Five things you can do to manage your anxiety before it hits you by knowing your triggers and preparing ahead of time.
Throughout my journey I have learned that a key to managing my anxiety is knowing what things and events trigger my anxiety. Knowing what will bring about my anxiety helps me to face it directly and feel somewhat in control. Why would I want to control my anxiety and what good would it do? I remember talking to my doctor about the very same thing. He explained it this way, " If you are faced one-on-one with an aggressive dog that has a history of biting people, what do you do? Do you run away and fear that it is chasing you and will catch up? Do you fear that it is going to bite you in the side, back, leg, arm, etc. while you're running away, or do you face it directly and control if and when it bites and minimize the damage?" When my doctor put it this way it was an easy answer. I would rather have some control and face it straight on than live scared and wondering when it may strike me and how bad it would be. This is true for anxiety. How do I prepare myself once I know that something has a high chance of making me anxious so that my anxiety is manageable?
I cut back on my caffeine Friday so that I was not stimulated any more than I had to be to make it through my day. This is a HUGE thing that works well for me. Watch your caffeine people…this has sometimes been the difference of low grade anxiety or high grade anxiety for me. Rarely have I had a regular cup of coffee now in almost 2 years. I drink only decaf most of the time. No, it may not do much for me in ways of kick starting my day but it allows me to still enjoy the practice of starting my day off in the morning the way I always had. Decaf coffee allows me to enjoy the peaceful moment that a cup of coffee brings me in the afternoon. Think about it this way, caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious even without the added worry and stress that someone already has when suffering from daily anxiety. Adding any caffeine to your body will only make it worse and can sometimes lead you to having a full on anxiety attack. For those that will be making the switch from regular to decaf coffee... Folders Decaf Coffee is my favorite.
I made sure that I went on a walk and did stretching to calm my body down as much as I could. Most of the time I would recommend a more vigorous exercise to manage and reduce anxiety like going for a run, doing yoga, or hitting up the gym for at least 30 minutes. However, I am still healing from complications from my cesarean delivery of my baby girl almost a year ago (more about that at a later time). In addition to walking and stretching, I started to do my deep breathing technique to calm myself prior to posting my blog. I took one breath in through my nose (usually 5 seconds) and then out through my mouth very slowly (usually 10 seconds). I did this several times throughout the day. Since anxiety is physical as much as it mental, doing breathing therapy is a way to make your body relax even if your mind can't.
I worked hard on getting myself excited about this blog and what it could do for myself and others. I could not allow myself to relish in self-doubt, what if’s, and fear. This was going to be a positive addition to my life. I psyched myself up. Again, your mind is powerful! Yes, I was scared about the reception I was going to get, but no it did not mean that this would not be GREAT for both myself and my readers.
I worried that I wouldn't have anyone read my blog. Would it even matter if I didn’t have a lot of readers? I told myself that the answer to that was no. Even if all my blog did was reach just one person, that in and of itself was enough reason to post my blog. I talked to a few people whose opinions I value and I told them about my blog idea. They LOVED it and I allowed their love and excitement to boost my own. Turning to those who love me and will honestly support me is another thing I do to help myself through my anxiety. All I had to do was allow their confidence and love to flow through me.... this is a BIG one people... reach out to others and allow them to help you through your worries and fears. Allowing others to help you, anxious or not, is just as important as helping others. I have found that if I lack something in myself that I can turn to others and allow them to help me find the strength I need for myself.
By the end of Friday, I was no longer having to WORK to be excited…. I was genuinely excited. My anxious flutters were now excited flutters. Even with my newfound excitement and preparedness, immediately after I posted my first blog, I worried about my decision. I was plagued with doubt and worry. I found myself going through the same questions I had gone through a million times before making my decision to go through with my blog. Was it worth sharing my stories and experiences with all you readers when I knew that I could easily be judged as equally as I could be supported? What if people that know me saw me as less than they did before? What if people that have never met me look down on me when we do cross paths in the future?
How did I find peace in the midst of such thoughts?
As I have done countless times with my anxiety, I found myself praying. On my drive home, I prayed to have peace with my decision to share such a personal journey. It was already done and I needed to be okay with the decision I had already thought long and hard about. While praying I knew that this was WORTH it and it was IMPORTANT.
Prayer gave me peace on Friday. Praying to have peace and telling God my worries is the single most important thing that I do from my top five list of ways to head off anxiety through preparation. I simply take my fears, worries, and stresses to God and ask him to tell me if I am doing what he wants me to do. I pray for him to give me peace. If I get an overwhelming sense of peace when I go to him then I take that to mean that yes, I am doing what he wants me to do. On Friday’s drive I got my answer. God wanted to use me and he approved of what I was doing. I know not everyone is religious, but finding closeness in God has been a huge factor in bringing me to the other side of my anxiety.
Through prayer on Friday afternoon, I found myself confident and sure of my decision again. I was reminded that I am not here writing my story for the people who are going to read this and think less of me. I am here for the people that will read this and know that they are not alone. I am here for others who are impacted by anxiety, whether it be themselves or someone in their lives. I am here for people to know their thoughts have been the thoughts of others, and that they can and will get through this. I am here to share what has helped me. I am here for people to be validated that they are going to be okay....they are not crazy. I am here because I have the strength to write openly about something not commonly talked about. I am here to do something good with the most challenging, scary, and fearful aspect in my life.
However, I have not always turned to God throughout this journey. In fact, in the beginning I didn’t want to lean on him at all. I didn’t think I needed him to help me through this phase of my life. How horrible is that to admit? In my mind, God had never thrown something at me that I couldn’t handle. God had made me self reliant, so then why would he then make me dependent? Inwardly I was so angry. I was angry that he had allowed me to turn into someone I hardly recognized. Where was the woman I used to be? How could he have let my mind and body betray me? What about the future that I had planned out so carefully for myself?
When my anxiety first started to manifest I was no longer the free spirited, driven, confident, fearless woman that I knew. How could a God that loved me so much allow me to fall into being anxious, fearful, and worried all the time? It had to be his fault; HE had failed ME. I was mad because God had allowed me to turn into someone I really didn't like. God had allowed me to become WEAK, which was a characteristic that at the time I despised in others. I am ashamed to admit that now. I didn’t know it at the time, but now that I look back God used this challenging time to make me an improved version of myself. In the years I struggled to keep my head above water, I learned a lot. I was stronger than I thought I could be and I certainly wasn't weak. I learned to overcome my fears. I understood others better and I was a more compassionate person because of what I had gone through. God taught me to overcome anxiety and he used my experiences to show me how strong I was.
It was not always as easy as praying, breathing, exercising, and talking myself through my anxiety. I did not always know that turning my anxiety into positivity and excitement would help me stay focused on the good instead of the bad. I did not always know that thankfulness over even the smallest things would add the right perspective to help me counter my anxiety. I did not always know that facing and not running from my fears would be better in the long run. These were a few of the things I learned as I desperately searched out ways to help me through the worst of my anxiety.
Do you have tips and tricks to head anxiety off before it even starts? Is so, I would love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment here or on my Anxious but Fabulous Blog Facebook page www.facebook.com/anxiousbutfabulous/.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ blog on what to do you do when anxiety, fear, and worry leave you nothing but scared of the world around you. Next weeks' blog will be a difficult one for me to write, but I look forward to continuing to help others and connect with all you out there.
Until then all you awesome readers, thank you for reading and for your support!
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.