I like to keep this space pretty light for the most part because real life can be heavy and daunting at times and don’t we all need an escape? But, there are instances when I choose to go a little deeper because during our darker moments, it’s a comfort to know that someone else may be experiencing something similar. So, today, I’m going to touch on anxiety and how I confronted it years ago and how I continue to manage it on a daily basis.
Anxiety can be a bit of a taboo subject for some. After all, no one one likes to admit when they’re not in control and that’s exactly what anxiety is : it’s a feeling of worry or nervousness when we’re unsure of an outcome. I experienced my first panic attack in college studying for an exam. It was three o’clock in the morning and I was wired on way too much caffeine. I was in a tailspin because I had gotten a deficiency in this particular class and I knew the final exam would make me or break me….or so I thought. Thank God for my boyfriend at the time who got me to calm down by taking deep breaths in and out of a paper bag. Luckily, I didn’t experience another panic attack for years after so I was caught off guard when my anxiety came back with a vengeance. This time, it was post 9/11 and I was packed into a subway car on my way to work three months pregnant. I was nauseous and dizzy and felt like there was no escape which is a horrible feeling. My way of avoiding that scenario again was by taking the local train where I was guaranteed a seat. The ride was longer but at least I wasn’t hyperventilating the whole way to work. But, the situation that put me over the edge where I was finally compelled to really face things was the death of a close friend (ironically, her anniversary is January 18th). She died very suddenly from a brain aneurysm which had a tremendous impact on me. That, coupled with the fact that my father had passed away very suddenly a few years prior, left me feeling panicked any time a loved one walked out the door. Would I ever see them again? It began to take over my thoughts and affect my everyday life. Eventually, I caved and decided to see a therapist who helped me to understand and confront my fears through different relaxation techniques and a new way of talking to myself. It took a lot of practice but when I finally felt in control of things again, it was an empowering moment. Anxiety never truly goes away because this is the way I’m wired but at least now I know when it’s brewing and I make sure I take the necessary steps to face it head on. Here are some pointers when you feel yourself getting stressed and feeling out of control:
- Sleep: I really ought to take my own advice here because I definitely don’t get enough sleep! But, when I do, it makes a world of difference. When I’m well rested, I can think clearly, I have more patience, and I just feel better!
- Cut Down on Caffeine: Another one I struggle with because I basically live for my morning coffee! Although too many cups of coffee makes my heart beat faster and I feel restless. So, I max out at two cups in the morning (once in a blue moon, a third in the afternoon), and then I switch over to herbal tea which keeps me calm and hydrated. My favorites are chamomile, peppermint, and anything citrusy like lemon or orange.
- Eat Well: This may seem obvious to some but comfort food can be tempting when we’re stressed. A donut or a brownie may temporarily make you feel better but inevitably, you’ll feel gross and guilty. Instead, treat yourself to a smoothie or a beautiful salad. And if you’re really craving something sweet, make a healthy version of your favorite dessert.
- Avoid Alcohol: If you’re experiencing anxiety, alcohol may temporarily take the edge off but is it worth it to wake up sluggish and hungover the next day? Skip the wine and swap it out for club soda with a splash of cranberry juice and fresh lime (that’s my go-to non-alcoholic drink). You’ll thank yourself time and again.
- Exercise: One of my favorite forms of exercising is getting outdoors and going for a long power walk. I love to turn on my music and forget about everything else for an hour. I always return home feeling centered and calm and ready to tackle my day.
- Essential Oils: And last but certainly not least, never underestimate the power of aromatherapy. I recently purchased this diffuser and I use it all the time. I even have it going right now because I’m fighting off a cold and I’m using Thieves oil. For those times when I need to destress, I love lavender oil, bergamot, chamomile, ylang ylang and rose oil. I either put a few drops into my diffuser and let the scent fill the room, dilute it with almond oil and rub it on my wrists and neck, or spray some on my pillow at night (read how to make a linen spray here). You can also put a few drops into the bath which I have yet to do but it sounds soooo relaxing! Essential oils have so many healing properties and I have come to use them everyday. You can read more about my other favorite oils here.