My favourite day of the week used to be Tuesday. I would rush out of my office at 5 p.m., excited to tell my therapist everything that happened during the week since I last saw her. For an hour, I would unload my stress and anxiety—from work, family, friends, and potential love interests. My therapist, kind but blunt, wasn’t afraid to tell me I was being childish and made me face harsh realities when I romanticized a situation or person. I saw improvements in how I dealt with things; I was proof that therapy really works.
When I lost my job this past March, I turned to this advice for tips on how to handle being laid off. Of course, all I wanted to do was talk to my therapist about it, but I couldn’t afford to. I was nervous about the uncertainty of freelance life, anxious about covering my expenses, and embarrassed over losing a job. So to deal with all of these emotions, I got crafty and did three things that have made all the difference.
First, I started running, because I read how it’s one of the things that’s good for your mental health. To stay motivated, I treated the exercise like a work assignment; I gave myself a deadline each week to reach a certain distance and worked at it every day until I reached my goal. When I hit my benchmark for distance, I’d increase it the next week and start over again. This new routine doubled as a form of therapy. If a job meeting goes sour, I go for a run and feel better. The ex-boyfriend does something online that annoys me? I go for a run. Finances getting tight? A run helps the ease the panic. Learning to hit pause and walk—or run—for a bit is a truly healthy way to put things in perspective.
Second, I queued up more podcasts. I’ve found a podcast for every emotion I need to work through. When I’m feeling sad or lost, I find an advice-oriented podcast from someone who is going through similar troubles. When I’m dealing with professional difficulties, I listen to news and pop culture podcasts to distract—and sometimes inspire—me. Some of my favorites include “Pod Save America,” “Modern Love,” “Still Processing,” and “Dear Sugars.” (These are the 15 best apps for mental health.)
Third, the solitary nature of writing can leave me isolated, so I resolve to have at least one interaction with people every day. (It’s also key to maintaining your mental health, apparently.) I attend press events and take every meeting that comes my way. Even talking to the people who are making my iced chai at Starbucks makes my days feel less lonely.
Do I miss my therapist? Absolutely. But will I go back to her someday? I’m not so sure anymore. It’s not because I don’t think I ever needed her; I definitely did when I first signed up for appointments. But looking back, she gave me the tools I need to handle my anxiety and stress on my own. And isn’t that the goal of therapy after all?
Don’t miss the 13 things psychologists wish you knew about happiness.
Originally published as I Quit Therapy And Finally Eased My Anxiety on ReadersDigest.com.