3 Ways I Deal With Anxiety
First, this is a reminder, I am sharing my experiences. These are the things that have helped me go from being someone who suffered from anxiety to someone who manages it.
I used to feel like I was constantly floating away. Logically I understood that this was not true, but my mind was in such disarray that I could’t connect to the obvious fact that I was planted on the ground. It felt like physically disappearing, slowly vanishing into thin air. Imagine a helium balloon constantly under the threat of being released into the sky, except the balloon has a will to live.
My breath would become shallow and I’d need to lay down and place pillows on top of my body to feel that I was in fact on Earth or anchor myself to a wall and breathe slowly, in through the nose out through the mouth.
This was the final form my anxiety had taken after years of evolving from panic attacks, to hyperventilating when triggered to ultimately feeling like I was in danger of ceasing to exist.
Looking back I realize that my mind was like an object thrown into rough water. I lacked discipline and nurtured a victim’s mindset. The PTSD, a wound I carried, always open. I was stuck in a loop. In my mind, everything was always happening to me and in order to avoid the pain and discomfort of change, I needed it to be true. Everything I did was done to affirm my limiting beliefs. The devil you know is always hard to quit.
When I think of how much pain I was in for most of my life, it brings tears to my eyes. They are tears of compassion for a girl who knew nothing else.
How did I get here, from there? How did I become someone who follows her passions and prioritizes self care?
Well here they are, 3 ways I deal with anxiety:
Discipline: I wrote myself a prescription for regular exercise, cleaner eating, and intentional living. Setting these as new necessary parts of my life gave me structure. They also gave me 3 clear ways to practice self-love and self-care. It was like a contract with myself. As far as building confidence goes this was crucial, as it allowed me the opportunity to keep my word to myself and to see measurable improvement in the way I felt. I had to stop being completely wrapped up in circumstances that would arise outside of myself. Whenever the winds of life blew, I would be destroyed. Sick of the cycle, I realized I had to become the wind in my life. I set my sights on what I wasn’t doing for myself. Always waiting for the right situation, the money, the space, all excuses that I couldn’t afford to make anymore. I adopted the saying “do what you can with what you have.”
Reprogramming: Unplugging from content that wasn’t created to inspire, educate or at the very least entertain was the best thing I did. I needed to fill my mind with different ways of thinking, with new thoughts. Sometimes it would be tricky when reality shows were the things people used to connect, or find common ground in discussing. I had to find other ways. I believe that often, when we feel anxious, it’s this internal high alert. It’s a warning that we are off course. Consumption is one of the things we have the most control over that can make the biggest difference in our lives. What we consume, programs us. When we think of a detox, normally it’s salads and juice. Well I suggest, having your burger - holding the fries, adding a salad, watching less reality tv and cutting of anyone you always walk away from feeling bad. Seeking out better content, and inspiring people is one of the easiest ways to begin the process of a mental reboot. I also cleaned up my social media life, found the places hemorrhaging time and energy in ways that gave me absolutely nothing in return and cut them off. Every morning, during the most crucial time in this process I would wake up and search for guided meditations, and other ways to raise my vibration. I became my own coach. On many mornings, I still do this.
Radical Honesty - This wasn’t about bringing the truth to others. It was about unearthing the truth within myself. Over time I got very clever, and spun great stories to justify who I had become. They made perfect sense, and I could argue with anyone to show them how much all my suffering amounted to my reality. I found myself protecting this broken version of a person I never meant to be and did not want to become. When presented with a potentially better way of doing something, I’d become defensive. Changing this mindset took isolation. There were many quiet moments. I had to ask myself, why had I allowed certain things to happen, what story was I supporting/affirming? What was I getting out of it? Why would I participate in exchanges that don’t build me up? Here’s an example of a storyline I used to carry: “I’m the type of person who always helps other people, shrinking and putting myself in the background and they always take advantage of me.” Let’s unpack this. First, this was what I told myself was part of my identity, so even though it brought on a lot of pain, I was actually conjuring and calling these situations into my life, but why? I didn’t believe in myself. Ooof. That was hard to face. It was easier to believe I was just the most altruistic person on Earth and like Jesus, I was not fully appreciated during my time, a much better story than - I’m scared. It was a more noble story than - I don’t think I can do it. This way I was still righteous and helpless, but most importantly comfortable. I have to say, it is very clever. Many of us do some version of this. Then there’s downplaying everything we see working for others, “oh that’s cause I’m so focused on xyz” or “Yeah but that person is (insert judgement with no proof)”. I believe a judgemental mind is a prison for the judge. All the ways we might pass judgement on others leave us isolated and stuck in our loops on our tiny smug islands. Reading “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz picked me up and carried me the rest of the way when I was at my wit’s end. I had to surrender, and begin to weaken the neural connections I spent a life building, while encouraging new ones. Other recommended reading, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, “The Drama of The Gifted Child” by Alice Miller and “Truth” by Susan Batson (no affiliates, just great books). I need to read all of these books again myself.
Now these are just 3 ways that have helped me, and I chose to start with these because they are areas of our lives we can put our energy into that give us so much in return. They’re also areas that require our attention over the course of our lives. This satisfies a natural human need to evolve and grow. Often when I experienced the most anxiety it was because I felt stagnant, out of control, frustrated, and like I was wasting my life. I used to believe if I didn’t make some grand gesture or accomplish some wild measure of success, that this feeling would not be shaken. Now I think without doing this work, if that had happened it would fling me from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, because it was my foundation that was broken. My mindset was what I needed to change. Being on this side of the journey, I imagine it is some version of life after rehab. I have to remain alert, and not let the promises I made to myself slip. Almost nothing drives us into despair faster than a pile of promises we’ve broken with ourselves. Do I get it right every single time? No. It’s not about a perfect score though, it’s about the commitment to the effort to reach my highest self. One of my favorite quotes that says something to the effect of - setting goals is about the person you have to become to get there. It’s about the process. I have so much more to share about this journey, but for now I hope this speaks to someone. I hope there was a spark. If so, I hope you’ll share it with someone you love. Until next time, wishing you optimal wellness, secured bags, and hella hydration.