Five Ways to Better Cope With Anxiety

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten

I’m Kaylin Renee Adkins-Staten, and relaxation does not come naturally to me. Anxiety, on the other hand, does. When I’m not feeling anxious, my brain cultivates scenarios in my head so I will be anxious. This form of self-sabotage is exhausting. That is why I knew I had to do something.

I’m a perfectionist by nature and trade. When my high-school classmates enjoyed being a teenager, I focused on my up-and-coming communications career. My work-life balance in college was likely 90%/10%. I didn’t stop to enjoy life and smell the flowers because OMG THAT WAS SUCH A COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME WHEN I COULD BE PRODUCTIVE INSTEAD. I am blessed beyond measure for my accomplishments and each day of my journey; however, by my late 20s, I realized that my perfectionism was actually out of control more than it was in control. And the pursuit of control is my favorite pastime!

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy for anxiety and other mental health issues. What works for me may not work for you and others. My one hope is that you can glean some sort of working ratio to balance your own life and anxiety.

Here are five ways I have managed my anxiety over the last six months:

Set reasonable goals and objectives.

Perfectionism thrives on unrelenting high standards. Mine began to cultivate in my toddler days, and by the time my late 20s rolled around, I couldn’t save myself from drowning in my own head and stress anymore. So, I decided to get help. Help comes in several forms. My first foray into seeking professional help didn’t go well (the psychiatrist and I just didn’t work well together, for the sake of remaining professional about it). The therapist I am currently seeing told me about a Perfectionism in Perspective workbook from Australia’s Centre for Clinical Interventions. They really care about mental health Down Under, and this workbook’s nine modules helped me immensely as I dove headfirst into the unknown regions of my mind. Tackling your unrelenting high standards and belief systems, conducting social experiments and more are the foundational tools you’ll need as you begin your journey.

Now, I have a six-week system I adhere to, with an example below:

  • Perfectionism behavior I will be working on: Relaxing my goals of achievement
  • Specific goal toward reducing my perfectionism behavior: Set reasonable measurable outcomes/goals for my business and clients
  • Timeframe: Six weeks (to see beginning of progress)

I make a list of five essential goals to achieve for the six-week period for clients, my business and more. I check in at the three-week mark to assess progress and make any adjustments as needed. This is just enough structure -- but with a twist of reality.

Give yourself an incentive when you reach the finish line of your goal! It’s not a bad thing to motivate yourself with something you love. I purchased a magnetic Tarte palette and allow myself to shop on (going to the store is a dangerous free-for-all for my wallet) for a new eyeshadow every six weeks when I meet my perfectionism goals -- or most of them. Adjustments are sometimes necessary if you take on too much.

Set aside blocks of time on my calendar to remain organized.

All of us have allowed personal and professional items to slip through the cracks for one reason or another. We may have too much on our plates and still commit to something -- or we may have an anxiety-induced migraine and are sleeping the afternoon away in bed. No matter the cause, it’s vital to have some type of organizational structure to keep you afloat. It’s also vital to factor in many variables to your schedule. In my profession, a to-do list could go out of the window in an instant if a crisis or major project arises. Be flexible but still have a method to your madness.

I maintain a Google Calendar with blocks of time for each client/project/something #behindthehourglass. I come from a rare point in time in which I am equally comfortable with the digital world and the world of paper. So, I like to combine my approach. In addition to my Google Calendar, I also write daily to-do lists and other ranging priorities in my physical planner. I recently ordered this one with my initials (KRS) embossed on the front. Having a 1940s floral vibe helps to motivate this vintage-loving perfectionist. I have tried to keep digital to-do lists, but the habit lost its luster after a while. I always go back to paper!

According to this article from PRSA’s Strategies and Tactics, write out your to-do list the afternoon or night before. It’s a good way to do a brain dump and start the process of relaxation for the evening (if that’s what you’re looking to do). I write a new list for each day. This article has great tips for to-do listers.

Make a relaxation list.

Relaxation doesn’t come naturally to me, so I had to make a separate goal for myself for each six-week period. I schedule relaxation time whenever I need it. This is still a work in progress for this binge worker achievement addict. I still work as hard as I ever did, but now, I know there is more to life than work. If you put all of your eggs in one basket, and that basket breaks, where does that leave you? Potentially more anxious and depressed than before.

How do you calculate your self-worth? By putting everything that is important to you and your well-being in a pie chart. Here’s mine:

My Self-Worth Chart

Here’s a sample of my list:

What I Like to Do to Relax (in no specific order)

  1. Read paper or digital books

  2. Play video games (mobile, Nintendo everything, PS4)

  3. Do things with my husband

  4. Travel to new places and explore new cultures

  5. Take bubble baths

  6. Write for fun (poetry, short stories, novels, etc.)

  7. Play with makeup and try new techniques

  8. Listen to music and podcasts

  9. Sleep

  10. Watch favorite TV shows and movies

  11. Laugh with Aubree

  12. Garden (especially vegetables, herbs, dahlias)

  13. Take photos for fun

  14. Play with Ilia Garnet

  15. Do anything crafty (make wreaths, edit photos, etc.)

Have real conversations with yourself.

If you’re of the perfectionist variety like I am, you already have a strong inner voice. While in the throes of a panic attack or self-induced pity party, you may have thoughts like, “I have so much to do and no time to do it,” “I am a failure,” “Why did I say that? I look stupid,” “Is so-and-so mad at me?” and/or my personal favorite, the quintessential “I SUCK.” Use that inner voice for the productive good -- not self-bashing evil! Realize what you’re good at, and say and write affirmations until you change your thought patterns and belief systems to rewire your brain. After a while, all of us get stuck in a rut. If you just did something that you don’t like (even if it’s something minor like forgetting to take out the trash on trash pickup day), forgive yourself! The world will continue to turn, and everything will be OK. Stop being so hard on yourself (I say this to myself several times a day).

Once you are honest with yourself and your strengths and shortcomings, you will be well on your way to living your most authentic life. This a huge step if you’re a people pleaser. You can learn to say no if you don’t want to do something.

Focus on everything associated with your mental health.

Your mental health affects everything, so start looking at it from a holistic approach. This can be challenging at first for those of us who love the details, but think about how your mental health could be comprised or helped by any of your actions, beliefs, behaviors, etc. For example, I have had eczema since before I was one year old. Within the past year, my eczema began flaring up again. Of course, the creases of my elbows and behind my knees are always susceptible. But, this time around, it began invading my forehead near my hairline and both of my cheeks. Your mental health has a lot to do with pre-existing conditions.

Be mindful of your other conditions and triggers. If you tend to become stressed when someone tells you what you should and shouldn't do with your career, for example, learn coping mechanisms. We can't avoid contact with human beings entirely, so see what works for you. Perhaps saying something like, "Thanks for your opinion [again], but I'm really comfortable with my choices." Stand up for yourself while also remaining compassionate.

Diet and exercise also help you better manage your mental health. If you're feeling anxious or depressed and eat an entire pizza, chances are, you will still feel like crap. (Trust me, I know. I am the girl who loves eating Cheez-Its, gummy bears and other bad-for-you snacks.) Once you start a regimen, even a small it, it can work wonders for you.

Anxiety can be positive.

Read my first blog about anxiety here.

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Omnimedia, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Omnimedia, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV. 

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