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May 10

The Things I’ve Done to Drastically Help Relieve My Anxiety

heidilauidlldiningroommasterbedroom214

Photo: Heidi Lau

I’ve been fairly candid about my off and on battles with anxiety and depression around here and it always feels so wonderful to get these things off my chest. If there’s one thing I’ve realized during the course of doing so it’s that I’m definitely not alone. We are not alone. And that’s often enough to set me back on the right track.

Although I do my very best to keep everything as authentic as humanly possible around here, there’s no denying it can be tough to find the balance between relatable and inspirational. The reality is that my career as an interior designer and social media influencer (side note: ick – I will never be comfortable with that term) innately focuses on beauty and perfection. Ironically, though I LOVE my job, it can feel particularly overwhelming when things feel anything but perfect in my mind. I’ve struggled off and on with different levels of anxiety and depression throughout the course of my life, but it became particularly bad throughout January and February of this year. I have since made the conscious decision that anxiety is not something I plan on dealing with forever. Don’t get me wrong – I know it’s something I’m always going to have to keep my eye on. But I truly believe that it’s something I can, and will, overcome.

I’ve spent the better part of the last two months working really hard on myself. Soul searching, really figuring out who I am in my core, working on my self-love, and my self-development have been my number one priority, and I’ve really honed in on how to help myself when I’m feeling at my worst. I want to be clear when I say that I am not a professional and I will never profess to having all the answers – or even necessarily the right answers. I also know that everyone is entirely different, with different backgrounds, seeing the world through different lenses, and we all experience different levels of suffering. So while these tactics may work wonders for me, they very well may not work for you and that’s perfectly okay. But I wanted to share all the same in hopes that this, too, helps one of you – even if it’s just for a moment. And, even better, encourages you to do some exploring yourself so that you, too, can find your light. Here is how to relieve anxiety (at least in my world):

[break]STAY HYDRATED[break]

Oddly enough, I’ve realized more than anything else that being dehydrated is one of my biggest triggers. Coming from someone who was anti-water for the better half of my life (truly – I would go days without taking a sip and lived a good chunk of my life with a perpetual headache), it has been a bit of an adjustment. But this change alone has helped by leaps and bounds. I now carry a big ol’ water bottle around with me everywhere I go, and make it my goal to fill it up at least four times throughout the day. Some days are better, some days are worse, but I can legitimately feel anxiety creeping in the moment I start to slip on my water intake. 

[break]SLEEP MATTERS, BUT NOT IN THE WAY YOU THINK…
[break]

Though the amount of sleep I get each evening makes a huge difference, I have noticed that the quality of sleep I get is almost more important for my mental health. I’ve been told that every hour of sleep before midnight is equivalent to two hours of sleep after midnight and that couldn’t feel truer. When I get to bed by 10:00 each evening, which is now my goal every night, I feel infinitely better the next day than if I stay up even a minute past midnight. Though I have always known I do best with 8 hours of sleep, it doesn’t really seem to matter exactly how many hours of shuteye I get, it’s when I fall asleep that counts most. This may be different for everyone, but I encourage you to play around with your sleep schedule in an attempt to find one that feels best. 

[break]OUR FEELINGS DON’T LIE[break]

Whether it’s a movie I’m watching, a podcast I’m listening to, or a long brunch with a friend, I find that stopping to truly take stock of how I feel after each activity once it’s complete helps tremendously. Our bodies will give us cues as to what we should and shouldn’t be putting ourselves through – most of us have just gotten really good at ignoring them. For example – for a while there, I was really into true crime podcasts. And while I still find them fascinating I’m now well aware of now of how crappy I felt after listening to each episode. Heavy. Nervous. Sad. Those were all things I was voluntarily putting myself through without even noticing. And now that I’m aware of it, I have much less of a desire to partake.

Similarly, I’ve done the same for how I feel after a good run (amazing), or a sweaty yoga class (invigorated), gorging myself on cookies (nauseous), or a coffee date with a particularly negative friend (drained)… The closer you pay attention, the more desire you have to take part in the activities that feel good, and the more likely you are to cut out the ones that don’t. Essentially I’m now very cognizant of what I’m putting into my mind, my body, and my soul. And it has had a tremendously positive impact on my mental health. 

[break]LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF. BUT FOR REAL.
[break]

I’m truly starting to believe that the secret to happiness lies in how much we love ourselves – flaws and all. I hate to be simplistic about it, but when it comes down to it, we all accept what we think we deserve. And the more we love ourselves, the less crap we’re willing to put up with, and the less anxious we’ll then feel. A girlfriend of mine recently pointed out that the things that most of us tell ourselves every day are inexcusable. Some of my favourite reoccurring stories are “your legs are too fat to wear shorts” or “your hair is so flat and stringy”. Can you imagine saying these horrendous things to anyone else? I would never! And I’m not a violent person, but I’m confident I’d want to punch anyone who uttered similar words to anyone – let alone the people I love. So why is it acceptable to say these things to ourselves?

The more I work on my own self-love and self-confidence, the more aware I am of the legitimate abuse I used to subject myself to daily. Working through lunch. Skipping family dinners. Accepting a task knowing full well it means I won’t get a good night’s sleep. We are often our own worst enemies. And the more I work on liking and accepting myself for exactly who I am, the more I prioritize myself and my happiness. I eat healthier – not because I want to look good but because I know I deserve to feel good. I schedule the time to work out. I make time to meet my girlfriends for dinner. I decline jobs that don’t excite me because I know and trust that I’m talented and better things will come. It is not easy – trust me – but the more I work on loving myself, the higher my standards become. And in the end, everything feels so much lighter. Brighter. And significantly happier. 

[break]DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP[break]

This one has been really difficult for me, but it does become easier the more often I do it. Please don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend or family member to lend an ear, or booking an appointment with a therapist, getting the thoughts and worries out of your physical body is a game changer. I know how lonely it can feel when you’re in the thick of it. And while it’s terrifying to confront those heavy feelings (trust me – it took years for me to build up the courage to speak to a therapist), you’d be surprised at how wonderful it feels once you do. Not always, but often. And funnily enough, the more I love on myself (see above), the easier it gets for me to ask for help. If you aren’t yet comfortable expressing your emotions out loud, I highly recommend writing them down and tossing them in the trash. Often simply getting my negative thoughts out of my physical body is the best thing I can do for myself. 

[break]TRY TO SEE THE BEAUTY IN THE DARKNESS[break]

I know, I know, I can feel the eyerolls through the screen. But I once read a quote that said “When you’re in a dark place sometimes you think you’ve been buried, but perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom“. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, is that my anixety tends to peak right before something major is about to shift in my life. And while it feels dark and overwhelming, it has always been met with a lot of beauty in the end. I’m still not entirely sure if the anxiety causes the shift, or if it senses the shift and is reacting, but either way something pretty great always seems to follow. 

I’d love to know – do you deal with anxiety or depression? I’m a work in progress and am constantly striving to be better. If you have any tips for how to relieve anxiety I would love to hear them!

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  1. This is such a thoughtful post that will help many people.
    Re getting help, happily it is less of a big deal than it used to be. We go to the doctor and to the gym (often with a trainer or instructor) for our bodies, to the dentist for our teeth, to the hairdresser for our hair…why wouldn’t we get professional assistance for maintaining the health of our mind and spirit?
    Wishing you all the best.

  2. Cynthia says:

    I am always seeking the balanced life…..the road to becoming a healthy person. It’s not an easy road because our world promotes chaos….without us even knowing. We really need to be less concerned with what others think….it puts unnecessary pressure on us!
    I believe that healthy people (emotionally, physically and spiritually) function as God has designed and intended them to function. Health is defined as completeness and wholeness :):):)
    Here is my quick list of ways to conquer anxiety ……
    1. Physical – Proper rest, nutrition and activity ( work, exercise)
    2. Psychological – Mental (being truthful), Emotional (loving….truly loving yourself and others) and Volitional (living obediently to a set of morals and beliefs)
    3. Relational – Family (spouse, children, parents, siblings), Friends, and Co-workers
    4. Spiritual – Trusting God with all your heart…..with every aspect of your life. Living with open hands;)

    I have personally struggled with anxiety to the point of a nervous breakdown. Now much older….I know the signs. One way to increase your balance and eliminate anxiety is to find your most deflated tire from the list above and expand or grow it :)

    One day at a time…… and remember…….a cheerful heart is good medicine :) Keep Happy!

  3. Erin Smith says:

    Love every. single. bit. of. this.

  4. Oana Valeria says:

    The part about loving ourselves. So true. We would never tell anyone the ugly things we tell ourselves. And we don’t only tell them but we believe they are true. This post was good to read. Thank you.

    • Right!? You actually don’t even realize how often it occurs until you try to STOP. Simply being aware of, and subsequently stopping myself from that negative self talk has allowed for the biggest shift in my self love and self respect

  5. Céline says:

    Thanks so much for all ;it is important all what you say and also to remind us ,because i tend to forget sometimes when i am in a crisis ;that old habits tend to come back ,but one day at a time those bad habit don’t stay very long because it’s very confortable

  6. Céline says:

    I wanted to say at the end of my text :very inconfortable (hope i can say that )i am learning inglish
    Hello from Montreal

  7. Kate says:

    I am going through anxiety/depression and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Its posts like yours that really help me along and strive to help myself. My therapist told me about anxiety, “future thoughts don’t belong to you. You don’t own them and have no business being in them”. When I find myself wandering in to worry (usually about the future) I think of what she said and it really helps bring me back to the present. Thank you for being authentic. It means more to people than you probably know.

  8. S says:

    First time I am commenting on a blog, and I have been a follower of your blog for years. So thank you so much for sharing, this means the world to me. I am currently struggling with depressive thoughts and anxiety for the future as I am about to enter my thirties. Most of my life is well organized from the outside as a well educated woman with a respectable job and a great social network with truly amazing friends, but I still feel incredibly lonely and I miss a significant other, which makes me feel so unbearably sad and restless. Would love to read about your experience in dealing with depression (in addition to the anxiety part) and how to carry on with your everyday life when it really kicks in.
    P.S. The beautiful interior posts are a perfect little everyday escape! Keep up the good work! x

    • Ugh I am so sad to hear that you struggle, but am so glad you chose to reach out. I’m not sure what your belief system is, but I find the thing that helps me the most when I’m ruminating about the future is to tell myself that”everything is exactly as it should be”. I truly believe that we’re all here to learn and grow and experience life, the highs and the lows. I believe that the universe has my back, and find that when I remind myself of that when I’m at my worst helps immensely to just let go and go with the flow

  9. Amanda says:

    I’ve been getting better about saying “no” to events or other commitments that I do not truly care for or love, but have felt obligated to do in the past. I have also made my circle smaller to focus on quality vs. quantity. It seems selfish, but I feel like I’m a better mom, wife, daughter, and friend overall because I’m not stressed or stretched too thin. I can now thoroughly enjoy being in the moment where I am.
    In regards to water, add fruit – limes, lemons, oranges. It’s pretty and gives it flavor so you’re more likely to drink it. My coworkers used to joke when I cut up limes at my desk – now they want the other half for their own water bottle.

    • YESSSS to the quality vs. quantity. I am all about this myself. And there’s nothing selfless about it! If your cup isn’t full, you aren’t able to offer anything to anyone else anyway. We have to take care of ourselves so we can then, in turn, have enough to give to others

  10. Angela says:

    Thank you for posting this, it’s really helpful, especially the last point. Two things that have helped me deal with anxiety are consistent exercise and drinking less caffeine/coffee.

  11. Sandi says:

    Fabulous post. I identify with all of it, which is fortunate and unfortunate. Thank you for your honesty and suggestions. Really enjoyed the part about loving yourself. This meant so much to me to read today, thank you.

  12. Heather says:

    Thank you for sharing! This is beautifully written! I am a huge believer in vitamin P, as in Prozac! Along with healthy eating, therapy and being hydrated it has helped me with my anxiety. Although not everyone needs meds for anxiety I certainly do, it has been a game changer. I will not spend time with negative, energy sucking people and I do things that make me happy! I have embraced myself at this moment, which is all we can really do. I Marie Kondo ‘ed my surroundings and that was very therapeutic. I got rid of all the things in my life that did not spark joy. Your candor and honesty are helpful to all of us. Thank you so much!!!! My prayers are for everyone dealing with anxiety and depression to find peace in your heart! Also try listening to Caleb and Kelsey they are on iTunes, there music will speak to your soul!

  13. Lara says:

    Have you tried CBD?

  14. Kelly says:

    I can relate it all and agree with ur sharings. Yes. Love yourself more ! you deserve it.
    Love and hugs fr hk.

  15. Peg Allegretto says:

    You are not alone, ever. Hugs and kisses!

  16. Erin says:

    Thank you so much for your incredibly honest post about anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety for years and like you refuse to let it get the best of me. After reading your post I’m seeing my anxiety in a new light and am going to try a couple of your suggestions. It can be scary to be vulnerable and share these parts of ourselves, but there’s a larger community that needs to hear your truth (our truth) and I appreciate you doing this. I always look forward to your beautiful posts! Thanks so much for being you.

  17. Caroline L says:

    This year, I’ve felt more anxiety than usual – in fact, this week has been a huge bummer on that front. Needless to say, this post was very helpful to read. I’ve found that the weather greatly affects my mood – so if it’s a sunny day, I try to get out there as much as possible. Even if it’s not, going outside for fresh air and a slow walk around the neighborhood has also helped to clear my mind and relieve my chest.

  18. Julie C says:

    This post is everything Jacquelyn. I know you and I have chatted about this topic before but I just thought you should know how truly amazing it is that you are able to share this with all of us. You have come such a long way and you should be so proud. I find lately I am on my phone way too much, Instagram especially. And this triggers my anxiety immensely. As much as I follow people that I love and genuinely care about, I get way too caught up in what everyone else is doing and forget to live my own life. It’s SO important to be in the moment and enjoy time with the ones we love. I also love your advice about bed time. I cannot agree with you more on this one. And it’s something I really need to start seriously focusing on for myself. I do find when I meditate before bed (I LOVE the “Calm” app), I have more deeper and restful sleeps. I’m also going to try drinking more herbal tea and cut coffee out of my daily routine (it hurts to type this lol) but I truly believe it will make all the difference for me. Lastly, seeing a Therapist is the best thing I have EVER done for myself and my well-being. It truly saved my life and I am so grateful. The best advice I can pass on is: “Don’t tell yourself anything you wouldn’t tell a friend.” Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can xoxo Much Love – Julie C.

  19. gina solon says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your candor is so appreciated. I wanted to suggest something that has helped me so much in the anxiety/panic attack department. It’s magnesium. Literally the easiest, cheapest (though I would suggest a high quality brand, no generic), simplest thing that has made such a noticeable difference in my life. xo

  20. Dina F. says:

    I truly appreciate your candor. I have experienced anxiety throughout my life and now my 3 grown daughters do also (how nice of me to pass that on :)). I have found that the more I know about and accept it, the less is plagues me. It sounds like you have taken all right steps to get it under control.
    I will say that being a creative individual seems to go hand in hand with anxiety. I don’t know if it is our desire for perfection in the things we do (I am an Interior Designer), or the need to see beauty in everything? I just know that my more creative friends and acquaintances can relate!
    Thank you for an honest and insightful post.
    Best to you.
    – Dina F.

    • Oh man I HEAR YOU on the accepting it instead of fighting it. That has been a game changer for me too.

      And the thought of creativity being a catalyst for anxiety is really interesting to me. Now that you point it out, most of my creative friends suffer equally. So fascinating!

  21. Mallory says:

    I really appreciate this post! Reading about how you deal with anxiety and depression and tips on how to avoid or notice signs is so helpful! I have been experience anxiety for a little while now, and have had some episodes of depression throughout the years. It so frightening and so lonely, but you are absolutely right, we are not alone and talking to someone is such a good way to get back on track and be able release your feelings and worries. One little trick that has helped me during those overwhelming days is to keep a little booklet by my bed, each night I would right down 5 positive things that happend that day (could be as small as a person holding the door with a smile, saying good morning) anything I was grateful for during that day. Going to sleep on a positive note helped start the next day off on the right foot! I also try and limit my caffeine intake, if I know I will be having a hectic or stressful day ahead (that can set anxiety off for me as well). Love the tip on staying hydrated!! I would have never of thought! But it’s so simple! I will be more aware of this now for sure. Thanks again for sharing this with us!!!! Xox

  22. Kathleen Z says:

    I have always found that when I think too much about my worries my focus can be all encompassing, but when instead I think of helping others my mind shifts to the beauty in uplifting or giving . Joy replaces worries.

  23. David Ip says:

    JC I always love looking at and reading all your stuff because good or bad you’re absolutely authentically real, it’s a hard quality to find in people. Stay well and don’t ever change!

  24. Kim says:

    Echoing many others; thank you for sharing and reading this made me feel a little less lonely in my own struggles with anxiety and depression. Something I’ve been doing lately that helps is just taking as little as 10 minutes a day or every other day to practice yoga (I follow along with YouTube videos), and it’s very calming.

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