Breathing can be a challenge when you have anxiety.
When I become aware of my breath, I sometimes get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I might be focusing too much on it. This can make my breathing irregular – which then makes me think “Am I breathing because I NEED to or because I’m focusing on it??”
Yes, it’s possible to over-think breathing.
How do I deal with it?
Sometimes I make sure to get moving. Going outside for fresh air is always key! However, there are days when just the thought of moving can be a struggle. In this case, I turn to breathing exercises like the one below
With the holidays right around the corner, don’t forget to breathe!
I remember my first panic attack; it was in High School in one of my math classes when we received a test back. Math was never one of my strong suits, but I studied ridiculously hard and felt quite confident going in. When she handed me the failed test, my heart started to race exponentially, and I realized I couldn’t catch my breath. I fell to the floor as my ears filled with the pound of surging blood; I couldn’t hear her yell at me to get up and “Stop Faking” before she grabbed my forearms and escorted me out of the class. I had no idea what just happened to me, but as I calmed myself down (eventually) I remember an automatic thought:
Was I crazy?
It was only three years later in one of my counseling sessions that I realized that I was, in fact, not crazy. Three years of over-thinking what I did to let myself experience sudden panic. Luckily enough I didn’t experience another one during that time. When I asked the counselor if this was an issue to monitor, she automatically said no. I listed off other symptoms to her that I was going through Fatigue, Irritability, and Difficulty sleeping. She brushed everything off, and the clinic prescribed me sleeping medication. I was in college at this point and was quite eager to get a full night’s sleep, so, I didn’t ask any questions. This was the start of my love/hate relationship with medication.
I soon became addicted to these pills and couldn’t even put my head down without slipping one down my throat. When I ran out of tablets and couldn’t get my re-fill right away, I started to worry how I would even fall asleep. For three straight days, I was wide awake in worry over the lack of sleep. I was restless, couldn’t concentrate in my classes and was called a Walking Zombie. At the end of day three, I finally gave in and popped one of the Gravols in our house. When I woke, I knew that there was more to my mental state than just lacking sleep and I ditched my first therapist (and the prescription).
Doing so was liberating, and I was even hopeful that I would find another Therapist who could better determine what was wrong. I was firm on figuring out a solution, but I had no idea it would take over a year and a move to Ontario to do so. The last year that I lived in Quebec was hard, and I desperately needed help but my eyes were set on Ontario, and that was the only thing pulsating through my head.
In actuality, the trauma that I experienced helped me and my psychotherapist determine the root of all my worry. Since my panic attacks were so few and far between (I can count them all on one hand), my diagnosis was Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I enjoyed him as a professional; he made me open up about a lot of things that I will eventually outline in this blog. I stopped going to him once I got diagnosed. I moved closer Downtown so getting to him without a car was a schlep, and I tried to convince myself that I could handle it. The next five years were an experience and a half.
Finding the right help and diagnosis might take long, so don’t get disheartened. I just don’t want anyone in my shoes to make the same mistake that I did. If you’re having difficulties finding the right institution, I highly suggest TS Medical Centre
My best friend started a Facebook group this month with a goal to write 25 Self Care Tips in 25 days. It’s been great waking up to these tips, especially when you get caught up in your own mind and forget certain things.
Today’s tip is a good reminder for anyone with anxiety to write it all out. It’s definitely helped me over the years and I find it quite therapeutic at times.
As Mitzi states in today’s post
Writing is cathartic. It allows you to let go of all the thoughts and emotions racing around inside your head and get them out on to paper. This actually helps to put them into perspective and diminish them.
I couldn’t agree more!
If you’d like to sign up for the next 10 tips join her Facebook Group
Anxiety is automatically waking up at 5 am because you assumed your 6 am alarm clock didn’t go off.
It’s checking your watch to determine how much time you could get if only you could just fall back asleep.
“Is it 5:15, only?”
It’s wanting to get that extra hour back knowing that you’ll be exhausted if you don’t.
“If I don’t get another hour, I might be irritable at work today, and I can’t be irritable because we have that team meeting.”
It’s not being able to fall back asleep because your mind is racing a mile a minute
“Speaking of the team meeting, remember the last one where you weren’t paying attention, and your boss was asking you a question?”
It’s planning out how your day is going to look even though you haven’t brushed your teeth yet.
“But If I wake up now that means I can get to work a little early, which might look good in my boss’s eyes.”
It’s staring at the ceiling in the warmth of your bed dreading the day already knowing people will notice that you’re tired
“Making a mental note to put on makeup when I get to work… did I put that in my bag already? UGH, I forgot to look for that eyeliner for my co-worker!”
It’s already feeling guilty over something that tiny.
It’s going back and forth from checking the time to planning your day.
“What time should I go to bed tonight to hopefully avoid this tomorrow?”
It’s realizing it’s unavoidable.
It’s getting up because it’s 6 am now, time to start the day.
With anxiety your fear and/or worry does not go away and if left untreated can get worse over time. Fear, stress, and nerves are normal feelings and experiences for us. It can creep up on you at any moment and interfere with your daily activities either at work or home.
I’m often asked what makes my disorder different from the “normal” daily worries that tend to go through our heads. Since the holiday season is upon us, let’s use an example of a Christmas Work Party. Worrying about what to wear, how to get home if you have too many drinks or not knowing what to say to that cute person on 4th are considered normal feelings and experiences. But what if someone will not even fathom to leave their house for fear of being in a large crowd? What if you try on 24 different outfits because your mind over-thinks each minuscule detail? What if you go over every possible conversation scenario in your head for fear that this cute person will judge everything you do/say?
Worries, fears, and intrusive thoughts that are extreme, unrealistic, or exaggerated and interfere with normal life and functioning could constitute an anxiety disorder
There are many types of anxiety-related disorders where you’ll see some similarities overlapping and others that have more specific symptoms of their particular disorder. I, myself, was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder which we’ll go into further at a later time. In general, what you can expect from me is being worried, general nervousness and specific fears that are ongoing, excessive and can put a serious strain on my ability to function.
Growing up was a struggle for me because I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me, I felt alone and misunderstood for the longest time. I never acknowledged WHY I felt this way and trying to explain it to others was a hassle. Since they didn’t feel the way that I did, they couldn’t understand how something that comes so normal or natural to them can be anxiety-provoking for myself. Comments of “Just let it go,” “Calm Down” and “There’s no reason to worry” would irritate me to no end because I couldn’t. I retreated into my mind and just decided to not talk about it. Whenever someone asked how I was, I would lie and just say “Fine” even if I was crying on the inside. This is one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made, and when my husband told me I needed to see someone professionally back in 2013, I broke down. He was right.
Anxiety needs to be considered as severe as a disease. However, the stigma surrounding it makes anxiety feel as if it’s a fault or weakness. There have been many studies that demonstrate it can be biological, chemical imbalances and/or trauma.
If you think you might be struggling with an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone, According to Stats Canada:
· Approximately 2.8 million people, or 10.1% of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of six mental or substance use disorders
· Symptoms consistent with a mood disorder were cited by 5.4% of Canadians aged 15 and older, while 1.5% met the criteria for bipolar disorder
· 2.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported symptoms consistent with a generalized anxiety disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by a pattern of frequent, persistent worry and excessive anxiety about several events or activities. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, “the 12-month prevalence for any anxiety disorder is over 12%, and one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime”. Again, important to note that the 2.6% mentioned above pertain to generalized anxiety disorder only. Seven other anxiety disorders are not part of this statistic. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in Canada.
I would like to make it clear that I am not a licensed professional. I cannot diagnose what type of disorder you might have – what I can say is that Anxiety is a tricky little thing when it comes to linking it to a disorder, so if you feel you might need to get an assessment I highly suggest visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist.