Some time ago, I wrote a post on my 20-year battle with depression. This is something I’ve learned to cope with and have accepted as my norm. Obviously, my desire and prayer is for it to be permanently lifted, but if that never happens, I still need/want to be able to enjoy an amazing quality of life.
Until recently, I had no personal experience with anxiety. Only secondhand exposure through working with clients who are navigating it as a mental health diagnosis. I’ve seen how debilitating it can be when it takes root. Even from the counselor’s (and now coach’s) chair, I can feel the incredible burden it is for my clients to sift through what’s real versus not. It’s impossible not to attend to and be frightened by the symptoms you experience with anxiety (i.e. chest pains, panic attacks, muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, digestive system upset, the list literally goes on and on).
As I mentioned in What A Month Off From Blogging Is Really Like, at one point last month, I thought for sure I was having a heart attack. I was terrified and also overcome by intense sadness and confusion. After going to the emergency room and having a heart attack ruled out as the cause of my symptoms, I was initially relieved. But then I realized my chest pains were still present. I also noticed they ebbed and flowed depending on what I was thinking about or working through. And then it hit me, I was having panic attacks.
The thing is, I did have a lot on my plate last month (ummm and every month)—self-induced, of course. Actually, it was all good stuff, but there was still a dynamic that wasn’t jibing with me from a neurobiological standpoint. I put my counselor’s hat on and thought through what could be triggering my panic attacks. Here’s what I discovered:
- Legitimate Fear – In my last post, I also talked about the difficulty I experienced in taking a month off from blogging. Blogging is something familiar and predictable. The marketing plan I was to execute WAS NOT. I was fearful about this land of the unknown that was before me.
- Learning New Things – Everything I needed to do in the month of May was new to me. So, not only did I need to learn how to do this intimidating list of things, but I needed to execute them fairly quickly in order to remain on track with the targeted timeframe to complete my deliverables.
- Unrealistic Expectations – It seemed nothing was happening as I desired. It was taking way too long to learn how to do my tasks. As the month was drawing to an end, my anxiety only increased. While it was not realistic for me to accomplish all of this in 30 days, I was still killing myself to make it happen.
So essentially, my brain was freaking out. It was being overloaded and stressed, and because of the fear I was also experiencing, my fight or flight instincts were kicking in. Clearly my brain’s vote was flight (lol). Which is totally in line with our inborn defense mechanisms. Our brains are literally wired to avoid that of which is causing fear or stress. Which is certainly helpful in some cases but ummm not when we’re trying to pursuing our dreams.
Things got a little better once I processed all of this. While I knew I needed to take better care of myself, I also knew quitting wasn’t an option. So I needed to find a way to do both. Here are 3 things I found to be helpful in not letting anxiety have the final say:
- Reset Expectations
Obviously, I was being unrealistic so I took a step back to determine what I absolutely needed to accomplish by the end of May. By this point in the month, to my credit, I’d done a lot. I allowed myself to celebrate this then I strategized how to to tackle those last two things I needed to accomplish (1. Finishing the first draft for the digital copy of the Esther Cleanse and 2. submitting it for beta- Done and Done!). Ask yourself what’s realistic versus what’s not. Like me, you may find that your anxiety is coming from the pursuit of the unrealistic. Once you’ve determined what’s realistic, set small and measurable goals that drive you nearer to your overall goal.
- Give Yourself Grace
I’m so hard on myself so typically if I don’t see the finished product, there’s nothing to celebrate or be proud of. This is just ridiculous! I spent some time reflecting on all that I accomplished in such a short time frame and allowed myself to feel good about it. I also started taking more breaks. Are you being too hard on yourself? Take a step back and acknowledge what’s true about you and your present situation (i.e. “I am loved,” “I really did a good job with that project,” “I have so much to be thankful for”). Then listen to your body. If your body is telling you you need rest…put your phone on “do not disturb” and take a nap. If you feel like you need to cry, don’t hold your tears back. Let them flow. The point is to allow yourself to feel and honor the truth of the moment.
- Power Through
Anxiety can and will paralyze you IF you let it. One of the best things you can do is push through the discomfort and keep yourself busy doing meaningful and productive things. This is what I did. I allowed myself the freedom to have my moments, but then I constantly chose to power through. Let me say, this is not a one and done self-talk. You will need to affirm yourself moment by moment.