Makin’ A List

Anxiety is a bummer. A huge bummer. In the moment, it can feel pretty awful and overwhelming. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do about the negative effects of a panic attack, to take back your feelings of control and power over the situation. We’re going to talk about one specifically today, and it’s one of my favorites, because it involves having fun and treating yourself!

It’s simple: you just need a list of things that self-soothe and/or distract you from the less-than-desirable emotions and feelings that accompany a panic attack. A list, basically, of your favorite things to do when you are feeling down, the activities that take up your attention, are engrossing, and make you feel good!

The key to this skill is preparation. You need to make this list when you are not going through any emotional stress. Coming up with a list of positive activities isn’t going to work when you are distressed and can only look at the negative in a situation. In the emotional moment, nothing is going to sound appealing, so that’s why it’s so important to prepare and plan ahead while you are feeling stable and well-balanced.

Sit down and make this list, and then keep it on your phone or, if you’re more old school, on a list you keep in your purse, pocket, or wallet, so you can easily access it, no matter where you are. Then, when you aren’t feeling so hot, take your list out and pick something that sounds attractive and is easy to do in your current surroundings.

If the first activity you pick doesn’t work, if it doesn’t bring your emotional distress down, don’t give up! Just pick something else, go onto the next item, and keep with it until you’re feeling a bit better.

Here’s a list of ideas for self-soothing and distracting activities to get you started on your own list:

  • Give yourself a manicure
  • Watch a beauty tutorial on YouTube and follow along
  • Go for a long drive to nowhere in particular, listening to your favorite music, LOUD
  • Bake or cook something, try a new recipe or cook your favorite dish, whatever takes more of your focus
  • Read a good book
  • Give yourself a beauty treatment, face mask, foot mask, the works
  • Create something! Paint, draw, knit, write…whatever makes you happy!
  • Exercise!
  • Watch a funny show. Laughter is great medicine!
  • Declutter something. Clean out your closet, for example. This is a double-whammy, because not only will you feel accomplished, but donating to those less fortunate is another mood booster

This is just a small list to get you started, and remember to make them specific to you and your interests. It doesn’t do any good to calm yourself with an activity that you don’t even like to do.

So there it is! A skill for your anxiety toolbox, so you can take control of a situation and get yourself into a different mindset. Please remember that this is no substitution for medical care and/or professional mental health counseling, but it is a great self-empowering activity. So get busy and make your list when you’re feeling ok, and then next time anxiety hits, pull out your list and get busy! For more details on this skill, and for more emotional regulation skills, check out any book on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, where this idea is adapted from.

What are some of your favorite self-care activities? Let me know, and good luck with your list!

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