It’s that “A” letter word that a lot of people dread, 7 letters, yet it can literally take over your life. Anxiety.What is anxiety? Anxiety is a feeling of worry and it can come in many different shapes or forms. A lot of people feel uneasy or get nervous about many different things. This is never an easy topic to talk about and discuss, since a lot of people like to brush it off or cope with it differently. Whether it’s feeling uneasy about a job, a presentation, boys, relationships, school such as college or university, you name it. I am not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I have had anxiety since grade 6. Let’s jump a little bit back into my personal life shall we?
In grade 6, I did not really know what anxiety was nor did I know I had it. I went through different phases throughout that year such as: the no lying phase (silly I know, but I couldn’t tell a single lie without feeling extremely guilty), the hearing voices stage (I would hear negative thoughts going on inside my head) and lastly the worry stage (I would constantly worry that I would get into trouble at school). These 3 stages started to slowly take over my daily life to the point where I thought something was wrong with me. Was I possessed because I was hearing strange voices in my head? Great… I am turning into the Exorcist. Were all the other kids worrying so much about school like I was? Questions were constantly running through my head, and I wanted them answered. I eventually informed my mom about the whole ordeal and my parents them took me to go see a psychiatrist. At first, I was nervous, scared and anxious to see this doctor because weren’t they for crazy people? This is where I want to make it very clear that actually a lot of people go and see these specialists..it’s natural, normal and it’s okay. I wish someone would have erased this image that I had towards these doctors earlier. If it helps, they have probably heard a lot more nuttier stories than what you are about to tell them, so do not feel judged. This is another image that I had drilled into my head, “what are they going to think of me?”. For starters, this is their job, they are well educated within this field and have heard a lot of stories, so trust me… You are not losing it. The psychiatrist wanted to right away put me on anti-depressants. Of course, my parents rejected this, as I was only in grade 6 and no coping methods were offered to me except medication.
Eventually the 3 phases began to slowly disappear and ease up until I was into my early years of university. Meeting new people (especially if you are shy), not knowing anyone, dealing with a breakup and entering a new atmosphere is enough to slowly start to put someone over the edge. Little things such as presentations were enough to make me feel sick to my stomach the night before. What if I mess up? Oh my goodness, I know that girl over there…she’s going to judge me. What if I choke up on my words? These were constant questions that would keep me up the night before a presentation, preventing me from getting a goodnight’s rest. Let’s not even begin to discuss the actual presentation date. I would feel my palms getting sweaty, my nerves kicking in, my throat getting dry and my stomach turning. I remember clear as day telling my best friend, “I am thinking about switching my program because I don’t think I can do this one presentation”. That was an awful feeling. Already mastering one year of university and now wanting to back out over a silly presentation? This was when it hit me. I NEEDED to go and see a psychiatrist again because I couldn’t live with constant anxiety each day. The psychiatrist began to ask me multiple questions such as, “What is your first memory you remember with your dad?”. I was thrown off-guard. Seriously?! I don’t even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday and you want me to remember that?! She continued to ask me random questions which I didn’t see the point of. Little did I know she was trying to see if I had a good childhood growing up and if I was struggling with depression or anxiety. For anyone who is struggling with anxiety, it can be extremely hard to figure out yourself if you have some sort of depression because we do have our ups and downs. Our ups may range from having a really good day and smiling to wanting to be alone in your room and cry.
I was later informed that I had a general form of anxiety and was taught different coping techniques/methods to help deal with the “A” word. I found that the methods did work, but they were not working fast enough for me since I was constantly surrounded by stress from university. This was when I was prescribed a pill for anxiety. Since my Serotonin levels or “happy levels” were low in my brain, I needed the extra boost to get them back up. A lot of people have negative views towards individuals who take the medication thinking it’s “the easy way out”. Newsflash… there is no “easy way out” when you are struggling with anxiety. Even when you are taking the medication, you still worry a bit, the medication doesn’t just magically make anxiety disappear. There is nothing wrong with taking medication for this mental illness that a lot of people around the world struggle with. I would rather see a person get the extra help they need then to get to the point where they do not want to be here anymore. Easy as that.
From dealing with anxiety on a daily basis, I have heard a lot of statements from people I know such as, “don’t worry, be happy”( thanks Bob Marley, I would if I could),”quit being sad”, ” what’s there to worry about anyways?”, and the list goes on. A person who struggles with anxiety can not simply turn it on and off. A lot of people do not understand the severity of anxiety which reminds me of the statement, “they don’t know you broke your leg until the cast is on”. Some individuals hide their forms of anxiety better than others, while others (like myself) have a hard time hiding it. If you know someone who has this mental illness, try to educate yourselves a little more. Look up different ways to approach them without setting them off. By no means am I saying to “walk on eggshells”, but just be a bit more cautious on how you say different things.
Now that you know a bit more about my personal life and my anxiety background, I am going to provide you with tips and methods to help cope. All of these methods have helped me over the years, and I strongly recommend trying them out for yourself if you are having a difficult time.
- Herbal Tea. It’s the night before a huge presentation and you can’t seem to calm your body down, so what do you do? If I am very anxious about an event the next day, I love to make a “relaxation tea or a sleep time tea”, is what I like to call it. You can purchase this item at any grocery store in the tea section, and there are many different kinds of it. The tea that I am in love with is by Tetley and it’s called, “Dream”. When you are looking for a herbal tea, you want to keep in mind one of the major ingredients which is Camomile. This helps to relax the body and the mind as well as place you in a calmer state. Herbal teas are extremely beneficial and even inexpensive. I purchase dream tea for under $5.00 and simply sip a cup before bedtime. I do not add any sugar or milk to it, I just drink it as is.
- Listen to relaxing music. Since our minds tend to over think at nighttime, our anxiety can sometimes get the best of us. One technique that I love doing while I am laying in bed is listening to “rain sounds”on my laptop or iphone. The sound of rain is extremely relaxing, and before you know it, you are sound asleep. This technique is super easy and I do this all the time if I know I can’t settle down.
- Answer your “what if’s”. Being an individual who struggles with anxiety, I am constantly bombarded with “what if’s” in my head. Simple things such as: “what if I choke up on my words through this presentation”, “what if that girl over there is judging me”,and so on. My therapist taught me this simple yet effective technique to help cope with this questions… answer them. Grab a pen and paper and write down everything you are currently anxious about. Beside your “what if” try to answer it as best you can. For example: “What if I choke up on a part of my presentation?”. Answer: “Everyone makes mistakes, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be human. You practiced the night before, you have put a lot of effort into this, and you are just going to try your best. That is all you can do”. This simple strategy helps individuals to realize that certain things are out of your control, and it’s okay that you are not perfect.
- Take 10 deep breaths. If you can feel yourself slowly starting to have a panic attack or you anxiety is kicking in, take a second to take some deep breaths. Often our breathing starts to race and quicken when we are anxious or nervous about something. Taking deep breaths helps to slow down your breathing and make you relax more.
- Bach’s rescue remedy spray. This simple spray is extremely effective when calming down your nerves 30 minutes prior to the nervous or hectic situation. When I first heard about this spray I was doubtful and did not believe that a spray could calm you down. I tried using this spray before a huge presentation that I had to do myself and was shocked at how effective it worked. Of course I was still a bit nervous (it’s good to be nervous a bit) but I wasn’t as nervous as how I usually would be. I was completely fine, and managed to score a 90 on the presentation speaking in front of people, which is my weakness. I continue to use this spray before going into work or any other situation I am nervous going into. This is an all natural supplement, and you can purchase it at any local grocery store for around $20.00. You simply spray two sprays at the back of your mouth. Be aware, it does not taste the greatest but it works like a charm! If you have tried this product and are not very fond of the taste, you can also try “Bach’ Rescue Pastilles”, which looks like little gummies that you can swallow. You can purchase this at your local grocery store as well and it is around $10.00.
- Don’t let anxiety win. A lot of people who struggle with anxiety often feel that they are defeated and weak. Just because we have anxiety does not mean we have to let it win and define who we are. Often people do not help themselves out when they are struggling, but in order to move on with life, you need to fight it. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you are afraid of speaking to people, try making little goals for yourself each day like saying hi to at least one person. I talked about this technique in one of my other blog posts earlier on but it is very effective. If you push yourself out of your comfort zone and embarrass yourself, then what is there to be embarrassed about later on?
- Exercise. When I know I am getting into a funk or am really nervous about something I set time aside to complete a work out. Distracting your mind and releasing endorphins will help you relax and feel good about yourself. Even a quick 10 minute workout is enough to ease the mind from racing a hundred miles a minute.
- Have a strong support group. Having a good group of friends and family members by your side to help you along the way is always beneficial. Having your closest support group there for you and well informed about anxiety will help you along the way, and give you reassurance that there are always people there for you. Luckily for me I have friends and family members who are already well aware of what anxiety is and some even struggle with it as well. Do not keep everything bottled up inside you. If you continue to do this chances are you are going to lose it eventually. Talking to your support group or even a close friend may help to ease your anxiety and help you feel more relaxed.
- Write in a journal or diary. While going through my rough patch I was recommended by my therapist to keep a journal near by and write how my day was. I was instructed to write down with all honestly how my mood was that specific day and what I ate and did as well. This helps you become more aware of your thoughts,mood, and activities that you do each day. When you are having a really good day, you can look back on one of your bad days and reassure yourself that you don’t want to feel like that again. Of course we can not control how we are feeling certain days, but it helps document any progress that you are making.
- Try to think of a few positives for every stressful or nervous situation. This can be extremely difficult if you are constantly on edge. Coming up with a few positives for each negative situation will help you slowly develop a more open mind and optimistic outlook. This method has helped me a lot over the years and I constantly use this technique everyday. A few examples could be: You are scared to do a speech infront of a group of people. Positives: the speech is only 5 minutes out of your day and life and you hardly know any of these people. Do you really think they are going to matter 5, 10, 20 years from now? No. This outlook helps to ease up the nerves and can be brought into any nervous or hectic situation.
I hope this heart to heart blog has helped some individuals who are currently struggling with anxiety. If you have any questions on today’s blog feel free to comment below. I know that it is a constant battle each day but you can not let it win and take over your life. “You cannot move onto great things if someone else is writing your script”
Much love xo.