I've been an anxious person since I was a child. I've always had some sort of anxious habit, whether biting or picking my nails, picking at my skin, binge eating, or pulling out my eyelashes, and I honestly can't remember a period of time in which I didn't engage in one of these anxious behaviors. It runs in my family, which is sort of nice, because I've always been able to commiserate with my grandma, mom, and little brother about the generalized anxiety that wells up in our bodies and makes it hard to breathe properly, focus on tasks, sleep, or generally run our lives the way they are supposed to be run.
My anxiety intersected with depression in the first two years of college and knocked me flat. I kept up with my classes, work, and extra activities, but any time that I didn't spend around other people was spent sleeping. Or crying. Or crying myself to sleep. I am extremely stubborn when it comes to asking for help, but finally the anxiety, depression, and lifelong eating disorder were just too much for me to handle anymore, and the overwhelming desire to drop everything and run away was final alarm bell I needed to drag my worn down self into the university mental health center. Between two combined years of therapy and medication for my anxiety, I finally felt like I got a handle on things. Any anxious or depressed flare ups that occurred during my senior year and beyond were manageable without medication, and I was proud of that. My therapist warned me that I couldn't treat this recovery like a miracle-drug—I would need to habitually check in with myself and examine my patterns, because it was likely my anxiety would come back at some point.
For a long time, it didn't. But now, I am early in my 24th year, and I have been forced to admit that my anxiety is back. Not for a day, or week, but awhile. In fact, it's been creeping up slowly ever since my car died unexpectedly in August. I wasn't financially prepared for the situation, and overwhelming self-loathing and inadequacy has haunted me since. I'm supposed to be responsible, in control, always with a plan, and I goofed up in a big way by not anticipating the eventual death of my car and planning for it. It's also been in these few months that I learned I am extremely hard on myself; most people would be sheepish about need help from their parents to navigate a car emergency, and then shake it off, but not me. It has rocked my whole self-narrative. The initial trauma with the car opened the door for hundreds of self hating thoughts to flood in, little words and thoughts that eat away at my dreams, the compliments people give me, my accomplishments, and all other good things. Now, I can't even get dressed or put on makeup without wanting to scream at myself for not being precise enough with my eyeliner, or wearing pants that are stretched out in the knee.
This anxiety and inadequacy has been building up for six months, and finally came to a head this week. I can't run away from my anxiety anymore, as it's starting to affect my relationships and ability to function normally. So! I wanted to take time to share some magical things I do when I am dealing with my anxiety. I was not involved in magic and my current practice the last time I had to overhaul my self care with therapy and medication. I may decide I need to go back to therapy and meds this time as well, but in the meantime I will be doing 3 small things to heal my soul and emerge a stronger, more peaceful version of myself.
1. Taking ritual baths
Some people really hate baths, but they are probably my most common form of self care and magical practice. For ritual baths, I gather a few things: lavender essential oil, homemade sugar scrub, my crystals, a note book, and candles (sometimes I choose candles based on color magic, sometimes not). My anxiety is triggered often by my phone, so I leave all electronics out of the room. First, I make sure the tub is clean, giving the walls a good scrub with some cleaner and a rag. Once the tub is nice and shiny, I light the candles and turn off the lights. I spend a few minutes jotting down how I am feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually, then condense the feelings into a clear, one sentence intention. My intentions are always "I" statements with strong verbs, something actionable that I can follow through on, even in small ways. I use the scrub to clear away all the dead skin and dead energy from my day, moving in circular motions and concentrating on sloughing off the negative energy. Anxiety manifests itself deep in my muscles, so relaxation and massage is extremely important in my recovery. I add the lavender essential oil to the water, and give my crystals a bath, too (crystals need to be cleansed and recharged, if you didn't know!). My amethyst crystal is especially important to me when recovering my anxiety attacks, because it is known for its calming and protective qualities. After I drain the bath, I sleep with my intention and amethyst crystal under my pillow.
2. Drinking tea
I like tea, but I am not always good about drinking it regularly. I'm a caffeine addict, so coffee is usually my beverage of choice. When I'm going through high anxiety times, however, my tolerance for caffeine is much lower, but I still crave warm drinks. I've picked up several wonderful varieties lately though, and when I boil the water and brew the tea, I envision my anxious energy dissipating with the steam. When I put the tea bag in my mug, I envision positive energy emanating from the tea bag, and negative energy being sucked into it. It's a small visualization and mindfulness exercise, but it helps! And I love choosing teas with hibiscus and rose hips in them to help detox my skin and promote passionate playfulness and creativity, something that gets majorly stifled when I am anxious.
3. Scavenging outdoors
I've always preferred to stare at the ground when I walk rather than look at the sky, because I love to collect interesting rocks, feathers, leaves, and other bits! I use many of these things in my craft, or fill jars with rocks for paperweights, or incorporate feathers into lightcatchers that I make by hand. When I'm feeling anxious and restless and it's pretty outside, I like to go on a walk, walk slowly, and keep my eyes open for interesting treasures. Finding a cool feather is a temporary respite from my anxiety, and gives me material to further pursue my craft.