Mindful Journeys: Building Your Anxiety Toolkit

We all have our comfort items, foods and even songs and movies that can make us feel better after a rough day. However, what if those items didn’t work for you? What if you had to figure out and learn all new coping mechanisms to get you through days where you don’t even feel like getting out of bed?

That’s exactly what I had to learn with anxiety. When I didn’t even find my favorite activities (reading and writing) or my favorite songs enjoyable anymore, I knew I had hit a low point. My mind was so focused on anxiety, I couldn’t find anything good except for trying to figure out how to make it stop.

My therapist told me about how anxiety toolkits are one of the most beneficial ways of tackling anxiety. Like a normal toolkit, it’s full of various items that can be used to help you when life gets to be a bit much. What works for one person may not work for another. There are hundreds of different coping mechanisms to choose from, but here are some that have worked for me:

Writing it out: I love to write creatively and journalistically, but taking time out of my day to put my thoughts to paper has helped me see my thoughts more clearly. I bought a journal that allows me to follow a prompt once a day with a corresponding way to handle anxiety for a year. I’ve been doing it for almost two months and it’s become a part of my daily ritual where I look forward to seeing what the new prompt is about. Writing this weekly column has also aided in how I handle my anxiety. 

Getting exercise: The amount of endorphins released when one exercises is immense and can help lower stress levels. However, I’m not the biggest gym rat in the world. For me, I like to hit my yoga mat, follow a workout video online or go for a long walk outside when the weather is nice. I’ll even blast my music in my headphones and dance around my room. When I get my heart rate up and blood flowing, I feel so much better afterward. It’s time out of my day when I get to focus on myself, be in touch with my body and not worry about other stressors. 

Chilling out: This sounds obvious to a lot of people, but when you actually take a chill pill, are you actively taking a breather or are you just waiting until you can be done resting to jump back into the swing of things? I’ve had to learn that taking breaks isn’t procrastinating work, but necessary for my overall well-being. My version of self-care varies from day to day. It can be doing a beauty mask while enjoying a self-help podcast, a long hot shower or losing myself in a guided meditation. Depending on my mood, I can choose what can help me unwind. 

Anxiety doesn’t always hit me at home. It can happen wherever, whenever. My therapist told me about an app called “What’s Up?” Despite sounding like the social media app, it’s been one of the best app recommendations I’ve gotten. It has breathing/grounding exercises, ways to reframe your mindset, affirmations and more, right at your fingertips. Whether I’m walking to class, out in public or riding in a car, I can turn to my phone for instant tools to help calm me down in an instant. 

It takes a lot of trial and error to build your anxiety toolkit. More so, strategies for tackling your anxiety can come and go. I’m still working on building my toolkit to help me be the best I can be, but having a sort of safety net that can help soothe me has helped me get to where I am today.

(Courtesy Emma Johnson)

Write to Emma Johnson at Emma.johnson.5@mnsu.edu

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