Tips for Managing Your Anxiety

I have been pretty open here about dealing with my anxiety.

To look at me, you wouldn’t know that I ever struggled with anything like that – people tell me that I’m fun, confident, and I can have fun on any dance floor that you put me on.  But despite all of that, I have struggled with anxiety, for the better part of 5 years.  Honestly, I know I dealt with it before, but I didn’t really have a name for it, and didn’t think that I needed to get help for it until I literally felt like it was running my life, and that I would need to go to rehab to get rid of the horrible feelings that accompany anxiety – the chest pains, the false sense that everyone doesn’t like you, the obsessive and repetitive thoughts – you get it.

Anxiety is one of those things that makes you understand why someone might self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  At the point at which you’re starting to become afraid to leave your house or to interact with others, the only thing you can think of before it’s time to admit there’s a problem is to do something, anything to make the feeling go away.  Thankfully for me, I had the benefit of studying  human behavior, and knowing that if I tried to treat my anxiety with anything illicit, that nothing good could come of it.

So anyhoo, I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that anxiety doesn’t run my life, and for the most part, I really enjoy my life.  A little spoiler alert, however, like a lot else, anxiety is one of those things that doesn’t ever completely go away.  It sort of lays in wait, however, there are things that you can do to manage, not to avoid, your anxiety.

Mam

  1. That weird feeling creeping up?  Chest tight?  Feel like you’re going to jump out of your skin?  Workout.  Workout HARD, whatever that means for you.  Maybe that’s a long run, a long Zumba ® Fitness class, a bike ride, or a long walk.  Do not use this workout time to indulge your obsessive thoughts, rather, consider this time as spa time for you.  It is your time to treat yourself.  This is a treat. [Warning: Don’t let this develop into an obsession either.]
  2. Stop binge drinking.  Though drinking is an excellent way for you to sort of get your mind off of what it is that you’re doing at the moment, once you come down (or are facing the hangover from hell), you’ve really knocked your body off-kilter.  It’s a good time to take a little break from drinking all together actually.
  3. Skip the caffeine.  Caffeine can be extremely useful for your productivity, but it also can contribute to that horribly jumpy feeling.  If you’re addicted, try to go with a black tea, which just feels more relaxing to drink for me, or go half-caff (less shots of espresso) when you order your coffee.
  4. Cry.  Don’t like, insanely cry at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places, but if you feel like you need to cry, cry.  I am a firm believer that sometimes that lump in your throat, also rudely known as globus hystericus in mental health circles might just be tears stuck back there.  Sometimes you really need that release, and if you need to cry, go somewhere where you feel comfortable doing so, and let those tears flow!
  5. Take a break.  I hadn’t taken a day off of work in a really long time – and I love my job – but I completely forgot to take some time to recharge for me.  And for the sake of my family.  On my day off I ran, I watched The View for like 5 hours (I DVR every episode), I slept a ton, and caught up on some of the blogs I haven’t read in a while.  It was glorious, and the following day, when I went into work, the sun was shining brighter, I felt more rested, and my office looked more inviting.
  6. And finally, if you’re on medication for your anxiety, take it!  I am not a doctor, however, I do know that that stuff takes forever to get into your system, and when you forget a few pills, you’re screwing yourself up.

Like I said, I’m no doc, but these tips have personally been tried and true.  How do you manage anxiety?  Or are you one of those lucky sons that have lived a life without it? 

Engagement anxiety.

Being married is my favorite thing ever.  Everyone keeps asking me what I think about being married, and honestly, it has been beyond amazing.  I felt, a few days ago, for one of the first times, that we’re settling into marriage, which is a beautiful thing.  It was nice to look out of the window a few days ago, see the shed that my husband painted, and kind of smile and think, “we’re building something together!”  And I know, marriage isn’t all la la la kittens and baby turtles, but in the time that it is, I’m relishing the time and drinking it all in.

Exit

We got married at a pretty standard age I think, in fact, I’m a little older than some of my friends were getting married.  But, I think I’m starting to get into the season of my life where I’m seeing a ton of weddings and a ton of engagements, and I’m so happy for folks.  I am so pumped.  But I wonder if any of these brides have experienced any of the engagement anxiety that comes with being engaged.

The reason this came up?  A few days ago, I ran into a friend who was brand, brand, newly engaged.  I spotted her hand sparkling and asked her about it.  She raised her arm, almost zombie-like, and showed me.

“Oh my gosh,” I said!  “When did you guys get engaged???!”

“Last night,” she quietly drawled.

She didn’t seem sad.  But she didn’t seem happy.  If anything, she seemed a little…stunned?

And I think that’s perfectly normal.  You’ve just made the pre-commitment to commit to someone for the rest of your life.  That said, it’s normal to feel:

  • Stupid happy.
  • Like a grown-up.  You might not feel like a grown up, because grown ups, in your mind, are old and go to bed early.  And they never drink too much.  And all of a sudden, you’ve done something that really old grown people do.  And you might start to feel old.
  • A little stunned.
  • Tired.  You’re showing off your hand, you’ve recounted your proposal story about 400 times, and people keep asking when the date is, when you’ve only been engaged for like a week.  It’s a lot of attention.  I thought I liked attention before we got married.  Woof, that was a lot.

I can’t speak for the men, but I’m fairly certain they too go through the “oh, shit” phase before it passes and you’re married to your best bud.  So remember, my engaged friends, it’s okay to have some or all of the above feelings for a few weeks after engagement.

What was one big life change that had you stunned for a day or two?  

Anxiety.

I was kind of an anxious child.

Let me back it up.  So along with all of these absolutely horrifying stories of school shootings, comes the irritating habit of every television personality, person with a Facebook account, or local news channels pointing the finger at everything to blame, because it’s too much work to think about a culmination of factors, both societal and personal, have made this kid do what he’s done.

And antidepressants have taken the fall far too many times for my liking.

I was sort of an anxious child.  And sort of is a the under exaggeration of the century.  Little things would completely send me into a tailspin.  I cried and flopped around like a fool every time our family dog would run away, once, only for moments until my mom found her destroying a neighbors wading pool.  I once hyperventilated so badly the fire trucks had to be called to like, make sure I wasn’t going to die right then and there.  It’s kind of why I love animals, dogs in particular.  Their presence is calming to me.  Chihuahuas because they’re anxious like I am.  They’re thin, they’re little, they shake when they get scared.  They’re also ridiculously smiley, and in general, really good natured.  I’m like that chick in ‘7 Pounds,’ with the Great Dane?  They have heart problems, she had heart problems, it all worked out.

Noelle

So when I graduated undergrad in 2008, I was struggling.  I was in the wrong relationship.  I was graduating.  I had no money.  I was kinda fat.  I was to be starting graduate school with no money and no place to live.  It was a lot for a naturally anxious kid to handle!  And I hadn’t discovered working out and taking care of myself yet.  I had this perpetual lump in my throat. It was a hot sizzling mess.

Everything came to a head for me when, after a day of fun visiting art museums and things with aforementioned boy, I came home, and just cried into his lap.  I didn’t know what it was, or why, but the tears just kept rolling.  I’m sure the poor thing was really confused, he wasn’t any sort of trained therapist, and I wasn’t either, yet.  Eventually, after a few of these crying jags, I paid a visit to a doctor, who prescribed me Celexa.  And it was about a year, between the Celexa, the loss of about 40ish pounds, Zumba, running, yoga, burning sage, and not taking everything quite so seriously, that I began to feel like the person who was hidden beneath layers and layers and layers of depression-smog.

Did I turn violent and postal after I started Celexa?  No, quite the opposite.  Do most people on antidepressants?  Nope.  The vast majority of us are so ridiculously normal, you would never suspect us for being crazy.  (I kid, I kid!  We’re not nuts!)

Like I said before, I’m a little sick of antidepressants taking the fall.  Beecause.

1. If you’ve been  incorrectly prescribed antidepressants, like if you’re actually bipolar and you’ve been misdiagnosed as being depressed, that’s when bad things happen.  Not when normal folks, with a mild case, take their meds like they’re supposed to.

2. They do a lot of good things for a lot of people. I’m awesome.  I’m happy.  I’m chipper.  And it’s not just the Celexa, but it certainly helps.

3.  Don’t be a jerk.  If you’ve never taken them, don’t talk about them.  You never know who you’re sitting next to, and you could be insulting a loooot of people.  I’m super happy for you that you were able to beat your situation by meditating and breathing, but some of us chose an alternate route, and you should respect that.

Now, I’m off to supplement my lifestyle with some yoga before this marathon!  xoxo, ❤