How to Manage ‘Out-Of-The-Blue’ Anxiety
I’ve made a lot of progress through the years, and I never stop learning. After nearly 10 years of managing my anxiety, I still can’t get it right. I’m OK with that, though, because I know it’s all part of the journey.
I am no stranger to the feeling that cannot be identified — the feeling that tightens your chest or leaves you wandering through your mind, asking yourself what is causing you to feel this way. I know I am not the only one. Most people like to call it anxiety. I call it anxiety because I have no idea what else to identify it as. I felt sad, nervous, lonely, let down, confused, angry.
I’d had a pretty busy but good weekend. I was surrounded by family and friends. It was also Father’s Day weekend so we had a few different celebrations happen around here. Then, the weekend ended, and it crept in.
I walked down to our pool to soak my feet and try to pinpoint exactly what I was feeling and why. After about 10 or 15 minutes, I refused to get up. I mean, I didn’t tell myself not to get up. My mind was actually telling me to get up and go back inside, to go do something else to get my mind off what could not be known. But I just couldn’t. It’s really hard to explain. The closest thing I can think of that may be close to how this feels is being able to see and hear someone, but not being able to speak or move in response. My husband soon noticed I wasn’t inside the house and came out to look for me. Eventually, the anxiety, or whatever it was, passed.
If you are someone with out-of-the-blue anxiety (like me), I have written the following that it may help in some way.
1. The more you think, the more you sink.
I am not mad at myself, but in hindsight, I knew setting aside time to think was not the right thing for me to do at that moment. My mind was already overthinking and my heart feeling different things that more thinking was not going to help. Past experiences taught me that.
2. Find someone you can trust with your thoughts and feelings.
Preferably someone who will not judge or criticize you, or wonder what reasons on earth do you have for feeling this way. It may likely be someone who already has past experience with mental illness, either because a loved one lives with it or they have experienced it or experience it themselves. Let them know what they can do to help you through those moments so when those moments happen again, they are able to apply the methods that work best for you.
When my husband came out to find me, he likely had a pretty good guess what I was doing. He then lovingly suggested I go inside and change so we could watch TV and relax. My husband knows everything about the constant battles that happen in my mind. I know I can trust him to not react in a critical or condescending manner. We have spoken about ways he can respond in these moments to help me get through the distress. He knew distraction was a strategy that works for me and knew I respond better to understanding and compassion. Not only that, but feeling loved, understood and accepted with no judgment attached helps so much.
3. Use your words.
My husband waited patiently for me to answer after asking me twice what I was doing. I could only muster up the strength to say, “Nothing.” I answered yes, no, I don’t know to the next question asking if I was OK. Everything around me was fine: I’d just had a fantastic weekend surrounded by supportive family and my gift from above, my son. I finally said, “I’m not feeling well.”
“I’m not feeling well” is my phrase to let my loved ones know I am not having a good day emotionally or mentally. I couldn’t say exactly what I was feeling or why, but I did know I was experiencing some kind of inner turmoil, so I expressed that verbally.
4. Sit with it.
Welcome it. You know it as a friend who comes to visit from time to time. It won’t last forever. It will pass. Saying these things to myself has helped me through tough times. Essentially, I am telling myself there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
That day, I was only really good at using my words as I chose to be alone and didn’t reach out to my husband for support or help. My stubbornness to find out exactly what I was feeling and what may have caused my anxiety made the idea of “sit with it” not really work. It is good to try and find your triggers, which is a vital step in learning to manage those out-of-the-blue emotions. But sometimes it won’t be possible, and that’s OK.
Any step is a step towards progress and any “setback” a learning experience for next time. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
The above was a mild case and I recognize these suggestions won’t work for everyone or may be easier said than done. I encourage you to reach out to a professional if you’re having difficulty managing.
Originally published on the author’s blog.
Photo by Gold Chain Collective on Unsplash