Even though my diagnosis of anxiety and panic disorder didn’t come until my 20s, I firmly believe I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder most of my life. However, until I graduated from college and began working jobs, I never understood how big of a hurdle my anxiety would be in the workplace.

Work is a stressful place for many. According to an article in The Atlantic, workplace stress among employees in America can often lead to health problems like cardiovascular disease and other fatal conditions. A report from the American Psychological Association found that in 2014, 60 percent of surveyed, employed Americans cited “work” as their top stressor.

And that’s not focusing on a group of people with already existing mental illnesses like anxiety or depression — that’s just your average American.

I love my job. I really do — I have an awesome team, an inspiring mentor and I work somewhere that has a mission I believe in whole-heartedly. I enjoy the office, the culture and the community we work in. But work is either #1 or #2 (depending on the day) on my list of “things that induce panic attacks.”

This isn’t solely the fault of my job’s demands — I’m a perfectionist at heart and a very driven-to-prove-myself kind of person. Working long days with tight deadlines and critical work would stress anyone out — but for someone with anxiety, there’s a level of stress that goes beyond that.

One time at the office, about five months or so into my employment, there was a situation in which I had a full-blown panic attack at work, ending with me crying in the bathroom where a very important person in the company totally saw me. The reason I was upset was no one in particular’s fault, just a typical not-so-great day at the office with a bit extra drama than usual. But I could not handle it. And I just completely broke down.

I was so embarrassed and so ashamed. I thought for sure I was done. Who keeps around a cry baby who can’t handle a rough day?

The day ended with an apology from my supervisor, reassurance of my talent and skills and me heading home early to lay in bed until the next morning. Though to most people, the day ended just fine, I could not let go of the fact that I “failed.” I’d lost my cool in the place where my cool matters most. It was, quite literally, my worst nightmare (like, pretty sure I’ve had that dream before).

From that day on, I constantly wondered if my boss thoughts I was “crazy.” I was terrified of looking anything less than put together at work — I thought my status and job security depended on it. However, these “standards” were only set by one person: me.

I hit a pretty low point a few months ago and my stress was at an all-time high. I wasn’t doing a very good job at hiding it (though I was getting better at not crying at the drop of a hat). My boss pulled me aside at one point and point blank asked me if I was OK. I wasn’t. And I told her.

I don’t recommend this to everyone — it really depends on the type of relationship you have with your supervisor, and the kind of work you do — but I sort of word-vomited all over myself and basically spilled my guts to my boss about my anxiety, my therapy, my coping mechanisms and how I wasn’t coping so well at that particular time. I didn’t go into details about my issues in my personal life, just that I generally was having a hard time, and an even harder time keeping it together at the office. And you know what? I wasn’t fired! Hallelujah!

Instead, my boss was incredibly understanding, and even shared some of her own vulnerabilities with me. It was a very touching conversation. And, going forward, I didn’t feel like I needed to hide my struggles and emotions as much in the workplace (though I still aim to keep it pretty professional as much as I can). It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and it’s all because I was honest, not only with my boss, but also with myself. I wasn’t crazy.

Just the other day, a few months since our initial talk, my boss pulled me into her office to talk (cue internal panic). All she wanted to tell me was that she had noticed I seemed more alert in meetings and was speaking up more in discussions. She wanted to tell me that 1) she noticed and 2) she was proud of me, and hoped this meant I was feeling better.

At that moment, I swear I felt my heart swell — just like the Grinch, it grew a few sizes that day.

It was one of the most empowering, empathetic, beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced, and I think about it often. I’m not sure if she understands the profound impact it had on me, but I hope she does, because I think about it all the time.

If you struggle with a mental illness in the workplace, you are not crazy, and you should never be made to feel like you are. Being honest with yourself, and maybe your peers around you, could be enough to put your fears to rest and help ease your mind about your anxiety. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Go cry it out in the bathroom, chug some ice cold water or take the day to lay in bed, but never doubt that you are worthy of your position, and damn good at your job.

Follow this journey on Naturally Sheyna.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about the first time you reached out to someone about your mental illness. Whether it was a friend or a professional, we want to hear about why you opened up, how it went, and why you’re glad (or maybe not glad) you did it. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.



Anxious thoughts seem to pop up at the most inopportune moments — like when you’re settling into bed, trying to fall asleep. (Really, brain? We couldn’t have had this conversation a couple of hours ago?) When this happens, we look for ways to calm those thoughts. Sometimes that means opening a book or trying a breathing meditation, and other times it means reaching for our headphones and playing our favorite soothing songs.

We asked Mighty readers on Facebook for the songs they listen to when anxiety keeps them up at night. Here’s a sampling of what they suggested. A Spotify playlist is at the end.

1. “Invincible,” Kelly Clarkson

“I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed…”

2. “Keep Your Head Up,” Andy Grammar

“You gotta keep your head up, oh, and you can let your hair down…”

3. “Brave,” Sara Bareilles

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”

4. “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten

“This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m all right song…”

5. “Swim,” Jack’s Mannequin

“When you’re not so sure you’ll survive, you gotta swim.”

6. “Diamonds,” Johnnyswim

“We are the brave…”

7. “Chandelier,” Sia

“I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry.”

8. “Warrior,” Demi Lovato

“I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been…”

9. “I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz

“I am tough, I am loved…”

10. “Breathe (2 A.M.),” Anna Nalick

“Just breathe.”

11. “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver

“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.”

12. “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley & The Wailers

“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing will be all right…”

13. “All Will Be Well,” The Gabe Dixon Band

“All will be well, even though sometimes this is hard to tell…”

14. “Desperado,” The Eagles

“It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you.”

15. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.”

16. “Little Balloon,” Jenny & Tyler

“No one is able to steal what is in your hands.”

17. “What a Wonderful World,” performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

18. “Boat Song,” JJ Heller

“If you were afraid, my darling, afraid, my darling, I’d be the courage you lack…”

19. “One Call Away,” Charlie Puth

“I’m only one call away. I’ll be there to save the day. Superman got nothing on me…”

20. “Such Great Heights,” performed by Iron & Wine

“I hope this song will guide you home.”

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

What’s your go-to song to listen to when you’re feeling anxious at night? Add it to the comments section below.

 20 Songs People Listen to When Anxiety Keeps Them Up at Night

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s time to show that special someone you care. And when your special someone lives with an anxiety disorder, one of the most romantic things you can do is make him or her feel at ease. Whether you’re planning a first date or spending a night with your husband or wife, learning what triggers your partner, or knowing what triggers yourself, and planning accordingly is one of the best ways to ensure the night is a success.

We asked some of our readers who live with anxiety to tell us about their ideal date. But don’t take their word for it — ask your partner what makes them comfortable. Or if you’re the one who lives with anxiety, speak up and let your Valentine know what you need.

In the meantime, some of these answers might give you inspiration:

1. “Most of my days are spent at home due to my anxiety, but when I’m having a good night I like to try and see the outside world. I enjoy having dinner and a cocktail in a public place where we can chat and people watch: maybe a sidewalk cafe or art gallery bistro where we can talk and connect and feel a part of this big beautiful world I sometimes miss out on.” — Andrea Nicole Olivarez

2.I like to just sit with them and talk about life, without worrying about other people around me.” — Theresa Pancella

3. “If we’re going out, I’d like to go to a restaurant I’m familiar with that’s quieter. No movies, that’s too much, but food is nice and comforting. If I had the option, I’d prefer to stay in at my place and watch movies and make food together, or just do something in the comfort of our sweats.” — Lauren Greschaw

4. “My ideal date would do something romantic, yet casual. Something close to home or at my home like coming over and cooking me dinner and bringing a favorite movie.” — Aurora Jade

5. “Pretty much any date with my significant other will do as long as the plans don’t change. That is one major trigger for me.” — Tia Marie

6. “Sitting at a casual, quiet place where we can talk and not worry about people’s judgments.” — Abigayle Petty

7. “Seeing a movie early in the afternoon because it’s less crowded.” — Lisa DuVal

8. “I usually go for the old standby of dinner and a movie. The theater is dark so I don’t have to see anybody else, and at the dinner I’m usually so focused on the person I’m with I don’t have time to worry about my triggers.” — Patrick Dovah Bowden

9. “I enjoy going to lowkey places with my husband; restaurants that have plenty of space between the tables, etc.” — Christianne McCall

10. “There was a great ‘Big Bang Theory’ episode where Rajesh takes his date to a library and they text each other back and forth from across a table. That would be kind of nice, I think, for a first date. It would take the pressure of ‘casual talk’ off the table – I’m much more composed when I type. And there would be other people around, but not in a distracting way.” —  C.C.P.

11. “If my husband were to plan something — I would hope it’s a place I’ve been. Going to new places makes me even more anxious.” — Jandj Houston

12. “My ideal date would be something quiet, yet somewhere where I’m comfortable. I can’t handle many people because of my anxiety/” title=”View more social anxiety stories”>social anxiety. A date at a nice quiet café/bookstore, getting dressed up and going out to a not-so-busy restaurant (sitting away from everyone), or even a drive out of town. I have to have an idea what we’re going to do though. Or else I will have an anxiety attack just thinking about it.” — Kate Marie

13. “My ideal date could be anywhere — with the right person. Every ‘date’ has its own difficulties, but having the person you’re dating understand what little things help can make a stressful date calmer.” — Cassandra Coogan

14. “I like dates where I know the general itinerary, but there are still allowances for the sweet surprises. For example, I knew ahead of time we’re going to dinner and then for a drive. This date became going to a really nice steak house and then a drive to a park where we sat and stargazed.” — Whitney Williams

15. “Mine and my boyfriend’s first date was perfect: he took me out to dinner at a pizza place, then we walked around a local park and talked. He made me feel comfortable the entire date which made me see he cared.” — Julia Ann Lange

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

I’m fairly open with my friends about most aspects of my personal life, but my anxiety has always felt like a taboo topic. My biggest fear is that they won’t understand because they haven’t experienced it themselves, but I also worry they will judge me for being “crazy,” overly dramatic or weird.

Anxiety is something that affects me daily, and while I’ve learned to manage it, it’s also one of the many things that defines who I am as a person. I don’t need my friends to be sympathetic, but I do want them to fully understand why I do the things I do and the occasional disconnect between my heart, my brain and my body.

Here are some secrets about my anxiety I’ve never been able to tell my friends:

1. Big group outings are my nightmare.

If I’m at dinner and I can’t see or hear everyone seated at the table, that’s outside of my comfort zone. So, generally speaking, being around more than 7-8 people is when I start feeling anxious and unsure of what to say or do. If I have to meet someone at a bar or restaurant, I’m already thinking of what could possibly go wrong. Attending trade shows or events where dozens of random people are wandering around makes me want to barf. I just don’t know what to do with myself. It’s not like I’m going to fall over or turn blue if I’m in a crowd, but I can feel myself freezing up and shutting down. When that happens, I don’t feel good and I want to be anywhere but there.

2. It affects me on a physical level.

You know the butterflies you feel on a first date? The pit in your stomach and the barrage of thoughts racing through your head? Multiply those butterflies by ten, add diarrhea, sweating and the feeling of your heart pounding out of your chest, and you’ll understand how it affects my body. On top of this, sometimes my jaw and hands will shake. Even when I’m at home, I’m not safe from this. After particularly triggering events, I can literally lay awake in bed all night thinking about something that’s bothering me. It’s impossible to shut my brain off, and even if my body is screaming for sleep, my mind always wins. I don’t always experience physical symptoms, but when I do, sometimes I feel like I have to tame a panicked, wild animal.

3. Sometimes I feel like the most awkward person ever.

You know the episode of Family Guy where the Kool Aid man bursts into the courtroom at the absolute worst moment? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch it here. In addition to the awkwardness, people frequently mistake my anxiety or shyness for me being bitchy, which is even worse. I’m often so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing that the fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if others aren’t actually judging me or staring at me, it feels that way and it has ever since I was a teenager.

4. It isn’t always there

This is what’s so complicated. Sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I’m not. While I know certain situations will provoke my anxiety and I do my best to avoid them (or prepare myself as best I can), I can’t always predict it. There have been times where I’ve walked into a room and completely owned it, but the next day I might feel nervous about going to the grocery store during a busy time of day. Even I don’t fully understand it, so how can I expect my friends to?

5. The Xanax jokes are only so funny

I have a prescription for Xanax. Though I only take it 8-10 times a year for what I deem to be “emergencies,” it’s something I find to be incredibly useful. In the past I’ve joked that someone needs to “hand me the Xanax,” but for some reason it’s not as funny when my friends say it. It makes me feel like they don’t want to deal with the real me. So you can joke about it, but please think about the message you’re sending first. Or, here’s a better idea: Instead of asking if I need a Xanax, ask if I need a hug.

6. I really do enjoy spending time with you

Have I told you this? I’ve meant to. I may drive you nuts with my tendency to overthink everything and panic about seemingly trivial matters, but I love you and I truly appreciate your decision to stick with me. I hope you find my Elisabeth-isms endearing rather than annoying, and I hope we can laugh about them later on. Eighty percent of the time you probably won’t even notice this, so I’m not too worried about it. Aside from being supportive and listening to me, there’s nothing more I could possibly ask of you.

Lead image courtesy of Christian Schaffer

As a person with anxiety, I always worry about being labeled a “flake” when I can’t make your birthday party. Sometimes, when my emotions are at their worst, even a simple coffee date can feel like an obstacle I simply can’t get over. It doesn’t make any difference how much I want to go, or how sociable I can feel when I’m at my least anxious.

So what happens behind the scenes when I “bail” on your barbecue?

I bargain with myself.

Like a parent of a young kid, I try to make my anxiety an offer she can’t refuse.

Typical examples: “So, you have two hours until you need to leave. If you watch another episode of ‘Friends,’ you’ve still got time for a shower and you’ll feel well-rested.”

“If you go, and you don’t enjoy yourself, you can leave after an hour. I promise.

I feel angry.

Sometimes I want to go, but for some reason my bum stays planted to the sofa.

“Why do I have to be like this? I’m 24. I should be able to go for drinks with friends without an internal battle. This sucks.”

I feel guilty.

A textbook reaction, and probably the worst of all.

“My friends deserve better than this. They must be so sick of me canceling on them all the time, and I don’t blame them.”

I want to get out.

Even after spending hours wanting to stay in the house, the sudden realization that I’ve “missed my chance” to do something makes me want to leave it.

“I’m not housebound. I will leave right this second and take the train to the next town, just to prove I can.”

I want to stay home.

“I’m going to sit in the bath for the rest of the evening and no one is allowed to speak to me.”

I promise to go next time.

“When X invites me again, I’m going to be the first person there and will wow all the guests with how funny and friendly and mentally stable I am.”

It might seem incomprehensible for someone who has never experienced anxiety, and I can see why: If you have been invited to something — hell, you may have even organized it — and you desperately want to go, and physically you are able, then what’s stopping you?

To answer this question, I’m going to start being more honest with the people I “bail” on. I will tell people I’m nervous or feeling low instead of inventing an illness or other arrangement. It might not always be easy, and it might not always get the reaction I need, but if change is going to happen, perhaps it needs to start with me.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability, disease and mental illness that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

The holidays can be anxiety provoking for everyone — and for the 40 million American adults who live with anxiety disorders, this means putting anxiety on top of anxiety. Holiday pressure often adds to the challenges someone is already dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

We asked our community what they wish other people understood about living with anxiety around the holidays. When you see your friend or family member who lives with anxiety step outside at a holiday party, this might give you a better understanding of what they’re going through.

Here’s what they want you to know:

1. “Just because you’re supposed to be happy around the holidays doesnt mean everyone is, and that’s OK. Not everyone can handle the stress of it all. We miss loved ones who are no longer here, we wish we could do more, we want to see and feel all of the joy and happiness you feel, but we just can’t. It doesnt mean we don’t love you or don’t care.” — Shelly Conner

A quote from Shelly Conner that says, "Just because you're supposed to be happy around the holidays doesn't mean everyone is, and that's OK."

2. “I may disappear for an hour from time to time. It’s just to take a breather. Don’t be offended. Don’t think I’m upset, and don’t take it personally. I need to catch my breath.” — Misty Hyndman

3. “Holidays make my anxiety worse. Just know that I do care — but sometimes I need a quiet place to try to reign in my anxiety.” — Shannon Trevino

4.When I go outside, it’s not because I’m trying to avoid the situation. It’s because I need a minute to calm the panic, reset my breathing and slow the thoughts. Parties can be sensory overload for me, so I just need a minute to refocus.” — Tricia Rathgeber

5. “I’m not a snob. I just get overwhelmed and shut down. Please understand it has nothing to do with you, and please be extra kind if you see me sitting alone or being quiet.” — Kristen Batdorf-Overbey

Quote from Kristen Batdorf-Overbey that says, "I'm not a snob. I just get overwhelmed and shut down. Please understand it has nothing to do with you."

6. “The worst part of Christmas is the expectation that everyone needs to be happy. For some, Christmas is a wonderful chance to be thankful for what you have. For some of us, the expectation from other people that we need to be happy is quite daunting.” — Autistic Not Weird

7. “If I freeze during small talk, let me off the hook. Nothing personal.” — Erin Nicole

8. “The obligation I feel to reciprocate gifts I don’t feel I deserve is absolutely crushing. And at the same time provokes humility and thankfulness. The push-pull of these extremes leaves me breathless and broken. For this reason I don’t celebrate the season and push people away lest they see my frozen reaction as heartlessness. Really I just don’t know what to do. I’m so torn between the good and bad stress of it all.” — Chriss Tate

Quote from Chriss Tate that says, "The obligation I feel to reciprocate gifts I don't feel I deserve is absolutely crushing."

9. “Do. no. enter. my. bubble. uninvited.” — Jenna Hennis

10. “If I’m there, I really want to see you. But please understand I may want to separate myself or leave early.” — Barbara Audacity Johnson

11. “As someone with anxiety and schizoaffective disorder, I feel a deep uncertainty as far as the holidays are concerned. Where others look forward to a celebration of the new year, I fear living another year in the company of a life-limiting mental illness.” — Syrena Clark

12. “The idea of Christmas makes me happy. I love lights and presents and food. It’s the execution that sends me spiraling. The shopping, preparation and parties overwhelm me.” — Jennifer Grant Warren

Quote from Jennifer Grant Warren that says, "The idea of Christmas makes me happy. I love lights and presents and food. It's the execution that sends me spiraling. The shopping, preparation and parties overwhelm me."

13. “As the number of people and noise increases, so does my anxiety. I may need to take regular ‘time outs’ to get away to somewhere quiet and calm to settle my anxiety a bit.” — Collette A. Smith

14. “I’m totally excited for the holidays, but when they arrive I’m mentally exhausted from being anxious. I seem unhappy. Even though I enjoy the holidays, I need to prepare myself mentally for them and make a plan to hide after them to calm down.” — Punki Munro

15. “If I leave your Christmas event early it’s not because I’m being rude. I have lots of events over Christmas and sometimes my anxiety beats me and I need to leave. Please don’t hold it against me.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

Quote from Vikki Rose Donaghy that says, "Sometimes my anxiety beats me and I need to leave. Please don't hold it against me."

16. “Sometimes I really want to help with whatever it is everyone’s doing, but there are times where I can’t. There is too much pressure to do things ‘right.’ Don’t judge me if I need to step away and find a quiet spot. Let me be for a little and I’ll come back.” — Kendell Sierra Karissa Blunden

17. “Everything, including anxiety, gets ramped up during the holidays. Whatever your vulnerability is will become super-sized.” — Karen Capucilli

18. “It’s utterly and completely exhausting playing all possible scenarios and conversations out in your mind for weeks ahead of time.” — Mia Sweet-Thurman

19. “Please understand I can’t do everything.” — Kallie Kieffer

Quote from Kallie Kieffer that says, "Please understand I can't do everything."

20. “Anxiety is a 24/7/365 ordeal, but it’s amplified during the holiday season. I cannot and will not step foot into a shopping mall.” — Eric B. Pollock

21. “I can’t just magically get rid of it forever by thinking positive.” — Sally M Senft 

22. “The greatest gift of all would be patience and understanding in such a chaotic and stressful time for us.” — Savanna Smith

Quote from Savanna Smith that says, "The greatest gift of all would be patience and understanding in such a chaotic and stressful time for us."

*Some answers have been edited and shortened.

Related: 6 Things You Don’t Have to Do During the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’

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