I have started and scraped this blog post at least two dozen times. I’m terrified to share this, but also feel like it’s time. I have ached to scream from the highest peak so that the people who suffer like I do will hear me and know they are not alone and so we can go forward together, but on the flip side I have longed to be better at burying the affects of the anxiety that I deal with daily. Behind the bubbly personality, never ending energy, sass, and big smile- there is constant fear.
For the last 7 years (and probably before that just presenting differently) I have struggled with crippling anxiety. On the one hand, it makes me excellent at what I do (seriously, you would not believe the absolutely impossible situations I have mentally prepared back up plans for- MacGyver has NOTHING on me) and focusing on a wedding that moves quickly and keeps me busy is the best medicine, but I can’t coordinate a wedding every day of my life just to keep the ugly feelings at bay. Then there is the other hand, that can make me feel like my heart will just explode at any given moment, an actual physical feeling caused by being completely overwhelmed by completely irrational thoughts. I often don’t know how I will manage to keep myself from having a panic attack- usually the anxiety gets this bad when I am still, not doing anything, trying to force myself to sleep, etc. The smallest things stack one on top of the other- like grains of sand filling a sandbag and then that sandbag sits right on my chest. Crushing, massive, dead weight. Then suddenly I find myself terrified to open my emails, afraid to answer something wrong, or make a bad impression. I fail to post a blog, afraid that no one wants to read what I have to say. I skip the social media posts because I am so wound up in trying to make sure the post is perfect or is perceived correctly, or reaches the right people, or uses the right image…the list goes on….
The simple tasks that I ENJOY when I am not trapped in the waves of anxiety that can churn up unexpectedly and are different each day, become giant obstacles.
Struggling with these feelings is difficult enough for anyone, then we add in- being a business owner. I cannot shut down and tune out when the anxiety gets bad, because I have a job to do. I have to fight through the fear and crushing feeling, because people are depending on me to do so- my husband and my dogs are depending on me to do so. Over the years I have come to find some ways of dealing with the anxiety the best I can, and I thought it might be good to share the tricks I’ve found that are a little out of the ordinary- just in case they can help someone else. *I do not take any medication due to another health condition- so finding things beyond that has been helpful.
1. Meditation/Deep Breathing – this is sooooo not something I usually am into, I seriously do not even have the attention span to do yoga, but I have found an app that helps me immensely when I just need to bring things back around and get centered so I can focus. The app I use is from calm.com and I love that one in particular because you can tailor it to what you need. There is of course more features when you pay, but the free version gives me exactly what I need.
2. Change Your Tunes – When I am feeling extremely anxious, I have found that turning off the music (in the car or in the office) and turning on NPR or a podcast really helps. I used to think softer more acoustic music would help to keep the anxiety away but I have found within the last few years that music is almost too much stimulation for my brain when it’s in overdrive.
3. Make a List/Use Resources – especially at night when I am trying to fall asleep, my brain goes right over the edge into thinking of at least a million things that I literally can do NOTHING about at that particular moment, what I have found is that if I open the Notes app on my phone and just brain dump all the things into a list, my over active brain seems to be satisfied. I will sometimes do this 5 times throughout the night. If I am starting to think up completely irrational things I will go so far as to google them to reassure myself I am wrong. If my brain has convinced me I have a meeting in the morning that I somehow did not put in my planner and forgot about (this has NEVER happened to me, but keeps me awake more than I would like to admit), I use the search feature of my inbox to verify that there is no meeting.
4. Essential Oils – I hate bandwagons…and I resisted this one, I was sure it was a fad, I was sure it was all just a placebo effect even after I researched it (I am a giant science geek- I wanted to major in chemistry for a long time) it COULDN’T POSSIBLY be THAT good..but wow, I got my first diffuser and set of essential oils just a few weeks ago and already I can tell you the difference I am seeing is incredible. I sleep now guys. I actually SLEEP. This is something that has not happened easily in a long time. I use lavender at night and it is amazing. I am hoping that getting some good, quality sleep will improve the frequency of my panic attacks. At this point even if the science is wrong and it is just a placebo effect, I’ll take it…and then some.
5. Make It a Thing – Start a journal, start a blog, write a letter, speak the things you are feeling over coffee with a friend. You do not have to fight through these feelings alone, if nothing else, let the people around you pull you back to shore when you’re out in those waves of fear and anxiety. But no one can help you if you try and bury it, you have to make it a thing.
6. Get Lost – Go on a drive down every gravel road you can find- turning every direction you’ve never been before, take a hike in a park you haven’t seen before. A change in scenery can clear your brain and get you back on the right track. I’ve seen some really pretty things nearly in my own back yard, just because I took the dog for a walk down that back gravel road because I was feeling a panic attack coming on. I took a drive last week and got so lost I had to use my GPS to get back home and it was wonderful. I don’t know exactly why this works for me…it just does.
Most importantly…HANG ON.
This too shall pass.
You’ve got this.