4 Daily Self-Care Routines for Anxiety - Notes from a therapist's desk
Updated: May 20, 2021
How often this week have you experienced anxiety? The answer is probably more than once and maybe daily.
At the point that anxiety begins to impact your daily life, it has often stopped appearing only in response to external situations and stressors. Instead, you may be experiencing anxiety regularly either once a day or more persistently.
Clients often describe this to me as an 'anxious undercurrent' running through all parts of their day.
Why do we experience persistent anxiety? Unfortunately for us humans, anxiety doesn't have to be in response to unpleasant external things, we can also experience anxiety towards unpleasant internal experiences including anxiety itself.
While self-care is not a 'fix all' solution to any mental health difficulty, it is often one of the first things to be thrown out the window when we begin to struggle.
The busier we feel, the less time we put aside to the activities that support our mental health and we might begin to use short-term fixes like distracting ourselves, opt-out of activities, getting stuck in thoughts, or use substances like food and/or alcohol to help us cope.
I say cope because all of these are ways of trying to coping but because they only help in the short term and often hurt in the long term, they may not be acts of self-care.
The core of self-care is a focus on doing things for yourself from a place of kindness that supports you rather than brings you down.
So how can we begin to move over from short-term coping strategies to long-term self-care strategies? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
4 Daily Self-Care Routines for Anxiety
1. Be present
It is easy to fly through our morning routine without much thought. I wandered into the kitchen for my morning cup of coffee today without spending too much time or effort making that decision.
Our brain likes routine because it allows it to go on auto-pilot.
But we get the most benefit from self-care when we engage with it intentionally and mindfully.
One of the easiest ways for us to begin to embrace intentionality and mindfulness is to ensure that we slow things down. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your routine and if you find your mind is starting to drift away, take a moment to slow down and be very present. You may also want to run through your five senses to help ground you in the experience of what you are doing.
2. Try gentle movement in the morning
Anxiety lives in our body as much as it lives in our mind. Often our body begins to feel like our enemy when we are experiencing anxiety and taking a moment to gently move your body and treat it with kindness can be a powerful grounding exercise.
Gentle movement in the morning might mean yoga or pilates, but your gentle movement doesn't need to be so structured to be effective. You could go for a mindful walk or simply do a quick stretch that grounds you and connects you to your body.
Check-in with yourself to see where you are carrying your anxiety and engage with that part of your body with the kindness and care you would show someone else.
For example, you may want to put a kind hand on your stomach or on your heart if you find that is where your anxiety physically manifests most. Gentle movement can also be a way to relax your physical body and an opportunity to incorporate breathing exercises into your day-to-day routine.
Journaling doesn't have to involve writing a novel per day. You can simply write out any thoughts or fears that come to your mind or go abstract and draw what you feel that day using squiggly lines and shapes.
Your journal is a space for you to process your internal experience rather than turning away from it which is what many of us want to do in the face of anxiety and other unpleasant emotional states.
You might want to journal an intention for the day or reflect on something you are grateful for. There is no right or wrong way to journal so make it your own.
4. Write a To-Do Today List
We all have a big to-do list in our heads that are far too large for one human to complete in a day. And yet, we are hard on ourselves when the end of the day comes round and that list is not clear.
I am a big advocate for having two written down lists. One is your full 'to-do list' and the other is your 'to-do today list'. Make what is on your 'to-do today list' manageable and achievable. You can always add more to the list so set yourself a goal that you can accomplish.
Also, be mindful that our capacity to be productive builds. If you've been struggling for a while, set your 'to-do today' list accordingly and compassionately.
Keep refining and reflecting on your self-care routine.
If you try something out in your self-care routine and find that it doesn't work for you then give yourself permission to let it go! Not all self-care activities will work for everyone because we all have different interests and needs.
Customise and adapt things to fit your own needs, preferences, and schedule and when you do find your routine, approach it with kindness and compassion.
No one sticks to their routine perfectly, so if you find you struggle for a few days show the same compassion to yourself you would to a friend and say to yourself "Hey, we all struggle sometimes. We all stop doing things we know are good for us. If you want to pick them up again I'm here for you."
If you would like support with your journey to changing your relationship to your anxiety get in touch to discuss how one-to-one counselling might help.