Anxiety can be subtle and sneaky at times. It may show up unassuming at first…a funny feeling in your stomach, a slight headache, a worry starting up in your mind…
If we let it, anxiety will continue on this journey until it grips, bites, and attacks you in the form of: panic attacks, sleepless nights, depression, and the feeling of helplessness.
Newsflash: we are far from helpless.
Anxiety and the fear it promotes does not become anything of consequence if we don’t grant it a ticket for its reckless ride on us (our bodies, our peace of mind,our jobs, our relationships, our sleep, our health, our life)!
When you first feel that first hint of anxiety presenting itself, here are eight ways to shoo the offender away:
1. Breathe deeply and slowly
2. Realize you are bigger than this. YOU are the one with all of the control and power.
3. Each time you focus you create a new reality. You can choose to not put any energy into anxiety’s arrival.
4. Laugh at it and look it straight on! Fears can’t get much of a grip on us if we face them. So often we will look back and think “why was I so worried or what was I panicked about”?
5. Get busy doing something: exercise, a project, helping someone else.. Keeping our minds and bodies busy at something will often help.
6. You can take John Parkin’s advice in his book: f**ck it . Essentially the message of this great little book is not to care or attach meaning of things in our lives so much and we will be free…let it go, release. Peace!
7. Write in your journal. Writing can be very healing. If you feel worried about something or feel something is not quite right, get it out on paper.
8. Always remember that fear is not real. This too shall pass. Let those anxious thoughts that are flirting with you right now pass by like the clouds on a beautiful breezy Spring day. They will go away!
Fear is the highest fence. ~Dudley Nichols
Those of you who have been visiting The Warm Milk Journal may be aware that I have been challenged with anxiety most of my life. Part of this experience has been dealing with panic attacks.
Over the years my panic attacks have varied in intensity or have been triggered by different things, but they do have some common symptoms…
Symptoms of panic attacks:
1. heart racing
2. sense of dread
3. rapid shallow breathing
4. feeling clammy
6. feeling of being out of control
7. feeling of hopelessness
8. “black and white” or “all or nothing” way of thinking
9. feeling trapped or boxed in
10. afraid, feeling danger approaching
In other words, it really is a panicky situation. Or, it is perceived to be anyway. I am sure that people who have panic attacks have different triggers that initiate them.
Some of my panic attack triggers have been:
1. I had an expectation about something and it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to
2. Anticipating having to attend a social event
3. Worry about my health and mortality
4. Worry about finances
5. Feeling unloved and lonely
6. Being stuck in traffic while it is raining (happened frequently when I was a young mom in Seattle)
7. Crowded stores and shopping malls
8. Having to wait in a long line or doctor’s office
9. A sudden change in plans
I am not a doctor or nurse and I encourage you to seek medical help if you need it. At the end of this post I will share some links to learn more about panic disorder.
For now, I would like to share a few things with you that have helped me deal with my panic attacks…
1. If hyperventillating, slowing my breathing way down. Long, slow, deep breaths… doing this in a small paper bag can help.
2. Taking a walk
3. Getting active
4. Getting outdoors
5. Talking it out loud with someone you feel safe with (describing your sensations, what you are afraid of, etc.)
6. Getting busy! Doing anything that will get my mind onto something else
7. The realization that this is just anxiety; I am not really in any real danger
8. Getting perspective on some of my triggers. Talking to someone really helps with this (whether is is a caring spouse or medical counselor).
There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them. ~Andre Gide
Some resources about panic disorder:
Before we part company I would like you to remember a few things.
If you do experience panic attacks, please remember:
1. You are not alone. Many people have these.
2. You are not crazy.
3. You are not dying.
4. You are safe.
5. You are loved.
6. BREATHE slowly…deeply…BREATHE
(this is me on my wedding day. No worries here!)
To be vigilant: ” alertly watchful especially to avoid danger” (Merriam-Webster)
Even when I am at my happiest and most centered- I am always aware that the monkey mind and anxiety monster are not ever too far away… ready to tickle and tease and taunt me with their utter nonsense!
I must be ever so vigilant to keep these foes at bay.
For general prevention of anxiety and maintenance of an anxiety free state I:
1. Exercise daily
2. Connect with others
3. Spend time outdoors
4. Have some daily down time: on my computer, journal, a good book, a hot bath, a nice glass of wine, good movie with family, etc.
5. Spend time doing tasks that are meaningful to me (such as my writing).
6. Helping others (getting my head out of thinking of myself)
If I do feel an anxiety attack coming on (it does happen), here’s what I do to extinguish it before it catches fire and gets me…
2. Talk it aloud with my husband while he just listens and holds me ( I feel affirmed and loved and safe and the anxiety usually dissipates).
3. A brisk walk outside does wonders
4. Jump on my mini-rebounder trampoline to music
5. Stretch and do some yoga
6. pet my cat
7. call my mom
9. Write down my fears in my journal
10. Put a few drops of Newton homeopathic drops under my tongue. There are two I like: “Blues & Mood Support” and “Stage Fright – Fear” (www.NetwonLabs.net)
I only use these drops if I feel a strong upset or panic attack coming on (thankfully it does not happen very frequently)
Life is too short to let anxiety, over thinking monkey minds, and the resulting insomnia and stress that accompanies them occupy our lives.
Be ever vigilant and you will live a well balanced and happy life and sleep well at night.
What is anxiety?
I have personally experienced anxiety in different forms such as:
1. a general feeling of un-ease
2. Worrying about a particular thing over and over again
3. Feeling shy and almost panicky at the thought of having to do something (such as take an exam, socialize at a party, etc.)
4. Heart racing and feeling like I am going to have a heart attack
6. emotional outbursts
7. Not being able to sleep
8. A spacey, flighty feeling; not being able to concentrate
Although I can't say that I am 100% anxiety-free, I am much better than I was, say five or ten years ago (my anxiety was probably at its worst in my early-mid thirties).
If I can pinpoint a few things that have particularly helped me stay centered and grounded they would be:
1, Surround myself with positive, supportive people (I do not need negative or emotional vampires in my life).
2. Writing in my journal.
3. Practicing yoga and meditation
5. And most of all, consciously keeping love as my guiding compass. If we stay tuned into the frequency of love, fear and anxiety have less of a chance of getting to us.
How to keep love first and foremost?
1. See the good in situations whenever possible
2. See everybody as a loving person
3. Focus on the love that is in my own heart
4. Think of what I love, who I love, all of the wonderful qualities about my loved ones...
5. List all of the things I am thankful for.
So, the equation for the day is this: more love = less anxiety, more peace
Have a blessed day,
We all have our emotional ups and downs. We are particularly vulnerable to feeling low at night when we are physically and emotionally letting down from a busy day. We go and go and then we finally stop. That is when our mind seems to want to monkey around a bit. We think about things that happened during the day. We process. We may focus on something that concerns us (something that we did not have time to worry about earlier during the day).
This active thinking can range from mild anxiety to outright panic. If the monkey mind continues it can certainly affect your sleeping. As soon as things in your home settle for the night (kids are put down, tv is turned off, dishes done etc.), I highly recommend having some quiet centering time for yourself.
During this time:
If you are finding yourself in a very anxious state, please know that you are not alone. God loves you. Your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, church or synagogue members, and many other people care about you very much.
Solitude can be a very healing thing. But if you find yourself in your cave a lot- please reach out to others. Get help. You are not alone.
Debra : )
I have been challenged with anxiety most of my life. It has taken on different forms over the years but during times when I did not have a handle on it, it has affected my life in many ways: feeling shy in social situations, passing up career opportunities, negative self talk, physical symptoms, panic attacks, crying sessions, emotional detachment, funny feeling in my gut, perceived racing heart beat, thinking I am having a heart attack, and many nights of restless or no sleep.
I want all of you to know this about me because I have really been there. I know what it is like to have anxiety and not be able to sleep. I am certainly not a sleep specialist or doctor or therapist of any kind, but I am a person who can relate to these challenges.
I know how debilitating being anxious and not being able to sleep really is. The anxiety alone is terrible. Then you compound that with not getting your sleep and it is very miserable. I know it. Been there. For two years from 2004 to 2006 I took a small dosage of Clonazapem just to be able to sleep at night. Without it, general anxiety and panic attacks ruled my night (it was during a time in my life where I was experiencing funny health symptoms and fears of financial insecurity because my husband was having difficulties with his law practice and we were dealing with raising an autistic child, baby, and my stepson etc.). I would keep it together very well during the day(caring for my two kids, being a girl scout leader and otherwise normal functioning human being) but then at night that anxiety monster would appear. I think it showed itself when I was tired or getting sleepy enough when my mind was beginning to slip into that sub-conscious state…I could even feel it coming on. The Clonazapem really helped. I would take that little pill and out I would go- blessed sleep! Ahh…. My Seattle area doctor was sure excited about this drug when he prescribed it for me. It was just supposed to be temporary to get me through this difficult time..
Well, I have always been a very healthy person and I did not like the fact that I was using a powerful drug (even if it was a low dosage) to enable me to sleep. So Memorial Weekend of 2007 (a little over three years ago now) I decided to just go cold turkey with the Clonazapem. I remember making the mistake of going online (ha!) and researching “withdrawal symptoms of Clonazapem”. Big mistake. Horror stories out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, aside from feeling a little out of it that first day or two I returned to work after the long weekend just fine. I haven’t looked back since.
Since that time period I have really worked on myself: reading inspirational and spiritual books, meditating, eating a healthy diet and working out, being a good mom to my two kids and a good teacher to my second graders every school year, going to Lifeworks of Jacksonville, taking up martial arts (at age 42), going to Tony Robbins’ Finding the Power Within seminar two years ago in Orlando, moving from Seattle to Jacksonville, Fl, beginning a new career as a teacher after being home and raising children for twelve years, and leaving an unhappy marriage of twenty years to find myself and get my life back. Yes, radical life changes.
And you know what? Life is all settled down now and I feel fantastic. I am healthy and fit, I live in paradise near the beach in sunny Florida, I am in love with and living with the most wonderful man on the planet, my kids are happy, my cats are happy, I am positively affecting the lives of little 7 and 8 year olds every year as a second grade teacher, I am reaching out and creating something special (I think) with the Warm Milk Journal to help others challenged with issues of anxiety and insomnia, and last but not least- I am sleeping soundly and wonderfully (without the use of any sleep aids) most nights (except when I am woken up by Mew my cat or my snoring partner John which we can talk about in future posts. Ha! ).
Why am I sharing all of this with you? I think it is important for you to know who I am and why I feel so passionate about The Warm Milk Journal and helping anyone who is not sleeping well at night. I have been there. I want you to know that you are not alone. You have a friend here: a hand to hold, a hug, a warm cup of milk : ) My heart truly goes out to each and every one of you.
The title of this post is: “Taming the anxiety monster”. So where does that leave us? I wish I could tell you that I am completely anxiety free. I am not. But I have certainly learned to manage it well. I will still experience it mildly: feeling a little unease in large group/social situations, not asserting myself in my work setting as much as I probably should, feeling overly sensitive at times (especially that time of the month), waking up at night feeling just a tad bit panicky…, after watching a movie or reading a story in the newspaper that is emotionally disturbing I will feel that anxiety monster coming on…
How do I manage the anxiety monster?
by being in the now, being thankful, loving myself, accepting myself and others, not being judgmental, reading inspirational books, meditating, yoga, walking, swimming, eating healthfully, being kind to myself and others, giving and helping others, working with my students, writing and reaching out to you, my Warm Milk Journal Readers, loving my friends, family, and partner, being aware of and canceling any negative thoughts or old tapes as soon as I notice them, being forgiving, lowering my expectations of myself and others and experiences so as not to feel disappointed, know that God loves me, pray, be mindful of all my blessings. write in my journal, center myself, speak my mind when I need to assert myself, not worry about what others think (for that is really not any of my business anyway), and basically choose love as my main life compass.
My anxiety monster: I decided to refer to this anxious phenomenon as my “anxiety monster” quite a few years ago now. It was always a bit puzzling to me. It is not like I am a crazy person or anything. I have always been friendly, likable, popular, and an”upright citizen” I suppose. It’s just that when I would feel this anxiety coming on, it is almost like a wave or tide of the ocean approaching and wanting to overcome me. It is …a flurry feeling in my gut, unease…fear…terror… do any of you experience this?
Now that I am centered, healthy, happy, fulfilled, and balanced in my life all the anxiety monster is to me these days is a tickling of the toes (like when you are walking on the shoreline and the tides of the ocean come and tickle and wet your feet). That is all it is. A tickle…hardly any threat for me anymore. Gone are the panic attacks and sleepless nights. Gone are the doubting myself and torturing myself for endless hours over and over again about something from my past, or some worry, fear of disapproval from others, etc- negative tapes? I sure had them- don’t now though : )
So, my dear Warm Milk Journal reader- we are on a journey, are we not? It is my wish for you to find peace within yourself- so that you not only sleep well at night (which is very important for your health and to function your best); but to also live the life of your dreams as well.
I truly believe that if we can work on being centered, healthy, authentic people living the lives we are supposed to live- then we will sleep well at night and we will be living the lives we are supposed to live. In doing that, we will most certainly improve this world of ours!
So this is the energy, the love, the driving force behind The Warm Milk Journal. I just wanted you to know.
Debra : )
Sometimes I feel like a freight train going hundreds of miles an hour….job, family, martial arts, working out, personal goals, financial goals, relationships, spiritual growth- —All of it is wonderful. Sometimes though, I just want and need to just BE. Just exist. DO NOTHING. Do you ever feel this way? I think modern society has trained us to think that if we are not going, achieving, multi-tasking every moment of our day- we are somehow slipping up in some way.
I think it is okay to give ourselves permission to just decompress, unwind, and recharge on a regular basis. It’s all about balance. We will have much more to give to our employer, family, partners, students (if you are a teacher like me), our dreams and goals, if we will just take some time to DO NOTHING. Yes, I will say it again: DO NOTHING
This is my idea of doing nothing (I am sure you can come up with a list of your own):
When we resurface from these down mode activities we will be ready to embrace all of the responsibilities, possibilities, and excitement our lives have in store for us. But we will take these things in our lives on OUR TERMS. Meaning, at our ease. Not dis-ease. Why be in a hurry? Why be rushed? Why stress? Why put so much pressure on ourselves all the time? All good things will happen in the right time. There is no need to get frenetic and harried. That kind of energy will only contribute to nervousness, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia.
Here, at The Warm Milk Journal, we give you permission to just BE. DO NOTHING. Be at your ease…….How does that feel?
Debra : )