(broad)ject self #14: Self-Care When...You're Anxious

*I am not a medical doctor or specialist in psychiatry or psychology, just a gal who’s naturally anxious and found some ways to deal with it that may be useful to you. If your mental health is a concern to you, please talk to a medical professional right away.*

I’ve been feeling so great lately, both physically and mentally, that the moments when I’m not feeling great really stick out. It also makes it a lot easier to isolate what’s causing those not so great feelings and to try and fix them. As I play around with what I eat, I’m quickly learning what my body feels good about and is not so keen on (dairy and sugar in the same meal, for one, which is kind of a bummer). I decided last night that I wanted to write about anxiety today “because I’ve been doing so well lately” and then guess who woke up at 5:30am with her heart racing and a pit in her stomach? Smugness will get you every damn time.

It didn’t help that our cat Finny decided that he was hungry at 5:30am, and since he doesn’t have opposable thumbs that meant waking us up for food. His chosen method is knocking stuff over, so he hopped on the dresser and knocked a glass bottle onto a pile of change, which woke me up with a start. I refuse to negotiate with terrorists, so I decided I wouldn’t feed him until 6am (which is when they get fed during the week). So I was lying in bed, trying to fall back asleep and I felt totally unsettled. When I feel anxious it’s a physical feeling; tightness in my chest and my stomach hurts. My brain pinballed around until it settled on being worried about money. As of this moment, there isn’t really much to worry about. Everybody has jobs and we have a plan to pay off our student debt. But the anxiety addled brain wants what the anxiety addled brain wants, and today it wanted to flip out about finances.

I wanted this next paragraph to read “Once upon a time I would have buckled under the pressure, but now…” I’d be lying though. I lay there, tossing and turning and ignoring every impulse that I know better and I just sank into it. I finally fell asleep, and ended up hitting the snooze button from 7:45-9am, because I couldn’t wrench myself from bed. Not exactly how I wanted to spend the last day of a long weekend.
So here’s what I should have done: I should have gotten up as soon as I started feeling anxious. I should have poured myself a glass of water with lemon. I should have a done a yoga video. Then I could have gone back to bed for a full sleep cycle until my alarm went off and started my day on a calm foot.

But all this aside, that I can count on two fingers how many times I’ve felt anxious in the last six weeks or so tells me that overall, the stuff I’m doing is working. Here’s what’s been helping me:

-My nutritionist built my plan with anxiety in mind. Keeping my blood sugar steady throughout the day is a huge help. She also has me taking a probiotic and B vitamins that help with stress. Through her I also started using this aromatherapy face and body mist, which I carry with me and spray when I feel unsettled. I’m also using flower remedies, right now I’m taking Alexis Smart’s Safe and Sound.

-I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but yoga has been transformative for me, if for no other reason than it’s taught me how to breath again. I love Yoga with Adriene, and she just started a new 30 Day Challenge called ‘Yoga Camp’, but you can also dip into her various playlists on YouTube. She has a playlist called Yoga for Healing which has some great videos in it for specific physical and mental/emotional issues.

-If yoga’s not your thing, regular ol’ exercise has also been a great help. I walk 8km for my commute on a normal day and that has gone a long way to making sure I’m tired every night. On top of that, I try to do a couple of strength training sessions a week. Reach out if you want to be my friend on Nike + or FitBit and we can challenge each other to some extra steps.

-Speaking of sleep, being able to fall asleep quickly goes a long way to quieting the brain hamsters. I’m in a really good sleeping groove now (or at least I was until the lawlessness of vacation took over, ask me next week), but when I had some serious insomnia last winter I found the Sleep with Me Podcast to be super helpful. The guy does a couple of versions, one where he just tells weird stories in a soothing voice and another where he recaps Game of Thrones episodes in the dullest way possible.

-My biggest problem is that my brain just gets away on me sometimes, especially during downtimes like my walk home or when I’m cooking. I’ve found listening to podcasts to be really useful, because it distracts me. You know I love Judge John Hodgman, but I’m also grooving on The Lively Show and Magic Lessons. David is a huge fan of audiobooks, and you can get them for free through your local library to download on your computer or smartphone.

-Finally, I can’t omit my new mantra of saying no to life. I spent so many years socially doing the right thing, the nice thing, the proper thing, even if it made me actively unhappy. Now I’m focused on doing things that allow me to feel my Core Desired Feelings, and everything else gets a good hard look before I say yes. Sometimes I absolutely have to suck it up, but now I’m not afraid to say no if something doesn’t serve me. I won’t lie, that may have some people thinking I’m less of a good friend to them than I once was. And you know what? That has to be ok.

Anxiety is a very personal issue, so above all I would encourage you to talk it out with your doctor if you think it’s taking a bite out of your life. I’ve had positive transformative experiences with medication as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, so it’s really about finding the level of help that works for your particular breed of brain hamster. I’m happy to answer any questions based on my experiences about medical or psychological help for anxiety and depression, so please reach outif you’re curious.

This week’s homework is to come up with a list of things that soothe your body, your mind, and your heart. Print it out (or put it in your smart device) and keep it close, so you can turn to it if you need a reminder. Don’t forget that telling loved ones or friends what kind of prompts you may need can be a great help (“If I seem anxious, remind me that a cup of tea and a 5 minute stretch break calm me down.”)

I want to hear all about your anxiety busters. You know where to find me

Self-caringly yours,

Sian