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When You Can’t Do What You Want to Do Because of Your Anxiety

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Today, I’d like to talk about something that means a great deal to me. When I was younger and didn’t deal with anxiety as much, I loved going places. I loved shopping, going to birthday parties and really just getting out of the house. However, now that my anxiety is much worse and harder to cope with, it’s difficult for me to get out.

Do I miss it? Absolutely! Do I wish I could just go wherever I want and have a good time without worrying? 100 percent, yes! However, as many of you who struggle with anxiety know, it’s not always that easy. As much as we may want to do something, sometimes our anxiety holds us back. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult for us to even picture going anywhere without feeling anxious.

Unfortunately, I don’t think people always understand this. I have relatives who seriously believe if I wanted to do things badly enough, I just would. I’m sorry to say this is not the case. When my mom or someone else invites me to go somewhere, I want so much to say, “Yes! When are we going?” Usually though, I don’t. Usually, I say, “I’m sorry I can’t, but I wish I could.”

It’s admittedly hard to feel as though people don’t believe you, especially your loved ones. I don’t want my family and friends to think I don’t miss doing things with them or I don’t wish I could. The truth is though I know I’m not ready to go somewhere and walk around for an extended period of time. I also know some of the people I’d be going with are not understanding. If I had to leave, then they would get frustrated. I’m not trying to blame others. I’m just stating the facts.

I’m writing this to let anyone who struggles to do the things they want because of anxiety that I understand. You’re not alone. I’m also writing this to remind those who have loved ones who struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues, that we don’t like going through this. We would much rather be going somewhere exciting or doing something fun!

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Getting Through Anxiety.

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A Weekday With Anxiety

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I’ve been struggling with anxiety for quite some time now, and I’ve noticed how many people don’t understand why I get so panicky and stressed out all the time. So to all those people, this article is for you.

My brain talks to me all day, every day and doesn’t stop. This is what a day in my head looks like.

5:00 a.m. “Oh my God, what time is it? Why didn’t my alarm clock ring?”

I check my watch, and when I see it’s OK, I try to get back to sleep. But the voice continues to speak.

“If you fall into a deep sleep you won’t wake when your alarm rings.” “It might not even ring at all. Did you even remember to set it last night?”

I check that it’s set, and see that it’s fine. Still too scared it might not ring, I stay awake till it gets light.

7:00 a.m. Breakfast time.

“Is the soy milk out of date? No, it’s fine. But how long has it been in the fridge for? What if it’s gone bad? Maybe that’s why last night I didn’t feel well… because I ate something that was bad.”

8:00 a.m. Leaving for work.

I check I have my keys, phone, money, bus card.

“But wait, am I missing something? I’m sure I’m forgetting something! What am I forgetting?”

I leave the house, get to the bottom of the stairs and…

“Did I lock the door?”

I run back up and check. It’s locked all right. I hurry down before I miss the bus. I run to the bus stop in fear I’ll miss it, even though I’m 10 minutes early. I get to the bus stop and search eagerly for my bus card.

“Where is it? I just made sure I had it! Oh, there it is, underneath all those receipts. Did I lock the door? Where’s my phone? Why isn’t the bus coming? I’m going to be late for work!”

Finally the bus comes, and I relax.

“No, wait, where’s my phone? Did I leave it at the bus stop? Never mind, it’s right here in my hand.”

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I fall asleep during the bus ride from sheer exhaustion, even though the day’s just started. At work my boss calls me into his office.

“Oh my God, am I about to get fired?”

Thankfully he only wants to talk about work-related things. I get back to my desk and try to get on with my work, but thoughts keep coming to my head.

“Is the dog ok? What if she’s messed up the flat? She might have chewed up the sofa, and your landlord’s gonna be furious. He might not let you keep her. You’ll have to give her away.”

I start to feel sick. I desperately need the loo.

“Please don’t be sick.”

I open Facebook in hopes that it might somehow calm me down. I leave work in plenty of time to catch the last bus, but my first bus is late and there’s tons of traffic, and the whole journey I’m terrified I’ll miss the last bus home.

“I can always take a different route instead of the bus straight home,” I try to tell myself, but I’m only relaxed once I’m on the second bus and know I’m almost home.

The day doesn’t end there.

I get on the bus and double, triple, quadruple check I’ve got my keys, phone, bus card, credit card and extra cash… just in case. I get off the bus and check once more that I’ve definitely got my keys and that they haven’t fallen out of my bag and been left on the bus. I feel sweaty walking up the road. I’m still picturing the couch with a huge hole in the middle and my dog having a party in all the stuffing. I get to my door and search frantically for the keys that were just there a minute ago. With my hands shaking, I unlock the door, turn on the lights and see the house is just as I left it. I take the dog for a nice long stroll, not so worried now that I have someone to protect me from danger. I get back and go to bed. But I don’t fall asleep so easily. The day is over, but the night has only just begun. And that you can read about here.

Image via Thinkstock.

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What People Don't Say About Practicing Mindfulness to Help With Anxiety

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 mind·ful·ness

/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

noun

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness is hard. There’s a huge community in mental health around mindfulness due to its proven positive effects for those who have disorders like anxiety, PTSD and more. My therapist has been recommending I give mindfulness a shot from day one. Even after I started medication and was seeing results, she still insisted that in the long run, mindfulness is what will help me stabilize and be at peace with my disorder.

What people often don’t hear, and what I had to realize on my own, is that mindfulness can be incredibly difficult.

Everyone’s experiences will be different, but I have to say, in my experience and conversations with others who have anxiety disorders, mindfulness is often no easy task. I am by no means an expert, but I have been attempting to practice mindfulness for over two years now. I started with traditional hatha yoga and meditation practices, attending classes and finding videos online. Now, my practice varies from reading “The Little Book of Mindfulness” to listening to guided meditations for five to 10 minutes at night.

And still, I find myself not accepting myself. The point of mindfulness is to bring us back to the now. What are you feeling, hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, doing — right in this very moment, and can you just be? Accept the moment for what it is — accept yourself and your feelings for what they are.

As someone with intense anxiety, that sounds like hell. And it kind of is.

My mind wanders. I have what I like to call “high-functioning anxiety.” I don’t think people in my day-to-day life would guess the amount of struggle I go through to keep my life on track. I go to work, I do my job well, I keep my house clean, I’m a dutiful fiancée and dog mom, and I have a regular social life with friends. But inside my head, I’m an unorganized mess. Most of the time.

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Mindfulness is supposed to help you bring yourself into the moment, to discourage anxious and obsessive thoughts, and instead help you bring your mind into a state of relaxation, usually focusing on your breath.

It sounds simple enough, and, hey, don’t we breathe all the time? But I’m here to tell you — it is not easy, and you don’t need to feel like it should come naturally. I was severely discouraged from it because I felt like a failure every single time my mind wandered — every time I was interrupted due to intrusive thoughts, every time I couldn’t sleep due to compulsions, every time I skipped a day or two of meditation and felt intense guilt. For those of us whose anxiety manifests as a form of desire to succeed and perfectionism, attempting something we’re not able to master and check off our list can be excruciating — at least, it was for me.

Until I had a breakthrough one day. It was shortly after I’d finished “The Little Book of Mindfulness” and successfully completed a 30-minute guided meditation — by far the longest I’d stayed “relaxed” in years. I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, feeling alive and noticing the things around me — how peaceful the morning light in my room was, the feeling of my slippers on my feet, how delicious the strawberries I had were — all of these things delighted me, and I realized that for the very first time, mindfulness was seeping its way into my natural train of thought.

That day at work, I made one of the only spontaneous decisions I have ever made in my life — I got a tattoo that I only thought about for maybe an hour. It’s a “pause” symbol. It’s on the inside of my wrist. And it’s a daily reminder to pause, take a breath, be mindful, and then continue moving forward.

I am by no means healed, or a meditation master. I do not wake up every morning and appreciate the little things. I don’t always take a step back and breathe in the moment. I am simply a girl trying to do better, for herself and her family. I have a million things happening in my life right now, but I now have a constant reminder to live in the moment and keep breathing.

Mindfulness is hard — but it really is the only tool I’ve found that makes me feel better, even if only for a brief pause. I encourage you to give it a shot, in whatever way feels most comfortable to you.

Follow this journey on Naturally Sheyna.

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The 'Weird' Thing That Brings Me Solace When Anxiety Takes Over

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For me, the anxiety is like a blanket. It comes and drowns me in thoughts, twitches and repetitive actions that just don’t stop. Even hours later, the effects can be seen.

My friends often can’t tell. It’s not because they don’t notice. It’s because I’m good at hiding it: Can’t sit still? Oh, I’m just stretching my legs at work. Tapping my pens? I’m just keeping the beat of the music I’m listening to on my headphones. Always an explanation.

Those of us with high-functioning anxiety can be very good at explanations. We may try to use them to settle our own anxiety at the same we use them to keep friends and family from noticing.

I hear the thoughts coming and suddenly feel frozen. They take over and run rampant. So I try and ignore them. Then I try to focus on something else. When I can’t succeed at either, I’ve begun to find solace in “white noise.”

White noise has been documented to help insomniacs in reaching and staying in a sleep state. Waterfalls, forest sounds, etc. can give a person something other than thoughts or anxieties from a day to focus on.

My white noise is nothing like that. Crickets chirping? Here comes the anxiety: Where is it? Find it now! It will just keep chirping all night!

No, I have my classic rock.

Weird, yes. Something designed to “move” the body and mind helps settle me. Odd, perhaps. Anxiety comes knocking; throw on some AC/DC. Turn up the volume. I don’t drown. The thoughts, twitches and repetitive actions do.

I know that part of the reaction I have to my version of white noise is that I got my love of classic rock from my father. He is a man who always seems cool under pressure. No anxiety to be seen no matter the situation. Driving in blizzard conditions at night? Turn on some Pink Floyd and sing along.

My association to white noise might be different from what most people understand. It’s supposed to be calming. Mine is everything but. It works for me. By overpowering the anxiety, I can overcome it. I can move beyond it, even if it will come back. I am not controlled by it.

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In my family, the anxiety is well-earned. All four of us struggle with some form of it. My anxiety stems mostly from obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ve found what works for me. It doesn’t mean it will work for others, but it helps me keep my anxiety at a manageable level. It allows me to live the life I mean to have.

Anxiety can be a daily battle. Something goes wrong in a day’s plan, and I break out my music. I sing along. I head-bang. When I connect to the music, my white noise, I can finally focus. I can see what is freezing me is not going to stop me. I will succeed.

No waterfalls included. No crickets involved. Good, I’m not a fan of bugs anyway.

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The Anxious Teens

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I know what you’re thinking. Who wants a world full of struggling teens, who are ridden with irrational worries? A world where teens are frozen with fear and avoidance? But if you know teens with anxiety, you also know a different side of them.

Along with a heightened sense of awareness, comes a heightened sense of empathy.

Along with the burden of being emotionally sensitive, comes the desire to not hurt other people’s feelings.

Along with the fear of what other people think, comes the desire to make other people feel good.

Along with a tendency to be overly cautious, comes the ability to problem-solve.

Along with a keen awareness of others, comes the ability to pick up on other people’s emotions.

Along with the impulse to keep life from feeling chaotic, comes great organizational skills.

Along with being hurt by other people’s actions, comes a selfless, giving friend.

They are the ones who always remembered my name and asked how I was doing. They are the ones who refused to say anything mean to bullies because they didn’t want to hurt their feelings. They are the ones who spent some of their session worried about people other than themselves. They are the ones who offered comfort and advice to their friends. They are the ones who warned their friends when they had unsafe ideas. They are the ones who saved their money to buy family presents. They are the ones who talked about how to make the world a better place.

Yes, the world needs more people like them. You see, despite their anxiety, their inner beauty radiates. The same genetics that cause them to be anxious helps them be considerate. The same genetics that cause them to feel self-conscious gives them the awareness to notice when other people are upset.

The world could use more kind, considerate and empathetic people. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone had the ability to be tuned in to other people’s emotions? If everyone had the awareness of how their behavior affects those around them? If everyone thought of other people, and not just themselves? I would love that kind of world!

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Anxiety can be a package deal, and these wonderful qualities sometimes go hand-in-hand with the nasty beast. But we can teach our teens to crush their anxiety. We can give them the tools to obliterate the dictator in their head, so they have an opportunity to let those wonderful qualities shine.

We can teach them they have much to offer the world. That they are special. That along with their anxiety comes some beautiful qualities, qualities that will shine, once the clouds of anxiety are lifted.

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4 Ways to Help Someone With Anxiety Who's Going Somewhere

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Since I’m going somewhere today, I’ve decided to post a list of things I find helpful when going somewhere with someone with anxiety. Please, note these are my opinions. You should always ask someone with anxiety the best way to help them. Not every method is beneficial to every individual.

1. Give us more than 24 hours notice.

If you want to go somewhere with us, then please let us know before 24 hours beforehand. While knowing about a certain event too early may cause us to over-think until we don’t feel able to go, springing on us the fact that you want us to go somewhere or just showing up unannounced will add extra, unnecessary stress!

2. Scope out the place ahead of time and report back.

While this may sound extremely needy, if we’ve never been somewhere before, then sometimes it helps put our mind at ease if we know the lay of the land. If it’s not too much to ask, then maybe even take pictures so we can visualize what the place looks like and how it’s set up.

3. Tell us what time we’re going out.

If you’ll be picking us up, then it’s helpful to know when to expect you. As mentioned in my first piece of advice, showing up unannounced can be nerve-racking!

4. Be patient with us.

This is the most important piece of advice overall. For people with anxiety, going out can be extremely difficult. The fact that we’re trying is a big step. While that may be hard to understand, yelling at us when we struggle will only make things worse. Please, try your hardest to be understanding and patient!

Thank you so much for reading! If anyone has any other advice for traveling with anxiety, then please feel free to comment!

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Getting Through Anxiety.

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