It first hit me when I sat down in my assigned seat at my college graduation ceremony. Bright lights, thousands of people, sweaty palms and a thousand words a minute running through my mind.
I ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and wasn’t sure who was looking back at me. I was sick, anxious, unsure of what was next.
Then it happened again. On set, at my first job, filming a car dealership commercial. After realizing it wasn’t going to go away, I sought out help and learned what I was going through was “normal”.
It disappeared for a while, leaving me alone for a few seasons. But then it made it’s way back. And this time it was bigger, stronger than before.
It can hit in the car, during a work meeting, on an airplane, on vacation, during a pitch, sitting still, moving a million miles an hour, in both high stress and low-stress situations.
Sometimes I wish I could just turn off my brain. It’s almost as though my thoughts control me versus me being in control of my thoughts.
Several things have happened in my life over the past few years and through all the growth, success, change, and climbing of the corporate ladder, I’ve also faced big challenges.
As of recent, I’ve been forced to find a new approach to battling anxiety, and I hope some of what I have to share is helpful to you or anyone you know who also suffers from anxiety.
I don’t really believe in medicating because I believe that my experience with anxiety is all in my head.
(Please know that I am not a doctor, and by no means here to give medical advice. I’m simply sharing what has recently enlightened me regarding my struggle with anxiety and actually provided me some relief.)
Recently I learned that some people’s anxiety stems from fear, and oftentimes fear stems from the lack of self. At least that was the case with me.
We are raised in a society where we go to school, learn, pass, repeat, and eventually make our way into “the real world”. But what isn’t necessarily taught is how to take care of yourself emotionally and mentally through the transitions that are going to take place.
After switching jobs, ending relationships, moving homes, starting over a few times, I started to notice one common denominator in my anxiety: and that was me.
I grew up an only child, so I had always felt I spent plenty of time to myself. But what many of us who struggle with anxiety don’t realize is that it takes actual work to get to a place where we are calm, and our mind is free.
I’ve always been a control freak, type-A, and super focused on what’s next. The future was my focus. How can I make more money? How can I grow my duties at work? How can I be more fulfilled spiritually? How can I be fulfilled in my relationship?
My focus was on what was to come. But what about right now? What about me? What about how I feel at this very moment? What about everything I’ve accomplished up to this point?
Ask yourself those same questions. In a fast-paced world where things are constantly changing, it can be hard to focus on the present.
Shift your focus and look at your life through a completely different lens.
Learn to love yourself and give yourself space to breathe.
Instead of worrying about what job position I’ll have in 2 years, where I’ll live in 5 years, how much money I’ll make in 10 years, I began envisioning where I’m at now and how beautiful, heartbreaking, and fabulous my life has been up to this point.
It’s really hard to do sometimes, but when you sit still and envision the accomplishments you’ve made and tell yourself how bad ass you are for being where you are today, you have now practiced the concept of controlling your thoughts + loving yourself.
Why does this matter? Because thoughts become reality. Every thought we have, especially the ones we dwell on, tend to seep into our mood, our day and eventually our life if we let them.
I struggle with focusing on what needs to be fixed, worked on, or accomplished. While this isn’t a bad thing for work, it takes away my ability to remember what is working right now.
I encourage anyone who struggles with anxiety to keep a journal and start tracking your daily “happies” or accomplishments. Even if it’s “I took the dog out 4 times today instead of 3”. Anything that is a positive re-enforcement of life as it is today.
My other recent discovery happened just a few nights ago when I was suffering from yet another episode of severe anxiety through my sleep. This has been happening off and on now for six months.
I woke up several times throughout the night covered in sweat or gasping for air as my sub-conscious mind was out of control and causing me major anxiety.
But this time things were different. I woke up for the 4th time, around 2 AM, and reached for my phone to text a friend. I then erased the message I typed out and didn’t send. I contemplated waking up my boyfriend. I decided not to.
I started thinking about all the things I had done in the past to try and get me through a night like this, realizing nothing worked long term. So I sat, and I stared at the ceiling.
I started remembering what I had read earlier about being your own best friend and loving yourself first before anyone else. It might sound like a weird thing to think about during a panic, but I began to truly realize, no one is going to save me but myself.
I can cry, complain, plead, vent, stress – but then what? What can anyone do for me to make this better?
That’s when I started to realize how out of touch I had been with myself. Anxiety stems from lack of self. Who is in control here? My doubts? My fears? My stress?
All of these things are perception. I have a stressful job, but who doesn’t? I believe we are all given opportunities to thrive, and we are all given things only we – ourselves – can handle.
Honestly, I think many people (at least those who are lucky) get to a point in time with their anxiety where they finally are so worn down that they have no other choice but to give the middle finger to it all and get in the driver’s seat.
That’s where I found myself a few days ago.
God only gives us what we can handle. I truly believe in that. So why do I doubt myself? What do I stress myself out? Why am I afraid to go for it and be the confident, fun loving person I’ve always been?
You see, we are on this journey that no one else is on. We can have people join us along the way. But no one is going to go on our journey for us. You have to do it for yourself.
And you can.
To end this post, I wanted to share with you a song that popped up in my head writing this post.
One of my favorite songs growing was “Suddenly” by LeAnn Rimes.
In this song, LeAnn talks about finding herself. I never really understood the true meaning behind this until recently. It’s almost like this song helps you take back control of the doubtful, fear-based voices in your head.
&& this is where I’m at today:
I’m gonna break these chains
Unleash the changes in me
I feel the restless wind
I’ve lost the fear inside
Cause I’ve got no choice
But to live or die
Steppin’ out into the great Unknown
And the night’s the hardest Time
When the doubts run through Your mind
Cause suddenly you find yourself alone
Suddenly you find yourself…”