I want to start with anxiety, and we will jump into depression another week. Two topics that I have covered and that have been requested and that we can never write or discuss enough. Two very common struggles that adults, teenagers and children experience. It can be minor, and it can also be debilitating. It was larger this past year as people hid in their homes afraid to go out due to Covid. I’m sure cases of agoraphobia have skyrocketed.
I am not a stranger to anxiety. I have experienced it and find that it helps me to understand people better. I don’t like to be uncomfortable. If something is bothering me, I tend to tackle it head on and try to solve it. We have to find what works best for us to help not only through anxiety but also to prevent it, to manage it, and even to destroy it.
I remember starting high school. I remember my friends going to a different high school. My house was in a strange border for high school. I cried every day for probably three months. I don’t know why I didn’t ask my parents to go to the other high school? Maybe I did? Maybe they said no? I walked into high school not knowing where I belonged. I didn’t have friends. I didn’t have a group. I felt alone and had no confidence in myself. The precipatory anxiety the night before school and the morning of caused me a lot of distress. I remember many mornings and nights before school having anxiety even before high school.
My husband started the same high school a year after me in a similar situation. We were not high school sweethearts. I did not know Seth in high school. He had just moved to the neighborhood and also walked into school not knowing anyone. He was excited. A fresh start. Lots of people to meet. He walked in excited and ready to go. What an amazing attitude he had walking into a new school with new people. I have been with Seth for 17 years. What blows me away about Seth is his confidence. He knows he is capable. He knows that he can handle any situation handed to him. Does he get stressed about work sometimes? Absolutely. However, he has learned time and time again that he will get through it and that he can handle it. He continues to impress me, and we continue to learn from each other.
For myself, I have learned that the underlying cause of whenever I have anxiety is not having faith in myself. I don’t tend to realize how capable I am. When I turn my thinking around and feel capable and confident, my anxiety lessons. The biggest cure for me is paying attention to the chatter in my head. Instead of, “This is too much. How will I get all of this done? My life is too chaotic.” That is an example. I just put the July and August calendar in my phone. Instead of finding it overwhelming, I can look at it like this, “Look at all this great stuff that my kids are signed up for this summer. They are going to have so much fun. I am such a good mother to be signing them up and taking them to all of these wonderful camps and activities.”
What causes you anxiety?
- Negative Thinking
- Health issues
- Medications (side effects)
- Caffeine – this can definitely affect me
- Social Gatherings
- Public Speaking
- Phobias – spiders, elevators, snakes, heights, dogs, needles, thunder, leaving the house
- A Messy house
I have realized over the last several years that I have some friends that have to have their houses looking perfect. I have looked at Seth many times and said, “I surrender. I’m doing my best. I have three kids and three pets, and I will never have a perfect house.” Do I clean every day? Yes! Is my house perfect? No! I realize that my friends compulsively clean. I definitely don’t spend as much time as they do cleaning and organizing. It doesn’t bring me joy. The end product brings me joy. The process of cleaning and organizing is not fun for me. It’s something that I do out of necessity. I would rather have fun with my kids than spend time cleaning and organizing. I always try to strive for balance and moderation in my life. I prioritize time with my family and friends over cleaning. I realize that some of you love it. I realize that some of you can’t go to sleep until your house is perfect. I know that it can cause people anxiety to have things out of place or to think their house isn’t clean. I wonder what would happen if your house wasn’t meeting your “perfect” standard? One of the best questions to ask yourself is what is the worst case scenario? Usually answering this question will help ease your anxiety.
I want to touch on public speaking for a minute. I used to be very anxious about it. Seth actually enjoys it. I had a conversation with my daughter Ella that really helped me. She told me that she isn’t anxious because she is focused on bringing joy to others. My brilliant child. When we get outside of ourselves our anxiety lessons. When we are focused on others, our anxiety lessons. When we become self focused, our anxiety increases. If I think about what information I can provide to others, my anxiety goes way down. I also find that I have started thinking about it as exciting instead of as being nervous.
You’re feeling on edge. You just yelled at your child. Then you snapped at your husband. You aren’t liking yourself at the moment. Your mind is racing, and you can’t seem to slow down to sleep. You’re already thinking about the ten things you didn’t accomplish today. Maybe you are wondering what school is going to look like in the Fall and you find yourself worrying about it daily. You’re hearing about the new Covid variant and watching all the updates on it. Whatever is making you anxious, let’s talk about what steps you can take to help yourself.
- Stay present focused. When you are anxious you are thinking about what happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future. Take it step by step and day by day.
- Take care of yourself. Start with getting enough sleep, regular exercise and eating healthy meals throughout the day. Sometimes I realize I’m shaky because I forgot to eat a meal. If you are having trouble sleeping, cut out caffeine later in the day and try a sleep routine. I journal and then read my book to unwind before bed.
- Ask yourself what the worst case scenario would be and do some fact checking. If you are afraid of dying from Covid (a common thing communicated to me this year), do some research and find out what the actual chance of that happening is.
- Life can feel overwhelming. Make yourself manageable lists and prioritize what needs to get done today. Prioritizing my day helps me to decrease my stress level.
- Make sure that you are giving yourself breaks within your day. I know sometimes Seth will stretch his legs and take a short walk during the work day. Even taking a work call outside and getting some fresh air can be helpful.
- Get up and start moving. If I sit and think and get anxious it gets worse. If I get up and am productive, I feel much better. Doing the dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, working, all take my mind off focusing on my anxiety. Distractions tend to work but we also want to get to the root of the issue. If you are continuously anxious when your husband pulls up from work for example, then there is marital work to do. If it isn’t a safe environment, I hope you will involve some supports to help get you in a safer environment.
- Just breathe. You may think that this sounds so simple, but it really helps. If I take a time out and just take deep breaths in and out, I feel so much more relaxed. Give it a try.
- Caffeine can make me feel anxious – pay attention to what you are eating and drinking. Sugar, nicotine, caffeine, can all be culprits.
- Get your senses involved. If you are feeling very anxious start identifying colors or shapes. Look for all the orange around you. Orange is hard to find and will make your brain focus on something else. Pay attention to the sounds around you. Can you hear the birds? What do you feel? How does the blanket feel on the couch next to you? Even trying to do the alphabet backwards can make your brain start to work and think about something other than your anxiety.
- Put on some good music and dance. Put on a funny video and laugh.
- Meditation, journaling, reading and praying are all super helpful to me. I believe in turning my worries into faith.
- Involve your supports. Who do you talk to? Do you have a friend to talk to? A therapist? A support group? Don’t go through things alone.
- Exposure always helps me. If I’m anxious to fly on a plane, I will make myself take a flight. If I avoid it my fear and anxiety grow larger. If I do it and see that everything is ok over and over again then I can see that it’s not so bad. I push myself to do things I’m afraid of. It makes me tackle my fears and squash my anxiety. It makes me grow more confident in myself. Confidence is the key.
Look for patterns in your anxiety. What is causing it and how can you work on decreasing and eliminating it? I guarantee you that you are stronger and more capable than you give yourself credit for. Instead of putting yourself down build yourself up and take it moment by moment. Pick yourself up and start your day. You’ve made it this far. I know that some days are harder than others. I had a summer where my kids passed around getting sick for at least three weeks of our summer. My anxiety was high and then our new kitten got sick and had to stay at the vet for a few days. That sent my anxiety even higher. I kept reassuring myself that everything would be ok. I kept reminding myself to take it day by day. I love when my mom says “This too shall pass.” Don’t let your mind control you. Take control of your mind and take action. It’s ok to be scared. I want you to let yourself feel the fear and then I want you to go tackle it.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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