I have been thinking about writing this post for awhile now, and thought amidst all the uncertainty in the world right now, more people could relate to this piece. A lot of people are feeling very anxious or panicked in their homes so I thought I would open up and share my story, and things I do for myself to naturally mitigate my anxious tendencies. This is a very personal topic for me to write about, but when I had mentioned it on my Instagram, I found that a lot of people were interested.
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For the past couple years I have struggled greatly with anxiety. I’m not talking about the ‘I’m stressed for a second and then it passes’ type of anxiety. I’m talking the ‘I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, it feels like someone is strangulating the last breath of oxygen I have in my lungs’ type of anxiety. For a long time I let these fears take over my life. I let it affect my relationships, work, school and I missed a lot of opportunities in life.
I commonly struggle when there is something new in my life, such as a new class environment at school, new foods I’ve never tried before or meeting new people for the first time. Everyone gets a little nervous when they are experiencing something for the first time, but for me, my thoughts completely take over and I have a sudden irrational fear of the unknown. So much so, that I start hyperventilating and I need to leave the situation. What was really frustrating to me was that up until a few years ago I had never been anxious, thought about being anxious or had anything close to a panic attack before so it was all very new and scary.
I also experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis that is unpredictable because there is never a concrete explanation as to why I am having irrational thoughts over nothing. This is something that I feel a lot of people can relate to, and it is very difficult to explain to people who do not understand anxiety or the way anxiety works. It may seem like nothing, but my mind perceives it as danger and responds by activating a stress response in my body. In addition to mental health, the stress response triggered by anxiety has many physiological effects on the body as well such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, numbness and tingling and nausea.
A lot of people ask me, if it’s that bad why don’t you take medication? I am the type of person that rarely even takes an Advil/Tylenol for anything. With all the side effects, it really wasn’t a choice that I considered. I wanted to see if I was able to get through it without depending on a substance for stability. This is not to belittle anyone who does use medication as I understand that it really works for some people and that’s amazing, it just isn’t the right choice for me at this time. I have listed the things I do for self-help below. These are just things that help me on the day to day to prevent panic attacks and help soothe the physiological and mental effects of my anxiety.
- Therapy – This provided a huge amount of relief for me. I went for cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions which basically reconfigures the brain to identify, question and change the emotionally irrational thoughts in response to situations. It helps to talk to someone about how you are feeling as well, because if you are able to identify why you react the way you do, you can learn to change that reaction.
- Peppermint Tea + Ginger – Both help relieve my stomach upset when I am feeling anxious.
- Lavender essential oils – I put this in my bubble baths, and I put a few drops on my pillow before I go to sleep at night.
- Warmth – hot bath, heating pad/hot water bottle are all super soothing when dealing with stress.
- Weighted Blanket – You can also cuddle or hug your significant other or family, but if you aren’t into that a weighted blanket can make you feel grounded, safe and supported especially if you are struggling to fall asleep.
- Self Help Podcasts – A few of my favourites include: Anxiety Slayer, The Anxiety Coaches, The Overwhelmed Brain and Happier w/ Gretchen Rubin.
- Fresh Air – This helps me with my breathing. If I am stuck inside with stuffy air, it can exacerbate my hyperventilation, taking a few deep breaths outside with fresh air makes me feel like I can breathe again.
- Sea Bands – I do not know why this works for me, there is no scientific research that suggests this would help with anxiety, however sea bands push on a pressure point that helps relive dizziness caused by motion. For some reason wearing them on my wrists helps ground me when I am feeling anxious or out of control.
- Friends + Family – A support system is a great way to help your mental health!
I am not a professional, so always consult a healthcare professional if you are struggling.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress you can call one of these help lines in the greater Vancouver area ♡
- Greater Vancouver: 604-872-3311
- Toll Free: 1-866-661-3311
- TTY: 1-866-872-0113
- Senior’s Distress: 604-872-1234
- 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
Stay Safe and Healthy out there, xx meg