As someone who spent most of her life thinking that people who had anxiety were just people who couldn’t handle stress (sorry about that), it really took me by surprise when I became absolutely overwhelmed with anxiety last fall. It literally felt like walking into a brick wall, that consequently fell on me, and there was NOTHING I could do to get away from it.
Because I was not born with it, and mine was situational, my biggest thing with anxiety was that I was terrified it would last forever. I did not want to be someone who was living with anxiety, or struggling with anxiety, I wanted to be someone who “went through” and “overcame” anxiety.
I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking I was going to die or lose, or more frightening to me- thinking I was going to “snap” and lose control of my mind and thoughts forever- no, seriously. If you feel like this, I promise. I promise. I promise. It is not going to happen.
You are not the exceptional case that everyone else is fine, and you are going to die ( I thought that too). You are going to get through this, and it will be nothing but a blip on your radar when you do. If you need to email me at 3:00 am so I can reassure you of that again- I will do it 1000 times. Because, I had to have someone do that for me (thanks, mom).
- Podcast: Invisibilia: the secret history of thoughts
If you don’t want to talk to me, I suggest listening to NPR’s Invisibila podcast specifically “the secret history of thoughts.” I don’t know about you, but I was a big “why” person. If you could tell me why I was feeling a certain way, that helped the logical part of my brain to wake up and participate. This podcast, specifically, helped me to put anxiety into perspective, and not feel like it was running my life.
** PS the whole Invisibila series is awesome if you time to work your way through.
2. TED Talk: Walking on Custard: How Physics Helps Anxious Humans | Neil Hughes
Escape the Custard by Neil Hughes is not only good for a laugh but it helps to put your feelings into words (another thing I struggled with) and learn how to identify when your anxiety is actually coming on, and when your mind is just in a cyclical state of being anxious about becoming anxious (this has also been me.) I am able to look back at the conversation with my mom where I tried to explain to her that I was afraid of being afraid and, sort of laugh.
3. App: Pacifica
This was a little outside of my box at first, but I’m really glad I got it. I tried a lot of mindfulness and CB therapies and Pacifica helped me not only keep up with my progress between sessions (feed my competitive side), but more importantly, it has some cool free exercises listening exercises to relax when you’re having a panic attack, or just need a distraction from your own thoughts.
These are just a few of the many things that I tried, and the ones I feel like worked best for me, but honestly along with every one of these there was a lot of prayer, tears and support.
Before I personally went through it, I thought real anxiety only occurred if there was something wrong with you, or you were mentally weak. What I learned, was, well a lot of things, but most importantly:
1. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Because I found out almost every person I know, even those I would never expect, have been through it, or are going through it.
2. Don’t let it have you. I feel like everyone is affected by anxiety in some way at some point in their life, but that absolutely doesn’t mean it has to be forever.
3. Don’t let it be a mark on your record. As I was working on getting out of that anxious state, I had a lot of feeling like” I just want to be done with this” I can’t believe I’ve let anxiety run through this much of my life, and I’ve wasted it.” It is absolutely not a wasted, and I firmly believe that our greatest achievements can come from painful points in our lives. I learned a lot about myself, why I do certain things, and going through those feelings really gave me a heart for wanting to help others to become someone who “overcame” anxiety.
Life is pretty great when we let it be!