I’ve always been a bit high strung. In a group text I’m usually the one with the “who, what, where, when” questions. I update my work to do list about 10 times a day. And when I get a cough I’m convinced I’m dying. I’m a Virgo, we can’t help it! We’re naturally type A freaks. Even though these tendencies were boarder line OCD I never would have considered myself someone with anxiety…until 4 months ago.
Let’s first rewind to March 2013. After a bad sinus infection I was suffering with fluid in my ears. Nothing was clearing it up so my allergist put me on Singulair and told me to take it daily. Eventually my ears did open. To this day I’ll never know if it was the Singulair or time that opened my ears but I was so happy to be free of suffering. Fast forward to July 2015. I was still on the Singuliar and strange things started happening. I was having panic attacks and a horrible tightness in my chest. My doctor told me that my lungs were spasming and that I needed to go off the medication cold turkey. The withdrawal I experienced threw me into a world I didn’t even know existed: extreme anxiety, insomnia (some nights I never fell asleep), muscle pain, and twitches all over my body. I was convinced I was losing my mind.
Luckily the worst of the withdrawal passed but when the dust all settled I was still left with anxiety. Gee thanks, Singulair. My theory is that my body got so used to being in the “fight or flight” mode during the withdrawal that once the medication was out of my system I was still programmed to be on high alert.
But there is a happy part to the story. I’m recovering. Why am I sharing such a personal story with you? Because just a couple months ago I was frantically searching the web for solutions to rid myself of this monster. I know how scary anxiety can be. But it doesn’t have to be. You have so much to offer the world and I don’t want anxiety to stop you from living out your dreams. Here’s how I’m taming the beast a day at a time:
Change Your Attitude
About a month and a half ago I was at my lowest point with anxiety. It was winning. But I decided I wouldn’t let it. I realized that I had the power to change the outcome if I changed my attitude. I stopped feeling like a victim. The moment flipped the switch to positivity amazing changes started happening: my sleep improved, the twitches lessened, and I was naturally becoming happier. I know it takes effort at first, but once it becomes a habit, it’s much easier!
Know That Anxiety Is Just A Habit
We were not born anxious, we created it. When an anxious thought or sensation strikes know that it is only persisting so that you can practice healing.
Distract Yourself With New Hobbies And Creative Outlets
Want to know a secret? I created this blog because of my anxiety. Sure I wanted to do this pre-anxiety, but I wasn’t making it a priority. But I read that creative hobbies drastically help cure anxiety. I also recently started taking piano lessons again. I always leave my lesson feeling less anxious and very accomplished.
Stop Limiting Thoughts
For a long time I thought “I’ll move back out when I’m recovered” (yes I’m one of those boomerang kids who moved back to into their parents house). That type of thinking would keep me in my parents house for life. In order to heal we need to stop these limiting thoughts. You truly can do anything you set your mind to…EVEN WITH YOUR ANXIETY! Do you want to run that marathon or start that business? Stop waiting. Do it today! I can now say that I’m proactively looking for a place and likely only weeks or even days from signing my next lease and that feels awesome!
Talk to yourself. In the morning tell yourself “I am confident. I am recovered. I am blessed. I am thankful. I am strong. I am capable of great things.” The universe responds to who you believe you are.
For so long I avoided breathing exercises because I thought they were a bunch of BS. But one day I was driving to work and my anxiety was through the roof. I had a meeting that morning and didn’t know how I was going to be able to get through it with this amount of adrenaline. I was desperate so I tried one of the breathing exercises I read about on the internet. Breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 6, in for 5 our for 7, etc until you are breathing out for 12 seconds. To my surprise my anxiety chilled out and I was able to breeze through my meeting.
Do Not Put A Timeline On Your Recovery
Everyone recovers at different times. For some people it’s only a couple weeks and for others it can be 6+ months. I still have no idea how long it will take me. I’ve come a long way but I still have setbacks, which are to be expected. The trick is to just not let them shake you. You’ll get through them and eventually they will become less and less. We’ll never 100% rid ourselves of anxiety. It actually would be detrimental if we did. Our anxiety is what helps us when we have to slam on the breaks to prevent a car accident. We just want to bring that fight or flight down so that it’s not happening all the time.
I’m the #1 hypochondriac so this advice was tough to swallow. But stalking the internet for magic cures and for comfort that I wasn’t alone in my struggles was only hindering my recovery. I have the tools I need to recover.
Lifestyle Changes: Exercise, Diet, Stop Caffeine, and Sleep
Exercise- I basically stopped going to the gym the first two months of my anxiety. This was horrible because pre-anxiety I went about five days a week. Exercise is important because those post-workout endorphins really calm anxiety. I’m back to my fitness routine and noticing improvement in anxiety and sleep.
Diet- Your gut and emotions are tied together. The healthier you eat the better your gut will feel and therefore the calmer your emotions will be. It’s all a cycle!
Cut The Caffeine- You are hearing this from the #1 coffee fan. My friends used to joke that I needed an IV of coffee with me at all times. I used to drink 3-4 cups a day. I have totally stopped drinking regular (shout out to my new friend decaf!). But I have good news: once we are recovered we can reintroduce it (start small people!). I look forward to that day but in the meantime decaf isn’t that bad.
Sleep- This comes harder to some of us than others. I still struggle with the occasional sleepless night. But they are becoming fewer and farer in between. Make sleep a priority. Give yourself time to wind down, drink sleepy time tea, power off electronics a little before you hit the pillow…whatever you need to drift off.
I take about 10 supplements and vitamins. I’ll do a future post with details on my regimen but there are a few staples that help with anxiety: Magnesium, Omega 3’s, and Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor for advice on dosage for these and other supplements they think may be useful.
Know That You Are Not Alone And You Will Recover
Millions of people have anxiety. Everyone from folks just like you and I to celebrities like Emma Stone, Lady Gaga, and Leann Rimes. You are not alone. We’re in it together. Also know that recovery is just around the corner. Picture yourself recovered. You will get there.
My anxiety is the biggest gift God has ever given to me. Although the journey has been painful it’s been such a learning experience. I’m learning who I am. I’m getting stronger. I’m becoming a more positive person from it. Not to mention I have a fabulous little blog because of it 🙂
Be well my friends!