Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is a bitch.

Seriously, it’s the absolute worst. That thing inside you that makes you feel like you’re crazy. It makes you worry over things like an email you sent 3 weeks ago (and did it come across as rude?) or think about that first day of 7th grade when you wore pants that ended up being completely see through. Anxiety creates that “fight or flight” response and when you have NO IDEA why you feel that way, it can be crippling. I’ve been dealing with anxiety ever since I can remember. It intensified in my teenage years and so far peaked in my early 20’s, and that’s when I learned how to manage it.

Before I realized I had anxiety, I was misdiagnosed as manic-depressive. I have experienced depression on and off throughout my life as well, and between the anxiety and depression, it makes sense that I’d be misdiagnosed the way that I was. While I never truly experienced mania, the anxiety got bad enough to make it seem that way.

You’re not crazy.

I promise. I think every human in the world has experienced anxiety, whether they know how to identify it or not. If you’re one of the “blessed” ones with panic attacks, social anxiety, general anxiety disorder or phobias, you might think you’re a little crazy sometimes. You aren’t. Anxiety disorders make us feel things that aren’t real, only to us, they are very real. Post Traumatic Stress falls into this category as well, but you aren’t born with PTS. You develop it. I believe anxiety can be developed as well, but there are some of us who have had it since birth. I know there are many types of anxiety, but I want to group them all together because it’s easiest. Sorry, not sorry.

Good news! you aren’t alone.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. It affects over 40 million adults, or just over 18% of the population. The really sad part is, less than 40% of people with anxiety seek or receive treatment. I know it’s comforting to know that odds are people around you will understand, but how sad is it that such a large part of our world operates this way? I’ve never known life without anxiety, but I imagine it would be a little bit more pleasant to not stay up night after night, worrying over something that happened 15 years ago. For me, anxiety manifests in aggression. In “fight or flight” mode, my body runs straight to fight. I find myself becoming combative for no reason. Little things set me off and if you were to ask me what was wrong, most of the time I couldn’t even tell you. When I’m depressed, it’s the opposite. If allowed, I’ll call in sick and go days hardly speaking. The thought of going into the outside world cripples me. It’s just TOO MUCH.

More good news, it’s treatable.

There are so many ways to treat anxiety. Chemical, physical, mental, you name it. A lot of people go the chemical route. I have read studies on everything from Xanax to Beta Blockers to CBD/THC to Microdosing LSD. There are a lot of chemical compounds out there that are extremely helpful in managing anxiety and panic attacks. A lot of people like to go the preventative route. I am told exercise is beneficial. (I do know how much better I feel when I go to the gym, but I hate going to the gym and going to the gym gives me anxiety so am I helping myself more or hurting myself? JK. I know I just need to get off my butt and go.) I’ve read studies (not sure if they’re real or not) about how diet, exercise and medication can affect our mental state and the poor state of the typical American diet has a lot to do with our mental health issues. I believe it. I just ordered some CBD from a USA based business that has really good reviews. You can order samples HERE if you’re into it.

Mental “tricks” and tips work as well. Meditation, mindfulness, taking an account of your current situation. I always try to go with the mental route when possible. When I’m having an anxiety attack, I almost always am able to talk myself down before I need medication. This has literally taken me 29 years of life to achieve, so don’t feel bad if you aren’t there yet. I will evaluate (out loud) my current situation. “I am sitting on the couch with my husband. I have a steady income. I can pay all my bills. My child is healthy. I have a great life. I am able to overcome challenges with ease” Affirmations and positive statements (out loud, y’all) can make the biggest difference. It’s an outside force showing me how the anxiety is just a chemical imbalance and I don’t have to listen to it. We’ve tried it where Johnny tells me those things and it only made me agitated and angry. I firmly believe those powerful statements need to come from within you in order to work their magic.

Other tips and tricks that work for me and have been suggested by my friends:

  • Get off social media/your phone/technology and unplug for an hour. Instagram will be there when you get back, Ashley.

  • Go outside on a walk.

  • Do yoga. I have been told that the focus it takes to your body helps your mind unwind.

  • Do a mindless task you know you need to do but have procrastinated. Laundry, anyone?

  • Focus on your breathing. If you haven’t heard of Wim Hoff, check out THIS book. His breathing techniques have helped me with everything from anxiety to asthma.

  • Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for. Focusing on the positive helps us calm and be grateful.

  • Take a bath. (I hate baths but it was submitted as a way to cope so we’re including it)

  • Use essential oils. I know a lot of people swear by them! I love lavender and tea tree oil (melaluca) and use them for a lot around the house. Same with lemon and sandalwood.

  • Talk to a trusted friend or loved one. People who love you will understand how you’re feeling and lend an ear when you need it.