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
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.