Since it’s mental health awareness month, I wanted to do something a little different than my normal posts. Today I wanted to write a blog post about anxiety and how it affects my day to day life.
I want to start with a little background information on my anxiety issues. I first started having really bad issues with anxiety my sophomore year of college (about two years ago) and let me tell you, dealing with anxiety in college is not fun. Anxiety manifested itself as stomach issues, incessant leg tapping, and me biting the inside of my cheek non-stop.
Did I also mention it made every part of my day even harder than it already was? From that point on it just kept getting worse and worse over the next few years. I’m now about two years down this road and was officially diagnosed with anxiety around last March. I also did indeed try to start taking anxiety medication.
WHAT A HUGE MISTAKE. I know with any medication you have to try different kinds until you find one that “clicks.” However, the first anxiety medicine I tried made me nauseous for LITERALLY 24 hours. I felt so sick I couldn’t eat and when I made a slice of avocado toast I felt so terrible that I can’t eat avocados now.
This is just a brief summary of my experience with anxiety, my official diagnosis, and trying out a medication for it. I figured it would be best to explain my journey a little bit up front so you know what I’m dealing with!
TOMS Stand for Tomorrow Campaign
Before I start, I just wanted to note that I also partnered with TOMS on Instagram for their Stand for Tomorrow campaign. One of the main reasons I love this campaign is because of the emphasis on mental health that isn’t always here.
TOMS’ Stand for Tomorrow campaign for Mental Health Awareness Month is such an amazing campaign for many reasons. The main reason that it’s wonderful is that with your purchase, TOMS donates to help connect people with mental health counselors! I definitely think it’s something to check out and you can find out more (here).
You may think “why did she post think happy picture in a blog post about anxiety?” Well it’s because even though I have anxiety, blogging is an outlet for it. Whenever I’m stressed I can just go to a coffee shop and write (like I am right now). Every person with anxiety needs a “thing” and this just happens to be mine!
Now onto my anxiety journey…
How My Anxiety Manifests Itself
Anxiety affects everyone in different ways. For me it’s a constant feeling of being “up” if that makes sense. I can never relax and when I do I feel like I’m forgetting something important. It’s cancelling plans that I actually wanted to go through with, and it’s biting my cheek while stressed at work or while driving.
My anxiety is also sometimes represented in anger. Growing up, my mom would yell and escalate situations (and I didn’t help with it to be clear), but my anger was actually stress and anxiety bubbling up without control. I look back and realize some of the tendencies I had as a child were how children show anxiety.
I had (and have) an extreme phobia of germs and have carried around hand sanitizer since I was about eight years old. You’re at a higher risk of obtaining phobias and becoming OCD if anxiety and depression run in your family by the way (PSYCOM) . I think as a child, keeping things clean was how I could “control” a situation.
I’ve had an incessant fear of vomit my entire life. In my child mind, I thought if I cleaned my hands, I wouldn’t get sick. It was one way I could (try to) control my surroundings and about the only thing you can do as a child in public school. I still struggle with a fear of germs and it’s aggressively annoying and causes panic attacks to this day.
What I Do/Have Done to Combat My Anxiety
This is one thing that I have REALLY started to work on. I’ve always had anxiety and not knowing this as a child created many terrible habits and ways of dealing with anxiety. Think of Dobby the house elf — that was me as a child. Having to break habits you’ve had your whole life is nearly impossible….but it can be done.
I’ve been in a relationship now for about two and a half years. I began to realize that when I had an issue with how my boyfriend acted, he would immediately change what he did that affected me. He’s amazing that way and I realized that I was not reciprocating this which wasn’t fair at all to him.
I’ve had to start teaching myself to not get triggered by every little thing. Loud noises and crowded spaces set my anxiety off worse than almost anything. I’ve had to teach myself to be centered and to realize it’s only a temporary situation that I’m in and it will be over quickly.
I’ve also realized that my anxiety is better after I run (hence the reason my anxiety wasn’t that bad growing up since I was in sports year round). When I’ve had a really stressful day, I always try to run a mile or do some yoga stretches. Whatever works for you is definitely what you should try!
When it came to dealing with my social anxiety, it had gotten really bad a couple years ago. I would overthink the event so much that I would imagine I would have no one to talk to, everyone would hate me, and I’d have nightmares about saying the wrong thing. It was AWFUL.
I started forcing myself to go places. Yes, you read that right. FORCING. I’d be so stressed before an event that I wouldn’t eat because I’d feel sick from worry but I still went. AND I HAD A GREAT TIME. I started doing this more and more and now I LOVE going places with people I don’t know.
I recommend reading Shonda Rhimes’ book called “The Year of Yes.” I read this after I had started the “forcing” part and realized we were very very similar in our tactic. It’s a great read and perfect for introverts. Click (here) to get it on Amazon! It’s just $9.07 and not a long read either.
How You Can Help People With Anxiety
1. Do not belittle their symptoms
This is one thing that really upsets me. If I’m panicking and stressing out, yelling at me and telling me I’m overreacting is NOT HELPING. Then I’ll just be panicking and annoyed that you think I’m stressed for no reason (which, to be honest, I might be).
In the moment, it’s hard for people with anxiety to take a step back and rationalize the situation. Tell the person that you see them, that their feelings are valid, and to try and work out the situation with them.
2. Offer empathy not sympathy
I saw this amazing little video that compared sympathy to empathy. I just want to briefly break it down so you also are able to know that there is a difference between them. Grammarly has a little photo that shows sympathy vs. empathy in the best way! Look at it below:
Sympathy is just casually saying “oh sorry that sucks” whereas empathy is helping that person work through the issue. My boyfriend is honestly amazing at empathy. Anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed and freaking out he breaks down the situation for me and helps me to work everything out.
3. Give them space if they need it
Sometimes after I have had a panic attack the only thing I need is SPACE. If I’ve just come from a huge crowded place, I want SPACE. If I’ve even been around a few people for a long time I just need SPACE. I love being around people; however, after being somewhere like Disney all day I just need time alone to re-charge and come down.
4. Don’t get mad if they cancel plans
Chances are if I’ve cancelled plans with you I’ve already had a long day struggling with anxiety. If you guys watch my Instagram stories you know the woes I have taking all of my photos myself. I do it super early in the mornings on the weekends and sometimes if they don’t turn out how I want it can ruin my mood!
Since I do this early in the day, sometimes all I need is some time and space to myself the rest of the day. Sometimes this causes me to need to cancel plans. If someone with anxiety cancels plans theres a 100% chance they feel extremely guilty about it. Please don’t make them feel worse!
5. Distract them if you notice them starting to get anxious
This is just a simple rule for handling people of any age. If you notice someone is starting to get amped up, try to take them to a place that’s less crowded. Either that, or start talking to them about something that takes them out of the current situation you’re in. This will keep their anxiety from getting worse and worse!
6. Don’t overwhelm them if they’re having a panic attack
Fun fact: While watching Avengers End Game I almost had to leave the theatre about four times because i started having a panic attack that many times. The theatre was three stories and I was on the second story. I was also in the DEAD center of the row. This is great for movie viewing but AWFUL for people with anxiety who feel trapped.
I’ve also helped a friend in high school handle a panic attack. Sometimes they come out of literally no where and can be brought about by nothing. It’s scary enough that this person feels like they have no control, but don’t make it worse by crowing all of their space! Do them a favor and keep a large group of people from gathering around them.
I hope that this post has shed more light on anxiety! Mental health is something that’s very stigmatized in America and is only just now becoming more spoken about. Mental health issues are also on the rise with millennials (and I can’t imagine why *gestures broadly to the 50734545 things going wrong with the world right now*) and needs to be more commonly spoken about.
If you’ve been too shy to share your story, then I hope I have been a voice that can help other people help you! When I started my blog I didn’t think I would have a platform to talk about issues like this and I’m blessed that I do. If you want to share your story, feel free to leave a comment below or connect with me on Instagram (@sequinsandsales) and we can chat privately if you need someone to talk to.
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