I was 15 when anxiety entered my life. It started with the fear of contamination then snowballed into panic attacks and everyday fear about leaving the house. My anxiety became a full blown force in my life when I ended up in the ER multiple times with a heart rate of 160, fear of death and overwhelming feelings about losing control of everything around me. I continued to struggle with anxiety for the next two years before I sought help from a therapist.
Since entering therapy at 17, I’ve done work around learning the roots of my anxiety, coping mechanisms and practicing self-care on a daily basis. I’ve learned a few things over the past decade and wanted to share as they may help you manage your anxiety.
Learning and using coping mechanisms is necessary for living with anxiety. Trust me, there are days I feel like I am just getting by with anxiety and it’s OK to have those days, but I want to feel good and like I am thriving at work and in my personal life, and the way I do that is using my coping mechanisms. Positive self-talk, exercising and talking to someone about my anxiety, be it a friend or my therapist, are just a few coping skills I use when I start to feel anxious.
Moving, career transitions, entering a new relationship and failing health of a loved one are all things that have triggered my anxiety. You may recognize many of them are positive, happy experiences, which they are, but for me even positive changes present challenges for my mental health. Being aware and preparing in advance for known triggers can help ease anxiety.
Move It Out
Therapy, exercise, talking, writing or drawing — whatever it is, moving anxiety out of your body is something I learned is necessary and also helps to prevent future panic attacks or anxiety. Think of it this way: when you have an infection you take antibiotics to get it out of your body. Anxiety is like bacteria; it is something inside your body that needs to be broken up and moved out to feel better.
Forget taking the notion that self-care is only a monthly massage, or self-care is something that can and should wait till your project is done. Self-care is something that needs to be integrated people’s everyday lives. Make it a priority to do something outside your routine every day to take care of yourself. It can be a walk, playing with an animal or buying yourself lunch. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, even five minutes of focusing on just you will help. Whatever it is, as long as it doesn’t harm your body or mind, do it!
While I was seeing my first therapist, she recommended I check out an anxiety and phobia workbook. After getting through a few sections, I started to realize it wasn’t the worksheets that helped, but reading the introduction stories people shared about their experiences with anxiety is what helped the most. I began to learn other people felt the same way as I did, and I no longer felt I was the only one.
At 26, I’ve lived through over a decade of anxiety, and I will continue to live with anxiety for the rest of my life. Remaining committed to my self-care practice and keeping my coping skills fresh helps me successfully live with multiple anxiety conditions.
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