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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dealing with anxiety

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The first memory I have of feeling anxious is being five years old and terrified of being late to school. I was never late to school, yet every morning in the car I would freak out. I remember my stomach being in knots and feeling sick. And I cried. A lot. Of course, back then I had no idea what anxiety was or that what I was feeling was out of the ordinary. So I just went with it. And let me tell you, living with anxiety isn't easy in the first place, let alone when you don't even know you have it. When there was finally a name for it, I felt relieved, like "oh, this is what I have and I can deal with it." Unfortunately, there's no miracle pill for anxiety disorder. No shot you can take that makes you feel instantly at ease. If there was, I would get it in a second. And I hate shots. 

Everyone gets spouts of anxiety of times. That nervousness you feel before a major test, the big game, or you perform on stage? That's a normal part of the fight or flight response. So how do you know what's not normal when it comes to anxiety?

Feelings of panic or fear
Nausea 
Irritability
Fatigue
Dizziness

These are just some of the symptoms that come with anxiety disorder, and they can interfere with your everyday life.

Anxiety is such a difficult thing to explain to people. Sometimes I don't even fully understand it, so how could I explain it to someone else? I do know that it's different for everyone, but somehow still so similar. The racing heart. The feeling of absolute dread, that everything around you is caving in. It can be crippling and isolating. Living with this disorder can make you become depressed, which can increase the anxiety, which can make you more depressed, and then it's like this awful maze that you just can't seem to find your way out of. So what do you do?

Self care is really important and I've found that if I'm feeling especially anxious, doing something soothing can be therapeutic for me and calm the anxiety. Anything you can do to get your mind off the anxious feeling is helpful, really.

I used to never attempt breathing exercises because none of them worked for me, but recently I saw a post on tumblr that talked about breathing in for four seconds, holding for seven, and then exhaling for eight. I thought I might as well try it, and it actually does help. I haven't tried it in the midst of a bad attack, but if I'm feeling like one might come on, I take a second and breathe.

If you're in a place you can listen to music, listen to it. It honestly makes a world of difference.

Talking it out can be helpful as well. I don't know how many times I've had to call my mom and have her talk me down. Sometimes just venting and telling someone your worries can be calming. However, only come to people who you trust and who are willing to help and not judge you.

If someone you love suffers with anxiety, I recommend doing as much research on it as possible. It's impossible to understand it 100% unless you experience it, but you can be knowledgeable on the subject. Be there for the person with open ears and arms. Never trivialize their fears or tell them to "just stop worrying." That does no good. Most importantly, please understand that we don't want to have anxiety. But it's there and it's not gonna be leaving anytime soon.

You are not alone in your anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter. It's so much easier said than done, but you can't let it control you. You're so much more than "that person with the anxiety." Remember that.

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