People ask me all the time how to get rid of anxiety, how to reduce it, and whatnot, so I thought I’d make a big list of everything I’ve done that made a difference to me. I’ve gone from anxiety being a constant part of my everyday life, to anxiety being a constant part of my everyday life, BUT with fewer symptoms and less concern. I’ve accepted it. It’s not easy to accept it. Initially, I really struggled.
First of all, see a doctor. I know you’re too anxious to see a doctor, because what if the doctor tells you bad news? They do that. It’ll be okay. And if it’s not okay, you’ll die, and you won’t be anxious anymore. Besides, he might listen to you for twenty seconds and start writing you a scrip for anti-anxiety meds. “Is your husband deployed right now, Mrs. Mottern?” *scribbles on pad*
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not even a nurse. At best, I had health classes and nutrition classes twenty years ago. I make no claim to be extending medical advice to anyone who reads this blog. You must see a doctor to make sure you’re not allergic to something, or suffering from a serious condition. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the doctor says you just can’t eat beets anymore, and when you give up beets, you’ll have no more anxiety? Right?!?
Second, find a therapist, so that the therapist can lead you through your worst-case scenario, like, “I can’t die. My husband is in Iraq, and my children need me.” Trust me, you have a worst-case scenario. You won’t die from anxiety, but when you’re riddled with it, you can’t enjoy all the living you’re doing, and that is the suck. Stay with your therapist until one of you decides that’s enough. It could take years, but you’re worth it.
If your therapist or your doctor gives you a scrip for benzodiazapenes, Xanax, Ativan, Valium — take the fucking pills. I know you’re scared shitless to take the pills, because you don’t like to take pills, they’re addictive, and worst of all, they might kill you, but take the fucking pills! On the label, it will read something like, “Take one to two pills daily, as needed.” Cut those bad boys in half, or even into quarters if you need to, but take them. Yes, you will be slightly sedated. You can still function while slightly sedated. I mean, look how well you function while being completely amped! If you take the pill and lie down, you will probably fall asleep, but while you are doing your life, you’ll feel much better. You know how smooth you feel after two glasses of wine? Same feeling.
I started out on quarters of one milligram of Ativan, and one full milligram at bedtime. I did that for months and months. I never did get addicted, and I don’t need them every day now, but I like to know they’re in my purse, because I might need one. I took a half a few weeks ago, and I’m so glad I had it.
Commit to never checking your own symptoms online, or watching medical mysteries, because we all know you’re going to die of whatever disease is revealed.
Instead, join an online support group for people who are just like you. Now that you know you have anxiety, any symptom you get will most likely be anxiety, and when you’re in those forums, you will see, someone else has the same troubles you do.
If you get a strange bodily affectation, like a lump on your wrist or a red spot on your foot, you will say, “If it’s still there in a week, I will see a doctor.” You will not agonize about it.
Every time you experience an anxiety symptom, you will accept and love it. You will go with it. You will tell yourself, “Oh, it’s my anxiety” and go on chopping those potatoes even though you know at any moment, the invisible band around your head will close like a vice and splatter your brain onto the countertop.
You will feel good about the anxiety symptom, because you appreciate your brain letting you know it’s given you way more adrenaline than you need right now. You will respect the anxiety and acknowledge that you need more relaxation in your life.
When you enter into a panic attack, you will find a way to cope. You will count your breaths, you will let it do its work all over you. You will know it’s just a surge of adrenaline, and accept it for what it is. You will still think you’re dying, but you’re not. You will be grateful for the small death that reminds you you’re living. Afterwards, you will drink a glass of water and do a relaxing thing.
You will look for the positives in everything. You will love more, you will accept, not just tolerate more, but really love and accept everything more, because GREAT FEAR is what you need to balance out.
You will leave earlier, and arrive earlier to everything. You need a few minutes before going in there, anyway.
When you leave there, you will stop to breathe and take a moment of gratitude.
Limit your caffeine consumption. Yes, I know, you feel caffeine is completely necessary to your life; I did too. Do it slowly, so you don’t get headaches. Start half-caffing your mornings until you’re decaffed, and don’t consume any caffeine after 3pm, no matter what. When you go out to eat, it will be the suck, but you might develop a taste for orange Fanta or Oh No, start drinking more water. People will think you’re a pain in the ass, like they need another dietary restriction as a hostess, but trust me, water will always be a viable option. If needed, remind your barista or your waitress that caffeine can kill someone with a heart condition, so it’s a health issue they cannot afford to forget. You need to understand that a Venti iced coffee gives you more caffeine than is welcome in an anxious, addled brain.
You will sleep more and better when you’re decaffed. And taking the benzos will provide a little insurance. Taking one before bed is what most anxious people need, because they can’t slow their brains down to the sleeping level. Then when they sleep, the brain heals.
Sleep whenever you can. People will go on about it. They’ll think you’re lazy and they’ll envy you, but sleep and sedation are the best remedies for an anxious brain.
You will not drink your anxiety away. In fact, if you’re taking the benzos, your drinking is limited so that you don’t have a tragic, gossip-worthy death. Talk to your doctor, because you’ll probably want to have a cocktail here or a glass of champagne there. Personally, if I drink, I don’t need a pill, but not everyone plans their drinking like some sorta control freak.
You maybe come from a long line of alcoholics, and think you’re the only one in your family with anxiety, until your aunt finally dries up and finds out she was using alcohol to self-medicate her anxiety disorder.
Buy Dr. Claire Weeke’s “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” and get that bitch on audio, too. She is magical. Read it like it’s your daily guide to living. Listen to it every time you drive. She knows her shit.
Treat yourself with kindness. If you had a “bodily” ailment, you would cater to it until you are returned to your normal state. Anxiety is no different. If you can manage it, schedule time in the spa. Get a massage regularly. See the foot reflexologist. Have a facial. Get a pedicure. Have acupuncture. Make your children rub your feet. I don’t know what you like.
You will do things that relax you. I don’t know what your things are, but mine are as follows:
Listen to classical music.
Keep hands busy.
Play with your dog, brush your cat, stare at your goldfish. Pets are proven to relax us.
Stop worrying about THINGS. Can you change it?
Yeah? Then change it.
No? Then you’ll need to let it go.
And for the love of puppies, don’t worry about your need to be perfect. Perfect is stupid and a waste of time.
No one has ever found you perfect, despite your attempts to be so.
I know! It’s appalling, when you consider how much effort you put into it every goddamned day!
Aim for good enough. I know it will probably kill you. In fact, it will give you anxiety, initially. It’s a good exercise in finding your limits and letting go.
YOU GOTTA LET GO.
Accept your limits. When you feel strong enough, after all your hard work, bring them back slowly. If you’re forced, via your work or lifestyle, to push your limits regularly, take the fucking pill, and try to find a new job, a new grocery store, a nicer husband, a new apartment on a lower floor, whathaveyou.
You will find a place that sells herbal teas specifically for anxiety. You are paranoid about it, and will probably call your doctor to make sure it’s okay, but you’re looking for valerian, lemon balm, or chamomile in some variation, which is what your doctor, as well as your local herbalist will tell you. In terms of tea you can find at the grocer, I like Tension Tamer, green tea (DECAF!) with chamomile and mint, and Sleepytime tea is my go-to. If you don’t like herbal tea, then you’ll need to convince yourself that it’s medicine, and take it with a spoonful of STFU and drink it!
You will eat more good fats. You will find out that your diet does affect your anxiety, and you’ll come to love anti-anxiety foods. In fact, they’re probably some of the foods you like, because they make you feel good and you don’t even know it. Eggs are your best friend. You need some meat, even if you don’t like it, because meat has B vitamins and fat, which your brain likes to use to increase your seratonin levels. Also, being iron-deficient can create an entirely anxiety-like symptom list. Seafood is the best choice because omegas. I don’t like meat very much, but I will eat the hell out of eggs and seafood. Turkey relaxes you. Beans and wild rice FTW! Cheese and Greek yogurt are proven to increase nerve function. Organic dairy is truly important to the anxious brain. And don’t forget how much your brain likes carbs, even though they make you fat, because you’re not getting enough exercise. Eat avocados, walnuts, and pistachios, and for the love, don’t forget dark chocolate!
You will incorporate cooling, relaxing colors and scents into your home. You will throw out that cinnamon candle, donate the red quilt, and choose light, earthy colors and smells. Think sage, vanilla, and lavender, think beach house, think about muted colors and soft scents. Invigorating things are not your friend. You will come to love lavender-scented everything. Spray the linen mist on your sheets, your clothes, your soft furniture, cause you can buy that shit at the Dollar Tree, and it works. Bath & Body Works sells a whole yummy line of Relax stuff. Grow some lavender. You can buy lavender bath soap, hand soap, lotion, hair products, cleaners — including bleach, sachets, air fresheners, candles, and even spray starch.
Go support some local parfumier on Etsy, who makes anti-anxiety scents you can rub on your body.
I smell like lavender. My house smells like lavender. It relaxes your brain — science says. Google it. It’s not girly. It’s medicine for stress.
You will sleep in a cool-colored room, like white, blue, green, gray, or you guessed it, lavender.
You will recognize that the human brain is formulated to know that looking at seascape colors automatically lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and therefore, these are the colors you should place around you.
My favorite color is yellow. There’s barely anything yellow in my house. My house is like, the place where blue and white went to party. I am famous for asking, “Does it come in white?”
You should order one of the many anxiety workbooks.
You will talk about your anxiety. You will not live in shame, you will not hide it from your family and friends, you will not carry this burden alone. You will tell people that a touch or a hug goes a long way, or let them know that you appreciate that time they spent 4 hours on the phone with you when you thought the chest pains would kill you.
Find out your triggers. Talk about your triggers with your therapist and anyone else who’s willing to listen. “When I think about the loser my daughter is dating, I feel like a failure. When I think about it, I feel like I can’t breathe, and my chest aches. I feel like I will never see her again. I even get nightmares about it.” You’ll be surprised at how many people understand, even the silliest ones, “But the mayonnaise was touching the cheese, so I couldn’t eat it, and I couldn’t even bear the thought of other people eating it!”
Have a person you can call or text when you’re at the pinnacle of anxiety. Have several of these people, so you don’t need to panic about the one person not being available.
So yes, A is for Anxiety, but it’s also for Acceptance, Adjustment, Allowance, Agreement, Agenda, Ativan, Alive, Amendment, Aspiration, and Achievement.