Living With Anxiety

Living With Anxiety

Some stories of those who live with anxiety

The dictionary definition of anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. However, anxiety has many faces and I believe that while this definition has some truth to it, it barely scratches the surface of what anxiety really is.

Anxiety has been a constant battle for what feels to me like my entire life. I was an incredibly nervous child. I was afraid of my own shadow. I remember avoiding playing certain games at recess (i.e. kickball) because I was worried I would get hurt. I remember always wanting to try out for the school plays but always been too scared to make it to the auditions. I never knew what anxiety really was until my senior year of high school.

It all started very suddenly. One day I was fine and the next I couldn’t make it through an entire school day without going to the nurse’s office. My anxiety often started out as a headache that sat just behind my eyes. It wasn’t a pounding headache, but more just an ache that would start up around the second block and wouldn’t go away. The headache would linger, and nausea would set in. I can remember going entire days at school without eating a single thing or drinking any water because I was afraid I would throw up. Soon after the nausea would be the endless shaking of my hands. At times it would be impossible to hold a pencil and take notes in class. At this point, I would end up at the nurse’s office where I was given ibuprofen or Tylenol for the headache and sent back to class.

This went on for weeks and on occasion, I would go home sick because I couldn’t take it any longer. There was one day where I went to school, realized I forgot a project at home and instead of having someone bring it to school for me I had a panic attack. My friend ended up having to call me a ride home. It was embarrassing to not be able to calm myself down. The anxiety only got worse when I was given a solo in my band class. It was a piccolo solo and I had only been playing the piccolo for a few months at that point. I can remember never being able to perform the solo in class when I was asked. I could play it fine when no one was around or when it was just a few students in the class. I still had no idea what was wrong with me at that point.

I finally gave in and went to my doctor. She did a multitude of blood tests for vitamin deficiencies, anemia, diabetes and thyroid problems. They all came back clean and it was at that point that I was told it was anxiety.

How has anxiety affected me? It has held me back at many points in my life. Though I did nail my solo in band class (after lots of therapy I should add), I have still found myself with anxiety in weird situations. Often my anxiety will come on announced and often it comes along with a lot of uncomfortable symptoms. One of the more inconvenient symptoms for me is crying. When my anxiety peaks it makes me so uncomfortable that I start crying. It can be rather embarrassing to be working and suddenly have tears pouring down your face. The most inconvenient symptom for, however, is the stomach and intestinal pain. Yes, you heard it here. When I have a bad bout of anxiety, it instantly manifests into diarrhea.

I have decided that it is time for me to start seeing a doctor or a therapist in regards to my anxiety. I was due to see a doctor a couple days ago, but with the bad weather we’ve been having I had to cancel yet another appointment to get help.

My story of anxiety may hold true to many stories that you have heard before, or perhaps it doesn’t. Anxiety doesn’t manifest in one single way. No two people will experience anxiety with the same symptoms. For several weeks now, I have been collecting stories from my friends, family and even strangers from all over to share about how anxiety has affected their lives. Here are some of those stories.

“My anxiety started when I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. I was nine and had to grow up. I was constantly shamed at the doctors for not being the perfect diabetic, which caused conflict with my parents at home. To this day I feel like I am a disappointment and nothing that I do or say is good enough. I constantly overthink every situation and it drives the people I care most about away. When I’m feeling anxious I need reassurance and that comes off as needy and I feel like a burden to those around me”.

“My anxiety sometimes catches me in strange behavioral loops in attempt to self soothe. They aren’t long lived but sometimes I feel like people think I’m ‘crazy’ because I’m rocking my wrist or experiencing a verbal tick to calm myself down.
For me though the worst part of my anxiety is how isolated I become. I have a hard time reaching out to people to see if they want to hang out, and because I have so much anxiety tied to my phone, messages from people can go unnoticed for weeks. If I make it past the messaging phase, there is a new set of problems. Going to a new place can numb me with fear, to the point where I must cancel plans. I am anxious about having people too close to me because I am always afraid they will think I’m bonkers for how real my mental illness symptoms are to me. As such I’m actually really lonely”.

I first recognized I had anxiety when I was in my late teens, although now when I look back I can see the symptoms have been present throughout my life. I think it was first recognized as shyness but as I got older I’ve realized it’s so much more than that. Anxiety to me is never feeling like I’m good enough, no matter how hard I try. It’s a constant battle within myself, knowing I can do something but struggling to push myself out of my comfort zone enough to achieve it. It really is a constant battle with your own thoughts.
I know deep down that I am capable of anything that I put my mind to but that has come from a long, hard battle itself. The struggle is overcoming all the thoughts I have along the way, managing those thoughts effectively and productively. I overthink every situation. I feel like I must plan and be in control of every possible outcome and it’s exhausting. If I haven’t planned for every outcome, then I don’t feel like I can deal with it and be prepared.
I struggle with physical symptoms of anxiety too; racing heart, shaking hands. I feel like the physical symptoms make me more anxious in case anyone notices. This usually happens in social situations that I feel uncomfortable in. I tend to feel uncomfortable in front of people I don’t know well. I’m introverted in that way.
I think the most exhausting thing is how up and down you feel. Some days you barely notice it and others it’s really bad. For me, it depends what I’ve got going on in my life and how I’m coping to manage it all. I got through stages where it’s really bad and somewhere it’s only mild.
Anxiety makes me irritable, moody, defensive, on edge, stressed and paranoid. On the other hand, it makes me empathetic because I can relate to what people are feeling, kind-kind hearted because I know what it’s like to struggle every day and it makes me thankful for the good things in life because every tiny step is an achievement because of the battle”.

“Anxiety is waking up at midnight after dreaming you didn’t turn your headlights off and having to physically get out of bed, get dressed and go outside to be sure you did shut your lights pf and that your car will start to be able to calm down”.

“Anxiety is taking everything your partner says, or the way they look at you, and determining that you did something wrong and that this is the end or that they aren’t in love with you anymore”.

“Anxiety is either not sleeping for weeks or sleeping all the time for weeks. Sometimes there is no in between. I am constantly exhausted”.

“I’m super open about my anxiety because the stigma needs to go away. My anxiety makes me light-headed and dizzy. I can feel my heart beat quicker sometimes. It’s scary and uncomfortable. For me, anxiety is having to wear Band-Aids on my fingers because I picked all the skin off from around my nail”.

These are just a few stories of millions of people who suffer from anxiety and anxiety disorders. The stigma needs to stop. It is said that 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders every year. You never know who is suffering.

Cover Image Credit: UCSB Department of Sociology

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.

Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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12 Simple Ways To Ease Your Anxiety

These are some super simple ways to handle your stress at home.


Anxiety and stress are very common problems for many of us in today's society.

Over 70% of adults face some sort of anxiety or stress in their lives.

It can really be overwhelming and can seriously affect our mood for the rest of the day.

Pushing these feelings of anxiety and stress aside and letting them build up does nothing but cause more harm to our minds and bodies.

Sometimes, we just need a quick and easy way to help alleviate some of this stress to help us get through the day and to help us feel better.

Here are 12 ways to do just that:

1. Practice deep breathing

Mental stress and anxiety can cause your body to respond in physical ways. Since it affects your sympathetic nervous system, you might experience elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness. Breathing deeply and slowly can help slow your heart and ease your body back into a calm state. When I panic or feel overwhelmed, I breathe in slowly through my nose, think of one thing that makes me happy, slowly breathe out through my mouth, and repeat until I can feel my mind and body begin to calm.

2. Light a candle or start up your essential oil diffuser

My personal favorite scent to soothe my anxiety is lavender. However, you can also try chamomile, rose, orange, jasmine, sandalwood, or whatever else might help you.

3. Exercise

This is a big one, but can also be a very difficult one. Whenever you're feeling extremely anxious or overwhelmed, it might be hard enough for you to get yourself out of bed, let alone do any serious exercising. My best advice is to be proactive and try to pay attention to when you first start feeling your anxiety creep up on you. Just go ahead and get up and go for a walk, run, or whatever form of exercise you prefer!

4. Read a book

For me, there's nothing like curling up with a good book to help calm my nerves. Whenever I am knowingly going into a situation that will make me anxious, such as traveling, I always make sure to bring a book to read whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. Reading helps me to temporarily escape my anxieties and can be a big help in giving myself some much needed time to calm down.

5. Do yoga and practice meditation

Yoga is such a helpful activity for those with anxiety and stress! It kind of is just a combination of many different anxiety-relieving techniques (exercise, deep breathing, and mindfulness). There are many different apps, books, classes, and websites you can use as a guide and help to do yoga. You can find what positions, locations, and situation are best for you. Doing yoga gives you a great opportunity to think about and reflect on your feelings and worries.

6. Spend time with loved ones (yes, even your furbabies)

Sometimes, all we need is a little love and reassurance in our lives to alleviate some of our anxieties. Spending time with your family, friends, and pets can help us to see and remember the good things we have in our lives. So many times, those of us with anxiety tend to seclude ourselves and that makes it easy to forget the good we have.

7. Drink more water

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause feelings of anxiety. It can make you feel jittery and can be a cause for elevated heart rate. Drinking more water not only helps you physically (like hydrating your skin and body), but it can also do wonders for your mental health. When your body is unhealthy and unhappy, that can be a big factor in feelings of depression and anxiety.

8. Take a short nap

If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, sometimes it can do some good to just take a short 30-minute nap. Just give yourself some time to rest your mind and body and face the issue with a new focus and fresh thoughts.

9. Journal

Even though writing down your feelings, bad or good, can be helpful, when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try focusing on the positive! Write down a few things that made you happy today or a few things that you're grateful for. Don't let yourself be bogged down by the negative.

10. Clean

This might not work for everybody, but I know that sometimes when I'm feeling restless or anxious, cleaning and decluttering can help clear my mind. Basically, it's just good to find something to put your focus on when your anxious thoughts feel like too much. Try to pick a task and focus on that until you're finished. You'll likely find, in the end, that you feel much better than before you started.

11. Listen to happy and soothing music

Listening to music is a BIG help to some people with anxiety. However, you need to be mindful of what you're listening to. Don't put on the breakup playlist you made when you were 13. Find happy or soothing songs and make yourself a playlist of songs with themes of positivity.

12. Don't bottle up your feelings

This might just be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to handling your anxiety. The worst thing that you can do is to suppress your feelings and try to force yourself to forget about them. Hiding or bottling up your feelings might help temporarily, but that will just make you feel worse in the end. Talk to someone or try one of the other methods I mentioned to face your anxiety, but don't pretend like it doesn't exist.

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