I mean – it totally rocks my socks. My anxiety (driiiippping in sarcasm). It’s like a constant companion. Sometimes it sits on my head, quietly crushing. Sometimes its like a kid on Christmas, so dang excited that my whole body jitters. Sometimes, it’s just there in the background – reminding me that it’s presence is never too far away. As a kid that same anxiety would break me down until I relinquished control, but now I’ve put it inside it’s little place in my life. Emphasis on “little”. I wouldn’t call it a friend, but my anxiety and I have a mutual understanding now: I’m in charge, but it isn’t going anywhere.
I was doing a live video on our Facebook Page today and realized that I mentioned a few techniques I use to combat situations or seasons of life where my anxiety is higher than normal. I figured I would share those things here – in case you too, find yourself needing some tools to combat the sickening, stomach in throat, hard to breathe situations.
1- Enforce the ‘rules’. I start out with the most important one. The emphasis of the title of this blog post. Speaking from my own personal experience with anxiety – when it rears it’s head, when it comes back for a season (as it sometimes does), it starts to spark some bad habits I’ve developed. These include not eating, loving a glass of wine (more than normal), and becoming manic from not sleeping – nightmares are a little gift my anxiety likes to give me. So I have rules now. It’s my way of staying in control. It isn’t something I like – generally who likes rules anyways? But here is the thing – when my mind starts to play tricks and my anxiety is high – I know that somewhere very deep down inside of me, I still crave control and pride and overall badassery because I put these rules in place. And for the most part – I follow them. Until the season passes. Until I wake up eager instead of anxious. Until I don’t fear going to sleep. Your rules will likely be different than mine, but here they are:
No Drinking. This one is so that I can stay in control, even when I feel out of control. I will not allow something to give me an excuse to lose control. I do not abuse alcohol – ever, but sometimes, after a long day of focusing on just breathing to get to the next breath – “taking off the edge” sounds good. But when I’m in the midst of that season of anxiety – it’s an excuse. A shadow to hide in. I’m better than that, even when I don’t feel like it. So I do not allow myself the drink. Even when it sounds fantastic- if we are being honest.
Eat twice a day. Even if I throw up (I never do). But if feels like I will with every bite. My emotional and mental self starts to spiral out of control when my anxiety is high. At the very least – I will continue to fuel my physical self. This is the hardest one for me. My anxiety settles itself in the very top of my belly, right under my ribs. I can quite LITERALLY feel its presence. The very fact that when I eat – that is exactly where the food goes… well, taking that first bite is hard. But it’s all about motion – I have to stay moving forward, even if it is sooooo slow. My body has to have food and rest to do that.
Which leads me to the next one – rest. I fight going to bed sometimes because I know I may wake up not able to breath. Whether it be from a nightmare or waking up just feeling terrified without reason – completely unable to move, I fight sleep because of it. So, even if I don’t feel like it, I lay down at least 6 hours before I have to be up. Even if I don’t sleep. Becoming manic helps no one, especially me – it only traps me in my head and therefore my fears, even more.
Last one – Stay out of the deep end. Don’t look at it. Don’t think about it. But ALWAYS talk about it if I do. At the risk of being insanely personal here, and admitting this to people who have quite literally loved me through crap but didn’t know this particular detail – I used to have an insanely bad habit of self harm. I trap everything inside of myself. I wouldn’t talk about it. I would have an anxiety attack and literally could not draw breath, and instead of asking for help, I would respond to pain. It isn’t healthy. In fact it’s the fastest way to completely unravel. So the rule now is – IF these thoughts creep in, I find someone I trust, someone who knows this part of me – and we TALK through it. Thankfully, I have these people in my life and they are always there and loving me anyways. If you struggle with something similar and you have no one – you have me. You matter to me. Contact me any way you want. I’ll be there.
Those are the rules – but what about in the meantime? The rules are enforced, but what techniques do I use in the meantime?
2. Visual Reminders. I had a meeting today that I was pretty nervous about. Not because of the actual meeting but just because it was very personal, it was a first for me and I was just excited. Sometimes, I feel like my body translates parts of my excitement to anxiety. (If you don’t have anxiety and you’re still reading, I want to give you this perspective…. anxiety does not always mean bad or sad or scared… sometimes it stems from overwhelming good or excitement or honestly, anything). Before my meeting (after eating and feeling sick the whole time), I wrote “29:11” on my hand, right along my thumb. Like in the picture above. Visual reminders give me a very quick way to feel that “umph”. It’s always positive. 29:11 comes from Jeremiah 29:11 – my life verse. Throughout my meeting and all of that day, I would see it and be reminded that God is with me. That He has plans for me. And I felt better.
3. Physical Reminders. During court, I learned this technique from a therapist I had been working with and I still use it. You get something small enough to fit in your hand. Whenever you’re in that anxiety filled situation, you have a physical distraction. This “thing” needs to be something that means something to you. Something that sparks very positive emotion. If you allow yourself, you can take yourself mentally and emotionally away, just momentarily, from where you physically are. This allows a short time for you to be able to breathe. It is something I still practice when I know I will be somewhere, especially public, where I could be triggered for an anxiety attack.
4. Talk. Write. Get it out. This one is pretty obvious. I can “What If” the death out of any situation. Me and my anxiety sit down for a meeting in my head and it attempts it’s takeover. My mind reels and my stomach turns and hurts and the fear is overwhelming. Depending on what it is causing it – I find a pen and write or a find a trusted friend and talk. Sometimes both, sometimes repeatedly. If you allow it to run laps in your head, you eventually lose more and more power to it over time. Find the release and use it.
5. Be realistic. Even when it doesn’t feel like it – I constantly remind myself in that season or in that meeting or in whatever case of life where my anxiety is being annoyingly loud – I tell myself it will end. I am in control. I take it one day at a time. Or one hour at a time. Or even sometimes, one single breath at a time. If I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, I will literally start naming the things I see – out loud. Car, sign, person, red shirt, blue bike. If my mind is racing and my breath is becoming less frequent, by forcing my mouth to say words and my eyes to look for something to say and my brain to focus on that, I can usually draw myself out of the attack.
These are the main techniques I’ve learned over the years. Maybe yours is different – maybe you can share them with me and everyone else on our post on our Facebook page. Maybe yours can help someone else too. That’s the whole point here. I hope maybe this helped you. I hope that you stay a badass and stay in control – because you matter to me.