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Mental Health

I Tried the 20 Day Anxiety Challenge And It Made Me More Anxious

When I stumbled upon the 20 Day Anxiety Challenge it was just before exams when everything was due. Obviously, I was very curious if it could actually make me less anxious during this normally uber stressful period. The premise of the challenge is to complete the list of 20 things over 20 days and in turn, it is supposed to help you ‘reset’ and make your days filled with anxiety a little more bearable. So I decided to give it a shot and set out on this 20-day journey to figure out if I could be a little calmer this exam season.

Day One: Spend 20 Minutes Outside

When I started this challenge it was freezing out still and, although it was sunny, going outside did not seem like an enjoyable task. I walked to my classes and to the library, but that was about it. Although, on my drive home I attempted to get some fresh air by driving with the windows down. Either way, I didn’t really find this task enjoyable, or helpful towards anxious feelings. I will say, however, if the weather had been nicer I’m sure that it would have been a helpful and enjoyable experience.

Day Two: Color A Page In A Coloring Book

On day two I was absolutely exhausted, I ended up skipping my last class in hopes of coming home to take a much-needed nap and just to relax. I find when I’m stressed or anxious I’m exhausted and feel the need to go to sleep at 3pm, then I wake up and feel even more stressed and anxious because I wasted the day sleeping. So, instead, I crawled into bed once I got home, turned on my favourite talk show and began to colour a totally awesome print out I found online. The colouring did feel good and was very calming; however, I found that as the time was passing I was still anxious that I was not going to get the work I needed to accomplish done. Truthfully I was still exhausted and ended up laying in bed afterward in hopes of regaining energy and waking up less stressed.

Day Three: Write Down Five Things You are Grateful For

This day was an absolute shit day. I handed in an assignment only to figure out after it was done completely wrong, I had mega relationship arguments and ended up falling off my food plan because I justified getting pizza for my shit day. After all that I was feeling really down and listing what I was grateful for really put my brain into perspective that some people don’t have what I have, and their anxieties are so much bigger than a bad assignment, a diet, and a dumb fight. This exercise has been my favourite so far. My five things were: my family and friends, my pets (Todd and Tia), my home (with my boyfriend and I), I get to go to school, and the love I have for the people and things around me.

Day Four: Get Hydrated

Drinking as much water as my body needs has always been a hard one for me. As an adult woman I found that I should be drinking around nine cups of water a day—and compared to the two, maybe three, I drink a day, I needed to step it up. This personally for me had no effect on any anxiety I had. The outcomes just included me having to pee ten times more and hoping I would all of a sudden have a rush of energy which did not happen.

Day Five: Play Loud Music And Dance

I loved the sound of this task and was super excited to just jam out to some great music (late 90’s & 2000’s throwbacks are my thing) and found this exercise was super helpful. I didn’t end up dancing but I blared the music in my car and sang along as loudly as I could, and when I got home I felt happy and content and overall in a great mood.

Day Six: No Social Media Day

Let me start by saying this was freaking hard. I’m not the person who lives on their phone, but I do like knowing what’s happening not only with people I know but in the news as well. I started this exercise by just turning my phone off, so the temptation just wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately, I forgot that social media was still on my laptop and thus when I went to open my laptop to do some work I was very tempted with Facebook already being signed in and open in another tab. At the end of the day I caved and looked at everything, spending way too much time doing so. What I will say is that more than helping with anxiety this day was a much needed cleanse from the constant comparisons that I do while I’m on social media and I think that everyone should just have a day once and while to just leave their phone at home so they can be present in life and away from social media for awhile.

Day Seven: Take A Long Bubble Bath

After a long week of remembering to do these tasks, I was ready for a nice long bubble bath. Knowing I could take 30 minutes to myself and catch up on some Netflix or read a book seemed great. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. During the process of filling my tub, my water heater just stopped working; the water was cold. You can imagine my dismay when this task didn’t work out, and thus instead of helping any anxiety go away, it brought up a whole new anxiety of having to deal with the water heater.

Day Eight: Ten Minutes Of Meditation

Meditating is a great way to unwind and let go of daily anxieties and frustrations. To complete this exercise I used the website Head Space which helped me learn how to meditate and practice mindfulness. This is a practice that I had a difficult time with because I was constantly thinking throughout my ten minutes, but since downloading Head Space I have been keeping up with the practices and know it’s something I will improve on!

Day Nine: Do Your Favourite Cardio Exercise For 20 minutes

I was never the girl to hit the gym and therefore my favourite cardio exercise does not exist; but, with an open mind I began googling and found this website with a perfect 20-minute circuit of cardio. It wasn’t horrible, but in the end, I just felt very tired and out of shape. Not my favourite exercise, that’s for sure.

Day Ten: Go To Bed Early

This was the best, 8:00 pm hit and I headed straight to my bed turned on some Netflix and was asleep my 9:00 pm. I woke up the next morning feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. Sometimes listening to your body and giving it the sleep you need is the best thing you can do for yourself and your mental wellbeing.

Day Eleven: Start A Good Vitamin Regimen

I have low B12 and an iron deficiency so vitamins are necessary for my energy levels to be balanced. I know when I go off my vitamins there is a major lack of energy and my anxiety rises because my to-do list often becomes longer since I can’t finish anything in a timely fashion. So, with this in mind, I headed to Shoppers and consulted the pharmacist to make sure I was on the best possible plan I could be. Although there were no immediate reactions to decrease my anxiety, I am still following the plan and will hopefully begin to see results in a month or so.

Day Twelve: Snuggle An Animal

I’m lucky in the sense I live with two very snuggly animals: Todd (my fluffy kitty) and Tia (my boyfriend’s cuddly pup). Crawling into bed and having some cuddle time with my fur babies is the best thing in the world and it helps so much when I’m anxious or overwhelmed.

Day Thirteen: Meditate Again

Now that I had found the Head Space app I used it again and successfully completed this exercise. I have been continuing to practise this exercise every few days.

Day Fourteen: Look Up Hygge And Learn More About It

hyggehouse.com defines it as such: “Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. Hygge (or to be “hyggeligt”) doesn’t require learning ‘how to,’ adopting it as a lifestyle or buying anything. It’s not a thing and anyone telling you different either doesn’t understand it or is literally trying to sell you something that has nothing to do with the concept. You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there’s no ‘hygge foods’ to eat. Hygge literally only requires a conscious appreciation, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present—but recognize and enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distill ‘hygge’ down to being a ‘feeling’—because if you don’t feel hygge, you probably aren’t using the word right.”

I loved this; it’s something that I think everyone should learn about and practise in their everyday lives. I don’t think it really helped with my anxiety at that exact moment, but it’s a feeling I am ready to pay more attention to within my life.

Day Fifteen: Try A Relaxing Essential Oil Blend

I love essential oils and use them all the time, so I knew exactly what blend to throw into my diffuser. I chose: lavender, frankincense, & orange and diffused it right beside my desk where I was working. The scent was refreshing, and although I didn’t see lasting results, I wasn’t as anxious about the paper I was writing.

Day Sixteen: Make A Stress Ball

Since I already had a few stress balls that I’ve accumulated, I decided to bypass this exercise and instead just use the stress ball whenever I felt anxious during the day. I didn’t find the stress ball very helpful; instead, I found it super annoying to have to carry around a small ball everywhere I went. I probably won’t use this as an active coping solution to my anxiety.

Day Seventeen: Pick A Time Of Day That Will Be Just For You

My time was 7 pm. While my boyfriend was preoccupied doing his own thing I hopped in the shower, blared some music, and when I got out I put a face mask on. I got into bed after, snuggled in and grabbed a book and read until I fell asleep. It was great.

Day Eighteen: Do Something You Are Good At

For me, it was singing. I have sung competitively since I was a little girl up until I entered my undergrad. Often times I forget not only how much I love singing, but how good I am at it! I warmed up and sang three of my favourite pieces—which put me in a great mood. This exercise made me realize that I should participate in this activity more often, not only for my mental health but for my enjoyment as well.

Day Nineteen: Make A List Of Your Anxieties

For the purpose of this exercise, I wrote down everything that made me anxious which ranged from a huge essay to wondering if I have enough money to last until the end of the school year. My three top anxieties (not in any particular order) are money, assignments and grades.

Day Twenty: Comment On Each Anxiety With Something You Can Do To Calm It

Throughout this process, there weren’t many useful tips but there was a few that I will continue to use in my daily life when dealing with being anxious. The ones that I decided to match with my anxieties were: write what you are grateful for, snuggle your fur babies, go outside, sing, take time for yourself and meditate, as well as listen to your body whether you need water or a long sleep.

Overall, I think doing any type of challenge can be slightly exhausting. And as much as this one didn’t exactly help me at my most anxious moments, it did show me some great options to help in anxious situations and what does not work for me. I think the key is to find balance, find what works for you and stick with it, whether it’s taking that bath, going to workout, or jamming out on your drive home. Taking time for yourself is so important, and in the times where you are feeling the most anxious about school or life, it may be really hard to carve out the time but trust me: it will be worth it!

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Wilfrid Laurier '19

stay smiling
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