Welcome to another installment of That’s Mental! Today we’re talking about anxiety because it seemed fitting with Monday’s poem.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time you’ll know that I have that pesky little brain thing. I could do without it, but unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way. So to spite it we’re gonna talk about it. Smashing the stigma of mental illness one blog post at a time. Take that Society!
Anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. I find that pretty accurate but let me phrase it in a way I’ve heard other people describe it. It’s like in the movies when they play suspenseful music to prelude to something bad happening except your brain play that music all the time. Like imagine just having the Jaws theme song playing while you’re doing mundane things like sitting at your desk at work, brushing your teeth, or taking your dog for a walk.
About 18% of Americans adults (above 18) are living with some form of anxiety, so how do we cope with it?
If you are struggling with anxiety:
- Learn your triggers- This is so important for me. If I can understand what causes my anxiety I can overcome it quicker or avoid exposure to it all together. For me that’s things like going somewhere new for the first time, meeting someone new, high levels of stress in my personal life, etc.
- Avoid caffeine – This is the most difficult for me because I am always 88% tired and I need something to wake me up and coffee is my go to. When I’m feeling anxious though, it will latch on to that and rev it up and I remain as tired as I was. Lose-lose.
- Practice grounding techniques- I find that anxiety takes you away from the present moment and you lose sight of things. If you’re having a panic or anxiety attack this can be extremely helpful to shut it down quickly.
- focus on your breathing
- practice mindfulness
- pay attention to your sensations
- Talk to someone- That can be as big as seeking professional help or just talking to a friend because you need to get it out. Letting someone know that you’re overwhelmed can help them help you. You may not know exactly what you need to help right away and that’s okay. I promise that your friends and family really do want to help you if they say they do.
- Laugh about it- My mom and I were just talking about this a few weeks ago and she asked if making jokes about these things really helped and the answer is yes. I find that by turning these things into jokes you are taking back the power. You control your anxiety as opposed to it controlling you. If you find it difficult to turn that into your own humor, I would suggest watching or reading something meant to be funny. Laughing is the best medicine.
- Take actual medicine – If you’ve found that nothing is really helping, talk to your doctor about medication. It doesn’t make you a failure, it’s just another option.
- Lastly, as a disclaimer, understand this is not an overnight fix. Anxiety is likely something you will have your whole life. Finding what works for you will be trial and error.
If someone you love is struggling with anxiety:
- Learn their triggers- Same as above, if you know what triggers it you can help them avoid those situations or learn ways to calm them down.
- Never say “just calm down” – obviously if they’ve told you that helps then by all means, go for it. From my experience, that’s like telling me stop digesting my food after I’ve eaten it. It’s something that happens and I can’t just turn it off.
- Offer to help, only if you mean it- I think as humans we often give a courtesy comments like “let me know if I can help” and I know that your heart is in the right place but most often people won’t follow up with that. It makes us less likely to reach out to people who really want to help because we’re so used to the courtesy offer.
- ask how you can help and if they don’t know, offer specific help “can I go with you to this event to help ease this feeling?” “Is it okay if I bring some food over and we can have dinner together?” things like that are extremely helpful because there are times when our heads are so wrapped up in this anxiety or panic that we can’t think. Even the little gestures make a difference.
- Listen to them- If they come to you to tell you whats going on, make time to listen. This is probably one of the most difficult things they’ve done, don’t make them regret it
- Understand that although you love them, you aren’t in charge of fixing their illness. Take time for yourself to recuperate and set boundaries for yourself. If you’re in a spot where you can’t handle it try and schedule a time with them when you can discuss it. Ultimately this is not your problem and you can step away any time you need to. Don’t feel bad about this. I know it can be difficult to say no to someone but it is important that you don’t sacrifice your own mental health for someone else regardless of what they’re dealing with.
Did I miss any important points? Keep in mind that these lists are in no way complete or exhaustive. I will be anxiously awaiting your comments!
(get it? I’m so funny. #pleaseloveme)