I’ve been struggling with anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I got my first panic attack at a young age, I had no idea what was going on. Years later, looking back I realize just how much anxiety affected me as a child. Now that I’m 31 it’s amazing how far I’ve come with it. When I turned 30, my anxiety took a dark turn. I couldn’t even go out in public without this feeling of unrest and fear. I would have panic attacks everywhere. At the grocery store, in the hair salon, in line at Starbucks, in the car on long road trips. My anxiety does not discriminate and for a long time it dictated what I did and how I acted. The only time I didn’t feel anxiety was on the running trails. Months later, I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten my anxiety under control (most of the time.)
I still struggle, but my panic attacks are now few and far between. They don’t rule me at the hair salon anymore or in line at the grocery store. I was even able to to go to a Broadway Show last night with hundreds of people crowded together and I’m happy to report I did not have a panic attack! I surprised myself by being able to attend the show alone and actually enjoy it! This is something I never would have been able to do a year ago. I went to a broadway show in downtown Sacramento and I didn’t have a panic attack! Now if only I get on an airplane and not have a panic attack, I’d be set. I’m a work in progress and completely okay with that.
The first step to coping with anxiety is knowing that you have it and that it’s there but that it doesn’t rule you. The second step to coping is knowing that anxiety is not likely going to just go away, but that doesn’t mean that you have to feed into it. My best advice to managing a panic attack is to acknowledge your feelings for one minute, take long deep breaths, and then accept that the feelings are there and move on. I recently learned this trick and it’s been life saving for me. Anytime I feel a panic coming on, this is the practice that works for me.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to recognize the anxiety and the panic. Diminishing it only makes the feelings of panic and the stressors worse. Trust me, this tactic works! It may take a few try’s but then you’ll be having panic attacks and not even know it because they will roll off your back so fast.
I also struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Hyper Awareness Disorder. Sounds fancy huh? Trust me, it’s not. Basically, it’s OCD with a an acute awareness to stuff that isn’t actually happening mixed up in there. My OCD ranges from constantly “checking” stuff, inspecting, spending time on things that are not that important, and spending countless hours googling diseases on the internet. I often feel imprisoned at times by my OCD hyper awareness disorder, and I have to constantly remind myself that what’s happening isn’t real and that it’s all in my mind. Yoga and meditation help a lot, but often times it’s best just to be as busy as possible.
The busier I am and the more I dive into work, the less my OCD rules me. My OCD attacks mostly happen when I’m alone or late at night. Night time is when the devils come alive. I refer to them as devils because there is nothing positive about OCD and constantly checking yourself is a huge time waister and not fun. My OCD can take over an entire day if I allow it too and I have to be on top of it 24/7.
The first step to coping with the type of OCD I struggle with is to take a giant step back from the computer. Especially if I’m feeling the need to google, the first thing I do is walk away from my computer and stop googling. I’ve even thought of blocking certain websites so that I don’t have the option to google stuff.
The second step is do some meditation. Breathing and sitting down for 5-minutes can do wonders when my OCD is spinning. A short yoga session also helps a lot. Getting outside is always the best remedy. A long run instantly clears my head and keeps me from going overboard. Running is my best defense to my anxiety and managing my OCD. Nothing can hurt me on the trail and it’s the only time of the day where I don’t give into my fears or my anxious thought patterns.
The third step is hydration and eating a healthy diet. High sugary foods and caffeine can spike cortisol levels, sending anxiety through the roof! Stay hydrated and keep your drink of choice to water and sparkling water if you struggle with anxiety.
The next step is talking to someone. My anxiety and OCD came full circle once I enlisted outside help. Therapy has done wonders for me and I always notice a difference when I don’t go or when I miss an appointment. Talking, talking, talking, to a therapist, talking with my husband, and confiding with my friends helps a lot. When most people are feeling anxious or an OCD spell is coming on, the best remedy is to talk. Talk about your fears and what’s gnawing at your mind. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll feel better and how faster your heart rate calms down.
Anxiety and OCD can rule your entire life, but only if you let it. The trick is to acknowledging what’s happening when the anxiety comes on. Honor it, take a few deep breaths and center yourself and then release it. Don’t give into it, and don’t let it control you. Talk it out when you are spinning and feeling like you are losing control. Confide in a friend, a parent, or your spouse. Be open and honest about what you are struggling with and never be afraid to ask for help. Seek out a therapist if you can and go outside when those OCD feelings arise. Another good option is to carry lavender with you and invest in agate, a calming stone.
Anxiety is mental illness. but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Always remember that you are in control and you are the ruler of your ship, not your anxiety.