Inside an Anxious Mind

When my husband and I started dating, he didn’t understand what anxiety was. I tried my best to communicate with him what exactly was going on in my head, but even that thought alone would cause me to stay silent. No one ever understood what I was going through and whenever I did try to open my mouth, I was shot down by several people. It was exhausting, so, I just stopped engaging. I kept that fake smile on for so long that even when an intimate partner wanted to break me free, I immediately couldn’t. It was frustrating on both of our parts.

Over the years, I have tried to jot down my ideas on my anxiety – hoping that others could take away at least some knowledge of an anxious mind.

  • Anxiety & worrying are entirely different from one another.
    It’s normal for people to worry from time to time about finances, health, etc. but with GAD these worries are constant. It feels as if your suffocating within yourself, others call it drowning.
  • Even though I look normal or OK on the outside, my anxiety is wreaking havoc. I can’t just stop or turn it off; this is not a choice. Anxiety is an illness, and you can’t get over mental illness
  • I’m not overreacting. I’m not dramatic. I’m not ridiculous. I’m reacting to something that is attacking me from the inside, and I cannot escape from it. All the logic in the world cannot deter an attack.
  • I don’t always know why I get anxious and even a simple task can be overwhelming for me at times. I don’t need you to look at me like I’m crazy and say I’m irrational – I need someone to be compassionate.
  • I will always need to recharge after a long work week, an extroverted night out or an unexpected confrontation. This has nothing to do with you but everything to do with me. I will not be myself unless I’m 100%

Always in an emergency state

I’m sure that I’ll be adding to my list as the years go on but are there any points that YOU would like others to know about your anxiety?

Add them in the comments below!

Trigger Warning: Tickling

It seems I cannot turn on the TV without seeing another brave soul come forward with her sexual assault or harassment story. It’s disheartening, depressing and unfortunate that females are STILL put in a position of not being believed by others. It seems impossible for men these days to wrap their heads around the issue. However, I am happy to say I’ve had several of my male friends come up to me asking how they can better themselves and the situation.

Even though I’m not brave enough to come forward with my specific memories (+ details), I would like to relay a story of my ex and I so other males can understand the toxicity of certain situations and why we do not feel safe coming forward to report you.

I hate being tickled.

I have relayed this to every boyfriend that I’ve ever had, but for some reason, my Ex didn’t listen or care. I kept laughing whenever I was being tickled, that was his indication that I was enjoying it. Even though, through my rasped breaths, I would vocalize “Stop!” “No!”
I would reiterate, after each time, that I do not like it and wish he would stop.
The tickling continued as did our relationship, and my aggression started to come out more. My body went into full fight mode at each attempt, and the kicking started.

The first time I kicked him, it was his face. I got him square in the jaw, and my body immediately froze. He stopped what he was doing, almost in shock that I would kick him. I profusely apologized for kicking him, but his response was to punch me in the thigh instead. He walked out of the room as if he were disgusted with me, leaving me with feelings of guilt, embarrassment and my thoughts:

But you DO Enjoy it if you laugh, right?
He had every reason to punch me since I kicked him, so we’re even?
What can I do to make the situation better for him?

I never came forward about that punch because he taught me that this was all my fault. Why would I open up to someone about my stupidity at this situation? Especially if I DID enjoy it. It’s MY fault, and no one would believe me otherwise. I endured tickling for several years, even though I knew deep down how much I despised it. I would cry, at times, not at the excessive laughing, but at the fact that I felt powerless in this situation.

Laughter is a response to tickling, but if the stimulus is unwanted, then it completely changes the context.

He never could stop, he never would WANT to, either. It was all about him, and how he felt and if I did not play to his rules then he would make me feel like shit. He was an expert at twisting things around and making me feel guilty – I’m SO incredibly thankful that I’m no longer in that situation but imagine how other women feel in worse cases than mine.

I made a pact with myself never to let that happen again. I knew that I had to communicate boundaries and consent with my partner – I told my husband immediately never to tickle me, and after seven years of being together, I can honestly count on one hand how many “tickle fights” we had (because we’ve set boundaries). There are days when I joke around with my husband, and I’ll tickle him to get his attention – but when he tells me to stop, I do. I do not make him feel guilty or tell him how he feels.

My one piece of advice that I can offer is listening & understanding what your partner/friend is telling you. Repeat it back if you don’t understand so that they can give more clarity. The male mind needs a radical switch, and it’s time to make the change.

It’s my birthday and i’ll cry if I want to

Last year for my birthday, I won a solo round trip to Yellowknife. I was pretty scared to go alone, but I knew that this was something that I had to do: to experience something new and scary for the first time by myself. I’m so glad that I did push myself because I ended up falling in love with the city, not to mention that travelling alone now seemed less scary to me.

With this in the back of my mind, I decided to make a pact with myself, for each birthday leading up until my 40th I plan on doing something that scares me. This year I decided to be literal – a month before my birthday I sent my husband tickets to Legends of Horror without mentioning my experience to him until after he secured the plans for the night.

The last haunted house I went to was in Niagara Falls; I must have been about ten at the time. My cousin, who was 8, was insisting that we go through it together. I don’t recall why I agreed, but my adoptive father already paid for the ticket, so I HAD to go. I started okay, strolling – letting my cousin walk ahead for anything to jump out at us. Then, one of the actors brushed up against my leg – I didn’t even recognize someone was standing there, so he got me pretty good. I froze on the spot and cried my eyes out. My cousin was trying to tell me to continue, but I told him to find someone to let me out. He saw the manager and I was escorted out of [probably] the smallest haunted house that ever existed. I was embarrassed and ashamed – both my cousin and adoptive father didn’t let it go for the remainder of the day. It was that day that I decided “I can’t do this.”

Fast forward to October 7th at 7 pm, and we’re waiting outside of Casa Loma about to go into an hour excursion. My heart was racing, I knew I would undoubtedly encounter some other fears inside, but I took joy in the fact that no actors would be touching me (It’s labelled on the events page). A family was walking in front of us, and they brought their daughter, who I swear was the same age as me when I went through the Niagara haunted house. She held both of her parent’s hands and was walking at a glacier pace while saying “I can’t do this – I can’t do this.” At one point I got down to her level and explained that I use to do this sort of makeup for people all the time and there’s no need to worry. It’s just people like you and me. Proud of myself and that moment I continued. However, I had no idea what was waiting for me in the next room: clowns.

I dropped to the floor so fast and started to bawl my eyes out like a ten-year-old girl. Yes, after giving fantastic advice on how not to be scared… I was scared shitless. I closed my eyes as my husband brought me back up to move on. He said “Yeah, you have every reason to be scared here. Let’s go on”. Having my husband there with me made the event more manageable. I even broke one actress’s wall by asking how she was doing and she responded. At the end of it all, I had such an adrenaline rush that I almost wanted to do it again. ALMOST. Instead, I curled up at the side of the wall telling myself “You did it. Never again”IMG_5061

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s the first of October, and that usually means that I need to prepare myself for the upcoming winter months. Autumn is my favorite season, and even though I plan to live in its present, the foreboding season of winter still lingers in the back of my head. I never understood or could quite express how I felt during these months until one of my aunts mentioned that she was “Seasonally Affected.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or, the most spot-on acronym: SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to a change in season and usually shows up around autumn and continues into the long, cold winter months. It can drain your energy and make you moody, but other symptoms can pop up as winter progresses:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day
  • Losing interest in any activities you once enjoyed
  • Having extremely low energy to do simple tasks
  • Experiencing problems falling or staying asleep/oversleeping
  • Noticing changes in your appetite or weight (swaying in either direction)
  • Feeling agitated and sluggish
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling: Hopeless, guilty, worthless, unloved
  • Social withdrawal from family/friends
  • Frequent thoughts of suicide or death

My doctor did not diagnose me with SAD, but I do take it seriously. Seasonal Affective Disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and due to my family’s history of depression, I make sure that my symptoms don’t get worse or lead to problems.

If you feel you may have one or more of these symptoms in the following months, don’t let it go unnoticed. It’s normal to have a few days when you’re not feeling 100%, but if you experience any symptom for weeks at a time and undoubtedly cannot get motivated to do any of the normal activities you usually do, I highly suggest you see a doctor.

Click here If you would like to read more on Seasonal Affective Disorder or wondering about diagnosis and treatment

How to overcome Financial Anxiety

One of the biggest hurdles that most people get anxious about is their finances. Just the stress alone could be debilitating, and it might even feel impossible to overcome.  I have struggled with finances for a good chunk of my life, and for the longest time I blamed my guardians for not teaching me the right way – but now as I look back I realize that they too did not have the best grasp on it as well.

So, how can we cope will financial anxiety?

  • Set a budget and check in with yourself regularly
    A budget is one of the hardest things that you’ll have to do because you cannot lie to yourself here. You need to make sure that all coffees, muffins, hair appointments, etc. are captured. Once you have an understanding of your wants/needs, you will be able to prioritize what is important to you.
  • Assess how you react to spending
    Start paying attention to how you react whenever you (or your family) is spending money. Do you overspend to compensate for the discomfort? If you start to become aware of how you feel during each financial situation, you’ll be able to make better and logical decisions.
  • Saving
    Most people feel as if they cannot save any money due to their debt. It doesn’t matter how big your debt is; people will still stress and over think about it because it’s a constant worry that you’re not saving enough or putting enough down. As long as you’re putting money down towards your debt, it’s not lost money.
  • Reward Yourself
    I’m not saying to go out and spend a frivolous amount of money on yourself at the end of each month, but don’t punish yourself either! One of the rewards that I give myself is coffee – even though I make it every day at home, I still like to frequent a local coffee shop to sit and enjoy their brew.
  • Power of Touch
    You would be surprised how much physical touch can help anyone. Even a small exchange of a hug can help reduce stress by up to 30%. My husband and I like to offer each other massages a few times a month to alleviate any type of stress that we might have, and I highly encourage getting a hug from a loved one whenever things get too overwhelming. If for some reason you cannot find anyone to exchange a hug with, sweat it out!

If you still find that you’re anxious about your situation, there is no shame in seeking out a financial advisor. There is no purpose to staying up at night and worrying about your finances – nothing will magically appear or disappear. You need to learn how to calm your mind and gain more confidence!

Networking: Sex Up your Brand

Two weeks ago I attended a Networking event with a colleague. It was her first speaking engagement, and I offered my help weeks previously, but as the days were getting closer to the event, I could feel my body almost rejecting the notion that I would be in a room full of strangers. You have no idea how badly I wanted to cancel on her, but, I know that I couldn’t. She needed me, and I was not going to let some silly anxiety get in the way of that.

The week leading up to the event, I noticed that I was trying to ‘psych’ myself up for it. I kept reiterating in my head all the positive outcomes that could potentially come from the both of us going and it honestly helped ease my nerve for a little while.

I went to go pick her up to drive us both to the venue and on my way to her place I caught myself doing breathing exercises. I was assuming that roughly 50 people would arrive and I needed to prepare for it. It seems silly that I need to prepare mentally – but whenever I go into a situation without expectation or knowledge, I find myself drowning.

We were the first to arrive, and I was elated, I was able to walk around and scope out the floor plan. I always need to know where my exits are, in case I get into a panic and need the fresh air.  My colleague was the last on the docket of three speakers, so I was able to get comfortable in my little spot in the corner. The first two speakers were drab & boring, and I was fighting to keep my eyes awake… but when she went up on the stage, I was blown away. She was collected, informed & engaged the tiresome group. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me and instantly made me feel better to be by her side. Whenever I hang around people that brush off this positivity, it’s difficult not to get caught up in it. This distraction is vital when it comes to anxiety!

I’m glad that I was able to be there for her and see her shine in her element! If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t even fathom going to another networking event, but she pushed me to believe that I can.  I highly recommend Sex Up Your Brand and am happy to be involved in this amazing company

This is me

A lot of people don’t notice that I have anxiety – my quirkiness & randomness that I’ve procured over the years has masked it so well that my label is the eccentric of the group. I tend to be quite reclusive when it comes to my anxiety; I hold a lot in while I still smile on the outside. I feel too much, but go on with my day, even if I want to crawl under my comforter and camp out for the day. On the outside, to everyone else, it may seem like I have my life together. However, no matter how many great and positive things are going on in my life, I’m in constant fear of what I can lose. I can thank my past for that, and unfortunately, no matter how many times people try to reassure me, it’s still festering in the back of my brain.

Anxiety is always there, it never disappears. It shows up in different forms throughout the day like panic spouts, over-thinking, stress-sweating, migraines, etc. You name it; I most likely have experienced it. I’ve developed several habits of picking at my skin, playing with my hair & crossing my arms frequently. Since I was a kid, it was made clear that I needed to be seen and not heard, and unfortunately, that mentality was consistent until I left my surroundings at the age of 19. I was berated for being different and continuously told everything was my fault. You start to believe it, and instead of getting treated for anxiety, I felt alone and silent. Anxious feelings find a way to try and consume you, continually battling every day, you have no time off from it.

I’ve been on high alert recently. A lot of small things have just been piling on top of one another, and I feel I’m at a bottleneck point.

My usual step to combat this is to distract myself. I keep myself overly busy when I really should be doing the opposite. I throw myself into work and plug away, so I’m not alone with my thoughts for too long. I’ll reach out to everyone surrounding me to listen to their issues and offer advice when in reality I wish someone would do the same for me. I continuously strive for perfection, but I’m my own worst critic and will ‘beat myself up’ for not getting something done off of my to-do list. I’m so hard on myself, but I’m so happy that I went to therapy so I could understand that all humans make mistakes and things will be OK.

Even though I know this, whenever things get this stressful, I isolate myself. Isolation has been the coping mechanism that I’ve developed from a young age, and this is my comfort. Even though I do this, I find myself lonely. Friends and some family don’t understand why certain things are hard for me, why I leave events without notice or have a hard time accepting a compliment. They’ve all come to accept this as “my thing” and have stopped inviting me out or checking up on me. I’ve been having a hard time accepting this at this point in my life, but a great friend reminded me that it’s not the quantity of your tribe, but the quality. I know she’s right, and I wish I could push through this feeling, but I’m finding it harder than usual. It’s most likely because I give 100% of myself to my friends, and when that effort isn’t reciprocated, I feel as if my energy went to waste.

I’ll continue to push on because that’s what I do. Years ago I made a promise to myself that I would never let myself be a doormat again – I am transparent, honest and blunt. I will never apologize for who I am – this is me.

Dealing with change

One of my biggest triggers is a drastic change; especially when it comes out of the blue. This past week a colleague was laid off due to a corporate reorganization, and I was utterly shocked (not to mention other co-workers as well). I didn’t take it well, we had worked together for almost five years at several jobs and grew a fun & sarcastic friendship. He knew about my anxiety, understood it and always offered advice to combat it. I excused myself from work for the rest of the day and decided that I had cried enough for the both of us.

What would he do in this situation? I tried to ask myself as I paced around my house. I instantly knew what I had to do – I started with jumping jacks, roughly for 10 minutes. INHALER ANDREA his voice echoed in my head as I stopped to grasp for my breath and medicine. For the next 40 minutes, I worked out in our humid house, sweating all of my frustrations out. Two months ago I decided to work out more after losing my breath from running up a flight of stairs. I got nothing but encouragement from him – he was very active himself, and he always lived by moto to keep moving. I felt instantly better afterward, even though I knew the next day I had to adapt to him not being around.

I know at the end of the day that everything happens for a reason, but I still find myself anxious ridden whenever something unexpected happens. Just this act can bring me down as a whole, thinking that I can’t even get something like this under control when other aspects are so much easier to maintain. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP I hear as the week continues. Whether it’s my inner voice or his, who knows, but I agree with it and keep on moving.

Don’t be consumed by fear

It’s been pretty tense around Toronto and the GTA, every time you turn on the local news station you hear about the next victim that’s stabbed, beaten or shot. We had a close one to home just recently, where an apartment complex 5 minutes down the road was taped off for attempted murder. I was none the wiser, already curled up at home and nodding off. The next morning it was still sealed off which naturally made me anxious, but I had to remind myself that it will be OK and everything will turn out fine.

It’s tough to see the bright side of the world when all you see around you is negativity and despair. I was talking to my father recently, and he wasn’t shy to let me know that he was nervous for my husband and I. I validated his concerns but I also had to remind him that we’re not the only city in Canada that has crime or a murder rate. In fact, I just looked it up, and Toronto isn’t even in the top 10 (I’m shocked).

I live just on the outskirts of Toronto, so I don’t feel as anxious, but the fact that I’m noticing more shootings and stabbings in my area is a little alarming. I also work in Toronto, too, so whenever I drive into work, I do get a ping of nervousness.
I’m not going to let fear dictate my life – I made that promise to myself a decade ago. I can hide from the world, I can move to a different city, I can even build a fallout shelter from the impending zombie war but what is that going to solve? It just gives power to those who are trying to instill fear inside of us, and I refuse to let that happen. Of course, still turn on the news, be informed – but don’t stop your life and don’t be afraid.

Anxiety & Superpowers

I’ve had a handful of people come up to me and ask me why I started this blog. It’s hard to pinpoint the correct answer as I can talk about this for hours – however, I do not shy away from the fact that I am proud to share my experiences and be a voice for others who cannot find their own.

I do this for the people who think they are alone navigating their anxiety, who believe that this is a burden they will never get rid of, who hide within thinking that if they pipe up no one will care.

Anyone who lives with anxiety will be able to agree that it is not easy. We’re in a constant state of worry, so it’s hard to find the positive side sometimes, but trust me, it’s there. Over-worrying is a blanketed term that touches all types of anxiety, and even though it can be a vice, I can see it in a favorable light as well. As the year’s pass, I feel my anxiety evolve, and my worrying has become more ‘reasonable’ to me. Sometimes I feel as if It’s a test or just my body needs to be on the ball. Dr. Jeremy Coplan, a study researcher of psychiatry at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, explained that although most people tend to view anxiety as a negative thing, it is linked to intelligence. He goes on to suggested that even though anxiety can be disabling at times, there are some situations where there is a dangerous situation and that excessive worry becomes useful and adaptive.

Aside from intelligence, I tend to think that anxious people are also the most creative! My imagination runs wild at times, and I’m pretty sure that it’s associated with my over-worrying. I can find myself in a creative state, and like a flip of a switch, I am taken through my anxious roots almost immediately. I find it hard to channel sometimes, but I know that I can – the only issue is trying to navigate it and I’m still in that learning process!

The last and final thing that I love about my anxiety (Yes, I just said love!) is that I have gotten so good at reading people and my empathy has grown so incredibly much! So much so that I can now take on anyone’s emotion that is standing around me. It can get confusing at times because I don’t know if what I’m feeling is, in fact, MY emotion but the fact that I can tune in to specific energies almost makes me feel like I have superpowers!

I love helping out others and the fact that my anxiety gives me these positive outlooks makes me realize that overall, it’s not so bad. You need to learn how to adapt & overcome as the years go on, or of course, just be Batman.

It’s almost the end of summer in Canada, which means that I’ve been trying to get in as much face-time with those surrounding me. It’s been great catching up with everyone and discussing everything under the sun, however, what I wasn’t expecting was a general tone of disappointment.

It’s something that concerns all walks of life, and it’s how we treat one another as human beings. I never thought that the words “Kids have no respect these days” would parse through my lips at the tender age of 32, but you can bet I’ve said it more than once in the last couple of weeks. I would like to amend that sentence, however, and say that no one has respect these days. At least, that’s the perception of everyone these past weeks!

It boils down to how we treat one another; the fact that we do not care or respect anyone who is different from us is quite alarming. I see people continually putting others down for not getting something right away, for feeling anxious over something small or wearing an off-putting shirt. Why do we do this? What’s the point of berating someone for not being like you?

No one person is going to be an exact clone of you and nothing that you’re doing in your life can be marked as “perfect,” either.

Maybe if everyone got off of their high horse and realized we’re all standing at the same start point their perception could change.

Life is so much more than just one person or one family. It’s OK to be selfish once in a while, but if you base your life on the motto to “look after yourself.” you’ll start to see your private world shrink from existence. We all thrive off of one another, and the smallest action has a huge impact. We need to change who we are as a society and our negative impacts on each other and CHOOSE to build each other up.

Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all made this small change?

How to handle workplace anxiety

Roughly three out of four people deal with work-related stress or anxiety. Anxiety can affect your performance at work and your relationships with colleagues, so, how can you overcome these challenges?

Reducing anxiety at work requires more than mindfulness or a Friday Yoga Class – You must look inside yourself and ask how you function within your team and the company as a whole. Do you pipe up in team meetings? Do you try to work from home a lot to avoid confrontations? There are a few strategies to help you feel more in control and help reduce your anxiety levels

Communicate with Teammates & Be Present
Trying to make an effort to talk to everyone on your team will make it easier to address any future problems. You don’t want to go around and talk behind someone’s back to vent about an issue, talk to them directly. Though it might be difficult at first, you can reduce your anxiety by approaching the individual and communicating the facts of the situation. Don’t think it’s too late to start building relationships with your teammates. You never know, you might end up finding trust in someone whom you can open up with in regards to your anxieties.
It’s instinct to avoid people who make us uncomfortable, and the workplace is no exception. Avoidance is only a temporary solution, and you need to start being conscious of tackling these issues head-on. The more you do, the less anxious you’ll feel over time.

Know When to Ask For Help
Pride is always hard to manage, and it’s no different in the workplace. You need to learn how to start saying “yes” to others when they offer their help. Work will always become hectic, and a helping hand could be a straightforward step to avoid any sense of being overwhelmed.
If you’re not sure about a specific responsibility that your manager gives to you, don’t be afraid to pipe up either. Your superiors will appreciate all questions – it shows that you genuinely care about your job!

Avoid the Office Drama & Don’t Bring Work Home
Even though office drama can be entertaining at times, it ultimately makes your environment stressful and can lower everyone’s morale. Don’t let that negativity grow! When someone talks poorly of others, try to change the subject or call them out if you’re so bold. If we all start encouraging others and lifting them up when needed – the positivity will become infectious!

There will be times when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and it’s hard to hang up your work hat at the end of the day. If you’re like me, it’s imperative for you to switch off and relax. How can you do this? Well, to be honest, it’s something I still struggle with at times! I found that having an end-of-work habit sometimes helps. The last half hour of my workday I reserve for tying up my loose ends at work while listening to “Epic Film Scores.” The act of putting on this music can unwind my anxious mind while my countdown to home begins

Change Your Habits
Small alterations in your day-to-day activities can drastically help reduce your anxiety. If the majority of your day fixates on your monitor, get up and move! Taking regular breaks throughout your day can give you a renewed focus and might even make you more productive.

Access Resources
If things at work are too severe for your anxiety, reach out to your manager or supervisor and ask if there is an Employee Assistance Program. EAP’s can connect you to different resources to help manage your anxiety. Many workplaces offer a couple of free counseling sessions; you should most definitely take advantage of this!

Although anxiety is an unpleasant emotion, it can be an opportunity for you to grow in your career. Show others that you can face anxiety in the workplace rather than run away from it or complain about it.