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I know, I know, the title is a bit dramatic, though I’d be lying if I said life has been a breeze. I think we should all give ourselves credit for how stressful life has been in the past few years especially. A pandemic, college, stepping further and further into ‘the real world,’ worsening global climate (political and environmental), and everyday stressors. Me personally, I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder for years. So without further ado, here are things that have lessened my stresses and kept me motivated to work towards my life goals, in no particular order. 

  1. Music

Many times I have been told by friends that it is hard to get my attention when I am walking around campus. I’m usually listening to music at an embarrassingly high volume and can’t really hear anyone around me. Studies have shown that our heartbeats can be regulated with the music we listen to, and this has always been the only thing that consistently helped my anxiety.

  1. Art

I’ve known I wanted to be an art major since high school. I never saw art as a way to express myself, it is just something I enjoy and consider myself to be good at. It has always felt like a unique quality I possess that created a sense of stability in my life. 

  1. Reading 

Though I do not read as much as I used to, I give books credit for being my escape in rough patches in my life. I still value a good book, but don’t find myself with enough time to be distracted anymore. 

  1. Writing

What you’re reading now is one of my preferred outlets for expressing myself. It is also another great distraction from stress.

  1. Animals

Until college I always had pets, mostly dogs, and spending time with them is a good distraction. Apparently, there is some science to it because there are studies that suggest petting dogs reduces stress

  1. Naps

I simply cannot be stressed if I am not awake. Sometimes my anxiety can keep me from sleeping well, but it is also nice to be able to take even 15 minutes to rest.

  1. Comfort Shows

I have watched The Punisher, NCIS, Supernatural, and The Blacklist all a criminal amount of times. Watching TV is another way to let my stress take a vacation; it helps when it is a show I’ve seen before because I don’t need to worry about the fates of the characters either. 

  1. Venting

Sometimes you just have to make the internal anxiety external. So, special thanks to anyone who has had to listen to me rambling about what is stressing me out. It can help me see solutions when I talk about my stresses out loud. 

  1. Pacing

For those who don’t know, anxiety is essentially a dump of unneeded adrenaline into the body. Moving around helps work out that adrenaline. If I’m just in my room and don’t have time to take a walk, I’ll just pace to burn some of that energy. 

  1. Being Outside

This mostly applies to my jobs, trust me, I’m not saying standing outside makes anxiety go away. I’ve worked retail before and being crammed into a small space on a busy day with loud, angry people is not, in fact, good for your anxiety. Working mostly by myself on the Furman Farm this past summer was a nice change of pace.

  1. Walks

When I do have the time and the opportunity, I would prefer to just leave whatever space feels full of anxiety. Usually, that is a classroom or wherever I am doing classwork. Removing myself from that space makes me feel less stuck with the associated anxiety. 

  1. Skateboarding

I picked up skateboarding during the initial COVID lockdown, a hobby to keep me busy and somewhat out of the house. Now it is something I can do to burn energy, leave a place of anxiety, or lessen anxiety about being late to something. 

  1. Smoothies

Smoothies got me through highschool. I was often too nauseous (due to anxiety) in the mornings to be able to keep down solid food. I lived off of strawberry banana smoothies for breakfast a lot in highschool. 

  1. Drawing on Myself

This is another oddly specific one, but I like to count it separately from art because half the time I’m just drawing random shapes on my hands. I’m not creating a masterpiece when I doodle on myself; I’m grounding myself in an activity to distract myself and calm down. 

  1. Showers

Showers are one of those things that you can’t possibly be expected to multitask during. I find myself trying to do classwork during mealtimes, sleeping less to do assignments, and in general committing my time solely to anything but my own health. However, showers are sacred, mostly because I haven’t figured out a way to multitask without getting paper or electronics wet, but let’s pretend I have boundaries. 

  1. Heated Blankets 

I saw the hype about weighted blankets and tried one. I’m not claustrophobic, but that thing sure did make me feel trapped. Then I found out about heated blankets. I have two, one for my house when I go home, and one for my apartment. I use them religiously, even during the summer. Something about the warmth really can have a soothing effect on anxiety. 

  1. Hacky Sacks

Stress balls are another thing that I never bought into. It stressed me out that they were so hard to squeeze (or that I have no muscles). What I did figure out was a good alternative for me was hacky sacks. I usually mess with them during zoom calls or during meetings, an alternative to being super fidgety. 

  1. Rings

I started wearing a lot of rings in middle school. When I have them on nearly every finger it gives me a sort of confidence boost. It feels like armor almost, and maybe that’s because it looks like I have on brass knuckles (so I’ve been told), I’m not sure. I also fidget with my rings, and they keep me from picking at my nails (a nervous habit). 

  1. Retail Therapy

I’m gonna be honest, sometimes you just have to ride out the anxiety and wait for it to pass. It isn’t ideal, but whenever there isn’t anything I can do to lessen it, I surely will treat myself to something I’ve been wanting. This is usually something like a chocolate bar or t-shirt, nothing too crazy. 

  1. Green Tea

While yes, caffeinated drinks and anxiety do not mix, hot tea and honey is pretty comforting to me. Whenever I have a self care day or I feel sick (illness or anxiety), I make myself tea. It’s less about the tea itself and more so the familiar routine of making tea and the warm sensation it brings to drink it and hold the mug. 

So there it is, 20 things that help my anxiety. I’m sure most of them are more along the lines of sugar pill cures, but hey, whatever works. We all have odd random things we do to calm ourselves, and maybe sharing mine and my struggles with anxiety will help someone else feel less alone in these issues. 

Grayson Jarrell is a sophomore at Furman University majoring in Studio Art. She spends her free time painting, reading, writing, and riding a skateboard.
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