting; it may seem that this person who does a wonderful job caring for others has no personal time. This can make it easier for you to later fall into similar patterns telling yourself “a good caregiver works as much as it takes to provide,” or “with so much to do, there is no time for rest.” The problem with these messages is that they cause us to sacrifice part of ourselves in the process.

So how do we take care of ourselves? Hopefully, you have a list of things you enjoy, have time for, and make happen. For those of us struggling with anxiety, though, I fear we have a difficult time getting our own needs met. Some of this may be due to ingrained messages that involve tons of responsibilities. Some may be due to not knowing how to best address our own needs or even our own doubt with internal messages like “Do I really deserve ____ (fill in the blank with whatever needs or want that may come up)?”

If you don’t have that list, please don’t hesitate to make one. You deserve it. What might be on it?

One of the most simple pleasures for me is alone/quiet time. It may be an hour or less, but I love it. Maybe it’s a chance to watch that TV show you save but don’t get to. Maybe it’s a chance to read: the newspaper, a good book, magazine, whatever. Reading seems to be sacrificed for many, because Facebook or another online activity commands so much of our attention. Maybe your downtime occurs while riding in the car or on a bus or at any other time, as you wait for the next thing to happen.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Collecting (beads, buttons, pennies, old stamps, etc.)
  • Arts and crafts
  • Model building
  • Cooking—try new recipes (If you worry about eating too much, give some to your neighbors. They may love it). This can also be a wonderful way to connect and make more friends.
  • Attending church—includes support groups they may offer
  • Visiting coffee shops—many smaller ones have books to read, games to play, and relaxing music to enjoy.
  • Crossword puzzles—every so often, I’ll grab a magazine with a puzzle in it and have at it.
  • Drawing
  • Volunteering—I know the good feelings I receive in helping out is worth the work.
  • Educational/hobby classes—each city around here puts out a monthly/quarterly magazine with classes (some one-time, some maybe for a month or so) on anything from computers to cooking, sports, etc.
  • Gardening—either at home or at a local garden where volunteers come together to tend a garden and the food is donated to local families in need.
  • Movies/concerts in the park—these neat activities are often free and widespread. It’s important to get out, even if you aren’t interested as much in the particular band or movie.

If you feel too busy to make any of this happen, there is a major problem. Feeling too busy won’t relieve your anxiety. When it comes to lightening our angst, think lightening your load. We can achieve this by examining all the responsibilities you currently have (and I’m not  talking only about work or chores), as well as adding in more of the good stuff, such as activities you enjoy.

Get detailed when looking at your current responsibilities. Write them out. Things like running someone else’s errands, taking on more at work, with community, or school groups, doing things in what you or others may think is in excess, and so forth, all count. Outline how much time these things take—and be honest, asking yourself, “Do I truly have to do all these things? Can I do them some of the time or maybe one less time to allow myself time for a little fun (maybe one of those activities I claim I don’t have time for)?”  You don’t even have to create big chunks of time, just half an hour here and there. Beware though. If you start making the time for yourself, you may hunger for it and want more. Not such a terrible thing, I say. Taking care of ourselves in this way helps bring down anxiety levels.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, Anxiety Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jeanette

    July 26th, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    One thing that I don’t think that I saw mentioned here is exercise. For me this is the very best self care that there is!
    It relieves my stress, keeps me focused on the task at hand. . . it is kind of hard for the mind to wander to unpleasant things during a 5 mile run.
    This is my time to enjoy doing something that I love and that is good for me too!
    It isn’t one of those guilty little pleasures, this is actually something that I enjoy that does the body good.
    This might not be the thing for you, but there is always something out there that can help bring you this same kind of enjoymeny, and once you discover just what that is then you will be happier than you have ever been.

  • Kelly

    July 26th, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    I feel like such an old fogey after Jeanette, but I took up knitting as a way to take care of myself and to maintain some sanity in my life. I like the methodical planning that knitting takes, and just the feel of the needles and the yarn makes me automatically calmer.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 26th, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Absolutely Jeanette. I love it and brought it up in a recent article here. Nice.

    @ Kelly — a good one indeed

  • Dave Kovitch

    July 27th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    I never knew just how good doing things for other people could make me feel good, but I got involved in a meal delivery program for older members of my community through my church and this has been such a wonderful experience for me. I feel like I am making someone else happy and helping ensure that they have ahot meal daily, and they make me feel good just by those smiles that I receive when they open the door. It is so true that it feels better to do for others then it does to do for yourself. Of course you have to take care of your own needs, but this has become one of my ways to know that I am doing something ggood for someone else and sometimes that’s all I need.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 27th, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    Beautifully said Dave and congrats to you for helping.

  • brittany

    July 27th, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    as a working mother I often find myself running out of time to do things.Sometimes I wish I could just wake up one morning and stay in bed.But with so many things to be done and looked after there really is no “me” time for me any more. I had a hobby of collecting stamps before but now even that little hobby seems to have no time.

    I think for some of us, only a drastic change or help can help (?) :|

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 28th, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I am sad to say Brittany that you are not alone with this thought. It cannot be this way though. You deserve support. Whether it is with your significant other, family, friends, neighbors, etc., you need a break too. Parenting is a good in itself and I would want you to have at least some time for you

  • Brandi

    July 28th, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I know that there are some moms out there who will think that I am terrible to say this, but my favorite self care times come when everyone else leaves the house and I can get a little alone time just for me! That is the one thing that I have missed so much since becoming a mom- I love my children and my husband dearly but I swear there are times that I would simply kill to be in a room by myself for more than a minute at a time before someone needed me for anything! it’s like you want to be needed, and then again you don’t. I like it when they all come back home too :) but that little bit of time gives me a real chance to breathe, relax, and focus on me just for a little bit.

  • mena

    July 29th, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    @ Brandi- you shouldn’t feel bad for needing some time for yourself!
    We all need a little time to decompress and I think that this is where a lot of moms really mess up. They think that their lives have to totally revolve around the kids and they fail to take a time out for a little breather for them.
    That doesn’t mean that you run away forever- but find a good book, let your husband take over for a little whole, and enjoy that alone time, knowing that this can make you a better mother in the days to come!

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 29th, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    I could not have said it better myself. Brandi, Mena is so right. Honestly, I feel the same way sometimes with my own time; having some peace and quiet is a treasure for me too.

  • tim

    April 23rd, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    these are good tips for men

  • Deb S.

    September 16th, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    “Skills” don’t always work … Then what??? Nice ideas except when you’re dead smack in the middle of anxiety and can’t get to them. Because one can’t access these “skills” can worsen anxiety and make it more of a secret.

  • Jo

    December 18th, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    I used to do crafts but now my anxiety and depression have become worse I cannot face it.

    Also tried joining local groups and volunteering but anxiety put stop to that due to what some of the anxiety is about including what others think of me and i wont fit in plus going out alone.

  • Jessica J-C

    April 2nd, 2017 at 2:00 AM

    I’m going through Ptsd and I’ve got parents that hacked , broken into my house and had everything that I had stolen, nothing can stop the crime and pain when I became disabled but when I do finally get out of NYC’s area. I would like to have a safe place for that

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