I am so excited to kick off this new series with something I have touched on a lot in the past. I received so many wonderful and supportive messages after I announced I was starting a new series with the intent to pull back the curtain on some topics and start an honest dialogue. One of the main topics I was asked about was anxiety and more specifically how do I cope with anxiety without taking medication.
I will preface this post with saying obviously I am not a doctor and everyone has to follow steps that work for them. I am just sharing tips I have found benefit me and make me feel a bit more at ease in times of high stress. I have struggled with anxiety for a long time, but over the last few years as I got a lot busier and work became more stressful I felt it intensify. I experienced panic attacks, waking up in the middle of the night uncontrollably shaking and a nervousness to go to work in the morning in fear I did something wrong. This all started really out of nothing. There was no incident that happened, no looming thing I had to overcome. It was just a combination of way too much on my plate and not taking the time I needed to do things for myself.
Having a blog is amazing, but it can also be really hard to separate what is work and what is my personal life. Everything is so overlapped and moments that used to be just for myself suddenly became an excuse to create content. There was no longer a balance and it really started to take a toll.
After a bad panic attack I went to my doctor and started to delve into what was causing me so much stress. He prescribed me anti anxiety medication to be used as needed and suggested I make a lifestyle adjustment to reduce stress. The first time I took medication I could barely keep my eyes open. I knew tiredness could be a side effect, so not the most ideal thing to take before going to work, but I wanted to help curb that pit of my stomach anxious feeling. My doctor did say it would be a bit of an adjustment, but the next few times I took it I felt the same way. It didn’t seem to calm me down or ease that feeling, instead I just felt really tired. I am not one that likes to take medication in general. When I’ve had surgeries or pain I am naturally averse to pain pills, so I knew that relying on a medication might not be the best fit for me.
I decided to not take medication, but instead try and get to the root of where this anxiousness was coming from and find practices that could naturally calm me down. To be clear I do not have crippling anxiety, so it didn’t seem too far fetched to take a different approach. I started going to therapy, which instantly made a huge different. I am a whole hearted believer in therapy. I had gone in the past, but not very consistently and I think it is so odd there is a stigma about seeing a therapist. I find it so helpful to speak with someone that doesn’t have pre conceived ideas about you and doesn’t know any of the situations or people you are talking about. She helped me work through some of the issues I was having and separate some of the feelings I was having which brought me a lot of clarity. She had suggested incorporating an exercise routine back into my life, something I had been neglecting because of my workload at the time.
Perhaps the most important thing we discussed was the act of taking a moment. Before I get upset or if I feel anxiety coming on I take a moment and think to myself where is this coming from? What triggered this? And try and work to help the situation before it comes to fruition. This takes a lot of patience and mindfulness, things I have been working on a lot over the past year. It can be really hard to slow your brain down in a moment of frustration or stress, but I can tell you firsthand it is completely possible. I worked on changing my diet and slowly incorporating exercise back into my life and I started to see changes. I also worked hard to build up my confidence and confront issues head on because I knew my anxious feelings would not go away if I didn’t tackle the root. From what I have found anxiety doesn’t form completely out of thin air. I was so afraid of messing things up or not being able to finish everything that I was almost self sabotaging. I talked to my family, my closest friends and my boss and just the act of putting it out on the table and talking about things more casually made me feel so much better.
Lastly mental health is everything and I am a firm believer in meditation. If you prefer yoga or something else to calm your mind that works well too, but meditating has been a fun challenge for me. I feel like my brain doesn’t shut off, so to practice sitting and focusing on breath instead of my thoughts has proved very had, but very rewarding. I think I also had to take an assessment of what was important in my life and what was causing added stress. I made changes to my routine and worked hard to break old habits that were making me anxious. Obviously this all isn’t a magic cure and I still suffer from small bouts of anxiety, but nothing like I used to. I try and ask myself in the big picture does this matter? A lot of the times it doesn’t so why would I waste time feeling anxious over it. I’ve learned that the mind is incredibly powerful and although it takes an immense amount of effort taking a moment to slow down can make all the difference.