I Have Anxiety – And Here’s How It Really Helps Me

I was diagnosed with panic disorder 20 years ago at the age of 19. I quickly learned that treating anxiety requires a maintenance plan — for life.

My first panic attack came out of nowhere and left me breathless and scared in a bathroom cubicle – I felt helpless. I’m not exactly sure where my fear comes from, but I’ve learned to treat it as a kind of character trait – I’m free-spirited, funny, creative – and anxious. Because I have chronic anxiety and panic attacks despite taking medication, I had to find a way to deal with anxiety in order to get my life back. It may sound crazy, but not only have I learned tricks to control my anxiety, I’ve also found that coping with my condition has made me a healthier person.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older. In addition, women are twice as likely to be affected as men. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex array of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

“Fear can be a positive trait,” says Megan Schabbing, MD, director of Psychiatric Emergency Services at OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio. “Someone who is concerned about being on time or performing at a high level often excels in various aspects of life, both professionally and personally.” She adds that while anxiety is known to trigger excessive worrying and racing thoughts, both can actually help a person function at a higher level. dr. Schabbing does warn that fear should not be the green light to carry out grandiose plans — or use it as an excuse for misbehaving. The key is to seek medical attention first, because – as I found – medication and therapy can play a huge role in managing anxiety. Be sure to check out these ten remedies for natural anxiety relief.

fizkes/shutterstockFear makes me exercise

Like many people, I find that anxiety makes me jumpy and energetic. There are two ways I can deal with this: have my legs twitch and my mind race as I think about everything, or I can use that energy boost to my advantage. Whether I’m at work, at home, or in my kid’s soccer practice, there’s always a healthy way to channel fear. When I’m at work, I might grab my water bottle and take the long way to the kitchen to retrace my steps. When I’m at home, I hop on my exercise bike, take the dog for a long walk, or grab my free weights. Exercise relieves anxiety and is good for my overall health, keeping me in shape.

“Exercise can combat anxiety because it helps distract a person and provides an outlet to release stress in a positive way,” says Dr. Schabbing. In addition, exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing a pain-relieving effect.

Artistic tools for drawing paintings on a gray concrete background.  Palette, gouache, oil paint, brushes, crayons, pastels, colored pencils.  Top view.Vladimir Sukhachev/ShutterstockFear has made me more creative

When my 12-year-old son was much younger, I would ease my anxiety by building with Lego, coloring, or sculpting with Play-Doh with him. Focusing on those small, bright stones or shadows in a colored pencil cartoon character distracted and calmed me. Today I am not ashamed to say that I own adult coloring books and have sat at the counter during periods of anxiety with my trusty crayons. I also write, paint with watercolors and spend time coordinating my closet and bookshelves.

“It’s extremely helpful to engage in a soothing activity like knitting or coloring,” says Dr. Schabbing. “The repetitive movements, practiced during an art project, involve parts of the cerebral cortex while relaxing the brain’s fear center.”

dr. Schabbing also recommends keeping a journal or even doing light housework, such as doing laundry. “The key is that, when you fill your brain with other activities and thoughts, the fear can no longer take control of your mind.”

Full length side view portrait of smiling young black woman walking outdoors with mobile phonemimagephotography/ShutterstockTaming fear reminds me of the good things in my life…

Fear used to hijack my brain – I often jumped to the worst-case scenario: “My throat feels tight. It’s closing and I’m going to choke!” During a therapy session many years ago, the psychologist suggested an alternative: “What if you could think of something great instead?” It was quite easy to do, so I tried it the next time the anxiety hit. convincing myself that the world was coming to an end, I thought of a trip I took to Paris in my early twenties I found myself thinking of cheese, wine, pastries and the rock-solid Eiffel Tower, that happy memory took over and helped me to gain control.

“Thinking about something good and positive when you’re anxious can help push the irrational thoughts out and replace them with positive and more reality-based ideas, says Dr. Schabbing. Here’s another trick to avoid an anxiety attack.” to tame.

Raw salmon pieces on wooden board with herbs, salt and spicesMorning Life/ShutterstockFighting anxiety improved my health

For the past 20 years I have managed my anxiety with medication, talk therapy, creative and physical possibilities, and natural remedies. Because there is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can relieve anxiety, I include them in my diet. Foods like tuna, salmon, walnuts and flaxseed keep my diet on track and encourage me to plan my meals; I made overnight oats, with a pinch of flaxseed for breakfast. I also take proactive steps to allay anxiety at night by using an oil diffuser in my bedroom. According to Michael J. Breus, PhD, AKA The Sleep Doctor, lavender can interact with the neurotransmitter GABA, reducing brain and nervous system activity, reducing agitation and restlessness, making it an ideal oil to diffuse. when I feel restless .

therapist notebookloreanto/shutterstockFear taught me to ask for help

One of the best things I did for myself was seek professional guidance. Anxiety and panic attacks are real and debilitating – I had to take out all the well-meaning people who said it was all in my head and I just needed a glass of wine to relax. When I told my doctor about my problems and signed up for sessions with a therapist, I started to gain control. They were excellent sounding boards and helpful in my treatment. “Managing anxiety by talking to a professional in the field about your feelings can help you avoid physical and emotional symptoms by providing an unbiased outlet for your stress,” says Dr. Schabbing.

Sure, my life isn’t all roses and rainbows, but by accepting that my anxiety is part of who I am as a person, I feel less like someone with an anxiety disorder and more like a functioning human being making gallons of lemonade out of the lemons. of life. Here are some more tips for dealing with anxiety.

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