“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” Steve Maraboli
(this post was originally published on February 10, 2014. I have gotten so many requests recently to discuss the topic of anxiety I chose to update it today)
Anxiety sucks. And its real. It can rob of us so much joy. It can paralyze us and isolate us. I am continually asked about this topic as I have shared openly that I live with anxiety and panic disorder, and on Saturday, a beautiful member of the Passion Squared community asked that I share some ways that I have been able to deal with it.
First and foremost, I am not a doctor. Duh. But I am in treatment and continue to battle this crippling condition, successfully (most of the time), thus, my ability to speak on the topic from MY experience.
Lets begin with the definition of generalized anxiety disorder explained by The National Institute of Mental Health…
“All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.”
So yes, it is all in our head, and for us, the fear and worry are very real.
The following are the ways that I treat my anxiety today…
I consistently see a therapist. Knowing that I have a mental disorder, I have accepted that one of the best ways to keep my head straight is to treat it. When we have a physical health issue, we see a doctor. Mental health is no different.
2. Eating + Exercise
One of the best pieces of advice I was given that works for me was about keeping my blood sugar regulated, meaning, eating some type of protein every 3-4 hours. In addition to that, I am very mindful of how much I mix caffeine and sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE espresso and drink it every morning. But I do not drink Venti Iced Mochas (sugar mixed with caffeine). Now on the exercise front, it works. And while I am not yet to the point where I do it consistently, when I do, my anxiety is greatly reduced.
3. Vitamin B
Again, I am not a doctor and am not saying what works for me will work for you, but keeping loaded up on B vitamins has absolutely helped me. And when I am not staying loaded up on B’s, I can feel the difference.
Whenever I am absolutely freaking out, I throw in my ear buds and listen to meditation music, Zen type stuff. It seems to really help calm down my heart rate. At the same time, if I am getting ready to present in front of an audience and cannot catch my breath, which is often, I will listen to my fave hip hop song, it seems to work for me as well.
5. Gratitude + Meditation + Prayer
One of the things I have learned about anxiety is that it can go from bad and to worse the more we focus on it and all the things we are fearful of. When I make my gratitude list, for just that moment, I get out of my head. It works. Same goes for meditation and prayer. Now, I am not religious, but I do my own kind of prayer. The meditation thing, I do by listening to meditation music as mentioned in #4.
6. Take A Walk
I know, I get so angry when people are like…”Just take a walk, you will feel better.” OMG, do you have any idea what I am going thorough right now? But in all seriousness, removing myself from the current environment, just for a few moments, helps. So if you are at work, walk outside. At home, move to another room. Anything you can do to change your environment can help.
7. Give Someone A Hand
This is a big one. The more we focus on our fears, the more fearful and anxious we become. So again, like the gratitude list, its good to get out of our own heads. Helping someone out, a co-worker, a boss, a friend or neighbor helps me get out of my head, and move past the anxiety I am feeling in that moment.
Now again, I am NOT A DOCTOR. I am only speaking from my experience and plead with you to go back to point 1, see a mental health professional and together, decide what the best treatment for you is. I have chosen not to be consistently medicated. Reason being, I tried, and I had disastrous results. My choice has been to work my ass off to battle this disorder the most natural way I can. However, I do have a prescription for a medication that I take ONLY when I am in a serious and debilitating attack. I am proud to say, I only have to take this 1-2 times a month, at most. And it is always a last resort for me.
9. Healthy Boundaries + Creating Space
Last but not least, I have created a space of peace and calm in my world. I have removed toxic people, toxic places, and most toxic things. I have sacrificed a lot to do this, but as an adult, I get to choose. And so do you. This could mean saying NO more, pairing down that to-so list, removing projects that are overwhelming you, staying offline from time to time, etc. It is a choice. As hard as that is to grasp.
Living with anxiety blows but we do have a choice of how we are going to let it control our lives. And like anything worth having in life, it takes work.
A big shout out of love + gratitude to Duke Strange, who inspired this post.
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Love + Awesomeness-