If you saw my past post, Leaning into Fear, you know that I have been working on my anxiety. It wasn't an easy process, but I'm finally at a place where I rarely have anxiety attacks. That doesn't mean that my anxiety is gone for good, far from it. It just means that when those anxious thoughts creep into my head, I know how to handle them.
In my past anxiety blogs, I talked about the steps I take when I feel anxiety starting to set in. I had so many messages from people who struggle with anxiety, so I wanted to write another piece about the things I do to make me feel better when I'm feeling anxious.
These may not work for everyone, but I thought they would be worth sharing because it might help you think of some ideas.
1.) Watching your favorite show
This is a big one for me! I usually turn something lighthearted on that I know will make me laugh. Examples being, Friends, The Office or Parks and Recreation. I always find that doing this helps me stop focusing on the things I'm feeling anxious about. My anxiety is around death, so when I'm watching a funny show it really helps clear my head from those thoughts.
2.) Working out
This one used to seem impossible for me, but I've done a much better job of getting myself moving when I'm feeling anxious. I've been running recently and I find it's a great way to clear my head. I usually start off my run feeling anxious, but as I keep running my head starts to clear, and I start to allow other thoughts to come in. Sometimes no thoughts come in at all which is great! This one can be tough getting out the door, but I always remind myself how much better I will feel when I get home.
3.) Take a nap
When anxiety kicks in, it really can be debilitating. So much so that you start feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. When I start feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I try to take a nap. Even if it's just 15 minutes, I will just close my eyes and let me head rest. I always wake up from my nap feeling better.
4.) Talk to someone
A few years ago, I would've never considered talking to someone. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but I always thought to myself, well I can figure it out on my own. Since I've started therapy, I've really learned that talking to someone is incredibly beneficial and it can be very powerful. Whether I'm talking about anxiety, or just what's going on in my life, I find it can be very therapeutic. You don't need to go to a therapist, you can find a coach (hi there!) or even just find a friend. You can't let that anxiety fester so try talking it out with someone.
These are just a few of my go-tos when I'm feeling anxious. Hopefully they help spark some ideas! And as always if you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to find me.
UPDATED March 17th
My accident caused some pretty unique scarring on my arm, on my leg and down my neck. My relationship with my scars has changed over the years. I used to really struggle with them. I would hide them whenever I had the chance and I would get upset if I saw people staring at them. At this point, my scars are just part of me. I have some days where I love them, some days where I feel weird when people stare at them, and most days I just forget they are there all together.
The only time I remember that my scars are there, is when I notice someone staring at them. This used to bother me, but now I just wish that person would ask what happened rather than stare. I can imagine they don't know how to approach the situation which is 100% normal. I understand the reasons for just looking and not asking but people with scars tend to notice when people stare. You know that phrase, my ears are burning, someone must be talking about me? It's literally the same thing; it's like I have a sense when my scars are being looked at. No joke!
I've been asked on my Instagram, how do you kindly ask someone what happened? This one is hard. Everyone has a different experience and journey. We all handle things differently. This blog is solely based on MY experiences with my scars. This may not work for everyone, and I don't intend for it to. But I thought it could be good to share my experiences.
For me, when people are genuine when they ask, I can feel that. Usually the question will start with do you mind if I asked what happened to your arm? Every time someone asks me, especially with that beginning I always say no I don't mind at all, thank you for asking. This helps make the person feel comfortable. It's important to note that this is an awkward situation for BOTH people. Usually the best response here is, wow I'm sorry to hear that happened, are you ok now? I've found that this is when I feel the most comfortable. Or sometimes if they don't ask if I'm ok at the end, I will just say no worries I'm fine now!
When someone genuinely asks about my scars, it makes me feel understood. That sense of understanding makes me feel like I belong. People that have new scarring or burns often can feel like they don't belong. I did. But why do we feel like we don't belong? I think that may be my next blog that I tackle.
It's been about 6 years since my car accident. Over the past few years, there are things I've regretted not doing after my accident. These are things I didn't even think about at the time, but now I'm kicking myself in the butt for not doing them. I wish someone had recommended doing these things, but I can understand why they didn't. As someone who has experienced trauma, come through it and is now better than ever, I want to talk about the things I wish I did. Who knows maybe it will inspire some of you to do the same!
I used to think journaling was a bit "dear diary" and never really gave it a chance. It reminded me of girls writing in their journals about boys at school so I always laughed it off. No one told me to write at the time of my accident and during my recovery, but I seriously wish they did.
After my accident, I was on a lot of medication to help ease the pain. I obviously wouldn't have been able to journal at this point (it probably would've been drawings of unicorns or something), but I wish that when I was a bit more coherent I would've written down how I was doing.
Even though my brain was foggy at the time, I was still able to function. I remember things from the hospital, but just bits and pieces. I wish that I had written down what was going on in my head. It would be great to see how far I've come since then and read what I was thinking and feeling at the time.
If you're reading this and thinking no way, I know that feeling. At the time after my accident, I just felt like crap. I was already living post-trauma, I didn't want to write about it too. But my advice is really to write something down. It doesn't need to be every day, but I highly suggest writing a few days down. I'm telling you when you're a few years past your trauma, you will want to see the progress you've made!
**My brain almost hurt from doing too much, so I can understand this may come up for some people. If you feel like you don't have the mental space to write things down yourself, ask someone to write down a few notes for you. My friend told me her dad wrote down what happened everyday during her trauma and I thought that was amazing. Parents, family, friends - if you're reading this and you know someone experiencing trauma but can't handle the writing - do it for them! **
For me this was a HELL NO. If you follow me on Instagram, molly_o_shea, you probably have noticed that I post the same before scar photos of my neck and arm. Why? Because that's all I have! I have two photos of me with my scars when they were very red and raw. You can't see my face in the photos because I was so freaking embarrassed of them I didn't want my face to show. Then I have one picture of my neck scar. That's all thanks to my dad. I will never forget him saying you will want to show your kids one day. I'm sure I rolled my eyes but it's totally true. I'm proud of these scars now and I wish I had more!
Post-trauma isn't the most glamorous experience. Whether it's illness, an accident, an injury, or another internal trauma, we don't feel like ourselves. Taking a photo as someone that we can't identify with is hard. Besides scar photos, I have a few photos with friends and family post accident, but not many. In most photos, I'm covering my scars because I didn't want them to be seen in pictures. I didn't like this new Molly, I didn't know who she was and I certainly wasn't comfortable with her.
When I look at these photos, where I can see my face and I'm showing my scars, I can see those feelings on my face. I can see how uncomfortable I look in the photo. I may look normal to people, but to me, I don't look like myself. At the time, I avoided these pictures like the plague and made sure I wasn't tagged in any photos on Facebook. But now, looking back through the photos, it's amazing the see the progress I've made. I've come so far with taking photos with my scars and I look more comfortable in my skin.
It may not be easy at the time, but I'm telling you you will want photos to look back on. Take a few photos either on your own or with a group of people. If you don't want to look at them then don't! Just save them; in a few years you will be searching high and low in your email to find these photos! (Me this past week)
I'm sure other things will come up over time, but I think this is worth sharing because I wish someone gave me this advice 6 years ago! I understand that these things may not work for everyone; we all have a different experiences. I'm just speaking on my personal experience and what I've learned during the process.
Last week, I wrote a blog called Leaning into Fear - Part 1. I wanted to talk about my experience with anxiety after my car accident. I've always been a worry wart, but about 4 years after my accident, anxiety hit me hard. After countless therapy sessions and some reframes, I'm finally in a good place. I wanted to share the steps I use when anxiety starts to set in, especially for anyone that has experienced trauma.
Here's a quick recap of my first few steps from last week:
1.) Understand the root of your fear so you can start to move forward
2.) Remind yourself you're safe
3.) What are your triggers?
As I mentioned, my anxiety involved catastrophic thoughts. I was in worst case scenario mode 24/7. Not only did I have to remind myself that I was safe, but I also had to remind myself how catastrophic these thoughts were. Yes I could get shot tomorrow, but the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time at that exact moment was slim.
While telling myself that my thoughts were catastrophic, I would take deep breaths. Bringing yourself back to a state of relaxation is incredibly important. Luckily, it only takes 2 minutes to get your body back to a state of relaxation. This can be done through breathing. After a few minutes of focusing on my breathe, I felt more in control.
The last thing I would do when I was feeling anxious was to distract myself. I'm a sucker for watching Friends or The Office on repeat. Those shows are my go-to's; they always put me in a good mood. When anxiety kicked in, I would turn on one of those shows and just let my mind take a break from the world. I use this method more now when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work and I just need an easy fix .
The biggest lesson I learned when dealing with anxiety, was that I needed to relinquish control. It made sense that I was having catastrophic thoughts because my accident was so random, but it was out of my control. I felt like I needed to be in control of everything. At the time, I was not a very go with the flow kind of gal. I would avoid events that could potentially cause something catastrophic to happen. That was my way of "controlling" life. I really had to learn to let go of the idea that I can control everything. I can't control life and death. I can't control if I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. What will be will be.
Remember that everyone's anxiety is different. There are people that will be able to relate to this blog, and some may not. It took me about 6 months of seeing a therapist regularly to get to where I am today. I don't suffer from anxiety anymore. I do think I still have some anxious tendencies, but with these methods that I've described, I know how to handle anxious thoughts that come my way. If you have the chance to go speak with someone I strongly recommend it. Seeing my therapist totally changed my life, and I still go to her because I think it's important talk things through with someone who isn't involved in your life.
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma and body acceptance.