I always say that every good therapist’s first client is themselves. We’re just like everyone else we’ve just learned more coping skills than most and went to school for a long time. However it was in that gauntlet of colleges, universities and grad school in which I learned the tools I needed to combat my own anxiety. I can even claim that part of the reason I became a counselor was so that I could get a better understanding of how and why anxiety occurs. Problem is it’s one thing to read about anxiety it’s another to be overwhelmed by it, how can you even function when you feel like you’re drowning in thoughts?
I like two say that anxiety usually comes in two forms, the kind where you can’t get a certain worry out of your head to the point it consumes you, and the second in which it feels like you have a thousand thoughts but you can’t identify or focus on even one. Some people don’t even realize they have anxiety because the mind is so good at defending us that it’ll bury our worries until they manifest physically, as in biting finger nails, irritability, lack of sleep, loss or increase in appetite, ticks, muscle tension, and my favorite the famous leg shake (just to name a few). Have you ever seen someone that was clearly worried about something, acknowledged they were anxious but couldn’t give you a reason why? The mind is a powerful thing.
However this article is not about the living hell that anxiety can create it’s about the power. You see life is about perspective, but to have a clear perspective you can’t be clouded by things like irrational thoughts and negative self-talk. In the world of addiction they say that a person must reach rock bottom before they can begin to recover, the same can be said for many mental health issues, including anxiety. When I was in my early twenties I had my first panic attack, anxiety attack, whatever you want to call it. The hyperventilation from the attack zapped my energy so much that I laid on the floor, not moving, and I couldn’t even open my eyes. A good friend even thought I was dying, called the paramedics, and almost gave me mouth to mouth (which thank God he didn’t). But I’ll never forget when the paramedics get there they knew right away what was going on and I heard this one hero’s voice say “take a deep breath, open your eyes or we’re taking your ass to the hospital, you just had a panic attack”. Besides the horrible bedside manner it was as if he had hit a switch in my head and I was instantly aware that there was nothing physically wrong with me. I opened my eyes, sat up, and with my tail between my legs I apologized.
I was embarrassed, but looking back I shouldn’t have been. I was just ignorant to what was happening. So I began to educate myself in everything anxiety related. I have to admit the issue with panic attacks is once you have one they seem to come back easier and faster. I had them for two years, I was prescribed Xanax which thank god I was only on for a month before my dad confiscated them for the evil they are. Instead I learned the order of my symptoms, many people feel them differently, but for me it starts with heart palpitations, sweaty hands, shaky leg, than tears out of nowhere for some reason and finally hyperventilation.
The more time that passed the better I got at identifying when my anxiety was ramping up. I began to understand that I could use preventive measures like exercise, hobbies, structure, scheduling, and sleep. The savior of the coping skills, for me at least, was always progressive muscle relaxation. No matter where I was I could implement them without people even knowing I was doing it. Another big one is that I wouldn’t run from issues anymore, I would address them immediately. I noticed procrastination just made it worse, so I stopped doing it. If that little voice in my head told me I should be scared I would tell it to shut up.
Now it’s been over two decades since my last panic attack but every once in a while I feel it coming out. The thing is I’ve gotten so good at understanding it that the minute I feel it I’ll go for a walk or just start breathing deeply till it stops (yes that works amazing well). More often than not though it’s become a motivator. If I’m working on something and I get anxious it’s probably because I’m not comfortable with it so I change it up. If the kids are driving me crazy and I feel myself getting irritable I go out for a walk. The thing with anxiety is to not accept it and just sit in it, its energy. And how do you burn energy? You get off your ass and do something.
I’ve provided some resources on my page that you can have for free but please feel free to comment on your journey with anxiety and if you need help you can always contact me so we can talk it out. We are all given challenges in life it is how we cope with those challenges that define us as human beings, don’t ever forget that.