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 dreadful, 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.
So much ALL this, with a side of HELL YES ALL THIS.
Thankyouverymuch. (and thanks for sharing)
You’re welcome! Thank you for being one of the people I can talk to 🙂
And ditto back atcha! 🙂
And your next letter, dearest Joey, is B.
B is for BRILLIANT, for that’s what this blog piece is. I wish everyone who feels anxiety (like you and me) would heed your well-founded advice, but alas, they won’t.
Heck, half the people don’t even know they are anxious because they’ve always been that way and think it’s normal, that nothing can be done about it.
Not true. I used to think amped up (to use your term) was interesting. I don’t anymore.
I used to think calm was boring. I don’t anymore.
PEOPLE OUT THERE, listen to her. She knows!
Thanks so much, Kay. I am no expert, but I appreciate your endorsement!
Fabulous advice. Good, positive, suggestions.
Making lists also very good. Write down just two or three things you can achieve in a day. Little steps: water the plants, post that letter, walk the dog. Ticking off your little steps on your short list gives a real sense of achievement. Each day, little steps.
Thank you so much for stopping by to read and comment. I appreciate your feedback. I agree, I love lists. Lists get it out of my brain!
Absolutely brilliant piece of writing interspersed with smiles and laughter. 🙂
Wow – I could use you living nearby. Not in the pooter but like next door. Even down the block would work. Tomorrow when I get back to work, I am printing this post. It stuff I know but the way you present it is perfect. And yes brilliant and – you made me laugh!!!!!
Thanks again! I’m hoping this inspires many people to seek treatment and do the work. It’s so worth it!
Wow! Well I learned something today, being the least nervous person on the planet. (And I don’t say that to brag – everyone has their ‘thing.’) Thanks for sharing, and stay strong! You sound like you’ve got this in the bag. 🙂
Thanks, Linda. You’ve got enough on your plate without anxiety in the mix!
My kids would never survive me.
A is also for Ambien, which is a lifesaver for me! I am absolutely going to look into some of these other tips and tricks and get that book 🙂 Thanks!
Great! So glad I could help!
Ambien makes me sleep through my alarm, bringing my oldest daughter to tell me we’re late 😦 Also, worst dreams. No good for me, but I sure am glad it’s a lifesaver for you!
a truly great post Joey…thanks for sharing and for all the advice…It’s an insidious malady and I’m glad you are in control now…I suffered ever so briefly–a couple of years, yet boy it was so real at the time…I too benefited from some drugs, but am happy I don’t need them any more…hardest thing to get off of…like utter withdrawal for like 2 days…:)
Thanks, Sherry! 🙂
Daaaamn, lady. This is awesome! Very well done. I especially loved the part about no one ever finding us perfect and how appalling that is hahahaha.
Thanks so much! Glad you took time to stop by!
I think I’ve been overly anxious once or maybe twice in my life. It sucked. I can’t imagine living with it every day. I’m glad you got a hold on yours. Now if I can only get rid of this crack habit…
LOL yeah, crack is whack. Just do coffee and energy drinks like a real ‘Merican.
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Reblogged this on My blog is my boyfriend and commented:
I needed this post today. Both of my jobs have been extraordinarily stressful lately. Normally, I can brush it off. I write, I practice gratitude, I use humor to deflect the ugly bits of my day…but the last couple of weeks that has been tougher to do. Even without a situational trigger, sometimes anxiety just sneaks up and gets the best of you. It is a tricky bitch like that. Today, with shaking, sweaty hands, my heart beating out of my chest, I remembered this post Joey wrote and re-read it. I’m re-posting it here, in case any of you need it today, or any day. Here, she is frank and honest about anxiety and gives a number of tips to help make it manageable. It helped calm me today. Tomorrow, I’m making a list of changes I need to make to better manage my shit….today I’m soaking in the tub with a glass of wine and a book and will likely crawl into bed before 8:30. It happens.
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