My heart races, it gets harder for me to breathe, my stomach is twisting and turning, fear and doubt are attacking me from every direction possible, and I’m scared it will never stop. This is only part of what I deal with when my anxiety hits and I know I’m not alone. For some odd reason (sarcastically typing), my anxiety has been above and beyond the worst I’ve experienced in a really long time. And like most of you who deal with it on a daily basis, I just want to curl up into a ball, pass out or cry, and never leave my house.
Before I continue with this blog post, I want you to know that you and I are NOT alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States. That’s approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54. See, I told you you weren’t alone. There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed.
I also need to tell you that I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I do understand that everyone’s level of anxiety or mental state is different from mine. I’m explaining my situation, symptoms, and what works for me. Please see your doctor ASAP for medical advice and help.
I will tell you that I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder eight years ago. But, I know I’ve been living with it longer than that, since I remember feeling this way for a large part of my teen years. Today, I’m on my own path to healing and this includes practicing non-medicated ways of coping with my symptoms. I am on a daily medication, but I’m hoping to be off of it one day. For now, I will share how I cope when I feel an anxiety attack coming on.
The second I start feeling anxious, I stop what I’m doing. I close my eyes (if possible) and take in a deep slow breath of fresh air through my nose. I hold it for one second (not any longer), then I breathe out slowly through my mouth. I make sure to do this slowly. If I do it quickly, I will probably start hyperventilating. I do this, no matter how long it takes, until I start to feel better.
In the beginning, I didn’t think I could distract my brain from all the worry and fear I was feeling at the moment an attack hit me. This did take some practice, but today I try to distract myself with other thoughts of happier moments, playing with my cats, going for a walk, reading a book, cleaning, listen to music, or whatever makes me genuinely happy.
Since day one, my therapist has suggested physical exercise and it really works for me. I normally head to my gym, hit the treadmill, elliptical machine, or the bike and let it all out there. Yoga even works for me. Or I just throw on my Beyonce workout playlist and dance around like crazy for an hour. Hey, whatever works right?
I will admit that meditating is currently what I do the most. I take a seat in a quiet spot in my house, put on my headphones, find a meditation playlist, close my eyes, and breathe. It is hard for me to concentrate at first, but with practice I’m getting better.
I never thought I’d say this, but man I love me some calming essential oils. It’s nature’s way of telling me it cares. Whether I dab lavender on my wrists, use an oil diffuser, get a massage with them, or add a couple of drops to a warm bath—they never let me down. And if I have to, I just open the bottle of my favorite essential oils and inhale.
Talk to Someone
When I first started having anxiety attacks, I thought I was alone. I didn’t think anyone would understand. Wrong and wrong. Whenever I’m having a rough time, I reach out to someone I love and trust. Normally, it’s a phone call, but if I can force myself out of the house I go have coffee or lunch with them. I will also give my therapist a call when I need to. She’s the best. Feel free to contact your church or spiritual center to speak with someone. I find that talking about what I’m going through helps a lot.
Dealing with anxiety on the daily is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty exhausting, especially when you’re a control freak like me. I hate it more than you can imagine, but I know it doesn’t define who I am. If you are currently going though this or something similar, I ask that you do not give up. Know that there is help out there and please do not be afraid to ask for it. Remember, you are not alone. I live every day knowing that this is only a speed bump on my journey.