A Better Coping Toolkit: The Truth About my Anxiety
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.
At the beginning of this year, I dedicated each month to an intention, an intention that would lead me towards a healthier lifestyle. This month I am participating in The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I do enjoy the nice glass of Malbec or Pinot Noir in the evenings. 19 months ago I decided to make my health a priority in my life, and I adopted a whole food plant based diet. Most of the decisions that I make are in line with being healthy. I desire a Quality life when I am older, and I believe it is how we treat our bodies now that will determine that.
Before I explain what sobriety can do for your body, I must make a confession: I gave in on Friday night. I had a drink while watching a movie with my family. I had missed that rush when the alcohol first enters my system. But, I will also confess: the moment my blood alcohol normalized again, I felt guilty and mad at myself. IT WAS NOT WORTH IT!!! Since the rush didn’t last as long as I was hoping for, I felt way worse than I did before the drink.
During this month, I have been trying to guide my intention with actual science-based research and studies. I have not only discovered a lot, but I have also experienced many of sobrieties benefits.
It is not what we are giving up, but it is what we can gain.
better sleep quality –
once you stop relying on alcohol to help you fall asleep, your body will begin to do this naturally. Once you’ve allowed this to happen (probably will take a week or so – once all the alcohol is out of your system) you will also fall in an out of Deep and REM sleep naturally.
Alcohol depletes your blood of sugar. Low blood sugar makes you reach for breads, chips, popcorn or pretzels. When you consume less alcohol or stop drinking all together, you are able to normalize your blood sugar and control that careless snacking.
alcohol is more quickly stored as fat in your body than excess sugar, carbs, and protein. Alcohol has 7 calories/gram and it is quickly absorbed and because of its density the liver prioritizes the alcohol over any other food you are consuming with the alcohol – which in turn becomes fat.
(and if you were following me last month, you already know the benefits of hydration.)
your risk of cancer falls-
Alcohol – also known as ethanol- is a known carcinogen. “According to the National Cancer Institute, the risk of breast cancer was higher across all levels of alcohol consumption.” (pg. 183)
blood sugar and pressure normalizes–
Without the alcohol toxin running through your body, your heart and organs don’t have to work so dang hard.
stronger immune system –
When you consume alcohol, your immune system is weaker because your body is working so hard to break down those sugars, ethanol, and detoxify.
So, if you can gain all of these from giving up or consuming less alcohol- guess WHAT? You lose all of these when you consume heavy amounts of alcohol.
In my own pursuit towards a healthy lifestyle, I have discovered a trick that has helped me out these last few weeks. (minus my 1 set back)
experiment with your hydration
1c Pomegranate juice – a great antioxidant and 1/2c coconut water – great hydrator
24 oz citrus water with 2 tsp of chia seeds – great hydrator and fat killer
Waterloo brand waters – the sparkly adds a little something extra
Kombucha- the fermentation adds a little bit of alcohol, but nothing worth talking about.- great natural probiotic
- Trick yourself
By giving you knowledge, I hope I have given you the tools to make the right decision for yourself.
A body in balance craves what will keep it in balance
My February intention is ‘sobriety’, and to be completely transparent, I thought this was going to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I enjoy a nice glass of dark red wine with a bowl of popcorn- Thanks, Scandal. I look forward to the way it makes me relax, chills my anxiety and dulls my senses. I recently read an article that stated teachers make 1,500 decisions ever single day on average (That is 4 decisions every minute). No wonder, I look forward to something that can counteract the multi-tasking I do all day.
There were signs that made me think that it was time to bring this to the forefront and make it a mindful intention.
My serving size increased- Large wine glasses are the best gifts
Can’t stop at just one- I used to be great with 1 glass
Occasions revolved around drinking – it stopped being about connecting, getting to know people, and catching up
my spell with Vertigo- I’m not exactly sure if these are completely connected, but my body was trying to tell me something
I was using a glass or 2 of wine to deal with negative emotions- instead of using it to celebrate, I was using it to forget a tough day or combat boredom
I wasn’t sleeping well- the dehydration and sugar crash at 2 am kept me up on occasions.
I am one week in, and I have already discovered so much about myself.
Mondays are HARD!!!! It takes a lot of willpower.
I have so many more tools in my tool-belt that help me relax than I thought.
I rely on the experience of alcohol to help me step outside of my introvert self way too much.
Sleep is so sweet.
My boys get me; movies, popcorn and snuggles. (great way to relax)
Here are a few TIPS if you are on this journey with me:
Willpower– if you don’t believe you have enough willpower left in your tank to say NO, then don’t even put yourself in that situation. Graciously bow-out.
Know your WHY – When Monday at 4 hit, I had to remind myself WHY I was doing this. I even took it a step forward and wrote down my Why and What 1 drink of alcohol does to me. (next blog post)
Find other ways to RELAX– I run, take baths, stretch, go through a yoga flow, hangout with my kids (puzzles, Jenga, spelling) or turn on a Podcast and cook/clean- I have found that I have already been more productive.
Bring other drinking options- I am talking about all of the great sparkling water choices out there or – my bosses’ favorite- Hint water. place it in a wine glass and enjoy!
Relying on people is really hard for me, but I have already connected and shared with a few of my friends in the last week unlike I ever have. Let yourself be vulnerable (I am trying- this may take a while).
Buddy System– Thankfully I have a great friend who is on this 30 Day Experiment with me. Knowing she is probably going through everything with me, helps me.
Prepare your sleeping space – Burn a candle or incense, make your bed before getting in it, get into a great book, listen to calming music and spray some lavender on your sheets before you fall asleep. After a week of not drinking, all of the alcohol is out of your system and your body will learn how to relax naturally and stay asleep throughout the night.
I can’t promise after this 30 Day experiment that I won’t have another drink, but I can tell you this restart has already helped me realize how much that glass of wine controlled my afternoons.
If you are following or experimenting with me, please leave a comment and share this post. Thank you
As this month’s intention comes to an end, I can tell you that hydration has become a habit that I actually enjoy because it makes me feel so much better. I have absolutely no digestive issues; and as someone who eats a lot of vegetables and beans throughout the day, this is a huge celebration, my joints feel good – even after my 9 mile run this weekend (my knees did not hurt). I confess- drinking water in the morning has become an essential part of my morning routine along with drinking 8-10 oz before every meal. I now have 2 water jugs in my fridge at all times, one carries my sliced lemons and the other is plain filtered water.
in a previous post, I stated that 75% of people suffer from chronic dehydration. Signs that you may be dehydrated…
Your urine is dark– when you are hydrated your urine is either clear or khaki colored, but remember some medications and foods can affect the color – Watch out for beets!!!!
Constipation– Water is very important for digestion and dehydration is the #1 cause for constipation (and kidney stones). Yes, there are a lot of factors that can cause constipation (travel, foods, health conditions or medications) but if you are hydrated then your stool should be loose and predictable.
Dry mouth- This is one of the first signs of dehydration.
Headaches– When you are dehydrated your brain can actually shrink which causes the headache
Fatigue– When your body is dehydrated your muscles get fatigued
So, when your mother says, ‘ drink water’ as an answer your problems- she was probably right
This past few weeks, I have been focused on eating my water by mixing a couple of smoothies before work to drink when I am starting to recognize some of these signs throughout my day.
2 of my favorite smoothie recipes not only taste great they also
and are Quick to make
1c filtered water
1c frozen mango
1 medium frozen banana (once my bananas start to get bruised, I peel the skin and add them to a ziplock bag in the freezer for JUST this occasion)
2c chopped celery
1 handful of parsley (you can replace the parsley or cilantro)
Spinach Meets Cinnamon
1 1/3c almond or coconut milk
1-2 stalks celery
1 handful spinach
2 pitted dates or 1TBSP date syrup
1 frozen banana
1/2 tsp cinnamon (you can add cardamom for a chai flavor)
- add a scoop of protein powder if you prefer this as a meal replacement
optimum hydration starts with you and just a few changes: drink 8 oz of your salted citrus water as soon as you wake up, drink 8-10 oz of water before every meal, eat your water, add chia seeds to slow down the process of water leaving your body and ADD smoothies.
Sometimes intentions can be scary because we are always worried about what we are missing out on, but what if we don’t try and we miss out on so much more- Next month begins my very scary intention of sobriety. I am focused on the following books to keep me mindful and smart about the next 30 days. Please join me on my journey.
Don’t forget to comment and share.
As you all know, my intention this month has been on hydration, and in just 3 weeks I have already noticed a change in some of my habits.
A. I used to go to sleep dreaming about my 1st cup of coffee
B. Now, I wake up eager for my glass of salted, citrus water
A. I am used to having a glass of wine 5 out of 7 days of the week (don’t judge).
B. This last week, I only had a drink 3 out of the 7 days (and I didn’t miss it)- so, I might be ready for my February intention.
A. Drinking water used to be a ‘chore’
B. Now, it is just apart of everything, and even a little interesting.
This was a tough week as I have been
dealing with, NO battling, vertigo all week. I was in denial early on in the week, but after three days of dizziness and nausea (and a difficult 15k,) I decided to finally stop trying to WILL it away and get some help. One of the side-effects of vertigo is dehydration due to the constant nausea and sometimes being dehydrated can be a cause, so I made sure to be very intentional this past week with the food choices I was making because drinking a lot of water made my stomach very queasy. Here are just a few things I did to make this a bit easier and better for me…
- I intentionally packed soup and salad in my lunchbox every single day for a hydrating lunch
- took out some of the dehydrating foods from my diet (list is below)
- Premade my ‘Quench Your Thirst’ smoothie on Sunday for an easy snack throughout the week
- I purchased an $8 water carafe for my bedside table
- Added a humidifier to our bedroom (the heater was drying us out)
The top 15 hydrating foods one should add to your weekly diet…
- Green pepper
- Butternut Squash
I created 3 recipes this last week that added as much from this list as possiblequench your thirst smoothie
- green apple, cucumber, celery, coconut milk, spinach
- cauliflower, coconut milk, celery
- med salad and dressing
- spinach, cucumber, tomato
Top 10 dehydrating foods you should cut from your DAILY diet – These should be foods that are used with caution and in moderation.
- coffee – Use Coconut milk to cream your coffee
- alcohol – a great alternative is to add a tonic or sparkling water to whatever you are drinking
- asparagus – this is why it alters the smell of your urine
- soy sauce – great alternatives are Coconut aminos or liquid aminos because they have less sodium
- popcorn (this was one of the hardest for me to hear) – try air popcorn or Quinns sea salt Popcorn – stay away from the microwaveable buttered popcorn.
- fried foods
- sugary drinks (soda, diet soda, Gatorade, Capri-sun, JUICE)
Please, leave a comment and share this post if you find this information useful.
This past week my intention was on EZ Hydration Habits with a focus on hydrating at key times throughout my day; when I first wake up, 6-8 ounces before every meal, and a ‘smart’ drink after running.
Thank you for the comments, the questions, and the inquiry from my last post. I was very surprised with the amount of feedback I received from my last post, and it made me realize how important this topic was for everyone. I know we are all looking for an easier way to stay healthy, feel better, and manage stress, And hydration is something everyone can start to focus on TODAY. No need for new workout clothes, a membership to an expensive gym, and (The best part) no diet restrictions!
Some of the concerns that came up through my conversations were…
addition of water = increased restroom breaks
addition of salt into the diet – I thought sodium was bad.
Is Gatorade a good option for quick hydration?
Is there such a thing as Too much water?
Chia seeds aren’t just good family fun, they are THE smartest way to hydrate. When you drink a glass of water with chia seeds in it (1-2 TBSP), the chia seeds will absorb the water and help the water remain in your body longer. This allows your body to balance the electrolytes which will aid in stamina and endurance (great for distance athletes) and give your body time to soak it all in!
- Add 1-2 TBPS of chia seeds to 6-8 oz of water and let it sit in the water for 10 minutes or overnight (even better) allow the seeds to absorb the water and become gel like. Shake the water before drinking.
This should slow down the amount of ‘potty’ breaks within the day, and it will allow your body to maintain hydration instead of washing out (something that can occur if you drink too much water).
From my last post, I talked about the morning glass of water having a pinch of one of these salts.
When it comes to adding salt to your diet and your water it is QUALITY not Quantity. These salts contain trace minerals that your body may have lost throughout the night. This small step allows your body to balance the electrolytes needed to stay hydrated. Start salting your water NOT your food.
Better Than Gatorade (When Water is not enough)
I have experimented with a few drinks this week to replenish after running. They both tasted great, kept my muscles hydrated, and helped me recover quickly. Even if you aren’t a runner, these drinks helped my husband recover from a fun evening and my own children from a day of bicycle riding.
Instead of giving my family a sports drink that contains a ton of glucose (125 calories and 35 grams of sugar), I chose to…
add a Nuun tablet to 12 oz of filtered water and 2 tsp of chia seeds- the boys loved the strawberry lemonade flavor.
I mixed 4 oz of our favorite Kombucha, 2 TBSP of chia seeds, pinch of sea salt, and 12 oz of filtered water after my long run on Saturday.
Low sugar options that hydrate with fast acting carbohydrates and electrolytes that allowed everyone to recover from dehydration symptoms. FYI – Sugar requires a lot of hydration for your body to process and filter.
There is such a thing as too much water. This can cause lowered sodium and potassium levels, muscle cramps, and can strain the kidneys and heart which can make you feel tired. Who would have THOUGHT? This does require a healthy person to consume a liter of water within an hour, so I am sure many of you aren’t chugging 33 oz of water, but I just want you to be aware of all the facts.
Smarter Water Options
Switch from Almond milk to Coconut milk
(Try 4 oz coconut milk with 12 oz of warm water , 1 -2 tsp of Cardamom and cinnamon to your coffee- Tasted like a Chai latte)
Drink coconut water instead of Gatorade
Explore the different flavors of the sparkling water craze- Waterloo Cherry is my favorite
This upcoming week, my focus will be on Eating my Water. (look for my post next weekend.) I plan on adding hydrating foods into my daily diet and pulling out some of the dehydrators that are causing some of the symptoms that are still sticking around.
I hope you are joining me on this adventure. Let me know how it is going. I want to hear about your goals, your swaps and how it is affecting you.
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