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I often find the last month of winter difficult, especially these days. We’re still waiting for the first signs of spring and the weather is dreary (well, at least for us in the Northeast!) and that can cause seasonal anxiety and depression. So, I was delighted when my friends at State Farm told me that they are continuing their support of The Trevor Project – an incredible organization that supports LGBTQ youth. Through research they found that 68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. I suffered from anxiety when I was younger and I still do, so I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me alleviate it. I hope my personal experience can help you or someone you know, those are three things that work for me to manage anxiety. These are just my personal experiences and I know they won’t be right for everyone, so use them however you like.

I have found that my anxiety peaks when I am out of control and in life this can happen at any moment. To facilitate that I have focused on things that can give me control but also give me a sense of accomplishment. I’ve found that if I’m achieving things, it helps me feel less anxious, it calms me down and it also starts a positive moment to achieve more and worry less.

1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule

So far the thing that has had a positive impact on my anxiety has been keeping a regular sleep schedule. What I did was commit to waking up at the same time every day of the week, even on weekends, and it has made a huge difference for me. It has physical and mental benefits. Physically, my body now knows what to expect each day and it feels so much better because it makes me feel calmer. Mentally, my brain knows that even lifting is something I’ve achieved and so it makes me feel a positive sense of achievement. I stayed, I did it! That kind of thing – little positive affirmations like that help create a more positive day, at least for me. I know it may seem strange since getting up is a small task. Looks like a small win though and I’ll be taking it first thing in the morning! It also makes me feel in control: I can control what time I get up and be able to decide which makes me feel calmer.

2. Exercise / Move every morning

Something that also gives me a sense of accomplishment is working in the morning. I used to train in the afternoon and evening; I just squeezed it in wherever I could. In the past, I would feel like I had no energy in the morning and would dive straight into work. Then when I was burnt out from work I would try to work out and it usually didn’t go so well! One day, I changed my schedule and tried to work out in the morning, and I loved it! The first five minutes were hard work, but after that, I felt fresher and it gave me the feeling that I was getting something done early in the day before all the daily distractions and frustrations started. Now, I try to work out or at least move my body in some athletic way every morning. It might just be a stretch or a walk around the block, but either way, it gives me control and a sense of accomplishment. In the last thing that works for me to manage anxiety.

3. Plan most or at least some of your meals for the week

The other simple change I made was to make sure I was planning most of my meals for the week. I set aside an hour on the weekend and decide what I’m going to eat for the next week. I try not to plan every meal as life happens and sometimes you can’t cook because you just don’t have the time (or let’s be real, the energy) but at least that means I have planned most of my meals which gives me a structure for the week. I also try to treat myself on Mondays. I know it sounds weird but I guess Monday is a hard day and why make it worse by eating all the healthy food? Monday is a day that needs a treat like a brownie or a slice of pizza for lunch, right?!

While I’m cooking, I think it’s a good time to visit and talk with friends and family. The Trevor Project and State Farm found that if an LGBTQ youth has just one accepting adult in their life, they are significantly less likely to commit suicide. I think that alone shows the power of connection and what a difference being a good neighbor can make. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to friends and family, but I’ve found that bonding over food is a great way to do it. Checking out, sharing recipes, or just talking about what you’re cooking/eating is the perfect conversation starter, especially at a time when it’s hard to get together over a meal in person. Connecting with a loved one, even if it’s something everyday like a meal, can be the human contact one needs to continue.

I am very proud to work with State Farm as they continue to support organizations like the Trevor Project that are there for LGBTQ youth. Knowing that just one person can save a life by being there for someone is so powerful. It has definitely inspired me to try to be a good neighbor this year. I hope these personal tips, however small, can help you or someone you know. What did you think of my “three things that work for me to manage anxiety”?