Surviving Chronic Anxiety
Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety can be debilitating in many cases. I would know. I was diagnosed with severe chronic generalized anxiety disorder four years ago. I felt alone and I didn't understand why things were so much easier for other people than they were for me. Daily tasks became a challenge. Worrying and overthinking were also challenges. Then came panic attacks.
Depression was always a lingering condition combined with the others and instead of sitting around suffering with my own thoughts, I decided to take action. Although, for me at least, it doesn't completely take away my anxiety, there are things that can help. If you've ever felt this way, you know that any tiny bit of relief is helpful.
First off, I didn't tell people about my anxiety disorder in the beginning. I think I was ashamed. Did it make me appear weak? That's a question I often ask myself still to this day. I know now that the answer to that question is 'no'. You're not weak and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Life is hard, really hard sometimes.
I realized that my first mistake was hiding from my own truth. I have anxiety. Opening up about it actually helped the people around me better understand what I was going through. It also helped them understand that I wasn't being "stubborn", "lazy", or "anti-social". I was just avoiding circumstances that triggered my anxiety.
First of all, you should tell people you care about that you have an anxiety disorder. If they care about you, they will learn to understand it. Getting it off of your chest can also be a huge relief.
I started to realize how 'not alone' I really was. I looked into statistics. 40 million adults in the US are affected by anxiety disorders! That's 18% of the population! Sometimes it helps to know that you're not alone and that your feelings are shared by a lot of other people. After coming to this realization, I started looking into ways to ease my anxiety. After trying literally everything, I have come to some conclusions about what works for me.
Things That Have Helped Me Manage My Anxiety
Breathing Exercises: I've tried them all but one in particular does seem to have a calming effect, especially when I feel a panic attack coming on. Inhale slowly for 7 seconds, hold it in for 6 seconds and exhale slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat. Usually after repeating this just a couple of times, I begin to feel myself getting calmer. There are other techniques out there but this one is number 1 on my list.
Exercise: I know, you've heard this one before...A LOT. But hey, it's true. Even if you can only do 30 jumping jacks in your living room - do it. Do as much as you can. The better physical shape you are in, the better control you have over your thoughts and emotions. Sticking to a routine can be hard, especially with an anxiety disorder but keep trying them all until you find one that works for you. Yoga and walking two miles every other day have helped me a lot.
Essential Oils + Diffuser: I was skeptical about this one at first but it does help, especially when I can't fall asleep. Lavender does work to help calm my nerves. I like the Cairondin Essential Oil Diffuser the best out of all the ones I've tried.
Journal: When you're having anxious thoughts, write it down. Once you've written down everything you're nervous about throw it away or my personal favorite - BURN IT. Symbolically releasing my anxious thoughts by writing them down and getting rid of them does help. Although, in the beginning, writing down 'triggers' helped me identify the causes of my anxiety so I was able to avoid certain triggers. Once you've identified those though, writing down your thoughts can be productive, if only to release them.
Keep a Planner: This one I found to be uniquely helpful. When you have anxiety constantly, it can be so hard to get anything done. I bought one of the old school planners, (you know, the ones you actually write shit down in with a pen) and wrote down even the simplest of tasks I needed to do that day. It gave me a rhythm of sorts and honestly, it's satisfying to cross off the things you intended to do. Don't overdo it at first. Keep it simple. You'll find that it does really help. You won't be as overwhelmed on a daily basis if you stick to what you have to do. Trust me on this one - works like a dream.
Eat Healthier: Completely give up fast food and junk food. I know, this one's tough but the healthier I eat, the less I feel anxious and the better I sleep. Stick to vegetables and lean meats. Avoid over-processed foods.
Watch a horror movie: Stay with me on this one as I know this won't work for everyone. Anxiety is complex and everyone is different. This DOES work for me though. I believe it's some sort of aversion. I see something scary and my mind rationalizes it as: "At least I'm not dealing with that shit", and it helps me. If I feel like I'm going to panic, I put on "Evil Dead" or something similar, (I will publish a list of my favorite horror flicks soon), and boom - I'm calm as a cucumber. Now, seriously I DO NOT recommend this for someone who is afraid of horror movies. This is just something that has worked for me and frankly, I've always liked scary stuff.
Also remember that what works for someone else might not work for you. You have to experiment with different things. Get on Pinterest and go nuts. Make an entire board of things to try. Make lists. Try it all, even the weird stuff. Eventually you'll stumble on routines and changes that will help you.
Cuddle with a Pet: Nothing is more soothing than the comfort of an animal, in my opinion anyway. If you feel overwhelmed, cuddle up with a pet. You'll probably calm down, especially if you're an animal person.
Talk to a therapist: There is a stigma wrapped around this one, I'm aware. But talking out your feelings can help you get to the root of your anxiety and find ways to cope. There are a lot of people who see therapists and there is no shame in it. Talking about your problems with a professional is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Even just getting certain things off your chest can help ease symptoms of anxiety and in some cases rid it altogether.
I hope this was helpful. Anxiety is something you can live with. Coping with it may take time but you will feel better. There is always a reason to keep going :)