Byrdie: How to Cope with Anxiety

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How Are You, Really? 6 Ways to Check In on the State of Your Mental Health

Mental health is a deeply important issue, one that has often gone ignored in our mainstream society. Somehow, it’s developed a taboo that keeps the conversations either in hushed tones or neglected completely. But one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. In fact, chances are you’ve asked one of them the question How are you? sometime this week. Because that question is so often answered routinely, or not at all, Philosophy’s Hope & Grace Initiative launched its first-ever national campaign—called How Are You, Really—because it’s time to have an open, honest conversation about mental issues.

Inspired by the initiative and eager to learn more, I reached out to a couple of experts on ways to stabilize and soothe feelings of doubt, anxiety, and helplessness. In essence, they both concluded it was best to create a “toolbox” of coping mechanisms and observe how you feel afterward. While some of these feelings may be fleeting (like a bad day or sad situation), many can be symptoms of a mental health condition. “Your immediate discomfort will be easier to bear if you have a long-term treatment plan because you can remind yourself that your difficult times are becoming fewer and less severe. Remember that you are not alone and help is available,” suggests Katrina Gay, a director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For your own set of tools, keep reading for easy, inexpensive ways to check in with yourself each day.

Talk to someone.

“Open up,” suggests Rachel Brathen, a New York Times best-selling author, yoga teacher, and Philosophy brand ambassador. “Sharing how we feel is the most important part when it comes to emotional balance. Pain grows in the dark, so let it out. Talk to friends and family or see a mental health professional. I find that baring my soul when things get heavy immediately makes me feel lighter. Also, it reminds us that we are not alone.”

Practice relaxation.

“Meditate,” says Brathen. “Spending just five minutes sitting in silence focusing on your breath in the morning can turn a whole day around. Most of the problems we are pondering and issues we are dealing with are amplified by our minds—what happens when you dive into silence?”

“Practicing yoga,” Brathen continues, “is a wonderful segway into meditation if you find the idea of sitting in silence by yourself daunting. Find a studio and a teacher you resonate with and try a beginners class if you’re new to the practice. In savasana, allow yourself to be. Watch what comes up. Know that you are an integral part of this world and everything you are feeling is valid! We all feel the same things, just not always at the same time. Remember—everything you are is good enough.”

Sweat.

Brathen adds, “Get out of your head and into your body. Moving our bodies is a great way to clear our heads, and it helps to bring our awareness into the present moment. Get into the habit of moving your body every single day, no matter what you choose to do.”