If you've read my blog or have been following me on social media, I've touched on anxiety quite a bit. A few years ago I started to see a therapist because I was suffering from daily anxiety attacks. Death was on my mind more than food was, and food is always on my mind. After countless therapy sessions, now I am able to manage my anxiety, but that doesn't mean that anxiety doesn't hit me every now again. With these recent tragic events, (feels like it's never ending) my anxiety has picked back up. In the blog below I will talk about how I work to calm my nerves.
When bad things happen in the world, I become very emotionally invested. When there is a shooting or terrorist attack, my heart immediately thinks about all of the people who have lost their lives and their loved ones who are impacted. I start to imagine myself in these tragedies, thinking about losing my loved ones or getting hurt myself. I spend the next few days quiet and working to stay calm.
Even though I still have anxious thoughts, I can control them far better than I could pre-therapy. I couldn't imagine being back in that mental space. Every day, multiple times a day, I would think about myself or a loved one getting hurt or dying. Heavy stuff, yes, but used to live like this and it can be totally paralyzing. Now, my anxiety usually calls for a night or day at home, cuddled up with my animals watching a happy TV show like Friends, The Office or Parks and Rec.
If you struggle with anxiety, below are my top three tips to stay somewhat sane post-tragedy.
1. Pray or say a kind word about those who lost their lives and for their families.
This may sound like the political approach where politicians avoid talking about real issues and say, "We pray for the families impacted", but it's really not what I'm going for. This is more of an internal dialogue I have with myself. At the end of the day, I can't control what happens, but I can work to spread positive thoughts and vibes to others. It may feel like nothing, but I find it helps calm my anxiety.
2. Try to focus on the things you can control, not the things you can't control.
I had the hardest time with this tip because if you have anxiety, you want to control everything. When it comes to big picture things, I need to remind myself I can't control what happens but I can control my voice. If something comes up that you feel very strongly about, use your voice to make an impact. There are are plenty of organizations out there that you can get involved with that will enable you to make a change.
3. Find a calming anchor
I like to find anchors that calm my anxiety. Anchors are different for everyone; it could be a piece of jewelry, a quote, a TV show or even a song. My anchor is watching a comforting TV show such as Friends, The Office or Parks and Rec. These shows are shows I've been watching for years and instantly make me feel better.
I think it's important to test out new methods and find what works for you. We all have our own story and our own way of coping with things. Feel free to test some of these tips out and let me know how it went!
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.
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.
"You're strong enough to be scared." - JJ Virgin
In this blog, I want to talk about fear. For someone that has anxiety, fear was something I needed to learn to confront. For Part 1 of this blog, I'm going to go into detail about how I started facing my fears and how you can too.
Fear is a funny thing. A common human emotion that most people experience daily. Fear shows up in different ways. Some examples of my fears are:
My post the other day on my IG (molly_o_shea) discussed how I used to struggle with bad anxiety around my loved ones getting hurt. I've always been a worry wart, but this feeling escalated after my car accident. Who knows, maybe it was because it was a random event and made me realize we can die at any moment in life. So I struggled, badly. My head was clouded with death. I would picture loved ones getting shot randomly, get in a car accident or an earthquake would hit and boom everyone is gone. Daily sobfests started to become tiresome, for me and my fiancé. I finally started to see a therapist to confront this anxiety and these fears. This wasn't a quick fix, this required going down into my roots. I needed to understand my past before I could move forward.
I thought my anxiety was just something that happened from my accident, but after a few sessions, I started to realize that fear has been with me since I was young. Understanding this helped me. I realized that it wasn't just happening because of the trauma I had experienced. Yes, it was definitely heightened, but understanding that slightly put me at ease. This put me on the right track for understanding when my fear was setting in. Without that understanding, you can't lean into fear. We need to learn into fear. If you don't lean into it, it can be debilitating.
I understood that my fears stemmed from random acts. Earthquakes, gun violence, car accidents, getting hit by a car are all random events. They can happen in a flash. It's not like someone getting sick and being given 7 months to live. It's that idea that you wake up, kiss your fiancé goodbye and poof that could be the last you see of him. That was my life. That became my normal way of thinking.
So I understood when my fear was setting in, now I needed to tell myself, you're safe, they're safe. My fiancé used to walk home from work, and I would worry everyday about him getting hurt in the dark. My therapist had me start practicing the idea of being safe.
Let me give you a little example:
Learning what my triggers were was the next step. When did these intense fears set in? This time last year, the election was a big topic on TV. I felt it was important to stay informed, so I would watch the news and keep up with what was going on in the world. I realized that the news was a HUGE trigger for me. Anytime I seemed to watch the news, something bad had just happened. Whether it was seeing a mass shooting, a terrorist attack in France or laws and legislations I did not agree with being talked about, my fear would spike through the roof. As much as I wanted to stay informed, the news was not a good mix with my anxiety. Instead of totally cutting myself off from the world, I subscribed to theSkimm. If you haven't heard of it, subscribe! They send you daily emails of what's going on in the world, but the way they write makes things not feel as daunting and scary.
These are just a few of the steps I started with when dealing with my anxiety. This took me months to master, but my life has completely transformed for the better! In my next blog, I'm going to go deeper, with more steps on how you can start leaning into fear. Until then, remember that you are not alone! If you need to talk more on this topic, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. <3
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma, body acceptance and wellness.