I have always been an anxious person. I swear, it’s part of my DNA.
In the past when it would flare up I would find myself spiraling. It looked different each time. Either a thought was repeating in my mind. Or maybe I was projecting an outcome to something that had not happened yet. I would “make up stories” often, which was not helpful and to be honest a waste of so much of my energy.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized I could manage it with some dedication and intentional focus. That is when I started to talk to a therapist about my anxiety. She recommended that when I felt I was getting anxious, that I do one of two things. That I either moved my body to allow the energy that had been trapped to have a way to exit. Or if that didn’t help, I was asked to write the thoughts that had been spiraling out, because again, they were wrapped up in energy that was trapped inside of me and needed a place to go.
This began to work. Every time I felt myself begin to spiral I would try one or both of these techniques. They became my saving grace. I felt as though I was able to manage it on my own. I was so proud.
Then COVID-19 came into our lives.
I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way, but the type of anxiety I soon began to feel was like nothing I had ever felt before.
Looking back at it now, I can recognize that the majority of what I experienced came from the sense of a loss of control. What I’ve also realized is that I never truly had control of my life before. It purely was an illusion that I, or anyone else had about the lives we once had.
Prior to the pandemic, what I realized I was able to control was my day to day schedule and routine. What I could control was how I showed up each day and the effort I put into my life. What I didn’t realize for some time, because I was “comfortable”, was that my life could and would change at the drop of a hat, or at the onset of a global pandemic.
When I say I spiraled, you guys, I mean I spiraled. It wasn’t good. I was NOT my best self.
In a short amount of time I had experienced more panic attacks then I had in my entire life. I remember one day getting on a call with my therapist (thank god for telehealth opportunities) and was crying so hard she could barely understand me.
I couldn’t get myself stable. It was impacting my home and my work life and forget about my mental health. Looking back at this time now I really don’t know how I pushed through it. It kind of feels like a blur.
My therapist explained to me that anxiety comes into our lives in many different ways. If you think about it as a scale of 1 - 10, most days we can hover around a 1- 2, maybe 3. That is “normal” anxiety. You know, having to drive in a snowstorm. Kids arguing and you not being able to get them their food fast enough. Things like this. Your body is able to experience it and then bring you back down to a 0 - 1 pretty quickly in most cases.
Well during this time we are finding ourselves in, we are hitting higher numbers on said scale more often. We are impacted in bigger ways. Loss of jobs. Financial instability. Health concerns and scares. Managing working from home and remote learning with your children. Grieving relationships lost during this time, just to name a few.
We wake up and start our day at a 5 or 6 and then something happens that quickly spikes us to a 7-8 and it’s not even lunch time yet. Or bodies are getting so “used” to this feeling that these higher numbers are becoming the “new norm” and they are not coming down to that 0-1 as most of us don’t see an end or solution in sight. Our baseline is much higher than it once was.
You know, when I had my first panic attack this summer I had to google it because I wasn’t actually sure what it was that was happening to me. The first thing that popped up was an article saying that Googling “What does a panic attack feel like” was one of the TOP SEARCHES FOR 2020!
You guys, this is not okay. We cannot continue to do this to ourselves. The toll it is taking on our mind, our bodies, our souls, forget about relationships with others is truly damaging so many areas of our lives..
I don’t know about anyone else, but for a while most days I was exhausted and it wasn’t even 9AM. I was already dreaming about bedtime or pondering how I could get a nap in.
You know what that was though right?
That was me not wanting to deal with it. That was me wanting to cope in a negative way. The same way I was having “just one (insert drink of choice) to calm my nerves.”
It wasn’t good. I was not my best self. I was not the mother or wife I wanted to be. I wasn’t the best employee or leader I knew I could be. I was not a good friend, mentor, daughter…. the list goes on.
So what changed?
I started to listen to what my anxiety was trying to tell me.
Crazy thought right, but have you ever tried it? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you were feeling the way you are? Did you ever sit and think, where is this coming from?
If you take the time to actually listen to what the thoughts are telling you, you will get a hint of where the issue lies. Anxiety is showing up because there is a disconnect between who you currently are, and who it is you want to be.
Let me give you an example.
In my life I hang my hat on the fact that I can be a good mama and wife AND a strong leader in my career. There was a time over the summer that this was not happening. The plan we had for our children fell through. It ultimately impacted our family and my work in different ways that I felt out of control with. I was working remotely, while tending to children, which was by no means ideal for anyone involved.
This period of time caused a lot of anxiety for me because I felt that I could not show up as a good mama OR wife at home because I was trying to show up for my team at work. And then my team at work was impacted and not getting my best self as a leader because while on calls with them I was fixing snacks or changing to the next episode of Blippi.
Oh Blippi, the soundtrack to 2020 in our home.
It took one day, that one call with my therapist where I couldn’t breathe or speak to realize something had to give. I could no longer do what I had been doing for so long. I was by no means thriving or surviving at this point. I was simply going with the motions of each day, not feeling, thinking or showing up for anyone, including myself.
It took really listening to what my head and heart were saying and digging in. It took having difficult conversations and making hard decisions to get to the core of what we needed to do. Decisions like my husband cutting his hours down at work in order to do remote learning with our middle child. I now work different hours, which oftentimes finds me missing dinner time in order to make it all work.
We had to look at the crux of what was happening in our life and take back the control where we could.
Is it perfect? No. Does it currently work? Yes. Do we have some sort of sense of calm or normalcy? Yes, for now.
What allowed me to push through this period of time was getting the help I needed. I was taking weekly calls with my therapist for many months this year. I didn’t care if I had to pay out of pocket, the importance of my mental health took priority over any bill.
I do a daily practice where I write down ten dreams I want to make a reality. The 10th one on my list is “I no longer suffer from anxiety.” I will always be an anxious person, that’s just who I am, but I will no longer suffer from it. I will take the lessons from this really hard time and continue to do the work in order to show up better then the person I was yesterday.
If you or someone you know struggles with mental health, first know that you are not alone. Second, please connect with a trained professional. There are so many resources out there today. Don’t be ashamed if you experience anxiety, depression or anything else for that matter.
You are not broken. You are not alone. There is someone out there to support you.
You’ve got this. We’ve got this.
My goal is to show up in life unapologetically me and I want to show YOU that it is possible for you to do the same. As you may already know, my Sacred Sunday Reflection is a priority in my life and allows me the space to take the things sitting on my heart and share them with you. Join me on this journey and receive what have become my personal journal entries straight to your inbox.