I’m not quiet about the fact that I have anxiety. At times, I tend to be that person that thinks my obsessive thoughts and worries will subside before it gets to the point where I feel the need to take any medicine; because after all, “I’m worrying about nothing,” right? I’ve come to realize that anxiety management is hard in with full schedules. Part of the reason that I know I get pushed to the point of insanity is because I’m constantly being torn every which way at all times of the day – and because of that, I have little time to even realize the amount of anxiety I’ve let build up within me… much less take the time to figure out how to manage it by the time it gets to the point of a panic attack.
I watched my anxiety become the worst it’s ever been. I don’t like the person it makes me – it makes me push people away and makes my mind a prison of negative, irrational thoughts, no matter how much positive self-talk mantras or bible verses I recite (sometimes human nature truly does get the best of us). In some of my darkest moments, I made a promise that I would learn how to become the master of my anxiety. It might always be a part of me, but it’s time to start controlling it rather than letting it control me.
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF STRESS
Before I get into some of the management techniques I have learned, I wanted to first discuss why stress management is important for your health, aside from the fact that no one likes being stressed (and anxiety is basically just stress on any kind of upper you can think of). I am pulling these facts from the book Eat Yourself Calm by Gill Paul, even though these are well-known facts that any stress management text book or reliable website would tell you. Long term stress leads to…
- Decreased immunity
- Chronically high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Mood/energy swings
- Decreased digestion and increased GI distress
- Increased belly fat
- Poor sleeping habits
- Hormone imbalance
While it’s normal to be stressed every once and a while, having high, constant levels of stress causes your body to form unwanted adaptations.
THE MANAGEMENT OF STRESS
We are social beings. There is so much freedom and comfort in having someone to confide in, especially if that person has similar experiences/struggles and understands what you’re going through. I have found comfort and more of an acceptance of my anxiety through the support of my friends/family, my counselor, and my church. They all understand that my anxiety is a part of me – it doesn’t mean that they don’t help me think of ways to overcome it, but they are at least understanding if/when episodes occur.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of less coffee is completely horrific. My entire life source is coffee. However, I realized that the days I had more than two cups of coffee (especially in one sitting) were the days that I felt the most jittery and nervous, and my thoughts raced faster than they already do. I might not have been about to have an actual panic attack those days, but the way that caffeine mimics the symptoms of a panic attack might make your mind think that you are about to have one and put you on edge. Odds are, cutting it out completely would likely make a huge difference in the amount of anxiety you experience, but if you can’t bear the thought of not having caffeine, then I highly recommend cutting back and/or spacing out your servings throughout the day.
AN APPLE A DAY
In addition to Eat Yourself Calm, I also got a book called The Miracle of Apple Cider Vinegar by Penny Stanway. Despite the title, the book talks about all the different uses of apples and any of its products (not just apple cider vinegar) for health, beauty and household uses. Something both it and Eat Yourself Calm say is that apples help counter stress hormones, as well as help keep blood sugar maintained and boosting the immune system by providing antioxidants. So basically, apples are awesome and you should consider eating at least one, if not two, a day.
Moment of truth, y’all – ever since high school, I’ve heard all about how you’re supposed to exercise if you’re ever feeling down or stressed out. Even as a health major and knowing the whys, I cringe at the thought of actually having to get up and be active at a time when I feel so low, both emotionally and energetically. However, during one of my lowest moments this last semester, I remember sitting in bed attempting to study for finals and feeling my heart begin to race. It’s a terribly uncomfortable feeling to have your heart rate pick up for no reason while you’re simply sitting in bed. I was incredibly tempted to take my medicine, but because I was studying, I didn’t have the time to deal with the drowsing side effects of it. With that, I decided to go over to the gym and hop on the treadmill. Generally, I jog at about 5 or 6 miles an hour, but my heart was pounding so hard that I found myself needing to run faster to get my heart rate up higher than where it already was. After flying at about 9 miles an hour for a minute, I finally gave my heart a real reason to pound out of my chest. I alternated between sprinting and walking until I just couldn’t anymore. The beauty of it all was that as I cooled down from the running, my heart slowed down with it, and I felt normal again. This is why exercise is highly recommended. Don’t psych yourself out of going by thinking that if you go, you have to stay longer than you want. Get on the treadmill for 5 minutes just to get your heart rate up high enough and then leave. I promise, it’ll be worth it.
I love doing restorative yoga because of all the breathing exercises we do. I remember taking my first yoga class after quite some time over the summer, and it wasn’t until we started doing the breathing exercises that I realized how shallowly I had breathing. Taking that first super deep breath made me stretch out parts of my lungs I had apparently forgotten to use in God knows how long. But that’s what happens when we get stressed – we usually end up breathing short, quick breaths. YouTube has lots of breathing exercises if you feel like you need guidance! But I promise that getting that extra oxygen in and breathing out toxins will aid in clearing your mind and calming your body!
The times I’m my happiest is when I’m putting makeup on and listening to music (this is a lot easier to do when I’m at school and have my own bathroom – my sisters really don’t like me for it when I’m here at home). There’s just something about dancing around while no one is watching that brings me so much joy, even on the days that I’m really not all that cheerful (however, I do find myself laughing at how I think I know how to Juju on that beat, no matter how upset I am). Plus, it kind of helps get that exercise/physical activity in. I often find myself daydreaming quite a bit, too, which I learned from my stress management class this past semester is another useful way to relieve stress and anxiety because daydreaming tends to make us focus on more positive outcomes than negative ones. So find a fun playlist and just let yourself have a little fun. It might not make everything go away, but it will help you find some more positive energy to get through the rest of your day.
I hope you find some of these management techniques useful. Always remember that counseling is a valuable resource if you have access to it – it is very therapeutic to be able to talk through things you may feel scared to tell others, and your counselor will be able to help you think of solutions that may be more unique to you.