The last six months I have been struggling with a debilitating anxiety disorder. The kind of anxiety that suffocates like a tight corset or makes me want to jump out of my crawling skin.
At first, my coping mechanism was denial, avoidance, lots and lots of Netflix, and drinking. I have always been the type of person that was able to harness my anxiety as my productivity and drive. But this past year, it took my breath away. With 2 panic attacks that floored me- literally, I was laying on the floor in tears, trying to breathe, “Thinking I was having a heart attack” wondering what I had done wrong. At first I was very embarrassed and ashamed- all I could think was “what if people find out?” I was in denial, there was no way I was going to let my boys, my friends and my family know that I had this “weakness” So, I avoided the symptoms, I denied what was even going on, and I drank to cope. It became one of my only coping tools. Which, got me very worried. (Hence the sobriety intention for the month of February) I needed to find help. After talking with a professional, I developed my very own Coping Toolkit and tricks that have helped me manage (and not hide) the anxiety.
If you are dealing with anxiety- I first recommend talking with a professional, don’t let it carry you away – like it did me. (The following tools are those that have worked for me, they may not work for everyone.)
What is in my Coping Toolkit?
- teamy tea satchel is in my purse at all times. It contains lemon tea, de-stress, lavender and chamomile and peppermint and my essential oils.
- lavender and de-stress essential oilin that same satchel, I carry around my lavender essential oils that allow me to drop a small amount onto my lava rock bracelet ($8 at Amazon) that has kept a permanent spot on my wrist for the year.
- Journal While my mother was on her LOOONNGG trip through Alaska, she picked up a leather journal that I keep near my bedside table. Knowing that the things I write down are for my eyes only, allows me to put down thoughts that give me anxiety just thinking others would hear. I am able to divulge my insecurities, my anxieties, and even my dreams without backlash from judgement.
- self-help booksThis is one I never thought would be in my repertoire, but there are some really great, talk-to-you straight, Self-help books out there. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero and Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis have both been great reads and very motivating.
- candlesThank goodness for Joanna Gaines and her candle collection at Target. My favorite right now is the Black pepper and the Tobacco. Just having the candle lit in dim lighting calms me down. I also burn my soy wax candle called ‘Restore’ every single night.
- motivational calendarYou are a Badass, has this great day to day calendar with some perfectly written motivational nuggets of wisdom that I look forward to reading every single day. I keep it at work, so my co-worker and I can set our daily intention. It is nice to have something to look forward to.
- bath salts, bubbles and oil Bath time has become an essential part of my life. My mother’s ‘go to’ home remedy for pretty much anything was ‘take a bath’. And I, obviously, have taken that to heart. This is ‘mom’ time. I like to sit and read, listen to music or get lost in Netflix- this is my way of shutting down the day’s stress.
- water This was not a coping tool until my hydration intention last month. I am so grateful for the Quench book and all that I learned about the importance of smart hydration. (link to hydration habits from last month that have helped me cope this month) Downing a glass of water, not only hydrates me but it also gives me a second to breath. Knowing that I am doing this 1 very simple thing that does so many wonderful things for my body and health- puts my mindset at ease.
- meditation, Breathing and yogaAaptiv- the iTunes app- really helped me understand guided meditation and its benefits. Journey Junkie is someone I like to follow (for free) – she sends some great weekly yoga videos as long as you subscribe. She also sends some great blog posts that are worth the read. Also, everyone’s FitBits have this ‘Relax’ button that assists you with a 2 minute breathing treatment. I started using these 2 minutes while sitting in traffic, sitting in a doctor lobby. I has even helped my own 2 boys learn to ‘breathe’.
- Nostril Breathing- When my husband and I were in Costa Rica at a yoga retreat, our yoga instructor walked us through this breathing exercise- It is mean to calm your nervous system, relieve tension and anxiety. it feels silly, but it DOES work like a charm.
- cardio and weightsThis has always been a tool in my toolbox, but I had no idea how much I needed a long run or a heavy weight session until my anxiety got away with me. Running, swimming, biking are great ways to either be intentional about your thoughts or just ‘get away’ with you and your music. This ‘me’ time is very important to every single member of my family. – if you know what I mean. Plus, when I feel strong, and when I sweat – I feel like I can chase the world and attack just about anything that comes at me.
- great friends and supportive husband and family that completely gets itThis year, I have truly tested my husband and he has won time and time again! He has been so understanding and so supportive through this very confusing time for me. I have fell in love all over again. My friends have always been there for me when I needed them. As I opened up to them I discovered I was not alone, and that some of them have experienced what I am going through.
These are the things I like to keep near me every day as I tackle this uncharted territory.
These coping tools help me …
be in the moment
focus my intention on the present
take a breath
think through it
and sometimes, even, STOP thinking so much.
This month, I wanted to prove to myself that there were other ways for me to handle my anxiety other than opening a glass of wine. This February, I have not only cleared my body of alcohol, I have discovered better ways to cope- more productive ways to cope.
To admit this to anyone near me was and has been very difficult, but to then write this down publicly is something that makes me very nervous. I know I am not alone, I am still working through my embarrassment and shame with this, but the tools that I have discovered have helped me a lot. Knowing that anxiety affects over 40% of women my age, I thought my story and toolkit could help.