(I am not claiming to be an expert and am just sharing what works for me! Scroll to the end for more info on anxiety or if you need help. )
As I was going about my day this morning, I randomly was struck with a crippling panic. My heart started pounding faster and faster, my mind fogged up, and I felt like I lost control of my body. In that moment, things feel hopeless and never-ending. Sometimes you feel like you are going to die or have no feelings at all except panic. My anxiety varies in severity. Almost every day, I have some voice in my head asking "What if?". What if this person hates me? What if my house burns down today? What if I have cancer? Basically... What if something happens that I cannot control?
I have had anxiety related to medical experiences since around my freshman year of college but it was always manageable. As long as I didn't have to go to the doctor, I was fine. After graduating and having a pretty traumatizing student teaching experience (not because of the kids, but because of my cooperating teacher), my anxiety kind of exploded.. Transitions and life changes can be scary and, in my case, triggering. I had no idea who I was any more and what I was doing with my life. I started subconsciously inventing medical conditions in my head. My favorites seem to be either a certainty that I have cancer or a heart condition.
My body has a pretty big physical reaction to high levels of anxiety. I developed regular heart palpitations (up to several times a day). I had tons of tests done and when they could find nothing wrong, the doctor suggested finally that I consider getting therapy. Therapy is nothing to be ashamed or scared of, it just gives you someone to talk to and an expert with tons of tools to manage your anxiety. While I do not receive therapy right now, my therapist helped immensely. Through her and through time and experience, I have learned to recognize anxiety's symptoms and can use certain tools to calm down. My heart palpitations only make a rare appearance and I don't have as many panic attacks as I did when anxiety was in control.
Tools I Use to Manage My Anxiety
I was given a checklist when with my therapist with these kinds of symptoms and I checked just about every single one.
Symptoms of Anxiety
(according to Mayo Clinic)
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doomHaving an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxietyLearn the symptoms of anxiety and what causes your anxiety.
What Causes My Anxiety?
The biggest cause of my anxiety and also what scared me the most about my anxiety is the fear of not being in control of my situation. I am such a control freak and things always have to go according to my plan or it seems like the world is falling apart. I get this feeling when I have a panic attack, when I think I have a problem with my health, or when I just have too much going on. Lots of times, these things are all connected.
Keep in mind that sometimes, anxiety does not have an obvious cause.
For me, knowing and recognizing all of this was the first step towards normalizing my anxiety and making it less scary.
Seek Therapy and Talk About It
Talking about my anxiety instead of bottling it up inside always helps. Writing this article has been healing for me as well!
2. Learn to Say "No".
This one is still hard for me but I am realizing more and more that I get super overwhelmed and anxious when I have too many obligations. Learn what you can personally handle in your schedule and don't stretch your self too thin. It is okay to say "no".
3. Self Care/ Create a Routine
Healthy Eating (but also treat yourself every so often)
Cut Out Caffeine
Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep
Don't forget about yourself. Lots of people focus their energy on everyone and everything else. Take time out of every day to do something for yourself. For me, mornings are sacred and I use that time to have some alone time with my coffee, news, and puppies. Treat yourself by doing something that makes you happy. I also make sure to work out every day that I can and try to watch what I eat. This morning, I downloaded the app "Calm" and enjoyed a meditation focused on reducing anxiety.
4. Sensory Items
Use a scent that relaxes you like lavender!
Weighted Blanket/Soft Blanket
My puppy, Lilly helps me sooo much. She is my "uncertified therapy dog" and brings me so much joy. She can sense when I am anxious and always comes to the rescue. She lets me hold her and cuddle her as much as I want.
Fresh air, light exercise, and beautiful nature can do wonders.
Music is a huge part of my everyday life and can be a struggle for me. On one hand, an over-abundance of gigs can totally overwhelm me and make anxiety awful but, when I am playing those gigs, all anxiety goes out the window. I have more anxiety about the before and after a gig than I do during. Music has a way of communicating to each and every soul and it is so healing. I am a musician so I make my music (and listen to it too) but just listening to your favorite music can be a mood changer.
Since my job, and most of my gigs, are in a different town, I do a lot of driving. That was always a time when I was alone with my thoughts and could prove dangerous for developing my anxiety. I have learned that playing audio books or podcasts while I drive helps distract me while I am driving. I never pick up a book to read, so I have greatly increased the number of books I read since starting this habit.
I hope that some of this helps you if you struggle with any form of anxiety. I am right here experiencing it with you and will always be here if you need someone to reach out to! Again, I am not claiming to be an expert at all and I know everyone responds differently to things, but these are just the coping strategies that work for me in my walk with anxiety.
For more on anxiety and how to treat it:
I know this is not what this article is about but if you or someone you know is in crisis and need help: