I’m not going to lie; I’ve had a difficult past couple of months. I won’t delve into my issues but recently it started to get better, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Usually, when I have rough months my anxiety kicks into full gear, and it’s still a daily struggle to get out of my element. So when my best friend in Montreal decided to host an event for her book launch, I was determined to show up for support. The only thing is, how was I going to deal with a crowd? If you know me personally, you most likely know that it takes a lot for me to show up at a party where I know no one. I decided I needed to break through my rough patch and support her.
When my husband and I arrived, I immediately walked into the venue and assessed where the exits were. Only one, so I hugged the side of the walls closest to the door. People started to show up in large groups and blocked the only entrance/exit, and my heart started to race.
My best friend was rushing around but somehow found the time to come up to mention “why are you all alone?!” and then introduced me to one of her friends. I extended my hand for a greeting, but in all honesty, my heart rate elevated, my mouth suddenly lost all moisture, and I got an overwhelming sensation that I was too awkward because of my trembling hands. My husband noticed and ushered us into the larger part of the venue where vendors were set up, and the air was blasting. Getting the rush of cold air helped me calm down as I started to concentrate on my breathing. Soon enough a close friend of the family (Whom I refer to as my Aunt) stopped by and took my mind off of what was battling in my head. Keeping me engaged in a conversation took my mind off of the crowd becoming larger in our space and grounded me (Thank you!!)
I spent a solid two hours at this event alongside some acquaintances and was extremely proud that I didn’t bolt out immediately. If this happened several years ago, I never would have thought of coming out. One of the things that I learned in therapy was that I need to expose myself to situations that frighten me, that’s the only way that I’ll grow as a person. Overcoming my social anxiety wasn’t an easy task, but with the right CBT therapies, it can get better over time (take baby steps!!)
I’m thankful that I didn’t miss out on my friend’s success and I’m so proud of her accomplishment “Thrive Through Self-Care.”
For the longest time, people mention that I take things too personally or that I’m too sensitive. Hearing it for years and from different groups of people, I started to look in on myself and ask: is there something more to this?
Last year I decided to research this aspect of my personality as I started to believe that there was more to me just being “emotionally sensitive.”
On top of being emotional, I know I get easily overstimulated by
a) Noises (One Example: When my husband sharpens the knives I cannot be in the same room)
b) Lights (One Example: Some concerts I have to lower my head to withdraw from the strobes)
c) Smells (One Example: Old Spice triggers me)
d) People (One Example: Feeling others emotions all too well)
All signs were leading to me being a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP for short). I couldn’t believe it! When I was a kid all of my peers called me “shy” or “quiet,” but I was mislabeled. Since I was highly sensitive, I often felt overwhelmed in most aspects of my life that would make me clam up and withdraw from others. Especially when people subject emotions around me on a daily basis. Through being highly sensitive, I’m more susceptible to anxiety through this absorption.
It also affects the way that I think, since I have a more creative and active imagination, it can become more challenging to remain calm or convince myself there’s nothing to worry about since I deep dive into negative ‘fantasies.’ It usually feels like there is nothing that I can do to lessen the intensity.
AHHH what do I do?!
Well, first things first – You need to learn how to stop allowing emotions from invading your mind and protect yourself. Easier said than done, right? In all honesty, you just need to find the willingness to react differently if you don’t want to be overwhelmed.
Curious to know if you’re an HSP, too?
Take this test to find out
One of the biggest complications that anyone has with anxiety is ‘staying in the moment.’ When our body rushes with an emotion we tend to focus on the present. You need to remember that feelings are fluid and they will inevitably change. One thing that my psychotherapist mentioned over and over again was to write my expectations on how I’ll feel once my anxious thoughts pass:
“I am feeling nervous/anxious about my presentation at work but I expect to feel calm and collected once it’s over”
I would get into writing these out almost every session with her until it became a habit. Writing out how you expect your feelings to improve and recognizing your first indication of anxiety has a calming effect. If you feel you cannot express yourself properly during these incidents don’t get discouraged. It took me a year to be able to – try small at first. Ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?” and if “Anger” is the only thing that pops into your mind, either say it out loud or write it down.
Being unaware or suppressing our feelings can lead to feeling numb and exhausted. You need to remember that whatever you DO feel is neither right nor wrong, they just simply exist. Stop ignoring or withholding them as it can lead to physical ailments such as tension in muscles, headaches and can go to extremes of ulcers and cardiac problems
If you are in touch with your feelings and can express them, you will feel more energetic (I promise!).
Eventually, I was able to stop myself mid-thought and acknowledge my anxiety but focus on how my feelings will change. Just remember: feelings shift!
This topic has been weighing on me for a couple of years now as I’ve started to realize that our relationships with people affect us immensely. Most of my anxiety was brought on by toxic relationships, and unfortunately, I found this out too little too late.
I’ve compiled a short list of tell-all signs of a toxic relationship:
(1) Who puts in the effort?
Who calls who? Do they pick up the phone first or is it you? It seems as if it’s their way or no way. They won’t bend their schedule to accommodate the need to get together or just catch up.
“The mind of an enlightened human being is flexible and adaptable. The mind of the ignorant person is conditioned and fixed.” – Ajahn Sumedho
Once one person isn’t as invested as you, it can become toxic quickly. It feels as if your demanding too much of their time even if it’s so incredibly minimal. They’re too stuck up to deal with you and your issues. However, they have no issues taking advantage of your generosity. God forbid you ask them for the same.
(2) It’s always about them
The worst is when they start to compare to you these other friends, too. ‘Oh Sarah is way more fun on the weekends, and Jessica drinks way more whiskey than you!’ Why Are you even hearing this??
Yap Yap Yap! Are they done yet?? Whenever you call or text to talk about your day you never get a chance to put in one word. They tend to drag you into their drama-filled day describing how awful or amazing it was but once the subject hits you, they always find a way to bring it back to them. Even worse, they can leave the conversation immediately with 1,000 reasons why they cannot give you any talk time.
“Don’t deal with sometime-ish people. Life is too short for inconsistency.” — Rayaleradin
(3) They’re blunt and lie
What happens when being frank turns into resentment and harshness? You come to them for advice, but their words sting and their advice leaves you feeling small and embarrassed. They don’t care how YOU feel about the situation and just pass judgment based on their own experiences. They’re ALWAYS right and will not hear anything otherwise. If they think that you’ve wronged them, they will never forget and will throw mean-spirited shots at you and your ego. They use your emotions to attack you and its draining. It’s almost as if they WANT to start a fight, so the both of you are conflicted.
No wonder you feel awful – they’re projecting on you to feel better about themselves.
They mention that you need to change but when it comes to them, no way. They see no need to recognize their inadequacies. The lack of faith and belittling makes you think that “if only I changed, things would be different.” Pointing the finger and blaming you, regularly, is not OK. It’s is a two-way street!
(4) They’re unpredictable, and you’re cautious.
When it’s good is great but when its bad, WATCH OUT. You can no longer predict what mood they’ll be in, and this causes you to worry how they’ll act with you. This rollercoaster of emotion leaves you feeling worried, scared and sometimes uncomfortable. They do not feel your pain and take advantage of this, bringing you down with them. Knowing that you cannot please them, you make yourself scarce thinking that YOU are the reason for this roller coaster of emotions.
“You can never win an argument with a negative person they only hear what suits them and listen only to respond.” — Michael P. Watson
At a certain point, your friendship changed. They rip apart everything that you say, and you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. You avoid saying anything to set them off in their pessimistic ways.
“As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.” — Greek Philosopher
(5) You’re no longer the person you were
This is a big one. You are starting to feel weird as the stress of this relationship affects your body. You begin to feel anxious, getting unknown stomach problems and feel overall lethargic. Stress can lead to higher blood pressure, IBS, lowered immunity, depression, anxiety… etc. This list can go on and on, unfortunately. Friends are supposed to ADD to your life, not take away from it.
Finding someone in your life who consistently makes you feel wrong about things, and leaving you confused as to why chances are they are projecting their insecurities on you. They are trying to bring you down to their level, so they feel better about themselves. Most people lack the courage to let go of these relationships, but once you realize the extent of their toxicity, it’s best to break loose. Keep those beautiful memories but move on! Your health is most important
Over the break, I went out for lunch with one of my best friends, and we started talking about Anxiety. She mentioned that she loved reading my experiences but couldn’t relate to most of it since she doesn’t experience it as often as me. My immediate thought was LUCKY but, it’s unfair of me to think so. Anxiety can creep on us at any moment, can be big/small and have a significant impact on us and others.
When she asked what alleviates my anxiety, I immediately thought of my side passions: Writing, Reading & Music. Determining what you love and taking action is a big part of reducing stress and anxiety.
I like getting lost in music and stories, keeping my mind occupied undoubtedly keeps me away from my worries. Writing in itself is cathartic, and sometimes when my mind is jumbled, it’s great to get these thoughts out.
Do you need help or lack motivation? One of my enormous hurdles over the past couple of years was acceptance. Anxiety doesn’t go away – it will never disappear. Once I accepted this, it oddly reduced my anxiety.
Here are five ways to help reduce Anxiety:
I took the day off yesterday, and I don’t feel terrible about it.
After working throughout the holidays and even dragging my ass out of bed on Boxing Day I know I needed it.
Yes, I woke up extra early on December 26th riddled with anxiety. I was taking over a co-workers responsibility that I’ve never done before, so I wanted to make sure I got in earlier. I Filled up my tank with the gas card I got in my stocking in -29 weather (Thanks, Mum!), caffeinated my tired body & sat at my desk for a full 40 minutes before I checked the holiday schedule… ARE YOU KIDDING ME I CAN BE IN BED RIGHT NOW??
It’s taken me a long time to laugh at myself in these situations, but I did:
I have my therapy to thank for this. When seeing my psychotherapist at TS Medical Centre, we went through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short) which encourages you to become aware of the connections between your thoughts and behaviors. It was hard at first to re-wire my brain, but ‘Automatic Thoughts’ have now become ingrained.
When I realized that I came into the office for no reason, my heart rate increased. Before allowing my anxiety to take over (again), I stopped my thought process.
“Why is your heart racing, Andrea? What’s triggering this? You didn’t do anything wrong!”
“You’re right! You did NOTHING wrong, mistakes happen!”
I packed up my bag and bolted straight home but not before I shared my experience with friends.
If this were to happen to me years ago, I probably would have gotten frustrated with myself and fill my head with negative nonsense. I wouldn’t have told people what happened at the sheer thought of them laughing at my mistakes. Being hard on yourself continually is not healthy, and I’m glad that I realized what I was doing before I went spiraling down.
I’m glad that my ‘silly’ has come back in full force and that I can laugh at my imperfections – I hope you can too!
Having anxiety is a constant battle and most days that voice tells me that I’m weak, I shouldn’t speak up and become self-consciousness about everything.
I know that I’m hard on myself and I strive to push past this every day – I refuse to let anxiety control my life.
Easier said than done
With the New Year right around the corner, I always become reflective:
What was the biggest lesson I learned? What was the biggest risk I took? What surprised me this year?
Trying to put the positives in light knowing that my over-thinking will soon take hold
Here’s a list of everything you did wrong: You couldn’t overcome THIS challenge, You cannot assert yourself in confrontations, why on EARTH do you even bother talking?
So, this post is for all of my anxiety-ridden people who think that the negative aspects outweigh the positive.
Look at this past year and think:
I did it! I made it through each day!
You should be proud of how spirited you are. Impressed that you found that motivation to get out of bed. Pleased that you gain the power to ignore your anxious thoughts most days and live life to the best of your ability.
You’ve tried so hard, put in so much effort, and have gone so far.
My only wish: The New Year brings more memorable and joyful memories for you all
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