MALISSA SMITH

Blog

Calming the Chaos

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I’ve always been an anxious person at heart— I’ve pretty much perfected the fine art of overthinking— but this past spring, my anxiety levels hit an all-time high. One Friday night on the walk home from dinner in the West Village, BOOM, out of nowhere I had a panic attack. Right there on the sidewalk, just a few steps from my apartment building. 

My world was turned upside down from that moment forward. I found myself avoiding the subway and walking to work instead; not being able to eat in restaurants; and generally unable to attend any social situations that involved loud, crowded spaces and lots of people (so pretty much everywhere in NYC). For months, I was so anxious about being anxious that I could hardly function—it was time to make some lifestyle changes. Eventually, after months and months of exploration, I found four key practices that were essential to treating my anxiety. With time and patience, I finally started to recognize myself again.

 

1. Meditation
The Headspace app was a lifesaver for me. Each morning I’d start my day off with a 10 minute guided meditation, which calmed me down and helped center me for the day ahead. On days when I was feeling more anxious than usual, I’d do another 10 minute session before bed. Headspace also has these SOS sessions, which are 2–3 minutes long and are designed to calm your mind down as fast as possible. I found myself using these SOS meditations pretty regularly, usually at times when I felt like I was about to go into panic mode. Even if you’re not super anxious, there’s a lot to gain from practicing meditation— it’s been proven to reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve concentration.  

 

2. Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is different from “regular” yoga, in that it isn’t really exercise. Restorative is exactly the way it sounds— it restores you, centers you, and gets you out of your head for an hour. Each class uses props—like bolsters, blankets, and blocks—to support you in long-held positions (usually 10–15 minutes at a time). These classes are great because, for a full hour, you’re forced to sit with yourself and your breath and nothing else; no phones, no emails, no thoughts about work or weekend plans or how you have to do so much laundry when you get home. It’s really great! I’ve tried restorative classes at YogaWorks in SoHo, the Urban Zen class at Yoga Shanti; but my all time favorite restorative class that I always return to is the one at Yoga Vida. Laura Brandel is my favorite instructor, although all of them are really awesome. Definitely check it out!

 

3. Journaling
I’ve been journaling on and off for years; it’s something I always come back to when I’m going through something. During the worst of my anxiety, journaling was a safe space where I could write down all the worried thoughts in my head and get them out on paper. If I could write them down, then i could stop thinking about them so much and give my mind a rest. Writing often provides a new sense of perspective on whatever you’re writing about, and can sometimes even reveal something about yourself that you were completely unaware of. Using a really cute journal (I have this one from Nuuna) and pen that you really like makes journaling even that much more enjoyable. 

 

4. Therapy
If you’re living with anxiety, do yourself a favor and find yourself a good therapist. Talking to someone who understands what’s going on with your mind and body can provide an enormous sense of security and relief. Once you start to understand why you’re experiencing all these weird and scary things, you can then find ways to treat it. I found my therapist (who I adore) on ZocDoc, but you can also check with your insurance provider and see which doctors are in your network.