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4 Ways Anxiety Lets Me Know I Need to Take a Moment for Myself


Anxiety comes in many different forms. For me, it has been a struggle throughout my entire life. I had been experiencing symptoms of anxiety before I even knew what to call it. I questioned where my anxiety came from for a long time, but ultimately have decided this is a pointless feat. Whether it is from biological or environmental factors, all I can really do is live with it.

I finally had the guts up to see a therapist back in 2015. I can’t say I’ve completely enjoyed every session. My anxiety always flares up, my palms sweat and I often avoid eye contact with her — but I still show up, for myself.

Despite how often I give one-word answers and bypass the tough questions, since starting the sessions, I’ve learned a surprising amount about myself. I’ve listed four things I have been able to see pretty clearly are products of my anxiety, which has in turn, helped me become more aware of the moments I need to take a moment for myself.

1. Avoidance.

My avoidance comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a desperate need to get as far away from the situation making me uncomfortable as possible, sometimes it’s letting 3,000 emails build up in my inbox and never checking one. When relationships have gotten hard, I always seem to take the most obvious example of avoidance: the silent treatment. My version of the silent treatment never feels like it is to get the other person’s attention. It usually comes from a place of wanting to save myself from any discomfort I might feel. I’ve learned this is the cheap way out and only ever hurts the other person.

2. Overcommitting myself.

Being the anxious wreck I am internally, you would think I struggle to function in everyday life. Somehow, however, I am able to keep smile and power through most days. That being said, when I first began seeing my therapist, she recommended I try taking one day a week off from school, from interning and from my job. While I know lots of people have more rigorous schedules, for me it was just too much when I was trying to also maintain my mental health. But taking a day off a week that had nothing productive planned other than “relaxing” felt completely impossible. Every time I’d see my therapist, she’d ask if I took Saturday off and I’d explain how there was an extra shift at work and I had to help a friend out and there was just no way. Today, I just returned from a weekend at a resort in Mexico. I took a day off of work and the world didn’t end. Still, I struggle with the urge to fill every second of my time just so I never have a moment alone with my thoughts. I’m working on changing this and embracing moments of calm.

3. Picking at my skin.

When I’m feeling extra anxious, I often need to do something with my hands. That tends to be ripping off my own skin. How the habit got started, I’m not sure, but I have always struggled with dry lips and acne. Rather than addressing these problems, I tend to pick at them, let them fester and ultimately make them worse — a great analogy for my life. This is something I have not yet found relief from. I am my skin’s own worst enemy a lot of days. The only way I have found to stop this terrible habit is to find something else to do with my hands. As cliché as it sounds, a stress ball has been a good replacement.

4. Panic attacks.

While I would say I do a pretty solid job at holding it together, there are moments when I simply cannot and that’s OK. I’ve learned the longer I hold it in, the worse it is when I let it out. Instead of trying to “fix” this one, I’ve learned to embrace my struggles by knowing when it is time to get out of a situation and take a moment for myself. Sometimes, when it happens in front of friends or boyfriends, I always a feel a bit ashamed after, but I’m learning the ones who stick around through it are the right people for me.

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