How I Manage My Anxiety
May is Mental Health Awareness Month… & it’s prompted me to open up about my battle with anxiety & how I’ve learned to manage it.
Sometimes I feel like I am genuinely going crazy. I’ve lost count of the number of panic attacks I’ve had & I couldn’t tell you what sparks them. I’m the type of person that believes there is a right way of doing things, & can’t understand doing things any other way. I follow the rules, I say “yes” when I know I should say “no,” & I am an expert at getting myself wound up about the little things. There is a right way of storing the coffee mugs in the cabinet, there is not an excuse for being late, & losing things definitely will drive me right over the edge. I convince myself that crowds of people I don’t know have expectations of me, I constantly live in slight fear of someone discovering that I don’t have all my shit together, & loud noise levels will legit drive me insane. Yep, I’m admitting to things here that most are afraid to let others in on… but it’s my reality.
Forgetfulness, inability to focus & feelings of distractedness are daily occurrences which all lead me to feeling quite crazy most of the time. Sometimes I lay wide awake in bed at night, jumping from thought to thought, topic to topic & idea to idea faster than they can even enter & exit my brain – I’ve tried counting sheep… but lose count; I’ve tried praying… but end up apologizing to God for not staying on topic. Feeling like I’m about to spin out of control or having the desire to crawl out of my own skin is pretty normal for me.
I started talking to someone about feeling this way prior to getting married… I definitely didn’t want my new husband to bear the brunt of my crazy. I started taking medication to help me take the edge off, & it’s been a game-changer. But, I still didn’t feel 100%. Recently, I sat down with a psychiatrist & went through a series of tests to see if perhaps I was missing something… were we treating the right things? Is there something I’m missing?
I’m a perfectionist. & a super competitive one, at that. While I don’t struggle with ADD, I am my own worst enemy. My anxiety is real… & it drives me to have some serious OCD tendencies. & all of that is OK. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I take medication to help calm my nerves, but I’m also fully aware that I can’t (& won’t) rely on medication to take care of the problem completely. I’ve learned that acknowledging that I have anxiety & what makes me feel anxious is the first step I’ve had to take in taking charge of my anxiety. &, I’m a complete control freak, so now that I’ve been able to admit that I do struggle, I will never let this get the best of me.
Here are a few ways I cope with my anxiety:
01. Know your limits and when to say “No.” This one has always been difficult for me. I’m a people pleaser & I never want to let anyone down. However, a friend of mine recently said something that really stuck with me, & I’ve tried to remind myself of this daily: “If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a NO.” I know I’m impulsive, I know I agree to too many projects or make too many social engagements, & this will definitely lead me to having a melt-down. While I admittedly don’t know what the heck to do with free time, a jam packed schedule leaves me feeling overwhelmed, tired & it negatively impacts the quality of my life.
02. Time block. I will map out my day using time slots per tasks & set timers for each one. For example, I know that I need to spend time each day engaging on social media for each of my client accounts, & we all know how easy it is to lose track of time scrolling our feeds. I know that, in order to stay on track & productive for my day, I can give 30 minutes in the morning, at noon, & at night to this task, so I set a timer.
03. To be early is to on time, to be on time is to be late, & to be late is to be left behind. I’ll never forget these words from my high school band director. I always try to plan on being early & I set set my calendar 10-15 minutes earlier than I am supposed to be somewhere.
04. Exercise daily. The difference this makes in my days makes this a non-negotiable. I’m not one to go for walks around my neighborhood, but if I miss my morning session with my trainer I will always try to get in a yoga class or spin session later in the day. My mind is always clearer once I’ve gotten the blood circulating.
05. Eat healthy. I typically try to eat pretty clean, but I also don’t restrict myself from cravings. However, when I start feeling on edge & panicky, I almost always have been indulging in processed foods & sweet treats. My body runs better when I’m putting quality fuel in it, & when my mood starts to be impacted it’s a great reminder to get back on track.
06. Jot things down. I keep a notebook by my bed & carry one around with me in my purse, to write down everything I don’t want to forget when I wake up the next day. I often lay awake restless & my mind is racing. If I take the time to write down my thoughts & ideas, I can find the peace I need to fall back asleep & go back to these things later.
07. My husband knows me. I am super lucky that I have a loving partner who knows when I’ve reached my boundaries. D. knows my quirks & can detect when I’m reaching my limits, so he does what he can to alter our world to keep me feeling safe. This might sound like he’s enabling my dysfunction, & maybe he is, but I love him so much for being able to notice when I might be testing my limits & can take me by the hand to remind me that he loves me. Sometimes all I need is him telling me that, to help me reset.
Do you struggle with anxiety? What do you do to cope with it? Please, share your story in the comments!