Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 4

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 4

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Happy Hump day everyone! Wow…. I am on a roll today with these blog posts, mostly I give credit to this amazing and unreal coffee getting me through! So I know some of you have been wondering how my last Wednesday session went at my social anxiety group therapy. Honestly, it was a struggle going to this meeting that time. It was a very long day and the thought came into my head, “meh lyss….come on… you can miss just one!?”. In reality guys, you can’t. I mean sure if you really have an emergency or something which is totally acceptable but it’s so crucial going to every single one of these meetings, you literally learn something new every single time. I am so glad that I pushed myself to go. I knew for a fact that I was going to have days like this where I really did not feel like going and then your brain explodes with excuses why it’s okay. So.. shall we jump right into it?

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I honestly was not nervous whatsoever this time, literally no nerves at all which I found so surreal. I sat down in a different chair this time and quietly waited for 6 o’clock to hit. There was the same amount of people there as last time and everyone just kept to themselves until the session started. We began with doing some mindful thinking and breathing like the last few sessions. I rather enjoyed it more this time because we had to close our eyes and listen to a girl on an app speak to us and calm us. I actually have this app on my phone and can honestly say I really do love it. There is something about listening to other people speak to calm me down as opposed to listening to my own thoughts. If you guys are interested in downloading the app it is called, “Stop, Breathe and Think“. I remember clear as day, the first time I ever tried this app, I chose “trying to feel more thankful & grateful for things” (you can choose what you want to work on). After listening to the lady and finishing with the mindful breathing, I sent this huge text message to my aunt saying everything I was grateful about towards her, I will never forget that!

So after the breathing was done, I was feeling extremely relaxed and we started getting into the session. We always start by taking up homework that we had to do that week. Of course, I get called upon, but now when I am getting called upon… I really am not tensing up that much as opposed to what I usually would do.  We were working on exposures that week and I decided to focus on trying to incorporate more “small talk” with my boss or the mom I nanny for. I had looked at my hierarchy of exposures and basically came to the conclusion that alot of my fears have to do with having a conversation with someone whether it be via face to face or over the phone. I decided to give it a go. I remember that week trying extremely hard to push myself and initiate some of the conversations that I had with my boss. Prior to this exposure, I really tried to keep our conversations really basic and would hope they would finish like that so I would not have to talk as much. I started pushing myself with little questions and conversation starters such as, “how was your week or your weekend?”, “what did you do on the weekend?”, “how were the boys this morning” and so forth. This sparked some nice conversations between the two of us which was good for a change. The mom knows that I am taking part in my social anxiety therapy group sessions, so every Thursday she asks how my session went the night before. Of course, I do not have the balls to say “oh hey I am doing my exposure on you“, so I basically just tell her I am onto exposures now and so forth.

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I continued to try to initiate small talk with the mom every single day. I tried hard to push myself to go that extra mile and stayed in the anxiety-provoking situation. I shared this current exposure with the rest of the group and shared that after the week it really felt “natural” to have conversations with my boss. I also informed the group that I really am capable of having small talk with someone, and that I am very hard on myself. This is accurate for someone struggling with anxiety, we are so hard on ourselves and just need to step back and say, “I can do this“.  We then went around the room where others had shared their current exposures as well. After doing this, we went right into what we were going to learn that day and what was “skill building“.  The instructors asked several questions and read out several statements to us, asking if any related to us at all. One particularly stood out to me and I informed the instructors.

“I am just shy,  but others say I appear snobby or better than others”.

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“I am just shy,  but others say I appear snobby or better than others”. This literally was me to a T. I then shared my story with the group how in my first year of residence, I hardly spoke to people on my floor because I didn’t know anyone and was super shy. I remember hearing that some people on my floor literally thought I was a stuck-up bitch for not socialising with them which was extremely hurtful considering I am so far from that! Often I do feel judged when it comes to my shyness and that is one of the reasons why I am attending this program, to work on it. We then began to talk about skills to help us communicate better and help us with our listening skills, some of these include:

  • looking  more interested by making more eye contact
  • more involvement by asking for clarity
  • staying with the conversation
  • a response that is honest and supportive
  • being open and showing awareness
  • do not worry about being perfect

Often there are certain things that I found that interfere with my attempts to listen to someone. I often rehearse everything that I am going to say back to the individual who I am engaging in a conversation with, this can distract me from actually listening to the person. Being an anxious individual, I come off as a closed listener. I try to avoid eye contact at all costs, usually, my hands are wrapped around my stomach or crossed in front of me, I sometimes sit hunched over, or I even have a serious face. So…. taking that into consideration it may come off to others that I am not actually listening to them within the conversation. This week, I have been trying to be more of an open listener. I have been trying to: make more eye contact with others, lean forward, sitting up straight, smiling, and having my arms placed at my side.

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For our take-home homework, we had to record down on a sheet different ways we showed active listening. I will let you guys know in my next blog how that went and if I actually pushed myself to engage more so stay tuned! We also had to continue doing some more exposures as well.

Lastly, with the remaining few minutes of the session, we had to get into partners. From there, we had to literally interview each other and ask personal based questions to get a better understanding of that individual and their interests. Some of the questions I asked my partner were:

  1. do you have any pets? What are their names?
  2. how do you exercise?
  3. favourite movie and type of music?
  4. tell me about your education.
  5. where do you work? etc…

So we had to take around 10 minutes to ask these questions to each other and write down the answers. After this, we had to share and address to the group who your partner was sharing their answers out loud and introducing them. I will admit, I was pretty nervous for this. I hate anything to do with partner work and I also found it extremely awkward when my partner was introducing me for some reason. I do not usually like being the centre of attention, so I think that had something to do with it. But hey I did it. That was a beneficial exercise to get to know everyone a tad bit better, which was awesome.

Well I hope you guys enjoyed this update on my therapy! As you can see it’s going great so far and I am slowly opening up more and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Be sure to follow my other social media accounts to be up to date with my blogs!

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 3

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 3

Processed with MOLDIVGood evening my beauts and happy Saturday! So I have some pretty good news to share with you guys, I have not been in a rut this week so that is a good start! I have been feeling pretty good lately since I have been eating a lot better, meal prepping and even going to the gym on a daily basis. That being said, my mood has been up lately and I have not been in an aggravated state recently. So, that being said, moving onto session number three of my social anxiety group therapy. This Wednesday was a lot more interesting than the other ones by far, as we actually started to get into the real deal. Shall we get right into it?

I actually was not nervous at all this time when 6:00 hit. I was feeling a lot more at ease and comfortable which felt so nice. The week prior I had been filling out my cognitive therapy tracking form. We had to track for the week our social anxiety thoughts. This basically included different situations such as the place where it happened, what your anxiety was rated during that moment, what different anxiety provoking thoughts and predictions that were going on in your mind, different alternative thoughts and predictions, the evidence and realistic conclusions afterwards and lastly your anxiety rating after the situation. So.. this was a lot of information to track down as you can see but it is crucial to get every single detail within that moment so you can actually sit back and view how your anxiety gets triggered and how you cope with the situation. I only basically had written down one big situation that had happened that week.

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We began the session by some mindful awareness exercises… basically, like meditation. We closed our eyes and focused on our breathing taking 4 big deep breaths in, ensuring your tummy pops out as you are inhaling, and exhaling for 5 seconds through your mouth afterwards. I do find these extremely relaxing but I often find myself not being able to hold my breath that long so I really need to work on that! haha! This went on for about 15 minutes for the start of the session, then we reviewed the homework that we were assigned to complete that week, such as the anxiety thought record sheet. Of course, being a social anxiety group, nobody ever really volunteers to speak when the instructors ask if anyone wants to share some experiences they had that week. I am however thankful that they push you to step out of your comfort zone. So of course, I did not raise my hand whatsoever, and just kind of stared down at my sheet hoping they would not call on me. This brings back so many memories back when I attended Brock University. If I would not want to be called upon I would often look down and avoid eye contact at all costs. So low and behold who do you think they call upon? “Alyssa do you have anything you want to share with us?“. I wanted to badly to say “pass” but I knew deep down I would only be letting myself down and not really trying to push myself to go at it.  I remembered during that whole time when I was wishing they would not pick me, just going over and over in my head what I would share if I had to. That’s part of my anxiety,  going over and repeating what I would say, often preparing myself so I do not stumble or make a fool out of myself. I began explaining what had happened that week and how I actually had my first panic attack. I will share it with you beauts what had happened to me that Thursday night.

I was at the gym and actually had my last personal training session that I had paid for. I had a total of 4 personal training sessions which I absolutely loved and I really did love my trainer. I informed her a lot about my life and what was going on such as my anxiety and so forth. So after my session had ended, she sat down with me and offered more extensive training to me. Basically, for 9 months I would be training 3 times a week with her. I honestly was very excited about this opportunity and did not fully think through the financial aspect of it. Personal training is not cheap. So once I saw the number that I would have to pay by the end of the nine months I almost passed out. She then began to inform me to not look at that huge number but that I would be making bi-weekly payments instead. At the end of the discussion, I decided to sign the contract without informing my boyfriend who I am living with right now what I was doing (bad mistake on my part by far). Anywho, I eventually told my boyfriend Ian later that night what I had chosen to do and he was pretty upset with me, to say the least, which was completely understandable. I would be upset too if I were him, especially since we are saving money at the moment. So as I was speaking to him I decided to message my personal trainer informing her that I had made a mistake and if I could possibly cancel my contract and the personal training altogether. Let me just add in there that this personal trainer is actually the boss and the head person at my gym. She had messaged me back saying that she could not cancel the contract as it was already sent to head office, my registration. This caused a lot of tension in my home, as I was now informed that I had to stay in this contract and keep making these payments. I could feel my anxiety going up tremendously, and my heart started to race. Tears then started streaming down my face and I was having a hard time trying to breath. I literally thought I was dying, but I knew right away that I was having my first panic attack. Luckily my boyfriend had calmed me down at the time and actually looked more into my contract. He then found a statement in fine print at the back of the contract that basically said I had ten days to cancel my plan and get out of my contract. I could not believe it. If it had not been for him looking more into it, I literally would have been completely stuck. I do not really know anything about contracts and how they work, let alone this was the boss that was giving me this false information. In her messages,, she kept saying she could lower the payments and cancel some training sessions so I did not have to pay for as much. Long story short, I cancelled my personal training…. thank god… but this whole thing could have been completely avoided from the start. I was so mad and felt the frustration run right through me.  We ended up complaining about the whole issue to the head office, so I am not too sure if something had been done about it or not.

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As I shared this whole long story with the rest of the group, I was actually surprised by myself how I did not even stumble over my words. I took my time when I was sharing my story and didn’t feel the need to rush through it. I was honestly proud of myself for speaking and even speaking for a long period of time. After others had shared some of their stories as well, we then got onto the topic for today’s meeting which was “exposure therapy“. I have been dreading this…. you guys can probably tell by the title just what it is. The instructors informed us that a lot of people would rather avoid situations instead of dealing with them head on. Basically, avoiding an anxiety provoking situation brings immediate relief but only for that exact moment, not for the long run. By facing your fears, on the other hand, you learn that avoidance is not the only strategy out there. We then went over some subtle avoidance and safety behaviours that a lot of people tend to do including me. One that stood out was distraction. Often when I am in an awkward situation and I do not know what to say, I pull out my phone and immediately start texting or looking at social media. This helps me feel more comfortable in certain situations but this stops me from learning different ways to manage this uncomfortable feeling. Another behaviour that stood out to me was “overprotection“. I was called upon again and asked if this had ever happened to me before. I then stated to the group that I often like to go with a friend to certain events. I stated that in previous years I only went to the gym with a friend and I would not dare to ever go by myself. I also would never go to the mall by myself as well. The instructor then questioned why I would not do these things, what I would feel. I then stated that I would not know what I was doing at the gym if I went by myself. I would look like a complete idiot not knowing how to work the machines. That way if I was with a friend, they could help me out without me having to ask someone else. But I have been slowly challenging my anxiety without really taking the chance to step back and notice. I joined a gym here in Hamilton, and actually go by myself. However, I made sure I felt comfortable in the atmosphere before joining and that it was an all girl’s gym. I also love to go to the mall by myself now too, and I can literally take as much time as I need in the stores….. which I love! This also made me remember about a week ago what my best friend had pointed out to me. I was shopping with her in Lazensa and she was looking for some bras and needed help with her size. The lady who works there came over and asked if we needed help with anything. I then proceeded to state that my friend here was looking for a size in a certain bra. I also thanked that lady for her help on the way out of the store when we were finished. My friend then stated that she was super proud of me and could not believe I did that. Some things I do not even really notice I am doing now, which is a huge step for me.

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Some of the other behaviours that were mentioned included: overcompensation; which could include preparing topics to discuss at a party, excessive checking and reassurance seeking; including constantly checking how other’s perceive you. This behaviour I can strongly relate to, especially when it comes to my relationship with my boyfriend. Whenever he looks upset I always ask him, “what’s wrong?”, or “are you mad at me?”. I often am always concerned about his state meanwhile he just had a long day at work or he’s just tired. This sometimes comes off as nagging on my end which I can totally understand but I sometimes can’t help it! Another behaviour that I can relate to strongly is “substance use“. Whenever I am invited to a party, I usually always ensure that I had a drink before arriving. I hate being sober at parties and even this thought causes me a lot of anxiety. I am usually afraid that I will not know what to talk about, and that when I am intoxicated I am more sociable and outgoing.  So after going through these safety behaviours and avoidance behaviours in great depth, we then discussed the “exposure hierarchy“. Before I even attended my first social anxiety group session, I had to attend an orientation. Within this orientation, the instructor and myself came up with a hierarchy of different social situations that make me nervous. I will share with you guys exactly what was on my list:

  1. talk with individuals one-on-one                 Fear(90)   Avoidance(50)
  2. maintain eye contact                                          Fear(70) Avoidance(40)
  3. manage anxious thoughts about what people think of me  Fear(80) Avoidance(80)
  4. tolerating criticism                                               Fear(80) Avoidance(90)
  5. express more in a job interview                        Fear(80) Avoidance(50)
  6. go to a party sober                                                 Fear(90) Avoidance(100)
  7. call people on the phone                                     Fear(90) Avoidance(80)
  8. return an item to a store                                      Fear(80) Avoidance(100)
  9. ask someone for help                                            Fear(90) Avoidance(100)

Ask you guys can see this is quite a big list, but it basically covers which really triggers my social anxiety.  After reading this list again we started discussing the topic of “therapeutic exposure“. So basically this needs to be structured, planned ahead of time and it needs to be done frequently. I had to decide when I was going to do my exposure, what time I was going to do it at, who was I going to do it with and it needs to be done as close as possible to each other. One thing that the instructors emphasised was that while thinking of these exposures and planning them, we needed to make sure they were small and not overwhelming. These exposures are going to test out our anxious thoughts, and also challenge our beliefs and predictions.  We were informed to make a plan. While working on our plan, remembering to let our feelings happen, and to not leave a high anxiety situation, but rather to wait it out. No safety behaviours are to be used in these exposures as well as no avoidance. We can also use the cognitive strategies I had mentioned in my last blog post to challenge the anxious thoughts that come up afterwards. One that I had mentioned that worked well for me was stating, “it’s only temporary“.

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Phew, that was one hell of a long blog post this week sorry guys! There was just so much to discuss that had happened in this meeting. I have been slowly tracking different small exposures that I have been doing so far. Some of these exposures include:

initating small talk and one-on-one conversations with my boss. Asking more questions such as “how was your weekend” and so forth.

-returning an item that did not fit from Forever 21. 

I am making some progress but it is not just all going to happen at once. I will admit I was anxious in both of these situations, but I did not leave and pce the hell out. I dealt with them, and they were really not as bad as I thought. I am still brainstorming what other exposures I will do until next Wednesday. I will be sure to tell you guys in my next blog post, what other exposures I did. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post! Let me know what you guys think. Be sure to follow my other social media accounts as well:

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 2

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 2

image3Hey my beauts, I hope you all had a wonderful extra long weekend and did lots of family-orientated things today! So I know that I had promised to keep you guys updated with all of my weekly sessions, so I am going to share with you guys how my second session went. So last Wednesday was not a fully eventful Wednesday let’s just say. It honestly was such a super long day for me. I got off work early and literally had two appointments that day including the social anxiety group therapy meeting. When it came time to go to my meeting at 6 I was literally exhausted and really did not want to be there. However, once the meeting got started it pretty much flew by which was awesome. This Wednesday I was not as anxious as I was the previous Wednesday. I felt more relaxed that whole entire day leading up to my meeting and in the meeting as well. There were a couple people that were missing this time however for what sort of reason.  As soon as I found a seat, sat down and grabbed my name tag, I was right away commented on by the coordinator that I looked completely different. I literally did come straight from the gym so I knew I looked like a complete dirtbag let’s just say.  I had then mentioned to her that I didn’t have time to put on any makeup whatsoever and that I had come straight from the gym. What I found so weird when looking back to that incident now, is that within that same meeting later on in the hour we learned different types of categories in relation to the anxious thoughts that could occur. One was “mind reading” and that is exactly what I was doing in that moment. When the coordinator mentioned that comment, I automatically thought that she was thinking I looked like complete ass and that I looked like a hobolojoe. In reality, however, I did look completely different. I was wearing a baseball cap and sweat clothes with no makeup. My anxious thoughts however automatically raced to the negative view and outlook of that comment when realistically I just looked different from my last session, and that may not even mean in a negative way. My mind just likes to jump to the negative in a lot of situations, and that is where my anxiety starts to peak. Going off of this incident, we did learn the cognitive therapy aspect of social anxiety. We started to go into depth on the anxious thoughts one may have such as : mind reading, probability overestimations, should statements, personalization, all or nothing thinking, catastrophic thinking, negative core beliefs and lastly selective attention and memory.

As you can see there are eight different kinds of anxious thinking and thoughts that an individual can have. This was honestly very new to me, but once this was looked at and reviewed I could relate strongly to a bunch of these that happen on the daily with me. The one that stands out the most to me is the mind reading category. I often always assume that people are thinking a certain thing, often relating to something negatively. I also can see myself using the should statements such as, “should I do this instead of this“, or even “I shouldn’t have done that“, and so forth. So after going through each anxious thought in depth, the instructors then started to go over different ways to identify the anxious thoughts that are occurring. In order to do so, it is crucial to ask yourself 3 important questions. The first is, ” What am I afraid will happen to me?”, the second, “What do I fear that the other person will think about me“, and finally, “What will happen if my anxious thoughts are true?”.  Once you have identified which type of anxious thoughts are bothering you, you can then move onto coping and dealing with those thoughts. We were taught that first you need to examine the evidence within that certain situation. So basically, what is that anxious thought/belief that you are having? You are then going to find support of that anxious thought and also support of alternative thinking.  I am not going to go through every stage of the 7 stages for you guys, mainly cause I do not want to bore the shit out of you. But going through each of these 7 stages and understanding how each of them worked was great.  One huge stage that stood out to me was stage 6 and that was different coping statements that everyone uses to get through an anxious time. Everyone has different statements that they use and there really is no wrong answer. I often find myself saying and thinking, “it’s only temporary“. Once I say this to myself within an anxious situation, I know that the anxiety will only hang around for a short period of time and that it will eventually go away. Some other statements that one could use could be: “it’s anxiety not the truth“, or during a presentation “it’s okay to be nervous during a presentation, it’s normal“. These coping statements work so well and yet they are so simple and take two seconds to say. I would highly recommend thinking of a coping statement that works best for you.

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There are several different key points that I want to address to you guys that stuck with me from that Wednesday meeting and my second session. One of the instructors mentioned that if you are someone who often uses mind reading as a way to introduce anxious thoughts she stated, ” you are the one who in reality is hurting yourself, they are not hurting you. By you thinking that they are thinking negative stuff about you, you are creating those anxious thoughts but in reality, their thoughts are not the ones attacking you and stabbing you“. Even though this statement is so simple it honestly hit me like a tonne of bricks and a light bulb went off. She was so right. Their thoughts are not hitting me, kicking me, causing me pain. In fact, their thoughts are stuck in their minds and chances are… they probably are not even thinking what you think they are thinking about. Another statement that was made within the meeting that stuck with me was seeing things from the other person. People who have anxiety often do not think the nicest things about themselves or speak to themselves nicely… I can highly relate. The instructor had asked us a simple question, “would you speak to your best friend about things that are bothering them the same way you speak to yourself?”. Obviously, I would never say rude things to my best friend and if they ever felt anxious I would try to go about the situation in a more positive setting, so how come we are so negative in our ways of thinking when it comes to ourselves? This is a question that really stuck with me and made complete sense. Or you could go about different situations in the mindset of someone who did not have anxiety or social anxiety. “If I did not have anxiety, how would I go about the situation?”.

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Lastly, I wanted to quickly mention the seventh stage that was introduced to us within cognitive therapy.  This was the stage of behavioural experiments, and I would have to say… this is the more anxiety provoking stage for sure. This is basically putting your anxious thoughts to the test and experimenting what the actual outcome would be. One anxiety provoking thought could be, “thinking it would be terrible if my hands would shake when I hold a glass of water“. The behavioural experiment from this thought could be to make your hands shake on purpose. You could spill on yourself and see what happens… if it is really THAT terrible. One that I know relates to me is the fear that during a conversation, I will not know what to say next. Something that I could practice could be actually pausing during a conversation that I am having then carrying on after a short pause. This will allow my mind to realise and see that it is okay to pause and collect your thoughts… that it is normal.

Although I did not completely cover in detail the seven different strategies for changing your thoughts, I will list them below for you guys to view:

  1. examine the evidence
  2. challenge catastrophic thoughts
  3. include your strengths and positive traits
  4. seeing the other’s perspective
  5. examine the costs and benefits of the thought
  6. use coping statements
  7. do behavioural experiments

At the end of the session, we had to get into partners (absolutely hate doing that shit), and go over different strategies that we could try in relation to our anxious thoughts. Overall, it really was not that bad getting into partners, and my partner was very helpful. I did feel slightly anxious when we would run out of things to talk about and created that awkward silence, but hey….. what can you do.

I hope you guys enjoyed this session update on my social anxiety group therapy! Be sure to follow my on my other social media accounts for more uploads in the near future!

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 1

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 1

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Happy Friday my beauts! I hope you all are having a wonderful day so far and enjoying your evening! So if you guys have not read my latest blog post discussing my mental illness then I strongly suggest reading that prior to reading this one today. I touch base on my anxiety and what different steps I decided to take to help manage and have better control over my anxiety… more specifically my social anxiety. As you all know I decided to join and take part in an anxiety support group that is based strictly on social anxiety and geared towards finding strategies to manage it better. I have decided that I am going to do weekly blogs, aside from other blogs that I may choose to write, discussing my different sessions that I take part in. I go once a week to these group sessions and they are two hours long. I mainly want to blog these sessions to inform and give advice to others, who may want to chose this form of treatment to better themselves as well. I also find that this is a great way to look back on the progress I have made over these 8 weeks of therapy. So… shall we get started or what?

As some of you may know I had my first group therapy session last Wednesday. This was held in a facility located in hamilton. I literally had no idea what to expect. I would say that my anxiety level a week prior to this meeting was very low since it felt so far away. Even on that Wednesday morning, my anxiety was not high whatsoever. When driving up to the building however, I could feel my anxiety levels slowly start to creep up and bang on my chest. I honestly had so many thoughts running through my mind as I sat in the car waiting for it to be 6:00. “I wonder how many people are going to be in the room with me?”, ” is everyone going to be nice and welcoming?”, “am I going to get called upon even though this is the first session“, “am I actually going to go through with this?”. I knew for a fact that I would rather be anywhere else than go waste two hours of my time talking to complete strangers and feeling uncomfortable. I knew deep down however, that this mental illness could not take over my life any longer, and I need help getting it under control. I knew that this was not going to be easy and my anxiety was probably going to be through the roof.. but you know what? That’s okay.

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Finally, it was 10 to and I knew that I had to make my way into the facility and find the room. I could feel my social anxiety already start to kick in. I for sure did not want to be the last one walking into that room as that would mean that all eyes were on me. At that moment I had a huge flashback to University…. remembering that if I was the slightest bit late to one of my lectures… I would literally say “pce the f*** out“, and turn around and head home. There was no way in hell I would open that lecture door and everyone would be staring at me…. say hello to social anxiety! I finally found the room for the group therapy and was honestly expecting a group full of people sitting around in a circle.  Instead, I was welcomed to a big table with seats all around it. Again…. another flashback hit me square in the face. This literally reminded me of my seminars at Brock University as the set up was the absolute same. I felt my anxiety quicken as I hated those memories… being forced to speak to a group of people or else you would get a poor mark… always feeling uncomfortable. I found a seat right away and sat down. I found a questionnaire in front of me as well as a booklet and a tag for me to write my name on. I sat there quietly waiting for other people to come in and for the session to finally start. Within my sessions, we have two girl group coordinators that run the program. There are also 7 other people besides myself who are participating within these social anxiety sessions. To be honest they all look around my age or slightly older but all looked relatively normal. When you think of social anxiety, you think of someone who is a hermit, someone who keeps their head down and their eyes on the floor. To my amazement, nobody really looked like that. Finally, it hit 6:00 and the session started to begin.

Right away we opened our workbooks and started going through what these sessions were going to address and how they run. You have the right to pass whenever you need to, but the group facilitators strongly suggested trying to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. We then were addressed that later on within the sessions, we were going to encouter the “e” word…. exposures. I knew that was coming, and did not want to think about it at the time. The thought of being put in one of your most uncomfortable situations and facing your social fear terrifies the shit out of me…. literally the absolute shit. But hey… I want to get better…. I need to.  We then started the introductions which I knew was coming and was dreading it. We had to say our name, and one neat thing about us. Right away my social anxiety decided to visit. “What if the thing I say that is neat about myself really is not that neat?”, “what if I stumble on my words?”, or “what if somebody judges me?”.

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“Hi my name is Alyssa. I am a twin and I have two younger sisters who are twins as well“. Right away to my surprise I made a few people smile and I heard a few “wows” in the room. Wow…. see that was not so bad was it? After that hard part was over, we were directed to fill out the questionnaire in front of us. Basically, this questionnaire was rating our anxiety levels and what goals we want to reach. You can pretty much guess what my anxiety levels were… super high. As the session progressed and the hour went by, I actually managed to raise my hand and share some answers with the others.  Still however, after speaking I would always question in my mind if I sounded okay when I spoke out loud or if I sounded like a complete idiot.  One issue that social anxiety steals away from me is my confidence. I should be confident towards what I have to share with others… but I never am… in fact, I am overly nervous and unsure. I remember one of the other people in the room asking if their anxiety should be decreasing throughout this session, but sadly stated that his was the opposite.  As opposed to his anxiety levels going down and his nerves calming, he was getting more nervous every minute. I looked at him as if I knew exactly what he was going through. This whole entire hour, my chest has been so tight and I could feel the butterflies trying to get out of my stomach. I hate this feeling. I hate feeling uncomfortable all the time….. and why? I am literally sitting in a room with 7 strangers and listening to a person speak… what is there to be afraid of?

 

image1-4Poof. My social anxiety literally fled the room and I never encountered him again…. kidding.. literally wished it was that simple. Throughout reading the first few pages within the notebook I actually learned and took in a bunch of important information. I had learned that avoiding anxiety only just maintains it but gets rid of it in the moment. I can relate so much to this statement, as that is what I have been doing… avoiding certain situations when I can.  One important piece of information that stuck with me throughout the session was that having anxiety is not a bad thing. I have always hated my anxiety and hated how it picked me to bring down. In reality however, fear and anxiety are helpful. They can protect us from certain situations and make us more alert. They can also provide us with the energy and motivation we need to get through events. I guess I have never really looked at my anxiety from that point of view before, to not actually get rid of it completely but more or less control it better.  Within the session, we also touched base upon the three components of anxiety which are : the physical sensations, the thoughts and the behaviours that go along with these thoughts. People who have social anxiety, like myself, tend to focus more on the negative instead of the neutral sides of things. In reality, more likely we are actually the ones who are causing the problem and the attack in the first place, this is a psychological sensation and our minds can be our worst enemies. We react to situations how we perceive them to be which usually results in over-generalization. I remember clear as day probably a couple days ago, I went into work bright and early (I am a nanny) and the father had asked how I was that morning. I replied with good and asked him how he was doing. He did not look too pleased and just kind of huffed and stated that he was okay. Right away, I started thinking “what did I do?”.  When in reality, he was absolutely exhausted and the kids did not sleep that good. Over-generalization. I literally do this all the time and that is the route of my problem but I can not help it.

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Finally it is time for our ten minute break so I can gather my thoughts on this session and try to calm down a bit. I remember thinking that I was going to cry because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was happening. I gathered myself together and was ready to take on the next hour. One person however, did not come back to the session and I remember thinking, “hey… you’re still here and that is a big step“.  I knew I was doing the right thing by still sitting in that chair. We then went on to discuss more of the booklet and fill out different anxiety charts.  I remember looking at one of the pages where it listed different examples of social anxiety situations. I could not believe how blind I was that I actually had a severe form of social anxiety. I honestly thought that it was a normal thing, and it would eventually pass on it’s own one day. Some of the examples that I could relate to were:

-presentations

-speaking on the phone

-one on one conversations (sometimes)

-going to a party completely sober

-having to small talk with someone

-job interviews

-speaking to authoritative figures

-asking for help

-having to attend a social event by yourself

How crazy is that though? The red flags were all in front of my face, yet I still honestly had no idea I needed help. I set a bunch of goals for myself after I am finished with the 8 weeks of sessions. A lot have to do with the list above, and managing my anxiety a little better so I can breathe during these situations. After the first session was over I felt a bit of a weight get lifted off my shoulders… I did it. I made it to my very first group therapy session on my own and that is a huge step for myself. However, I am still nervous about what is to come from the other sessions and I am really not looking forward to my exposures. I can not wait to see my progress however, and finally be able to breathe and live life again. I can not wait to face my fears and challenge myself. You will never conquer your fears while still inside your comfort zone. Take that step.

I hope you guys enjoyed this first blog post on my first session with social anxiety. I will be posting more after each session occurs, informing you beauts on the experience that day and what I had learned. Be sure to follow my social media accounts for more updates in the near future!

Main Instagram page- alyssahotrum_xo

Blogging Instagrm page- thatothertwin_xo

Snapchat- alyssahotrum

Much love xo.

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Where have I been? Touching on life updates & mental health

Where have I been? Touching on life updates & mental health

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Hello my beauts, yes I know what you are all thinking.. where the hell have I been? I will admit first hand, I am not the greatest at keeping up with the whole blogging thing, mostly because this is not my full-time job or hobby as one may say. I am not a profesh YouTuber where I can dedicate all my time towards writing and uploading blogs all the time as much as I would love to do that. First things first, it’s a new year…. you know what that means? A fresh new start, and a time to create new goals and stick to them. You always want to keep in mind that in order to achieve certain goals they need to be realistic or else you will never get to where you want. Within this blog post today, I wanted to share with you guys some life updates and basically the trouble I have been getting myself into lately… just kidding ! But really though, I honestly wanted to share this with you guys, more for the fact of providing more insight on different topics and really giving you guys an up close and personal sight towards these “issues” that have been going on within my life.  So where to begin?? In 2016, it really was not that bad of a year for myself. I am not one to say, “omg I am so happy it’s 2017 now and that 2016 is history“. I will admit however, that in 2016 a lot of things really did open my eyes. One of those topics including finding who I really am as an individual. Honestly, if you were to pull me aside one day and ask me to tell you a bit about myself , I probably would not really know what to say.Sure I can say I am a twin, I am 23 years old and I graduated from Brock University but what does that really say about myself as an individual and my personality?

The past few months have been both ups and downs for me, and a lot of doctors appointments coming out my asshole, and literally out my asshole. I honestly have never had so many back to back appointments in my life, I literally have one every two weeks or two within the same week…. and no I am not dying. A lot of these doctors appointments have been geared towards mental health issues and underlying issues that have been kind of suppressed to the side. I think I knew I had to figure something out and do something about these issues when I woke up one day realising I literally have zero energy. I had no motivation to do anything, and my job seemed so exhausting each and every day. I just was not feeling myself whatsoever, really not too happy as well.  Looking back on this feeling, I am so glad it finally just hit me square in the face, and literally yelled “you need to f***ing do something or you are going to feel deprived of life“. It was like someone was looking down on me and told me to wake up. When discussing mental health, I am really open to this topic. If you were to ask me 3 or 4 years ago to share my life I would say no way in hell. In reality though, there are so many people who have mental health problems, and you know what? That is okay. It is okay to not be normal, in fact what is normal? I am not embarrassed of these issues nor am I ashamed to share them with others. In fact I am hoping that these discussions spread and share some light towards this highly controversial topic to let others know that it is okay to talk about mental health. Anyways aside from my little rant, I kind of knew that my eating habits were getting worse which resulted in low energy levels. One might state, “well then eat better“, but in reality, someone who suffers from an eating disorder thinks this is nearly impossible to do unless help is there. It’s strange how you view yourself and how others view you. We are so harsh on our bodies and yet I am one to talk. I am probably my worst enemy when it comes to body image and accepting who you are as a person and as an individual. Instead of days where I would purge a couple times, it became a daily routine. If I ate too much simply because I would starve myself all day, I would purge as well, keeping the constant routine or binging and purging. It really is a vicious cycle, especially when you become sucked up into it. I honestly knew deep down I had to do something about it and asap.

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I actually mentioned to my family doctor during a checkup not too long ago, that my eating disorders had come back and they are in more effect than ever. She then guided me in the right direction towards getting the proper help that I needed. I started seeing a therapist who started helping me control my anxiety better and discuss my eating habits. Although she was not too knowledgeable in the eating disorder category, she did suggest seeing a dietician as well.  She could see that my eating disorders were triggered by anxiety and my way of controlling and coping with stressful situations was to control my eating.Seeing the dietician has really helped a great deal. She helps provide me with different small baby steps that I can improve to each one of my meals to ensure I am getting enough nutrients each day. However the dietician is only temporary and she is there to provide support for me until I am accepted into an eating disorders program. Unfortunately, the only downfall to receiving help towards mental health, is the help may not always be there right away… it does take time. I was sad to hear that there was a 3-month waiting list for this program, but I am happy to have that support system with me until then. Overall, I am so proud of myself for acknowledging the fact that I really needed the extra help that I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. Sometimes, it is okay to ask for help. I feel that some people are ashamed to reach out and ask for that help. I was that person too, and really thought that I was okay on my own…. in reality… I was not.

“There is always help”

24 hour Hamilton Crisis line- 905-972-8338

 

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So this is continuing til this day even as I type this. I am seeing a therapist and dietician every few weeks to make sure I am on track. So now onto my next topic and that is anxiety….not just general anxiety but social anxiety. Honestly, I really should have expected this and seen this coming. In previous blogs I have mentioned about having anxiety all my life and always being a generally shy and nervous person. While talking to my therapist I have realised that I have been diagnosed with severe social anxiety. I was not too shocked to hear this because I hate speaking on the phone, always care what others think/how I present myself and fear speaking in front of people. I will never forget what one of my family members said to me a while back he said, “how are you going to be a teacher if you are afraid of talking to people“. That honestly dug into me like knives because he was right in a sense. I planned on becoming an elementary school teacher but hated doing presentations and just in general, speaking to people. A sense of sadness came over me as well because honestly ,it was something about myself that I really could not change that much I mean…. I am just in general a quiet and shy individual.  I did not really see myself as having that severe of social anxiety but looking back now.. I can see the red flags, I think I just tried to ignore them. I would often get so down on myself because I thought, “how am I supposed to have any kind of career if I have a fear of speaking to people?“. I knew that something had to be done, especially when my best friend suggested I take a course with her soon that would look great on a resume and be super beneficial towards my degree. I simply asked her, “what do we have to do in the one day course?“. She answered “icebreakers, some short presentations…“.By that point, I was done. Bye Felicia . See you. I can NOT do that. In fact I believe she had asked me in November about the course and I was already developing nerves for it… this course I believe is in January. I felt so down on myself and felt that I could not accomplish anything due to my social anxiety. Finally, a light switch went off and I knew that I could help myself out. My therapist recommended attending a social anxiety group which happens once a week. You know those things you see in movies where everyone sits around in a circle? Ya I am pretty sure that is it. First thing I said to her was, “you have got to be kidding me…. I hate speaking to people yet I will be in a group being forced to speak to others… you’re crazy”. She then reminded me that all of these other people within the group will be around my age, and they all have some form of social anxiety. Ok she was right. Why am I really that nervous meanwhile they are all probably shitting themselves as well? To this day I have not attended any of these sessions, but I do have an orientation coming up for the group this week. To be honest, I am nervous. I think it is fear of the unknown. I do not know what to expect and fear that the worst is going to happen.

Honestly I have to wake up and remind myself each day that you are doing something to better your life. I have accepted the fact that I have some underlying mental health problems, but I am finally doing something to cope with them to a better ability. If you are struggling with mental health problems please know you are not alone and that there is always someone to talk to and help is always there for you to grab. It may take some convincing and pushes to get out of your comfort zone but you got this. It is 2017, the acceptance of mental health and mental illnesses are growing, do not be afraid to challenge these head on.

I really hope you guys enjoyed reading this little update blog on where I have been and what has been going on! If you guys enjoy this post I will keep you guys updated on the progress and so forth. Love who you are as an individual and do not be afraid to explore.

Be sure to follow my Instagram accounts for blogs to come in the future!

Main Instagram Account- alyssahotrum_xo

Blogging page- thatothertwin_xo

Snapchat- alyssahotrum

Much love xo.

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Living and coping with your worst enemy, your mind.

Living and coping with your worst enemy, your mind.

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Hello my beauts, I hope you guys have been well! I apologize for the super late posting as I have been extremely busy with everything and I have not been able to sit down and actually blog/ put my thoughts down on my site. I have been super busy with starting up work again, and let me tell you, working with children tires you out for sure. I have also been debating on what to blog about because I usually like to mix up my blog posts every now and then. I have decided to write a more personal post to share with you guys this week, just because a lot has been going through my head and I have had numerous amounts of time to think to myself. I have decided to write this post about your mind, more specifically my mind and how it works/functions.

Your mind can be a magical place, filled with imagination, positive thoughts, years of educational knowledge and places to put memories. However, what mom, dad, schools, teachers and textbooks don’t teach you is how your mind can completely turn against you. Remember having friends when you were little in Elementary school where they would take your toys away without asking or leave you to play by yourself and go to another friend group? Remember saying “I’m not going to be your friend anymore”, and finding new friends to play with? I remember times when I would dislike certain friends because they were not being “nice”, I never knew what the word “hate” meant or even that the specific word existed.  You had the freedom to meet new people,  leave behind friends that weren’t considered “friends”, and create relationships with people who love and care for you.  I remember waking up in the morning when I went to elementary school and not having a care for my physical appearance whatsoever. I would simply put my hair back into a tight pony tail, throw on some random clothes that were not name brand, and throw on some chapstick before heading out the door for school. Now if you were to ask me today if I could get ready in 30 minutes like I used to for grade 6 I would say “not a chance in hell”. I need approximately 2 hours to get ready before going to work, going for dinner, or hanging with friends. Why might you ask? Because my physical appearance is one of my biggest necessities in life. Usually when you are asked what is considered most important to you in life, one might say “education or achieving an education” in order to live a successful and happy lifestyle. I could be wrong but I do not think that this is one of the most important aspects that people would answer if asked this question today.  Your appearance does account for a lot of things and maybe that is how I met my own worst enemy/friend, my mind.

You know how I stated earlier up above that in elementary school you can choose who your best friends are or friends in general? I wish you could do this with your mind, but sadly this is one part of your body that stays with you for life, whether you want it to be there or  not.  If asked one day, “do you hate anybody in your life?”, I would answer simply with not somebody but something, my mind. Not all the  time do I have to use this vulgar word in relation to hatred, but we have a love/hate relationship more than anything. Somedays I am not too sure if this is a good thing or more of a bad thing, but it’s something that I have to deal with when I open my eyes in the morning, to when I close them at night time. Even though our minds are a powerful  thing and sometimes are overwhelming, there is one thing that is more powerful than it, and that simply is your courage to fight it when the bad thoughts approach and turn them into positive vibes. A lot of people often let their minds win their battles, and I am for sure not one to talk. I admit that often my mind loves to break me and try to bring me down. One prime example of this that I have to deal with is my anxiety. I have mentioned this in my previous blog post before strictly on anxiety and how to cope with it. Anxiety plays such a powerful role on your mind and comes out in your actions. I sometimes do not know when my anxiety is going to trigger but I usually have good ideas when it is going to come on. Having to wake up in the morning panicking because you have to go to work to talk to people is exhausting and embarrassing. This is one of my major anxiety triggers, which is the concept working.  One thing that my mind starts doing and I am sure this happens to many people in this world or who are reading this blog is that my mind likes to wander. Once my anxiety has been triggered it’s like a domino effect. My mind becomes overwhelmed with numerous negative thoughts and the “what-ifs” come into play. “What if you can not go to work today? Then  you will get fired. “I have to work every single day of my life, how am I going to get through this?” I do not know if you can. “How come I get anxious and nervous for everything in life?”, maybe because you  do not try hard enough. See what I mean? I feel like often my brain likes to answer the what-ifs for me even I didn’t ask it to. It’s like my mind is invading my personal space and interfering with my life at points. Even though I feel like some days it is out of control, I know deep deep down that it won’t defeat me. Even though my mind is attached to my body and I have to live with it for the rest of my life, I can slowly but surely start to change my outlooks on things, especially when my mind starts to emphasize my flaws.

When discussing and talking about flaws, I do not think the mind works independently on this project but rather has the help from other sources, one being social media sites. I know for a fact that when I go on social media sites such as Instagram or Facebook I love to “creep”. Why might you ask? My mind is searching for new ways to fix my flaws, and gather ideas on how to change my appearance. Sad isn’t it? But I do not think I am the only one who admits to doing this on a daily basis. What I do not get is why I can not accept me for me. At times it is extremely hard to when society and social media is encouraging individuals to better themselves, specically when it comes down to appearance and what one looks like. All you see now a days are super skinny models with their hip bones sticking out, no pimples on their faces, beautiful long hair, and an all around perfect physique. No wonder everyone is so messed up and are thinking in the same ways. I know that this has had a huge impact on me over the years, and in fact more recently again, specifically when it comes down to dieting and eating. I have come across numerous diets over the past few months, some I have tried and some I have not even bothered with. The overwhelming message of “YOU HAVE TO BE SKINNY”, is extremely overpowering and for sure plays with the ways in which I intake certain foods. Often my mind races when I eat more carbs and tells me to “stop eating”, or to skip certain meals. Of course being a 22 year old who is pressured to look a certain way by our society, I have chosen to try these techniques in order to lose pounds but let me just say this. Instead of me being happy and listening to my mind’s orders, I just became angry due to the lack of food inside me. This did not work whatsoever, nor was it healthy at all, and I am quite aware of that. Being 150 pounds and reaching a height of 5’8 is nothing to be shameful about considering the average weight for a female with this height is 154. How come society strives for us to push harder? How come people recieve nasty comments on facebook or Instagram from individuals stating their opinions on how “overweight” or how “chubby” this person is when they fall into a healthy weight category. This is why there are 12 and 13 year olds all over the world caring more about their physical appearance as opposed to their education. This is why eating disorders are so common in this era and is occurring in females as young as 10 years old. We are starving, puking, dieting, over exercising and exhausting ourselves for what? To recieve that attention we always wanted or to fit in with our messed up world? This is a question that even ponders my poisonous mind all the time, considering I am sill keeping an eye on my “healthy weight” and striving to shed more pounds.

I know our brains and minds are powerful things but we can not let it take over our bodies, let alone affect how we present ourselves in a negative light. Coming from myself, I am still trying to create more of a love relationship with my mind. I know that this does not just happen over night, but if progress does occur over a long period of time than that is better than nothing. To become that little girl in grade 6 again with not a worry in the world and a care for my appearance would be a dream, but I know that I have experienced, witnessed and became vulnerable to society’s demands of the “perfect image”. I know that I have numerous questions still lingering inside my mind that I have a hard time finding an answer for such as :, “why I can not just wake up one day and love every part of my body”, or “why I constantly strive for an image that is not me”. Although I can not provide answers to these questions right now, I can state this, “there is no definiton of perfect and there are no human beings on this earth that are considered perfect. If we as individuals keep spending time fixing the person god created you to be, we are never going to live. I hope and pray that one day this message will sink in to my friend and my closest/worst enemy, my mind.

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How I cope with anxiety- my personal story and coping methods

How I cope with anxiety- my personal story and coping methods

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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