Since I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. No, not that anxious feeling you get before going to the dentist or going on a date. I’m talking about intense and excessive feelings of worry, doom and self doubt…that “something is going to go wrong today, I probably shouldn’t get out of bed” feeling.
If you’ve never suffered from anxiety, this quote may help you understand it a bit better :
Anxiety is an urgent, deafening thing. No matter how many logical reasons you have to remain happy or positive, when it is present, you can hear nothing else. – Beau Taplin
For years, my anxiety controlled my life in ways I wasn’t even aware of at the time. It wasn’t until I finally sought help that I realized just how much anxiety was ruining my life. Now, I’ve gotten a handle on how to recognize my symptoms of anxiety and how to cope with them…and I’ve happier than I’ve ever been! Here are five things that changed my life for the better and kicked anxiety’s butt.
SEEING A PSYCHIATRIST / THERAPIST
So, here’s the deal. Going to “talk to someone” is majorly stigmatized in our society. Not wanting to seem crazy, psycho or out of control stopped me from visiting a psychiatrist / therapist so many times. I wish I could go back and shake my former self for thinking this way. Before I dive in, read this. And then read it again.
THERE IS NO SHAME IN NEEDING PROFESSIONAL HELP.
Got it? Okay, good!
I’ve seen a few mental health professionals throughout my life. One totally understood me and my needs, one totally didn’t and one was too expensive to keep seeing (ha!). After the trial and error of finding a good, affordable psychiatrist, I can safely say this is the number one thing that brought my anxiety under control.
After just one hour of explaining the weight I’d been carrying around (my irrational fears, my worries, my physical symptoms of exhaustion and fatigue), I felt lighter. After another session a few days later, I felt stronger. And after three months of weekly visits, I had taken back control of my well being.
Sometimes I talk to my therapist about BIG things, like how much I obsess over an impending earthquake or someone I love dying. Sometimes, we talk for an hour about something funny Penny did at the dog park. No matter how serious or silly a session is, I leave feeling better, brighter + happier.
If you’re thinking that your BFF or your mom is just as good as any therapist, you’re wrong. There is SUCH a huge difference in venting to your loved ones (which I still totally encourage) and talking to a trained professional. The tools and insight that a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc. have are meant to change the way you think, tackle your traumas and sort through your stresses.
THE ANXIETY WORK BOOK
Speaking of “tools”, here’s the most valuable + tangible tool I ever received from a therapist.
Yes, it’s a literal work book. It has assignments and required reading. But before you keep scrolling, here’s what you need to know.
I started this work book during the busiest time of my life – my first ever job out of college. I was working at an advertising agency in LA, sometimes getting to the office at 4AM and not leaving until midnight. When my doctor recommended I try out this work book, I said NO WAY. I didn’t have time for homework, I was in the real world now and had way too much going on.
But one Sunday night while sitting in front of the TV, I started flipping through the book. I gave the first chapter a try and was shocked…because everything on the page was exactly what was happening in my head. My craziest, most ridiculous inner thoughts (and too embarrassed to admit), were sitting right there on the page. And that’s when I realized, I’m not alone. An entire population of people struggle with anxiety in the same way I do, and there is HOPE. There are specific steps + tips that I can learn here and apply to my life. Major game changer for me!
While this is a work book, there aren’t any rules. I’d skip chapters that didn’t apply to me (like flight anxiety or social anxiety) and only focus on the chapters + activities that I wanted to.
DOWNLOADING (AND DELETING)
We live in an insane world. Awful, terrible things happen every single day. But guess what? The weight of the world is not yours to carry. And you are in control of the energy you bring into your space. And what are we carrying around with us 24/7? Our phones! So download what you need and delete what you don’t. Here’s what I mean:
If world news and current events are making you feel like the world is ending, DELETE the CNN app off your phone. I used to check the news maybe 5 times a day…out of boredom, curiosity or wanting to stay informed. But then I realized – the media publishes what we’re most likely to click on. And most of the time, that’s scary statistics, headlines about violence and gruesome photos. So delete, delete, delete! You don’t need access to the world’s horrors at your fingertips. Stick to catching the evening news every now and then.
If self doubt and insecurity is driving you crazy, UNFOLLOW toxic people and DELETE toxic apps. If seeing a photo of your ex and his new girl is going to ruin your day, unfollow him. If a calorie tracking app is making you feel ashamed every time you want a brownie, DELETE that sh*t! Get rid of anything that’s making you feel inferior or sad, ASAP!
My anxiety usually hits when my mind is racing. Overthinking is my trigger. So, if I’m starting to get a little too deep into my own head, I’ll turn my attention somewhere else. My favorite distractions include podcasts, the jigsaw puzzle app, solitaire and the color by numbers app! They busy my mind away from anxiety and onto something happier // more fun.
Wether it’s meditation, crosswords or Candy Crush, find what you’re into and download it!
DISCLAIMER! As with everything I’ve written in this post, this is MY experience with anxiety. I’m not a doctor or expert in any way…I’m just sharing what worked for me!
Once I found a doctor I really liked and trusted, I started doing my anxiety workbook + seeing her regularly. I was making so much progress handling my anxiety and preventing panic attacks. But it still felt like each day was a struggle to be calm + happy.
That’s when my doctor recommended trying a low dose of Sertraline, an anti-anxiety medication. I was NOT on board at first. I didn’t want to rely on a pill to feel happy, and I didn’t want to only feel happy and numb to other emotions. I aired my reservations with my doctor, did some research on my own, and spoke to friends who had taken similar medication.
I decided to try it out, and began taking 25mg each day. And I soon found out that this was the missing piece to my puzzle. Whatever imbalance was happening inside my brain changed. I still experienced everyday emotions of stress, worry and fear. But instead of these emotions “screaming” in my face, they were “whispering” in the corner. Does that make sense?
I still take my daily dose of Sertraline, and have gone from feeling ashamed of needing it to EMPOWERED. I am the happiest, strongest version of myself and I’m proud of the steps I’ve taken to become that.
Again, everyone’s journey is different and what worked for me may not be the best option for you. Always always always consult your doctors and do your own research before taking any medication!
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
I know it sounds cliché, but…look on the bright side!
I used to spend most of my time thinking about what had gone wrong in life, and what COULD go wrong next. This way of thinking was making me miserable. And through the steps listed above, I got out of that mindset.
There is always something to look forward to, be grateful for or smile about. Always. And if you can’t find them, follow a cute puppy account on Instagram or save some inspiration quotes on Pinterest. For a while, I made this quote the background on my phone and I’ll end this post with it :
A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive + healthy. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. Time spent appreciating is time worth living. – Source Unknown
Love you guys! Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. XO