S: I Didn’t Know My Anxiety Was This Bad.

Here’s my story, and a few things you can do if you didn’t know either.

With COVID-19 spreading uncontrollably by the hour, I’ve found myself in a constant battle with none other than: my brain. Sure, I’ve struggled with anxiety in my adult life, like everyone else. Let’s talk about it.

I’m a multitasking maniac, suffering from FOMO and cases of imposter syndrome. I’ve had a panic attack before, and can tell if I might be on the verge of one. I hate change and I’m very cautious about most adventurous things. I’m a semi-hoarder/clutter-lover, and I have mild issues of letting go. Trouble falling asleep due to racing thoughts of the day. I’ve seen the same therapist occasionally for the past couple years. The works.

On the contrary, I’m an extroverted, karaoke-singing, open-minded, outspoken, natural-haired, fun-loving woman with a constant smile on my face. These days though, it’s been easy to lose her.

My anxiety has gotten so bad, that it has not only affected me emotionally, it’s affected my physical well-being. There are points in time during the day where my chest feels like someone’s trying to rip it out. Where I sleep for only 4 hours after tossing and turning. When I’m too tired to think about meditating. When I realize I’m out of frozen meat and my knees buckle because I have to go to the store… All of the above.

As a black woman, I’m no stranger to worry. It runs in my family. My grandmother and my mother worry constantly about most things, which is something that I learned at an early age and carried with me. As a kid even, I always seemed to think in a worst case scenario mindset, which allowed me to make changes to my wardrobe and hair, all the way to the major I chose in college, to the experiences I have as an adult.

I also have a 2nd grader. He’s at home for the next two weeks, and trying to keep him educationally entertained is no easy task by far. Luckily, he’s a straight A student and loves math. However, he’s also impatient by nature and very distracted.

I have an incarcerated significant other, which you already knew, and that’s a whole bag of uncertainty. While visitation is cancelled until further notice, that’s not the only impact. They live in close quarters, where almost every surface in the pods are being touched by the minute. The employees are in and out of the facility, going who knows where and bringing who knows what back in there.

OH. And I’m also in the advertising and media business, which is completely overrun by my clients’ worries of keeping their employees employed, wasting money on ads, and saying the right things due to heightened sensitivity with everything going on in the world. I’m dealing with working from home with video conferences and multiple bosses and people to manage. On top of that, sitting in my kitchen for HOURS.

Knowing all of this, and adding COVID-19 to the mix, I’ve done everything in my power to allow my mind to calm. However, it seems like every news article and conspiracy theory causes me to lose any progress I make; and I start over.

I’m learning each day that I cannot control everything, and that there are active steps I can take on the road to overcoming. Now, there’s no magic way to do it overnight, but here’s some things you can do RIGHT NOW, to begin a path of inner recovery.

  1. You have to take care of yourself. Yes, eating well is going to be hard while we’re sitting in the house, but try reaching for a healthier option if it’s available. Meditate when you can. Go on a run or do an exercise video. Sleep a little longer than you normally do. Mental well-being will have a hard time working for you if you aren’t ATTEMPTING to do a little on the physical side. Your brain will thank you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for some time off work. If you cannot deal with news and/or work loads, tell your supervisors. Take an hour away from your computer per day if you have to. Leave at 5. Take a day off to focus on you. It’ll be there when you get back, and you’ll be 10x better when you do.
  3. Delete Facebook. Okay, not your entire profile, but the app has GOT TO GO. With a constant stream of news and commentary, conspiracy theories, and irrelevant opinions from irrelevant people. Check it on desktop when you must, but having that app at a thumbs reach is destroying your ability to focus.
  4. Stretch. Yes, stretch. Believe it or not, certain stretches can help you. Child’s pose. Breathing in and out while placing your hands on your head. Sitting on the floor and slowly reaching for your toes. Doing some cat/cows. All of which releases pent up energy in your body that you likely need to let out in some form or fashion.
  5. Pick up an old hobby. Mine is crocheting. It calms me and is something I can do with my hands.
  6. Drink water. A lot of it. While it may seem easy, consciously drinking 8 or more glasses of water a day can help your oxygen flow, skin cells, digestive system, magic, you name it. It can also make your body feel less tense, even if you didn’t notice it was.
  7. Listen to music. Any music really. Music is a mood shifter and can take you to time and places without effort.
  8. Rewatch your favorite sitcom. Sitcoms are light enough but involved enough to get your mind in a place of peace, but not too far off. Also, laughing releases endorphins.
  9. Think about the things that make you happy. Easier said than done right now huh? But really, time yourself. Take 5 minutes and just sit there, and think about what makes you happy.

Happy thinking. And breathe.

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