About two months ago I opened up about my ongoing struggle with anxiety.
You can read the Instagram post HERE, but to sum it up, I shared how much anxiety has affected me for my whole life.
Until recently, I didn’t know just how debilitating it had been. In fact, I thought that everyone was walking around with a bit of a pit in their stomach or a shake in their hands.
I didn’t realize that my baseline level of anxiety wasn’t normal. That’s because I didn’t know what it felt like to NOT feel anxious.
Over the past two months I’ve learned that my “good days” were comparable to most people’s really fucking anxious day.
This surprises people.
I present as a very confident person. I am a straight up, no bullshit kinda girl.
I advocate for myself. I get shit done. I set goals that most people think are crazy. I put myself in uncomfortable situations daily.
I am certainly not the poster child of anxiety… or am I?
Despite my confident demeanor my anxiety wakes me up at night.
It sucks the energy out of me.
It leaves me snappy.
It makes my hands shake and my stomach flop.
It makes me feel like I am always in a rush.
Well, at least it used to.
About two months ago I made a major decision.
One day, after having an anxiety attack that left me crunched over on my bed, I said to myself
“this is NOT going to be my life”
In that moment I committed to tackling my anxiety head on. I was done feeling the way I had been feeling,
Just over 60 days later, I am happy to report I feel better than I have felt in my ENTIRE LIFE!
My husband, my best friends and my family have all noticed a huge difference in how I show up everyday.
Since I know that many of you experience the same feelings, today I thought I’d put myself out there (again) and share exactly what I’ve done to get here.
Some of these tips may apply to you, some many not- but here is exactly what I’ve done to tackle my anxiety and literally transform my life.
In our society we glorify busy. We feel like we should GO GO GO.
We often feel guilty for taking time to say read a book, or watch a show on Netflix, or heck even take a nap.
Building this platform has been hard work. I’ve been GO GO GO for years. Up at 5am, going non-stop until 9 or 10 at night. Many nights I crawl into bed with a laptop on my pillow. It’s rare that I go completely “off duty”
One thing that motherhood and entrepreneurship have in common is that the “to do” lists NEVER END. There is always something to be doing, so I was ALWAYS doing something. This GO GO GO mentality was a major part of the problem.
I’ve given myself permission to shut off and just relax. I resist the urge to work while I make dinner or respond to emails while I watch a movie with my husband. I now take the weekends off (like normal people with traditional jobs).
As simple as it sounds – giving myself permission to take space has been the biggest game changer. Not only has it helped minimize my anxiety, but it’s also amped up my productivity! When I turn back on I’m more focused and clear.
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA TIME
I’ve read that social media use is directly linked with anxiety! I believe it too!
There are times when social media feels like an avenue to connect with the world. I feel inspired and part of a community.
There are also times when it makes me feel anxious and like I can’t keep up.
I’ve started to pay attention to those feelings and shut down when social media isn’t leaving me feeling inspired.
Some days I take social media entirely off my phone. Some days I put my phone in the closet for a few hours so I can focus on life. Most importantly, I pay attention to the way I am feeling when I scroll.
Each day I make a point of shutting down for a period of time. Weekends I try and unplug for at least 24 hours. Anxiety or not, I highly recommend taking time away from social media. it is SO good for the soul.
INTERRUPT WHAT YOU’RE DOING
When I feel anxious, I change what I am doing so I can interrupt the anxiety process.
I know that sounds odd, but I simply acknowledge the feeling and then deliberately change that I am doing in that moment.
For example, if I am working at my computer and a bout of anxiety happens – I get up and go switch a load of laundry. I go for a walk. I plan a workout.
If I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, I shut down my phone and go read a book.
I switch the task that I am doing to try and prevent the feeling from taking over. Doing this helps me feel more in control.
I’VE STARTED RUNNING
You’re going to find exercise on every single list that talks about anxiety because it helps. When you exercise you release dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – brain chemicals that play an important part in regulating your mood.
When I work out, I blow off steam and clear my head. A couple months ago, I started training for a 10K race with one of my girlfriends and I cannot tell you how great it has been to not only work towards a goal with a friend but have someone to help hold me accountable.
Find a work-out buddy and move your body on a regular.
I’VE TAKEN A BREAK FROM PODCASTS
While this tip may not apply to everyone, I think you’ll get something out of it.
I LOVE business podcasts. I used to listen to business podcasts ANY CHANCE I GOT. In the car, on a walk, when I was doing dishes. I had something going all the time.
However, the influx of information meant my brain never stopped. I wasn’t taking space. I was constantly thinking and constantly adding to my “to do” list.
Feeling overwhelmed with “to dos” and next steps can be a major trigger for someone with anxiety – so this constant stream of information wasn’t helping.
Will I return to business podcasts again? Absolutely! I sort of have.
They’ve helped me grow this business to what it is – however, moving forward it will be in moderation.
LISTEN TO MUSIC
I’ve replaced podcasts with music. I have a calming playlist that I put on whenever I feel anxious!
Sounds corny but it helps!
I think most of us underestimate the power that music can have on how we feel.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Again, so cliché BUT simply stopping to take a few deep breaths can help you refocus and gain perspective! Try it!
5 seconds in, 5 seconds out. Repeat.
TALK ABOUT IT
This one is important
If you suffer from anxiety, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is so common.
Just check out the post I referred to above and read all the comments. So many people reported experiencing the very same things as me!
There is strength in vulnerability. There is power in owning what you’re going through. Not only will you realize that you’re not alone but admitting there is a problem is the first step in tackling it.
My 2019 resolution was to start journaling. I’m not great at it. I don’t write “dear journal” entries every day. But I do write out my goals, what I’m grateful for AND what I’m feeling anxious about most days of the week.
When I’m feeling anxious, I find it very helpful to get my feelings down on paper.
I ask myself questions like:
- Is this a rational thought?
- What’s the worst-case scenario?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What can I do about it?
- Is this something I can just accept? Is this something I just HAVE to accept?
- How can I tailor my reaction, so it doesn’t impact me the way it has been?
This strategy has brought me out of a tailspin more times than I can tell you!
TAKE A BREAK FROM PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Yes, you read that right. I am a huge advocate for personal development and will continue to be. However, for a while there, I was “personal developing” myself crazy. I was always thinking, always processing, always trying to better myself.
Then I realized, in this instance, bettering myself came from taking a break from all the personal and business development. I needed to SHUT OFF THE NOISE.
Now this MAY NOT be the right move for you. Personal development may be exactly what you need.
Just pay attention to how you feel after reading a book or listening to a perusal development podcast? Are you inspired, motivated and clear OR overwhelmed and more anxious?
Do more of what feels good and less of what feels bad.
I AVOID CONTACT WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE ME ANXIOUS
Plain and simple, stay away from people who make your feel more anxious than usual. Say no, make up an excuse, be a “no show” – make yourself a priority.
For the last two months I’ve made MYSELF and MY MENTAL HEALTH a priority.
While this isn’t possible for ALL situations, it is possible for a lot. More than we like to admit.
If you’re someone who keeps finding yourself in situations that make you feel anxious, it may be time to rethink the situations you’re saying YES to – at least for now.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
About a month into making all these changes, I felt AMAZING. I felt clear, more grounded and like the butterflies in my stomach had subsided. So much of my anxiety was rooted in my daily habits.
BUT, I knew I could feel better. Like I said above, I knew my “really good” was different than other peoples “really good”
At the beginning of this process, I spoke to my doctor about how I was feeling. Even though I was committed to trying everything I’ve listed here, I wanted to learn about my other options.
I’ve recently started taking a small dose of anxiety medication and I am feeling AMAZING.
After about two weeks of side-effects (fogginess and being tired) I am feeling better than I’ve ever felt before. My only regret is that I didn’t commit to this change earlier in life.
Let me be clear. I am not saying that everyone should go on medication. I’m simply sharing what I have done and what has worked for me.
Either way, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor. Like I said, there is NOTHING to be ashamed of.